In the Aikido Dojo, I get to work on my next greater-than versions. The late Mizukami Sensei said, “Just train.” Now, I just train with my Sensei Bobby, my dear friend and Aikido brother for 30 years. Mizukami Sensei taught both Bobby and me. I just train. Mizukami Sensei reminded, “It’s not like you get somewhere…” Mizukami Sensei used to watch as I practiced tsuki irminage, the clothesline throw against the punching attack. He said, “Jon, don’t move too early. Wait it out. Take a hit, if you have to.”
Following Sensei’s instructions, I waited out the attack. I matched up with the attack, in awase. I threw the attacker to the mat: one time. Sensei smiled, “That’s it. Do it again. Make it work.” I practiced over and over and over and over again. Make it work. Make it work for me. “Everything natural.” Repetition makes the unnatural, natural. Basically, I practiced mastery. Sensei never asked me to do the technique exactly like him or to be like him. He said, “Make it work.” I make myself work, make my life work. Although he passed away several years ago, Sensei still inspires my greater-than versions. I can always be greater. I can always learn something new.
As the young boy growing up at home, I was never good enough for Dad. I hated on myself because I wasn’t perfect. Sensei said, “Make it work.” That was freedom. I could take a breath. Finally, exhale. I didn’t have to be like someone else. I could just be me.
Aikido Founder O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” The pursuit of perfection, to be perfect, is a meaningless journey. There’s no perfection, no perfect. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, “It’s all relative.” Consider that what’s perfect, what’s ideal, might be the story we make up. Just saying.
We become our most authentic selves. Change the narrative from “I have to be perfect” to “Make it work”. Sensei’s lesson. In the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, we embrace the beauty in our imperfection. My dear friend Cheryl said, “Life is imperfectly perfect.” Again, make it work.
Over the years, Sensei’s lesson of “Make it work” got me through my trials and tribulations like working with my therapist Lance on healing childhood trauma and depression. I was my most unforgiving critic. Sensei got that I was a good man. I accepted Sensei’s belief. I stopped hating on myself, so much. Making it work heals me. Making it work is being kind to others and to myself. Making it work loves me for who I am, and forgives me for who I’m not. I accept my imperfections and strengths. There is an inherent beauty in this.
Sensei said, “Take what you learn in the Dojo, and use it outside the Dojo, where it counts.”
I’m part of Sensei’s legacy, passing on all that I got from him. I say to students, “Make it work.” I smile saying so. Sensei gave me life. I want to give life back as the Sensei he trained.
Perhaps, Mizukami Sensei might have appreciated that I perpetuate his legacy through my writing on The Good Men Project. Sensei said, “The world would be a better place if everyone practiced Aikido.” That was his profound dream.
No, not everyone will practice Aikido. Even less are willing to endure the training. Just saying, with mad respect to Sensei. That being said, life is about making it work, about making one’s life work. Maybe I can pass on Sensei’s lesson outside the Dojo, into the world. I do so because Sensei meant that much to me.
From Sensei and I: Make it work. Just train. It’s not like you have to get somewhere. Grind it out. Put in the work. Invent the greater version of yourself. Then just train on what’s next. Be kind to others and yourself. Love and forgive thine own self, too.
We’re both just saying.
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