“Every artist was first an amateur.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’re amateurs in the noble sense that as long as we have the wonder of the child, the world, and life is constantly new. Werner Erhard said we choose who we are going to be in any moment. Perhaps, choose the sense of wonder, as well.
For nearly 25 years, Sensei Dan taught me Aikido. During our partnership, Sensei was always reinventing Aikido. Together we looked at what would work in a real fight, not just practicing technique, “because it was always done this way”. No one’s going to attack with an open hand strike to the head. Attackers will either come to grab or punch. Movements can’t be exaggerated and expansive like in Aikido demonstration.
Technique needed to be compact and explosive. Match up with the attack and end the attack quickly. “It’s one time.” One count. One breath. So I continue to chisel away the wasted movement, the wasted intention. That’s creating Art. Like Michelangelo, discarding the superfluous.
In my years of training with Sensei, I got that there are hundreds of throws. But to defend myself, I only need to master a few. The structural basis was always the same – move my body, use my center, and breathe. My opponent can be bigger, faster and stronger than me. I knew the techniques I needed to know for different attacks.
Sensei said, “It’s all timing and distance.” Wait out the attack until the last moment, when the attacker is fully committed. Like the French Sensei instructed, “Enter the attack and die with honor.” Because I have no idea what will happen, I can only be present. I can bring the attack to me.
I began the mastery path with Sensei Dan and continue with Sensei Bobby. On this journey, I continuously uncover my imperfection, what I need to work on. I continue to learn. I believe the mastery path is not about becoming Master.
Much like there is no perfect life, no perfect art, there is no Master. I believe that Sensei would have wished for me to continue to learn and to discover Aikido, and not land in the space of: I know. Mastery is looking at what I don’t know, what’s missing in me. I believe that Sensei would have wanted me to be the forever Student, the Authentic Amateur. Be humble. And pass on what I discover, much like he did for me over the years.
The profound spirit of the Amateur is that he or she does what they do because they love what they do. In the grander sense, our Art is the expression of that love. Art is meaningful. Art is purposeful. Art is generational. Your Art reveals your voice, your soul.
As the perpetual Amateur in creating your Life as Art: Discover what you love to do. What do you love? What gives you your life? What gives you the freedom to be you? For me that’s Aikido and writing. For you it might be poetry. Surfing. Whatever it is, do what you love with all your heart. Love your art, because your art loves you.
We don’t become greater than we know ourselves to be out of fear. We become greater than we know out of love, and the belief and faith of others. And the belief in ourselves.
Our community inspires us to create our Art that perhaps inspires others as well. Maybe our Art even might make a difference in the world.
We create our Art to make a difference for others. We create our Art to inspire others to create their own imperfectly beautiful works of art. Perhaps, the World is greater for that Art. At least that’s my hope. Amen.
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