Understanding your purpose for training in aikido is a basic building block from which everything on your aikido journey flows, including your choice of where to train and with who. In this age of information technology, you can usually tell from the club website and things like Youtube videos, whether any particular club is for you. So if you are thinking about training, do your research and make sure that the values and purpose of the teacher’s training are in line with your own.
Motivations for training range hugely from reasons that might be fairly general to those where the training literally guides the life path of the participant. By way of example:
I thought it would be good to get a bit fitter.
I need to improve my health.
I’m looking for a new hobby and this looks interesting.
I want to have more confidence.
It seems like fun.
I want to be able to defend myself.
I want to be a better person and to get on well with others.
I need to be more positive.
I need to find a way of managing stress.
There isn’t a wrong reason for training, and whilst this may well change over time, the clearer you are about your purpose, the more focused your training will be. Purpose provides the measuring stick to guide your learning.
If for example, your focus is on self-defence, then perhaps your attention will be drawn to those aspects of training that help you understand how the body works, how to execute technique correctly, physical strength and fitness, plus how to develop a sense of martial awareness. Practising aspects of aikido like centring, grounding, relaxing and extending, may be simply viewed as tools to be used to make you a more competent martial artist.
In short, a sharply defined purpose will provide you with a useful filter as to what you need to take on board in your training and what may be less relevant.
Sad to say, that purpose also lies at the bottom of a lot of conflict within the art of harmony. There are those that see aikido as solely about martial art technique and then there those that sees aikido as an art of personal transformation, or maybe about peace and love. There are many shades of grey between the black and white, but the thing to understand is that the way you train will be guided by what you trying to achieve. Seeing others train in a way unlike your own is very easy to criticise, but without an understanding of the purpose of the training, then you cannot measure the success of the methodology being employed.
As a community, we need to respect each other’s purpose and instead of dismissing the resultant aikido, we need to appreciate the strengths that an alternative idea can produce.
Personally, I train with a desire to maximise my potential for good, and in so doing, I hope to influence those that I interact with to head in the same direction. The big picture is to create a community that can ‘reconcile the world.’
Along the way, I think I have become more confident and sensitive to the needs of myself and others. As a result, I have managed to minimise conflict of all sorts in my personal and business life. The by-products have been good health, reasonable fitness, the ability to manage conflict well, nearly always without the need to resort to physical technique and although self–defence is not high on my list, and I haven’t really been significantly tested, I’m pretty sure that I have attained a reasonable degree of martial competency and awareness.
In honesty, had my experience of aikido been in a club with a strong martial focus, then I don’t think I would have continued my study for more than a few weeks. Yet whilst it’s not my path, I admire the ability of such students to endure the rigours of hard physical training. It gives them strong minds to overcome pain and adversity and helps them to push on in life when others might simply give up.
So next time you are tempted to dismiss an alternative form of aikido, step back and ask yourself what the purpose of their training is. When you understand that, then maybe you will be able to appreciate what they do and why. It is an art after all and there are many forms of expression.
Understanding your own purpose can provide you with a guide for life or just for your training and understanding the purpose of others will help you understand them and that opens up all sorts of possibilities to improve your relationships.
Seems like a plan to me!