When I ask this question, I don’t mean for you to say something like Brad Pitt or Nelson Mandela, I mean what does the best version of you look like? In other words, when you take an honest look at yourself, (and I think that it is healthy do this on a not infrequent basis), what are the qualities that you most aspire to, and what are the characteristics that you would like to eliminate.
It’s a question I ask myself and my students on a not infrequent basis. The people who attend my club are pretty used to it by now, but when I ask the question on a seminar, it’s clear that most have not really got an answer.
I guess that if aikido is purely about perfecting technique then it’s reasonable to conclude that the question is irrelevant, but in my view that’s a bit like entering a palace and never getting beyond the hallway. There is so much more to explore.
Aikido is a transformational process and the thing you are transforming is yourself. So if you haven’t asked the question above and come to a conclusion, then it makes it much harder to end up where you want to be. Transformation may come, but it will happen more by accident than good judgement. Moreover, it will probably take much longer to happen than if you have a clear focus as to what your training is all about.
I believe that when you step on the mat, your true self is revealed. There is no place to hide! If you are too fearful, too aggressive, too arrogant, too full of ego, lack confidence or are shy, it will be evident for all to see and for your partners to feel. That said, the only person who sometimes doesn’t get it, is you. That’s why some self-reflection and personal honesty is called for.
So ask the question, ‘who do I want to be’? When the answer reveals itself, you have a road map for your training. For example, say that you want to be more confident. You can then ask yourself;
What does a confident person look like?
How do they hold themselves?
How do they breathe?
Where does their gaze go to when engaged in practise?
What does it feel like to be confident? (Most of us have areas in our lives where we feel at ease).
When you have the answer to these questions, you can try to put those things into your own practice. Of course at first, it may seem unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and a bit like an oversized coat, it drowns you and keeps slipping off, but over time, you will find that that it is something you can grow into.
I won’t say that aikido has a unique power to bring about this kind of transformation, as there is so much out there in the world that I have not experienced, but I can at least say that the nature of the practice provides an incredibly efficient and forensic tool for doing so.
It’s all there for you! You just have to ask the right question and answer it honestly and then your journey can really begin.