So as we come to the end of 2020, I think it’s fair to say that it has been a difficult year. Life has been incredibly hard for some and almost without exception, the majority of people have had their lifestyles considerably curtailed.
For those of us practising aikido the fact that most of us have not been able to get on the mat and grab a wrist or two has been challenging, to say the least. And for many it may have brought their journey to a complete stop with the traffic lights stuck on red and showing no sign of changing.
This seems a shame to me, as isn’t aikido all about learning how to deal with a crisis. No matter how fierce the attack, we strive to face it positively and it shouldn’t matter how many times we are thrown down, because we learn to roll and get back on our feet. The art teaches us how to deal with stress, to stay positive, to be creative and also to support other’s needs. So in some ways there has never been a better time to practise aikido.
Of course, the purpose of studying aikido is not the same for all, but given the choice between studying an art that is relevant to my life for a few hours a week when I step on a mat and one that I can use 24/7, then I know which one excites me more. I think this is in line with O Sensei’s vision for aikido, when he said it was an art ‘to reconcile the world’.
Whatever your purpose, let’s just consider what we all share, rather than what might potentially divide us. There are core ideas and principles in aikido that I have found to be pretty universal, whatever the lineage and when put into operation they help us become more proficient and efficient in the way we are able to deal with someone attacking us.
So what are these shared ideas/principles? Before listing them, it’s worth adding that you could write a book about each one, so I hope you will forgive me for simply providing the bare bones in the hope that we share enough for it to be meaningful to most readers. Anyway let’s go:
· We learn to be centred
· We learn to positively relax
· We learn to develop our awareness
· We learn to be grounded
As a result, we are better able to:
· Face stress with calmness
· Find appropriate solutions to the attacks that come our way
· To stay positive
· To get up when we fall down
· To be persistent
· To be disciplined
· To pay attention to detail
· To be respectful
· To look at every situation with a beginner’s mind
All this, and no doubt more, wrapped up in a package that improves our mental and physical health as well. What an incredible list of skills and benefits that can serve us well not only on the mat, but in every aspect of life if we practise the principles there too.
Ask yourself, the last time you got into an argument with someone, or gave up when the going got tough, or lost confidence in yourself, which of the principles did you forget to employ. Pay attention just as you do on the mat. By being more mindful, and learning from your mistakes, rather than dismissing them, you will find that your life skills improve just in the same way as your mat skills do. Practise brings about improvement!
If you can adopt this way of thinking then Covid has provided you with perfect opportunity to think differently about your training.
In what is a more stressful environment for most of us, you have the chance to consider how you are coping in the real world. If the answer is not so good, then think about the principles outlined above and how you might employ them to deal more appropriately and positively with whatever life is throwing your way. It’s advanced training as you won’t feel someone grabbing your wrist, plus the variables are infinitely greater, but then the rewards for practising are so much richer.
And if you’re not yet quite convinced then let me point out that there is no mat fee to pay, no politics, you never become too old to train and you can do so 24/7.
Are you up for the challenge because it’s going to be a while before 2021 looks any better? It’s up to you to turn the traffic lights to green and get on your way.