Sometimes getting to the Dojo is a real pain. Sometimes I don’t feel like training or even just facing other Human beings and I wonder Why do I bother?
However in Martial Arts or I think in any subject that requires dedication and persistence it is necessary to continue to practice even when you might not feel like it. Perhaps even more so. Although you may not want to train at the start of a class, if you can relax and focus usually it should be possible to be in a better state of mind by the end. The times when I didn’t feel like training for whatever reason, is when I can the most out of it. You can notice different things depending on your state of mind. Whether happy or sad, hyper or sedate, you can learn something.
People train for their own reasons and that’s fine by me. For some, coming to the Dojo is a release, a break from the rest of their lives, and when life is chaotic, Budo can be a consistency. For these people its partly therapeutic. After a few years of practice though the intention can change. Training can be as much as a part of daily routine as having breakfast in the morning. And if there is a deep desire to understand the art then endurance comes into it. To learn a subject deeply you need to study as often as life will allow.
Especially at Seminars , I’d sometimes feel like my brain could explode. Exhausted and unable to absorb any more information into my head, the body can take over and I can truly start to learn. Training is its own reward.
I myself have a very messy routine. Between working nights, getting kids up, to school, home again and training. It requires a lot just to stay in some kind of coherent mental state. So Budo has became more important to me, the longer I practice. This September I will have been training for 10 years, and many things have changed in my life in that time. Mostly for the better. Although when life is less manageable, going to the Dojo has help me greatly. So that’s why I bother..
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
The bigger they are, the harder they hit you.
Ok so here we go. A lot of misconceptions out there about what Martial Arts can actually enable people to do so, I want to address this and give my own perspective. First on the subject of self defence. I personally do not wish to give anyone I train with the idea that they can defend themselves even if they can. While it is good to instil in oneself confidence and self-reliance, we must stay realistic. Courses advertising 6 weeks to learn real world self-defence skills are nonsense at best and at worst can place people in a dangerous state of mind with an unrealistic view on themselves. I struggle to understand the motivation behind these. Other than money that is. Advertising Martial Arts as Self Defence is dodgy, feeding off people’s fears and insecurity. Far from being about Self Improvement such training will produce a more aggressive person even less in control of themselves. That being said I am not at all against training that focuses on practical self-defence, so long as it’s what the instructor claims it to be.
Traditional Budo has methodology to it based on repetition. Reflexes are drilled into the practitioner’s mind and body. It is a long term project. While self-defence skills can eventually be achieved, if it is the goal usually the student wont stick around very long. It’s also worth considering that most Traditional Arts where developed for battle and not for fighting. Aikido being different again with its techniques being non-lethal and aiming for a balanced reaction when dealing with aggression. However done with brutality can do a considerable amount of damage.
Next up is Self-improvement. Aikido is often promoted as a Spiritual Practice, that it can somehow magically improve the character of the practitioner. You need only read up on Aikido politics for 5 minutes to realize that self-improvement is by no means guaranteed. You are who you are. Whether or not you become a more compassionate, humble and generally more decent human depends entirely on what you chose to focus on in life and the choices you make. Martial Arts are on one level the study of aggression; this can be directed in many ways, some of them positive. There is no quick or easy way. I struggle with patience, and while teaching Martial Arts has helped me realize my shortcoming, it is only with awareness and persistence that I can gain any patience or even just tolerance.
I have had one parent come to me to enroll her Son in a Kid’s course. She told me in front of her child that he was undisciplined, annoying, and overly aggressive and basically that she wanted me to ‘Fix him’. I was direct with her, saying that training is not for fixing children and while it may help children become more focused; they must actually want to be there. No training can compensate for neglect. That should be obvious. I will write an article specifically about these situations at a later date. Unfortunately this happened a few times. Believing that an activity can somehow improve who we are is unrealistic, to believe it can somehow change the character of someone else is sad and highly disrespectful. When that person is a child it just makes it that bit sadder.
Taking a course of Aikido, Yoga or meditation will not in my opinion make a baldy bap of difference to who you are. Not on its own anyway.
However having this guy sit on your head is a life changing experience.
I had the good fortune to be asked to demonstrate at the first Light Colour Sound Festival in Paulstown, Kilkenny.
Demo – Katori Shinto Ryu – Takemusu Aikido – Photos taken by Dominika Mlynarska, Phil Cullen, Louise and Susanne Horsch.