Earlier today I read a very provocative post from http://isshindo.blogspot.com/ that has stuck with me all day long. The blogs' author practices Isshinryu Karate-do, and this post is even about kata, which in many ways is a very far practice from my outward practice of Aikido, but the message is vital to anyone seriously concerned with martial arts. The author says kata serve as a "blue print" for our fighting techniques, but in order to make them real we must apply them to real life:
"If you truly want to protect yourself in a violent attack then you MUST take the blue-
prints and morph them into those tactics that will allow you to protect yourself."
The conclusion of the author's post is what really got me though:
"How many of you actually sat down and wrote out your philosophy, which dictates your
path, and a plan to follow in training/practice? If you have not then you have made an
error in judgement, do it now. How many of you have figured out and written out your
strategies and tactics? Just a couple of questions to get you thinking for if you have just
been going with the flow as it comes moment to moment then you may be missing focus
and direction and allowing someone else or some program dictate it all, is this good for
Tonight looking around the dojo, a lot of black belts that haven't been around lately showed up, and a few of them commented on my progress. It's been a while since I've seen them, and at such a low level as I am at, such progress is just really noticeable because I've gone only from horrible to bad, but it made me think about the way I approach martial arts and the way many people do in world who only show up two days a week and only practice Aikido. There are many many differences, but one of the biggest I have noticed seems to be a kind of tunnel vision on what they're doing. Because I've had talented instructors in different avenues of the martial arts, have been practicing for a while, and read extensively, I have a lot of my own experiences and opinions to bring to my martial arts experience, as opposed to people who have only studied unquestionably under one sensei. When I go to practice, I go as empty as possible, and have an incredible trust in my sensei and fellow aikidoka, but when I go home ...
I am sensei in my own dojo.
In the end, I am the one responsible for my training. To recognize and assume with confidence this role of authority with an analytical mind, and of course an infinite amount of humility, I think is a big part of what martial arts can teach us. I practice alone, and when I do, I practice slow, fast, trustfully, analytically, tired, happy, sick, intoxicated, whatever. Because I'm Sensei of my dojo, I'm always trying to act in accordance with this responsibility. So, like the isshinryu blog post, I will also end with a question:
Who is responsible for your training?