Monday, October 19, 2009

Just training

I've been thinking a lot about what we do in aikido and why we do it.

When I first became interested in aikido, I went around to various dojo in NY to choose one. I spent over a month looking around. I finally choose the New York Aikikai because it was more martial looking than some others.

After three-plus years, things look decidedly different Not that it isn't martial, it is, but the concern I felt for that aspect of training has changed.

Aikido is a martial art, there is no question about that, but that is a loaded term these days, which requires some thought.

In many people's minds, one studies a martial art to become a proficient warrior -- a fighter if you will. Many people who think that way don't stick with aikido very long, however. The methods of aiki, blending with one's opponent, are devilishly difficult to pull off. If you want to just protect yourself, better study boxing something.

No, one studies aikido for something else. But what? Why do we train?

I suppose the answer can be different for each person, however, at its most basic, there really is only one answer that I can see. One trains to train.

There really isn't any other reason or any other reward. Sure there are many ancillary benefits to training. Better health, stamina, a sense of confidence, ability, a social activity. Whatever. The list is as varied as there are practitioners to answer it.

However, the training is the thing. If that weren't true, no one would do it.

It's a bit like the Soto Zen idea of Shikantaza (just sitting). The practice of zazan meditation is it's own "reward." As soon as one think in terms of getting something from the practice, one has lost. Aikido is like that.

Just practice, whatever your level, whatever your ability, without any thought of a goal. Even the hope for "improvement" is a step off the path, I think. Of course, when one practices, one will improve, which is as it should be. However, if that's the focus of our attention, then we're missing the best aikido has to offer.