What I didn’t say in class

Author’s note: Agh, I’ve been woefully neglectful of my blog. I started this last post in late February. I’ve decided not to change anything in the original post, but simply finish it. Now I can self evaluate my process and get better at this.

I’ve been sick and haven’t been able to practice aikido much in the last week and a half. it will be good to get back on the mat this evening, The last class I went to was taught by Sensei, who comes in to teach on Thursdays and Sundays. We’ve been working on O’Sensei’s concepts of the manifest (physical), hidden (dream/imaginary state) and divine (the place where love, connection to the bigger picture, and spontaneous creativity “takemusu” come from), and expressing each of these levels in our techniques. This was a beautiful and intense class for me.

Throughout the class, Sensei would ask us to check in and describe how our technique was feeling in the context of these levels. At the manifest level, I felt very solid and broad based and I described the feeling I had as a mountain. As we worked through the next level, the hidden, my thoughts changed to “how would a mountain act if it was a living breathing soul?” My technique changed, it got more deliberate, as mountains take their time to do anything, my technique slowed down, I relied on the tenacity that a mountain would have that eventually something would change. And it did. I felt the same connection to the ground, felt the same connection to my center but felt that my techniques were slowed down, they became more effortless. Finally, at the divine level, things changed. I myself on top of the mountain. I felt alone, but not lonely. I was the mountain, but I was it’s owner as well. I felt love, compassion, and embraced it. My technique felt lighter, there was less need for external movement. I felt a beautiful connection to my partner, the dojo and my Sensei.

Sensei does an interesting thing that I’ve not experienced in other Aikido classes. He goes around the room and solicits feedback from us. This is a practice I’ve had to get used to. Most other dojos will let the student come to their own conclusions off the mat about how they connect with Aikido, and what meaning it holds. However, in our dojo, it’s an integral part of our process. It’s not for everyone, and it wasn’t for me for a long while. Since I opened up to this I feel that my Aikido has grown immensely though, as have I. As he went along and asked us for feedback, it came to be my turn. I started to speak but quickly found myself overcome with emotion. That’s never happened to me before. It wasn’t a bad thing. My love for the class at that moment was overwhelming though, and I didn’t properly say what I wanted to say. So now I will say it.

The predominant school of thought in martial arts training is to train yourself to not think, but rather be instinctive in a conflict situation. There’s nothing wrong with this, lest I be admonished by other martial artists that read this. I would hope that if I ever had to defend myself that I wouldn’t be plagued by hesitation due to how I “think” or “feel” about the situation, but rather just do what I needed to. This mind set is needed everyday by police officers, doctors, firemen in truama situations. The thing that I’m most grateful for however, is the way Sensei asks us to use our uniquely human qualities of thought and evaluation to look at our technique and evaluate. This is something that is so much bigger than martial techniques but yet embodies the spirit of Aikido in all that we do. As a spiritual person, it is my duty to evaluate my actions in order to get to deepr levels within myself. @aikidoMAC, someone I follow on twitter, tweeted the following quote from O’Sensei recently: Begin the week with AGATSU – O Sensei says,”True victory is self-victory; let that day arrive quickly!” Self victory comes from the human process of self evaluation. Self evaluation is sometimes a double edged sword. Too much, and the inner critic raises it’s ugly head. I need to keep in mind two simple things about self evaluation: It is a tool for getting better at something, and it does not change what has happened. Onegai Shimasu!

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