I think that this is much better than “shut up and train”… maybe it’s the PC version… but it’s kind of on my mind right now. A friend recently expressed interest in Aikido and I thought about the suggestions and advice that I wanted to give him. Strangely, it was advice that I heard a long time ago when I first started Aikido. This advice was never heeded, and my ego got the best of me. This is probably the reason that I have had so many start / stops with my Aikido career on the mat.
What was told to me was simply this: Train, be present on the mat. Understanding etiquette, the Japanese terms that surround Aikido, the esoteric principles, those will all come with time. But if you want to learn Aikido, then learn it in the way that it was supposed to be learned, in the body.
I like to read, and I think that this is an important part of our practice: understanding the history and how our art ties into O Sensei Morehei Ueshiba is tantamount to understanding the art and putting it into context with why it was created. However the first thing we have to do as Aikidoka to be Aikidoka is to train. We can then try to make sense of how Aikido fits into our lives, we can then understand how Aikido works off the mat and how we can use our training to be in project meetings, interpersonal relationships, familial relationships, tragedy, joy, life and death.
However, for me it cannot be the other way around. I can not say that I will practice Aikido off the mat as an “instead of” to actual training. Our dojos allow us a laboratory, a safe place to express conflict and resolution in the fundamental and whole way we can, in our bodies. I remember a friend of mine a few years ago was interested in Aikido and he wanted to “find out more about it.” He never went. there is nothing that is secret that you will find in books that you will not find on the mat. However, there are many things on the mat that you will not find by reading. The pure joy of experience can not be had by reading or talking about it.
This obviously goes for many other things, music, visual arts, you name it. Aikido is an art expressed through the heart, felt in the bones, skin and muscles. So… shut up and train!