Aikido training–any type of training, really–requires consistency. As a result, the students that do best tend not to be the ones who are more physically adept (although it may initially appear to be that way). Instead, the students that do well tend to be the ones that train consistently. Be it three times a week, twice a week, or even once a week.
Consistency requires the student be constantly motivated to attend class. We certainly have many distractions that can keep us from training. So many things compete for our time that it is easy to let things fall by the wayside.
Let me use myself as an example. I love Aikido. It is gotten to the point that it is not so much a passion in my life, it is simply a part of my life. To remove Aikido from me is to remove a large part of who I am. Yet Aikido is not all that I am. And on days like today, even I find myself unmotivated to train. The weather outside is beautiful, my wife and daughter are wonderful–how easy it would be to takea day off and go spend time with them! And certainly, which is more important–my family, or myself? Of course, I have two compelling reasons to not take a day off: first, I am the instructor, and my students depend on me; second, I am, in fact, paid to teach my classes, and the income (or lack thereof) does have an affect on my family. So even though I would like the day off, I can no more indulge in it than I can from my regular job.
So, regardless of my motivation, I will be at class.
This is not a bad thing. The fact that I am disciplined enough to attend classes even if I don’t feel compelled to do so stengthens many skills that are useful in other parts of my life. How often are we faced with a chore that we could easily put off, if we so chose? Housework, yardwork, tasks at our jobs–there are many that we try to postpone because they don’t appeal to us at the moment. Yet, being able to persevere through a lack of motivation typically has excellent results. For example, when I force myself to do the “less desirable” tasks at work, I find that I am later ahead of schedule. Forcing myself to train in Aikido teaches my body that there are certain skills that require constant practice–to miss a day, or a week, is to slow progress and proficiency.
But not everyone is the chief instructor. So how does a “normal” student remain motivated? Well, most of it, I am sure, rests on my shoulders. I need to make sure that classes remain interesting and relevant–else it’s to easy for a student to say “I can skip today, we’re just going to do kokyunage.” But I think the best way to encourage motivation is to create a dojo that is a community. We train as a group, and when one of us is absent, it has a noticeable effect. When I was just training, I used to tell other students, “Okay! I will see you on Thursday.” This practice put in my mind that if I did not show up on Thursday, I was doing more than skipping class–I was breaking my word. As a result, I rarely missed those classes.
As an instructor I once knew was fond of saying: “It is when you are the least motivated that you have the greatest opportunity to improve.”