There is a small conversation going on over at Crazy Hobbit’s. The primary topic is on builds on a seemingly simple question: “Can one be truly dedicated to a martial art if one is not also in a state of war?” (Okay, the question wasn’t exactly phrased that way, but it was the question that came to my mind as I was reading.)
In one of my earlier posts, I pointed out that you cannot be a jack-of-all-trades in self-defense and, as a result, it is often ill-advised to practice more than one martial art. This is because we often dedicate only a few hours a week to our training; to divide that small amount of time up between several martial arts can greatly reduce the usefulness of that training.
But what if your focus was constant. In The Code of the Samurai, there is a common theme that everything one does, from menial daily tasks to fighting in a battle, depends on you presuming that you could die at any moment. When I came across this notion, my initial thought was that this was an incredibly negative way of living one’s life. Yet, as I read further, I found that nothing could be further from the truth. The sole point of keeping death in mind was to ensure that every moment you spent living had value, purpose, and focus, that not a single minute of the day was wasted frivolously. Through this mindset, you treated your friends and family respectfully, you worked hard, you had constant focus. The result? Your mind was always in a state of sharpening, your reflexes and awareness were continually honed.
In short, the samurai seemed to take each moment as an opportunity to improve their training. Their focus was constant.
Most of us do not live in a society in which war is a constant. However, that does not necessarily give us the right nor the excuse to allow our minds and bodies to degenerate into uselessness. For example, we often use the expression “wearing many hats” to denote someone who has multiple roles in a given organization or task. This expression seems to highlight the fact that we expect our minds to be fragmented; that we do not expect to work as a cohesive whole. Who we are at work is often not who we are at home; we sit behind a desk all week and become weekend warriors on Saturday. Unlike the samurai, our focus shifts from situation to situation; we rarely have a constant.
What if, instead, you were to spend a day in total focus? What would that day be like? Here is my opinion:
- You wake, and immediately get out of bed. You do not hit the snooze alarm; you do not spend 10 minutes groggily staring at the ceiling.
- You shower, and dress appropriately. You do not dress sloppily, even if your work has a lax dress code.
- You eat a good breakfast.
- You leave for work on time, accounting for traffic and other issues.
- You arrive at work, and you focus on your tasks. You do not spend hours surfing the Web, nor do you spend too much time talking with co-workers.
- You eat a good lunch.
- You leave for work at an appropriate time. That may mean exactly 9 hours later, if you have a family, or later, if you are single.
- You arrive home, and you take care of your family and your house.
- You train in Aikido, or study tea, or flower arrangements, or iaido.
- You eat a good dinner.
- You go to bed at a reasonable hour.
This is just a bare-bones, on-the-fly example. But you notice a common theme? Moderation, focus, a clear delineation, but not separation, of work and family life. It doesn’t seem that complicated, yet how many of us live life like this? What would happen if we did? Would our lives have more focus? More enjoyment? This certainly isn’t a hedonistic lifestyle. Yet I can’t help but wonder if our lives wouldn’t be better if we lived with this sort of simple focus and dedication.
And then, with a solid foundation of living, what would our Aikido technique be like?