Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. This year also marks my 11th year studying Aikido. Interesting to note that I’ve now been studying for a third of my life. Not great span of time, when compared to others. But, at this point in my life, there are few things I can point to that have been a part of my life for that long.
It’s easy, I think, on occasions like birthdays, to sit back and look at your life and what you’re doing with it. At least, I think it’s easier on birthdays than other days of the year. Perhaps it’s because birthdays are “all about you.” (Were you to ask my parents, however, they would say it really should be all about them!) Given the importance of Aikido in my life, it is hard not to think about my training and my dojo. The following are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind:
- Aikido training has gotten to the point where I almost feel as if I practice because to do otherwise would simply be counter to my nature. It’s like breathing, in a way; I do it because it is a natural activity that is essential for my state of being. That said, I don’t ever want my training to be a “habit.” That is to say, I don’t want to train mindlessly, performing motions without being fully engaged in them. Smoking a cigarrette is a habit; so is singing along to songs on the radio. Habits require no thought; but training requires my constant presence.
- My level of physical fitness cannot rely solely on my Aikido training. This would probably not be the case were I merely training, instead of teaching. But since the majority of my training involves me as an instructor, it has become increasingly difficult for me to get a workout during my time on the mat. I used to try and exercise; and in fact, I try to make sure I exchange a few techniques with each student during class. But when I teach it is not about me; it is about my students. The last time I focused more on my own training than teaching, one of my students got injured. It was bad luck, and there was nothing I could do about it; but I should have been watching, instead of selfishly focusing on my own technique. Since I can’t count on my time on the mat to keep me in shape, I must continue to strive to exercise off the mat. This has meant that there are many nights where I leave work, teach class, spend a little time with my daughter, exercise, and then sleep. That’s been… an adjustment.
- I must endeavor to learn from whatever sources are available to me. I do not have the funds or the flexibility of schedule to see Sensei Maruyama every time he is in the United States. (Fall Camp this year will even be a stretch for me, but I’m going.) Therefore, I must keep my eyes open and learn from wherever I can. Of course, Sensei Bannister is the obvious choice. But I can also learn from my students, from other Aikido practitioners with whom I have become friends, and from the world around me. I may not make as much progress as, say, Sensei Robert Choy, whom I envy for his ability to travel to see Sensei Maruyama so often. But if I keep my eyes and heart open, and train with sincerity, I will make progress nonetheless.