A good friend of mine sent me this link, in which the author describes why he trains in the martial arts. One of his key points: there are many who assume that, because we attempt to follow samuari traditions, we want to be samurai ourselves. He counters that we follow these traditions because they help us get closer to whatever objectives we might have.
I found this article to be a very interesting read. It made me realize that one of the driving forces behind my training is not to become a “martial artist” or a “warrior.” It is simply to become the person I want to be. For whatever reason, I have found that I am closest to what I want to be when I am practicing Aikido. It no longer matters why Aikido over other activities; one might as well ask a jazz musician why he chose the saxaphone over the piano.
In one sense, I am rather fortunate: Kokikai Aikido has always struck me as being rather relaxed in its patterns of etiquette. Certainly, there are many martial arts (Japanese or otherwise in origin) that adhere to much stricter patterns of behavior. I find that this relaxed environment has given me the opportunity to explore and understand my own definitions of correct and incorrect behavior, while simultaneously requiring that I learn to adapt to a myriad of other definitions of behavior as established by my sensei, my students, and my colleagues.
This article also helped me, I think, reach a greater understanding of my own teacher. I respect Sensei Bannister greatly, yet I have always realized that his pursuit of budo far outstrips my own aspirations. I admit (for this blog is intended to be a place in which I communicate honestly) that I always felt a bit out of place in his presence. In fact, I often felt frustrated because I knew (and still know) that I could not meet his expectations without alienating my friends and family, let alone risking becoming someone I am not. The road of the samurai is a hard one to travel, and it is not yet one that I am ready to follow.
Now, however, I at least undestand a portion of why Sensei adheres to this code. (I cannot, and will not, claim to know fully. It is not my place.) By following these codes, he becomes the person whom he most wants to be. It is grateful to know that, should the view from the path I am on become insufficient, there are more paths available to me.
As Sensei Maruyama says, “The goal of Kokikai is to maximize your potential.” There are probably many ways in which to accomplish this. I train with this goal in mind; with luck, I teach with this goal in mind as well.