Why -am- I doing this, exactly?

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.

5 thoughts on “Why -am- I doing this, exactly?

  1. I’ve just read your post! I must say you made me think a lot about this! As a matter a fact, sometimes deep inside of me I ask “Why?” Why–even though sometimes we can be hurt and almost cry of anger for not being able to do something… “Why contnue?” Why is the sky the limit? Why this hunger of knowledge. The reason is that, when I’m doing aikido, just like you wrote, I’m the person I always wanted to be! I don’t fear, I laugh. I don’t cry I smile! It seems that it’s a new world. but that’s the reason that says at the same time I’m a rookie: I’m still not able to make world my own dojo. Yet! But I just need to believe in that and I’m sure I’ll do it!

    Tatami for some moments seems to be sacred! 😀 Not of divinity, but of happiness and joyful moments! I sure have some strict etiqutte but that doesn’t limit my horizons! You cannot private the bird to have wings! You just fly! And this makes you feel how you wanted to be treated. At the same way you treat people with respect. Well both ways are good! Aikido makes it! It’s the feeling towards the practice that makes the respect inside the dojo 😀


  2. Hi Dave-san,

    I read with interest about your search for reasoning for Aikido practice. My comment on this line of exploration is an excerpt from my book, ‘Stepping Off the mat.” Page 189: “Cause and effect!” All affects all. Everything is interconnected an everything we do is to some extent a cause. Society is a living, moving entity having a collective effect on itself. This society which is actually all of us, sets us up to do all sorts of things. As I said before everything is alive and all life is a flow and you are affected by many, many causes. The key to a satisfying life is to be more of a cause, rather than to be jerked around by relentless negative effects. What goes around truly comes around.

    All true martial artists understand this and practice brotherhood on a daily basis. knowing how to fight well by practicing it with each other will instill some of it. Learning to fight teaches us how unnecessary fighting really is. However the most important lesson is learning how easy it is to avoid conflict.

    Jonathan Bannister Sensei is your closest living example of this “principle in action.” I’ll have more to add later.

  3. Aline: Thank for your comment! I’m glad that what I write helps articulate what you yourself feel at times. That’s very gratifying.

    Sensei Berry: As always, you bring insight and reflection with your comments, causing me in turn to think even more deeply about each topic. I admit that keeping this blog has felt somewhat risky to me–I want to write honestly, yet often worry that what I write might be construed as “incorrect” or worse, “impolite.” The admiration I have for Sensei Maruyama, Sensei Bannister, yourself, and all of Kokikai is, to me, undescribable. I hope that is consistently apparent.

    I look forward to more of your comments and thoughts, and I appreciate your willingness to share them with me in this format.

  4. Dave Lowry (the author of the link you provided) typically writes about the way the martial arts are misunderstood by the layperson, and especially how practitioners themselves, at times, over exaggerate their own self importance. I believe that modern martial arts (as opposed to samurai era bujutsu) provides a means to enhance all areas of life, in and out of the dojo, while still maintaining a sense of tradition (like the wearing of the hakama instead of sweatpants).

  5. What an awesome post! To be perfectly honest, I got into Wado Ryu to become a martial artist. I wanted to learn some really cool moves to enhance my onscreen talent with the sword. No, I’m not a movie star, just a movie geek that likes to make short films usually involving lightsaber or really cool swordfighting scenes. However, now that I started training and studying Wado Ryu more in depth it has taken hold of my soul. Do I think that Karate makes me a better person… No. I think that by applying the lessons of the great masters to my own life that I make me a better person. I love the martial arts and want to learn everything I can about as many styles as I can. To me it is a great way to meet and befriend intelligent people that will have the honor and love to be your friend forever. Thanks again for another thought provoking article!


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