I must admit: when the summer months hit, I expected a general decline in the dojo. After all, those of us in the Pacific Northwest value greatly the three or four days of bright sunshine we get! Plus, summer months are typically filled with atypical schedules: vacations, day trips, and so on. So, as June moved into July, I thought things might get a little quiet.Nothing could be further from the truth. In the past few months, we’ve had many new people join our community. Many of these folks have asked what to expect when they step onto the mat. Here’s what I’ve been sharing with them:
- Relax. There is nothing that occurs on the mat that you cannot do. It simply takes practice.
- Patience. There is a lot that you will see on the mat that you might want to do, but cannot yet do. Be patient with yourself. You will get there in time, and you are in competition with no one other than yourself.
- Commit. Try to attend two or three classes a week. Don’t over-commit yourself! It is more important to train consistently than it is to train as often as possible. When you are on the mat, commit to being on the mat.
- Ask. There are no secrets here. To be sure, some questions are best answered through experience, but you should never be afraid to ask a question about why we do things in the dojo the way we do. You can ask the instructor, you can ask a senior student–but please ask!
- Enjoy. Training, like anything else, has its ups and downs. It can be very challenging, even frustrating at times. Therefore, it is important that you remember to enjoy yourself. Enjoy your training, enjoy that your fellow training partners are there to help and challenge you–they are not there to hinder you.
I have a deep respect for anyone–regardless of age–who steps onto the mat. It is a challenge to put yourself in a position where you are learning a new culture and a new system of movement. These four points are perhaps simplistic and likely incomplete. But they’re a good start to ensuring that the path you walk on is one you can follow for years to come.
I agree with Zeger-san on all points. Training in aikido is a deeply personal experience. Stories of how aikido has helped this person achieve this goal, and that person achieve that other goal are just that: stories. Like anything else, what you get out of your aikido practice depends in large part on what you put into it. Be unafraid to try, and be unafraid to question! You’ll find your path to be quite rewarding.