We all come to the mat for different reasons. Some for the self-defense, some for the exercise, some for the discipline of a formal training, some for the social aspects. I think for most of us it is a little bit of all of these things. Why do we continue to practice this art?
Walking into the dojo for class separates me from the outside world. The time I spend training on the mat is time that exists only there and then. I interact with people from all sorts of backgrounds and who have all sorts of reasons for being in the dojo training. The only thing we really share on the mat at first is a curiosity to learn. From there all of these diverse people develop a language that we can all understand at some level.
This is the language of the body and of movement. Aikido is a guide in this language. As we train our explorations become deeper, building on trust and newly learned techniques. We find more and more commonalities with the people we train with. Here we have all the beginnings of a strong supportive community.
As I walk out of the dojo I am refreshed and my step lightened. Walking home I am often struck by some insight on the mat and its metaphorical application to life outside of the dojo. The outside world stays off the training mat, but the lessons learned on the mat guide my life on the outside.
There are obvious physical benefits to training.
- Increase in aerobic conditioning
- Greater Flexibilty
- Tones Muscle
- Better Balance
- Quickening of reaction
There are other benefits that are a bit more subtle and take time to develop. Increasingly we are seeing the benefits of bringing mindfulness training into our lives. Aikido, often called a "moving meditation," is a great way to bring mindfulness into your life. While practitioners of martial and meditative disciplines have long noted the aspects of calm awareness that comes with training only in recent times have studies been done that are beginning to recognize the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits of this type of training. Watch this section as we share findings in the medical and scientific world that recognize the benefits of training in Aikido.
Rely on Peace
To activate your
Pacify your environment
And create a beautiful world.
When I first ran across this quote I struggled with the line “Pacify your environment”. In my time on earth to pacify has taken on a meaning of stepping on, holding down, subdue, bring to submission, as in “pacify the resistance”. After coming to a better understanding of the word "pacify" I have a more accurate understanding of this O'Sensei quote. Pacify comes from the Latin pacificare; to make peace. Now this quote has strong meaning to me. To rely on peace to activate my many powers. To be relaxed, centered, extended, to be at peace so that my true power may come through me.
Pacify your environment. To be at ease with; to be calm, to be at peace with, to be comfortable with, to be one with the world surrounding my center. In this way I can have a positive, productive, influence on creating a beautiful world each moment of my life.
When we train in Aikido we are making an investment in our personal well being, our physical health, our mental strength, our spiritural growth, and by extension our community. This is the investment we make each time we walk into the Aikido dojo for committed training. The two or three or more hours we spend each week in formal practice, along with (hopefully) the hours of commitment in our daily lives yields a payoff that stretches from our center, out into the world around us.
Our physical health increases through the physical practice. This allows us the energy to do our work in the world so that we can obtain the shelter, food, and clothing that we all need. It gives us the stamina to raise our children, take care of our grandparents, dig in the earth to sow the gardens that feed us, and swing the hammers that pound the nails holding the supports of our homes together. It recharges our immune systems to ward off illness and gives us the flexibility to bend around the barriers in our lives.
Our mental strength grows as we test our powers of observation and creativity. Our mind is challenged to observe and then direct the body. We are lead to creatively enter into a way of thinking that knows no enemies, only partners; no bad, nor good, only opportunities; no past or future, but only now.
In the dojo we create a spirit of love, cooperation, and harmony. It is with this trust and understanding that learning and growth can take place. We connect ourselves through our physical and mental practice to the larger universe. We learn to feel the flow of energy as it surrounds us and moves through and with us. Our spirit is rejuvenated and rejoices in the practice of our art. We then take this spirit with us as we leave the dojo. Touching all we meet from a calm and centered way of being.
In this way we affect a growth in spirit and consciousness throughout the world, as our touch is passed on from person to person, group to group, community to community, nation to nation, the spirit of harmony, the art of peace, grows and spreads. We find ourselves more creative, more cooperative, more in sync with the natural process of life. So our wealth increases, both in the mind-body-spirit manifestation, and in the realm of the material as we spend our energy in cooperative creation and growth rather than in deceitful destruction.
This investment we put into our training in Aikido has a very high payoff. It is slow. It is gradual. It is sustainable.
Watch your investment grow as you touch those in your life, and they touch others.
What If Everyone Trained in Aikido?
Imagine what could happen if more people made such an investment. Go ahead, imagine it. If you can passionately imagine the people of our world investing cooperatively, creatively, peacefully, harmoniously, then we can make it happen!
Aikido is an investment in creating a beautiful world.
Aikido is rich in metaphors for living a creative, compassionate, engaged life. As I practice on the mat I am often enlightened as to how I might apply a basic Aikido principle to a challenge I am having off the mat.
Most of us will not be attacked physically but common are mental, emotional, and social conflicts. These can be just as stressful to face as a physical attack. Like a physical attack we can lash out, run away, or choose to engage in a calm and centered fashion leading to resolution and growth.
Aikido teaches us to engage without judgment. It shows us how to frolic in the middle of chaos. Able to move freely about it is easier to find the place where we fit in. The place where we are safe and can begin to work the problem at hand. Whether being attacked with a sword or with words the Aikido student strives to stay calm, move to a safe place to better understand and begin to work with the energy. Once coming from a safe and centered place we can then begin to develop technique, to work out a solution.
Everything from the first meeting (attack), to the conversation (technique), to parting (pin or throw) can be related to our physical practice of Aikido. By also including the spiritual and mental aspects of training we begin to build a tool set that will aid us in our daily interaction.
Occasionally when we have new students we will sit and introduce ourselves. As a part of this we tell why we started Aikido and why we still practice. One student always claimed that he practiced Aikido because it kept him out of jail. What did he mean? This student found that by training in Aikido he learned a tool set that allowed him to deal with stress and conflict in a constructive fashion. This was in contrast to his previous methods of dealing which often included violent outbursts, both verbal and physical.
There are no secret techniques to deal with this and that attack. There is constant training in a holistic approach, that leads to gradual growth that permeates all aspects of our lives if we put in the effort.