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.