Discovering Aikido: Principles for Practical Learning 





I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.  Confucius


Following only one impairs the vision; seeing too many too soon will confuse the mind. In time, it is not hard to tell who is, and who is not, a good teacher.


(a) Finding one to follow

The Master will doddle along, delegate authority, provide occasional words of wisdom, often smiles, and on occasion, might even demonstrate a technique. The master is only really qualified when rather old, in light of a lifetime of experience; an old student who still participates in the activities but has nothing to prove. Respect will come naturally but is of no great concern; what has been learned will never be forgotten. The would-be Master is the one who acts as the above but lacks experience. They are eager to be thought of as Master, after nothing but recognition when what they ought to be seeking is the Way. They ask others to perform that which they were never able to do. Respect has to be explained and then enforced, and is only given to those who have something they want.

The Teacher imparts wisdom to the seeking student, inspires the student to learn through little more than good example, and is not much more than a guide or single point of reference in the subsequent development. Respect is natural. The would-be Teacher comes with much theory and doctrine and is always eager to point out detailed technicality to demonstrate their knowledge, but what they know deteriorates in time as they no longer train. Respect is another technique and is thoroughly explained, as well as being compulsory. Respect is given to whoever praises them.

The Student is the seeker, has a hunger for knowledge, and aims to be the best they can. Respect is comes naturally. The would-be Student is the one who wants the knowledge but is not prepared to do the work. They can often be found explaining everything to their fellow students or absorbed in some obscure religious doctrine oblivious to reality. Respect is given to anyone who will listen.



(b) Finding the path

Find direction and move ahead.

In the beginning, the student has no idea what Aikido is, let alone what they should seek. Worse still, as they advance they may not even realise that they should be seeking, instead depending on and trusting in their teacher completely, believing that such association will somehow rub off. A passive learner will never evolve to the extent of an active seeker. Therefore, it is important for the beginning student to know that it is they themselves who will be responsible for the major part of their journey. Of course, having a great teacher is the best way to start, but a beginner has no certain way to discern what a good teacher is. Accordingly, the smart beginner will need to develop a discerning eye; seeing as many teachers as possible gives base for comparison, but is no guarantee.

Concrete objectives and the means to achieve them need to be set. For example, improving health and stamina, becoming co-ordinated, learning basic movements, understanding space and time, achieving a few grades, increasing overall confidence, gaining competence in self-defence and so on. The thing that binds all these together to create Aikido is aiki. Keeping the aim on aiki from early on will keep the student in correct focus. But there will be no sudden enlightenment, rather, the journey will be a collection of successive mini-enlightenments as things slowly click into place. In the beginning the learning curve is fast. Later, months will pass with seemingly little improvement, then suddenly, something is realised, one has jumped up a level, and everything changes a process that repeats itself endlessly yet rewards only the patient.

The following ideas are intended to help those seeking the way to know where they are and to keep focus on where they are going.




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