When you first walk into our dojo, past the wooden signs extolling martial arts virtues like: Masagatsu Agatsu and Aikido itself, there are two basic precepts we follow:
But what does that mean? Aren't the martial arts inherently dangerous and injurious? Shouldn't we expect a high level of seriousness, bordering on a military experience? Wouldn't it be more practical if we sparred or competed? This is nothing like the TKD/MMA experience.
One of the common results of these explorations, is the 'compare and contrast' that feels inevitable between arts to determine which is superior. After spending over 28 years in the martial arts, spanning disciplines like Judo, Hwa Rang Do, Silat, Savate, Muay Thai, JKD, Karate, and more - true teachers and lifelong practitioners (who aren't just after a quick buck), will all tell you the same thing: There is a difference between technique and philosophy. Techniques can be taught regardless of what name you give to the art - they're just tools; collections of movements learned with mechanical practice (and ideally a competent teacher). Philosophy is the purpose behind learning those tools. Why do you study martial arts? To fight? To workout? To resolve conflict? To engender peace? To meditate in motion? To find balance in your life? Stress relief? A spiritual journey? A lifelong hobby? A community?
There are so many reasons and none of them are inherently wrong, as long as they follow these two precepts:
Safety: What happens when you charge head-first, throwing caution to the wind, into a new venture? Risk that often leads to pain. As human beings, our very nature tells us to avoid pain - but it's through pain that we grow. So how do we reconcile these two things? Step by step. Start with an emphasis on not getting hurt, even if it feels like you're being held back in the beginning. Why? Consistency. Sure, you can push your limits on day 1, day 2, maybe even day 3. But what happens when your body hasn't had time to recover and you go for day 4? Injury. What happens after injury? You quit. And you feel justified because you can't risk these injuries with your job, family, and other commitments. A dojo (of any style) that doesn't focus on safety first, is a danger to you.
Joy: Speaking of consistency, what happens when you find a dojo that treats you like you're in boot camp or essentially bullies you into an experience you never asked for? You quit - and again, you'd be justified to do so. Why? Because if you're not enjoying the process, community, and practice - why would you exchange your precious time on it? You'll never get those hours back - EVER!
Aikido (and our dojo in particular) is laser focused on these ideals because it should be a lifelong journey (many practitioners study well into their 80s and 90s!). Keeping a habit consistent like showing up to the dojo 2-3 times per week is hard; the dojo should be in service of that commitment. This is why I always tell my students: start with safety and joy - on that foundation, take risks, train hard, and explore the WORLD of martial arts techniques while relying on Aikido's philosophy, techniques, and community.
As always, if you find something resonates with you above, feel free to use, copy, share, and explore. If you didn't - feel free to discard it. Either way, I'm blessed to have had you read these words and I can't wait to see you on the mat soon.