As a person who is walking the Path of Aikido surely, you know the dirty little secret about this art we all know and love; mastery in Aikido takes time! Everyone knows that there are no shortcuts to getting good in Aikido… or are there?
Is there a way to “hack” mastery in Aikido? And if there was, would you be interested in learning it?
Last May, 2017 I hosted a tele-summit called “Aikido At The Leading Edge.” In this first of its kind, global online event, over 2,300 people gathered for 10-days to receive the wisdom of 46 of the world’s top Aikido teachers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs. There were interviews, workshops, and panel discussions on a variety of topics relevant to Aikido.
At the end of each session, I asked all of the teachers to answer the same simple question: “What is your #1 training tip for someone to keep their Aikido at the leading edge?” The answers were remarkably insightful. They are dozens of hacks into the mastery of Aikido.
In this blog post, I’m sharing 21 of these teacher’s #1 training tip, organized into the following 7 sections:
1) On Commitment To Practice 2) On Connection 3) On Curiosity & Exploration 4) On Honesty 5) On Authenticity 6) On Inquiry & Self-Reflection, and 7) On Integration.
Take any of these nuggets of wisdom and apply them to your Aikido, and your life, you will see that they are actually powerful hacks towards the realization of mastery in Aikido.
ON COMMITMENT TO PRACTICE
Many of our guest teachers spoke about the commitment to practice. This is based on the idea that our very own potential is waiting for us somewhere down the path of practice. All we need to do to realize this potential is to commit to walking a higher Path of practice. Here is what they had to say about walking that higher Path:
“At the beginning in Aikido we must practice with agreements, to work together. But the more we practice, the more we need to face difficulties from our partners that we need to learn how to solve. The difficulty must be according to that persons level. If they are good, then push a little more. Solving these problems in an Aiki way is the study of Budo.”
“Misogi.” When ever anyone asked O Sensei what is the essence of Aikido, he would always answer “Misogi”. Aikido is a practice of self purification”
“Passion, that’s perhaps the most important part. Training is also important. Lots and lots of training. But training that’s driven by the passion to really hear the whisper of divine nature.”
“Merging”, “blending”, and “harmony” are core principles in Aikido – it’s right there in the name. In fact, after the individual practice principles like center and ground, the art naturally extends out to the relational principles. So it’s no surprise that several of the teachers related to “connection” as their #1 teaching tip:
“Make the relationship primary. The connection, the contact, the “musubi” comes first.”
“When you are doing techniques and movements in Aikido, always keep in mind how you could injure each other. Both as Uke and Nage. Paying attention to that will keep you present and remind you that you can choose to protect your partner. That will change how you move, and Aikido will start to talk you differently.”
“Be a good uke. I think that if we are good ukes we can keep learning. As long as we are taking ukemi, we can receive our partners technique, we can be guided, and we are keeping ourselves young.”
ON CURIOSITY & EXPLORATION
Several of the teachers in the tele-summit stressed in their #1 teaching tip the need to be curious and to continuously explore the art. These are the very foundations from which O Sensei birthed Aikido. Curiosity and exploration are the very qualities that will assure that Aikido continues to grow and evolve into the future.
“Open the door. Open the door to O Sensei and see what happens.”
“To stay on your leading edge keep researching. The traditions are no doubt important, but we can get too traditional if we are not careful. So develop your aikido while keeping it in the philosophical framework of Aikido.”
“Never stop looking for ways to grow and change. Even if you’re training with just one sensei, in one dojo. Keep your passion, and never stop looking for ways to grow and change.”
If we boil down all the developmental injunctions throughout time into one essence, then perhaps that would be honesty. To be honest with yourself, and with others. If we hold this as our inner compass then it will simultaneously, and constantly challenge us, and propel us forward in growth and development.
Shakespeare got it right all those years ago:
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ Polonius in Hamlet
Always was, always is, and always will be.
“Be personally honest. Who are you? What are you right this moment? You have to be honest. If you reach for a concept of who you want to be, you may be ignoring the things in you that really want to talk to you at that level. So personal honesty is key.”
“Keep researching and honestly ask yourself “Is this the best way that I can do this technique? Is this the best way that I can move?” You have to keep on giving up what you’ve learned, in order to learn something new. For that we have to constantly challenge what we know.”
“Practice what you preach in your own life. Take it off the mat yourself. Be reflective and courageous with yourself and ask “How do I show up in situations and challenges that I meet?” It’s ok to lose it sometimes, but to learn from that.”
Aikido is the meeting of classical forms and universal principles. On one hand, we are copying forms and following our teacher’s directions. We meticulously polish the forms and carry the art forward into the future.
But on the other hand, when we listen to our own inner needs, our own inner rhythms, and especially our own inner “unfolding”, then this changes everything. When we allow Aikido to move through us, we find that the art manifests in ways that we could never have predicted, or imagined. This is the meeting place where the art ends and your Unique Aikido begins. Where you discover your very own Authenticity.
“Study O Sensei and recognize the extraordinary state that he tapped into in order to download Aikido to us. As you connect more to O Sensei’s lineage, your body will start to respond because there is something there that can touch you. Allow that to come through you.”
“Be honest and authentic. O Sensei told us to accomplish our bestowed mission. So you be you. Be as honest and authentic as you can with respect, harmony, and consideration of other people. But never break your connection with your bestowed mission.”
“When you walk into the dojo make a conscious practice of bowing to O Sensei. Leave your ego at the door, and open yourself to a larger sense of the possibilities. Consciously extend your energy outward in goodwill. And practicing to be as authentic as you can be.”
ON INQUIRY & SELF-REFLECTION
Inquiry and Self-Reflection are as old as humanity itself. In fact, the capacity to reflect on ourselves is the very thing that makes us human. From time immemorial we have looked outward to the stars, and inward to our consciousness asking those eternal questions; “Who Am I?”, and “How Am I To Live?”
These are the very questions that evolve us forward as human beings. It is through the simple act of Inquiry that we move towards our greater potential and the trajectory of that movement is none other than a PATH.
So it is very fitting that the below teachers see AI-KI-DO, the Path Of Harmony With Life Energy, as a Path of Inquiry and Self-Reflection.
“Approach Your Aikido as constant learning. Try to keep reminding yourself that you don’t know as much as you pretend, or think you know.”
“Keep your practice fresh with the quality of “self-reflection”. Integrating self-reflection with the movement, and technical aspects of the art is critical. Remember, self-reflection.”
“Reach deep within yourself and explore your motivation and inspiration for choosing the art. What compels you to practice, and what do you hope to embody in your life? Then stay open and watch your understanding mature and evolve.”
If the true nature of the universe is Oneness, then how can you reconcile the infinite number of things you see around you? But like the integral saying goes, “if you can see it out there, then you can find it in here.”
Mastery in Aikido absolutely requires that you develop the ability to take multiple perspectives. Because it is a simple fact that if you cannot relate to a perspective in yourself, you will never be able to relate to it in another. You will never be able to do Aikido with someone who holds that perspective.
Aikido is a continuous, and constant practice of integrating more and more perspectives.
“Be present. Settle, open, and allow. Move in balance between active and receptive, masculine and feminine. Be present and include the physical. Allow the energies that come into you, and let them move. Open to the idea that these energies want to mix into a fuller You.”
“As ‘nage’, receive the attack with an uke frame of mind. Yielding to the energy and allow the natural manifestation of kaeshi waza to determine the path of resolution.”
“Embrace the tension where 2 perspectives cannot exist in the same space at the same time. Embrace that space; with inner awareness, enduring patience, and applied skill. Create the inner container and the external skillful means to hold that tension… and evolution will just happen.”
As I said at the beginning of this post, there are no shortcuts to Mastery in Aikido. But there is no substitute for having a good guide, mentor, spiritual friend, or Sensei. They will help you avoid the many pitfalls, backslides, wrong turns, and dead ends along the path.
Nobody can walk the Path for you. But if mastery in Aikido is what you want, then it is important to approach the wise men and women of the art. It will make all the difference.
Question: How do you hack into Mastery in Aikido? Share your #1 Training Tip below!