by Steve Sharp
I want to reiterate and expand on some key principles and practice mentioned during last weeks keiko.
Attitude in the Dojo
Attitude in mind is directly reflected in attitude of body in all that we do from the moment we enter the Dojo and beyond. Aikido specifically and martial arts in general have formulated various methods of Ritualised Etiquette which have been formalised over many years of trial and error to help create and develop the right Attitude needed for safety and respect; and to enable practitioners to develop their martial skills to ever increasing efficiency and control.
On a deeper and more profound level these Attitudes Of Ritualised and Formalised Etiquette help to develop deeper levels of awareness in all activities.
During the various techniques practiced last week Sensei talked a little about Attitude. Before looking at Attitude during a technique I would like to reflect on Attitude outside of technique…. for example… consider the expression….
Everything in Aikido starts and ends with the Bow
This is practically and literally true in that we do bow before and at the end of practice but more importantly it starts and ends our practice with the perfect Attitude.
An Attitude of Respect and Humility and focused awareness on entering and leaving the Dojo. The place for the development of Mind, Body and Spirit.
When I arrived back in the U.K. after spending ten years in Japan I found myself bowing unconsciously on greeting people, which of course raised a few eyebrows but the bow and it’s deeper significance remains in my DNA.
The standing and seated bow has many hidden qualities and great significance for the development of our practice and perhaps if people are interested I will write a more specific article on The Bow.
For now I want to suggest considering and reflecting on all the other activities in the Dojo other than technique which can be considered also as a major part of the development of Awareness…. for example…. bringing more focused Awareness to…
- The Standing and Sitting Bows,
- Placement of Shoes,
- The placing and putting down of Bokuto and Jo,
- Sitting in Seiza,
- the Awareness in looking and listening to Sensei's demonstration and explanation of Technique and the Principles there of,
- The Ma ai…(Spacing between you and your partner before Technique),
- Your Kamae (Aikido posture..acture…of readiness)
- Zanshin (maintenance of Awareness after a particular Technique.
The Dojo is the ideal environment from the minute we enter to the moment we leave and beyond to develop the heightened Awareness needed to be a proficient and well rounded Martial Artistist and that Awareness does not differentiate between the so called Ordinary activities and Martial practice.
The Equality of Giving and Receiving.
This relates to what Sensei was mentioning last night during his demonstration of Technique and the importance of the Right Attitude.
As Uke you give your whole body and spirit unconditionally through your movement in whatever form it takes of which Tori responds with the same spirit so that you both develop the ability to respond appropriately. Being at the Right place… at the Right Time and applying the Right Technique.
More experienced Aikidoka should have developed the intuitive sensitivity to allow that equality between the Giver and Receiver to take place to facilitate the learning process.
I have been a practicing Zen Buddhist for many years and have taken many Meditation Retreats both here in the U.K.and Japan.The formalised rituals in the Temples in Japan are rigorous and are of a similar nature to the formalised rituals within the Japanese Budo Arts. These formalised rituals in both activities are designed to help practitioners develop a relaxed and resilient body, a clear and open mind and a bright spirit.
As a Zen Master Dogen Zenji said…
"To study the Self is to Forget the Self and to Forget the Self is to be Enlightened by All things which is in the end Traceless without beginning or end."
This expression relates, I think very much to this psychology re the learning process.
Particularly re Unconscious Competence.
We go from…. Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence and from Conscious Competence to Unconscious Competence.
I have heard it said that it takes three months for the Nervous System alone to fully learn a new movement which relates to the saying, a thousand, ten thousand cuts to produce One clean Cut!
The only thing we can all do is Practice..Practice..and Practice…Endlessly…