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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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Jan 14, 2011

"Progress comes to those who train in the Inner and Outer factors;
Do not chase after secret techniques,
Everything you need is right before your eyes

O Sensei Ueshiba Morihei

When a sensei demonstrates a technique or movement, it seems so easy and effortless. However, when a student then attempts that same technique, sometimes there is bewilderment: "What did sensei do?" or "How did sensei do that?" Don't let this discourage you and to immediately ask for help. Try to recreate what you saw and just keep practising. Let the experience move you. The sensei will come by to help if you really need it.

There are no secret techniques (shortcuts) to achieve proficiency in anything. However, there are those who would argue that in this age of innovation, spending any length of time at anything is not efficient, is unnecessary, and unrealistic. especially in learning an art of self-defence. Certainly there are techniques I can share that can be learnt quickly. Consistent training and practice is what sets the practitioner apart in his/her chosen discipline.

For the beginner, the following may help in knowing what to focus on during regular practices:

  • When watching your sensei demonstrate, feel what is being done as well; don't just use your eyes.
  • Try not to analyse too much, but feel and respond to the flow of the attack from your partner, executing the movement or technique as close as possible to what was shown by your sensei.
  • Move just as your partner is almost at the end of the attack, not before and not after. This requires that you stay focused and alert.
  • Don't just blindly go for the throw or the lock. Let the energy from the attack naturally flow into the lock or the throw. Executing a technique prematurely is like having a meal before it is fully prepared and cooked.
  • Exhale on the execution of the technique, preferably even exhaling with intent and direction.
  • Extend not only with your mind, but with your arms and legs as well - stretching your partner beyond his/her balance, using your senses and entire body in the technique.
  • Relying on just your physically strength is not always necessary, let the energy flow from your feet through your centre and out through the technique.
  • Learn to breathe deeply into the centre of your body - the area around your waist/navel, to energise yourself. Breathing to one's centre also helps maintain good circulation and health.

As O Sensei observed, the inner qualities that define the practitioner's integrity and strength of character are also integral to one's progress. Besides contemplation and developing your spiritual-side, the more discernible and practical qualities to nurture are Accountability, Responsibility, Patience, and Persistence, almost in that order.

The approach that most traditional Asian martial arts take is similar to bringing up a child in a traditional and conservative oriental family. This is probably one of the reasons for the considerable length it takes in obtaining proficiency in the discipline. The focus is on the holistic development of the practitioner.

For example, the following are expected and modelled to a child from birth: respect for elders, being accountable with work and one's responsibilities, making one's bed, keeping the bedroom and home tidy, mowing the family lawn, taking out the garbage, good grooming, getting sufficient sleep, studying, doing one's homework promptly, achieving good grades at school, excelling in one's talent, being appreciative and thoughtful, behaving appropriately, and knowing proper social and cultural etiquette. In my life, these were modelled by my parents and were not bribed from me nor rewarded with money, or presents. The reasons are clear if you reflect on it. These deal with personal accountability, responsibility, deportment, hygiene, and honour. Patience and persistence follows as the child works to achieve personal success in school, with their peers, and with their talent.

Imagine if a child is constantly bribed and rewarded to have good grades, to excel in their talent, to tidy their room, to keep the home clean, to mow the family lawn, to behave respectfully and politely... etcetera... What would happen when the child is in their teens, an adult in the workforce, and then in a relationship?

See you in the dojo.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.

(© Copyright January 2011: Rafael Oei)

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