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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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Jan 21, 2008

"If I do not practice for one day I will hear it.
If I do not practice for two days my friends will hear it.
If I do not practice for three days the audience will hear it"

Hans von Bulow
(Conductor, Pianist, Composer)

What does the practice of music, scales, and piano pieces have to do with the practise of Aikido?  The quote above refers to disciplined and dedicated practice, and is in response to a question I was asked last week.

I had been sharing the importance of sincerity in Aikido practice in the dojo and at home when a young student asked: "How would you know if a student was not sincere (in/during practice)?"  My answer was, it will reveal itself in how the student performs the Aikido techniques, how they treat other students, how they behave at home, how they treat their parents, how they regard their sensei, and how they are in and around the dojo.

It is interesting to me that many people, perhaps especially children, believe that insincerity can be hidden.  "Dad and mum doesn't know" or "The teacher didn't see me do that behind his/her back..." etc...  The one person who really matters in that situation already knows: the perpetrator.  How do you hide from yourself?

The truth has a way of revealing itself.  Things that are suppressed, kept in fearful secret, worry, frustration, anger, jealousy, hatred, deception, or dissatisfaction, can emerge in different ways, including as seemingly unrelated ailments like coughs, colds, headaches, migraines, and even cancer; which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Is something eating you?"

In Aikido, the student first learns Dojo etiquette, the importance of discipline, respect, and gratitude.  Then the student is taught the basic movements, and how to fall and roll.  These are important in Aikido practice, not just performing dazzling techniques.  During an Aikido Grading Test, on top of what has to be performed during the test, the student is evaluated on all the above attributes plus their performance and behaviour during regular classes.

It is quite evident when a student is generally not too polite or respectful at home or in their normal life.  They behave the same way in the Dojo.  There will be a resistance to do and follow what is expected in the Aikido Dojo.  To blend in, they may initially go through the motion and be able to resemble what is expected of them.  However, an inner transformation will have to occur or the student will eventually leave of their own accord.  In fact, alot is revealed when the student performs a simple bow.  An insincere bow cannot be performed indefinitely.  There will be a breaking point.

The best way to experience Aikido is to be immersed and fully participate in all the movements and techniques.  That does not mean throwing fast and aggressive punches or chops, or to throw your partners hard.  It is to fully concentrate on what is being said and taught by the sensei: to perform each movement and technique through to its natural end, and to perform a roll or a fall whole-heartedly and safely.  Then as you progress along with your friends, you will inevitably attack and perform your techniques faster, safe in the knowledge that your friend will land safely without getting hurt.  You can feel and see the energy of students immersed in sincere practice.

It is difficult to live in harmony when your inner voice is noisy and disturbed.  When you are at peace within yourself, you are calm, you listen more attentively, you see more clearly, and you feel acutely.  That is how you are able to harmonise with any force that is directed at you.

If a student is filled with thoughts of "Why are we doing this?" or "Why do we have to do that?" there is already a disharmony with what is going on, and with the environment the student is in.  And the point of the practice of Aikido is in practising a way of harmony.

How would I know if a student is insincere?  Look, listen, and feel; I'm sure you see them too.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.
(© Copyright January 2008: Rafael Oei)

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