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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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May 15, 2013

"Polish the sword..."


The John Maxwell Company blog recently posted the Rule of 5. Number one referred to: "Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing. That’s the Law of Consistency. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. It doesn’t matter how many opportunities you receive. If you want to grow, consistency is key."

Today, Aikido is more frequently treated as one of many hobbies to pass the time. The thinking runs along the lines of: "If I have the time, I will enrol and practice; if not, that's fine." Aikido as a Way and philosophy is lost in the variety of martial disciplines that deal with forms of fighting, and comparisons on which discipline is the most effective in a fight. Make no mistake, though; philosophical as it may be, Aikido is a martial discipline based on techniques that neutralises attacks.

My approach to Aikido goes beyond just the technical aspects of the discipline. It is important to me that the student acquires self-confidence, self-discipline, is conscious of personal behaviour, accountability, choices, demeanour and attitude. The technical aspects will take care of itself once these are addressed and moulded.

During my apprenticeship with my Sensei, he would frequently remind us not to be too quick to correct in a class. Certainly be prepared and be alert to assist and guide. However, the student has to discover the techniques themselves in order to own it. Correcting a student too soon or too frequently may discourage them into thinking they are no good or not doing well. Similarly, as Aikido-ists, we are discouraged from criticising anyone or another martial art.

I personally do not subscribe to the practice of dismissing students as unteachable, lousy, unskilled or (worse) hopeless. In my mind, no one is hopeless. In sharing and teaching Aikido, I feel it is essential to impart as much as may be received by my students. It may be a matter of life and death in one's future. It is a question of personal decision and motivation.

One day in class, something arose that prompted me to ask: "If an alarm clock sounds, does the alarm clock get you out of bed?" After a brief light-hearted exchange, the students finally replied that it isn't the alarm clock that gets you out of bed. "I do! I decide!" they responded. It is the same with everything in life.

Sometimes it may seem as though I am not helping, guiding or assisting students who have trouble with movement and technique. I do notice. I will guide and I will correct. When nothing changes and the student insists on doing it their way, I will leave them to themselves. However, as long as the student continues to persevere, practice and come back week after week, I will continue to assist and guide. Like a kite, I will tug at the string, then let go. Tug, and then let go. That's how the kite climbs higher and higher in the breeze. Conversely, prolonged and aggressive pulling will eventually cause the kite to crash to the ground.

The key is in the thousand sword cuts. You can't complete it without self-correcting and getting it right.

20 hours of Aikido classes will only get you so far. To properly immerse, learn and understand Aikido may take a lifetime. How far would you like to go? Keep polishing (sharpening) the sword then... keep polishing yourself.

See you in the Dojo.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.

(© Copyright May 2013: Rafael Oei)

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