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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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October 9, 2015

"Utilise all the physical conditions and elements that are directly at hand. The best strategy relies upon an unlimited set of responses."

Ueshiba Morihei O Sensei

We are in our twelve year at Gordon Head Recreation Centre, and we are truly grateful for all the students and families that have come through our dojo. The spirit of "Aiki" has certainly touched all our lives and hearts.

There are many layers of benefit in practicing a martial path like Aikido. Consciously practising dojo etiquette, even robotically at first, eventually produces qualities such as respect, thoughtfulness, care, and honour. Technical drills and one-to-one practice engages the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of the student; much like emergency drills in school or at work. "Learning by heart" was a phrase heard frequently in my youth. Responding from the heart does add another dimension to the response.

When a student begins their Aikido journey with me, I presume that the student intends to reach that point where the above quote can be realised. It refers to the ability to improvise confidently and sub-consciously: utilising even the most insignificant object lying close by. In Aikido, that can be achieved with a calm and peaceful attitude - not one of aggression or anger. The ability to improvise also relies on knowing the rudiments of the discipline. It takes time, knowledge, and a variety of experiences to be able to improvise on any level of competence. Watch musicians improvise... they are almost always lost in the music and revelling in the flow of each note and phrase... especially in a group: responding to each musician's contribution and immersed in that moment.

While each student comes into Aikido with different motivations and reasons for being with us, generally students have a mental picture of the end result they want and technical skills they want to possess. In the process of learning and trying to achieve your ideal, if it begins to feel challenging and hard-work that requires more focus, discipline, concentration, and commitment than is used to, slow down and take one step at a time... but keep on going. In all the forced-marches and long route-marches that I have brought my recruits through (heavily ladened with full battlegear, extra rations, and equipment), taking each painful step, one step at a time, helps. When everyone makes it through the exercise, amidst the relief that is inevitably felt, there is also glowing pride in the accomplishment. One will eventually get to the end, the "finish line". Relentlessly keep on going and moving forward.

Faced with new techniques and movements, I encourage you to be patient with yourself and your partner. Treat your partner with respect and take them seriously as an "attacker", even if they fool around or are uncertain as to what to do. I will come around to assist with any confusion, and may even switch your partner if that will help. In fact, be thankful, and practice with a grateful heart. That is one way to lower mental blocks that may arise while practising unfamiliar techniques. Before you know it, you will be surprised with how easily the techniques flow from you, and you begin improvising too.

Have a most meaningful Thanksgiving!

With gratitude, peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei and family.

(© Copyright October 2015: Rafael Oei)

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