“The Way is in training.”
– Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645)
People train AIKIDO for a variety of different reasons. Recently, I was sharing with Hannon Sensei how, in many ways, I felt like I was starting over again, having been promoted to YUDANSHA (black belt) in 2019. The context wasn’t so much about struggling with learning a particular technique (although I frequently do), as much as it was about how I am starting to see and experience a multitude of new things in my training.
When I train now, I feel I am more able observe the subtleties of the art, as I am not as focused so much on the gross muscle movements. I can focus more on fluidity (“slow is smooth, smooth is fast”). I am also looking at opportunities for ATEMI (inter-technique striking), thinking small circles vs. big circles, conservation of motion & energy, and more martiality or “more cowbell!”, as we sometimes jokingly refer to it.
Since reaching YUDANSHA, I feel like my real training and education in AIKIDO is just beginning. Not unlike when I graduated from college and went to work in the mine, and not unlike when I started my own business in mining engineering many years later.
I would also equate this to the feeling I had after I passed my Professional Engineer’s exam. The truth behind that credential is it certifies that the candidate has demonstrated, not expertise, but the minimum acceptable knowledge and skill required. Let that sink in for a minute – the “minimum acceptable knowledge and skill.” I recognize much the same thing in earning YUDANSHA.
I am always surprised by people who ask why I continue to train AIKIDO after earning YUDANSHA. For me it was never really a question of “why”, but more of “why would I not”. Back to my opening sentence, people train for a number of different reasons, mine just happens to be: it’s where I find peace.