by Sean Hannon Sensei
A past teacher of mine would frequently say, “Bring it!” What she meant by that was whatever you want to experience, you have to “bring it” to the experience. This can apply to tangible things as well as intangible things. For example, let’s say you are going to a party. If you want there to be guacamole at the party then you’d better “bring it.” Similarly, if you want to have a fun at the party, then it is your responsibility to “bring it,” – the fun, that is – to the party and not expect it waiting there for you.
It is your responsibility to “bring it.” It is not the responsibility of others, the activity or the event. Aikido training works exactly the same way. Bring a willingness to learn, an attitude of humility and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of humor to Aikido class, and those qualities – and their inherent benefits – are what you will experience at class. I should point out that this attitude isn’t unique to the traditional, Japanese martial art of Aikido, but would also apply to other martial arts like karate, taekwondo, judo, and Brazilian Jujitsu or any form of mixed martial arts (MMA fighting or submission fighting. Unfortunately, the “bring it” philosophy works both ways. If you bring anger, frustration and resentment to Aikido class, then that is what you are sure to experience on the mat.
Aikido really is a microcosm of life… your life. If you experience happiness throughout your day, then that is what will come out on the Aikido mat. If you carry your ego around all day, you shouldn’t be surprised when you find yourself bumping into egos on the mat – both others and your own! The value of “bringing it” to the Aikido mat is that it offers us an opportunity to have a physical, non-verbal dialogue with ourselves that can lead to psychological, or for some, even spiritual transcendence. On some level this physical, non-verbal dialogue we have with ourselves on the Aikido mat is more honest than the usual mental dialogue we engage in within our own minds each day. While words can hide truth and significance, physiology cannot. Your body doesn’t lie physically. Physical dishonesty will often manifest as an ache or pain or, if held long enough, even a disease. As Aikido students we can learn to “listen” to our physical-selves, our physical movements and make changes in our lives accordingly.
Aikido provides us with a venue of self-exploration and self-transformation. It reveals and unearths things deep within ourselves that we sometimes don’t want to explore or don’t think we need to work on. Yet, if we don’t explore these things students often find themselves frustrated, not progressing in their training or sometimes even quitting. Students are often surprised to discover just how much of their “inner selves” manifest physically, outwardly on the Aikido mat. It is nearly impossible to hide on the Aikido mat what lies inside… especially to an experienced Aikido teacher. Physical movement (like that experienced in Aikido training) is one of the most primitive and fundamental forms of communication and is, in my opinion, far superior to verbal communication. There is something primordial and deeply honest about physical movement and the powerful messages it contains.
Most people have heard the saying that only 20% of communication is verbal. Personally, I think that percentage is way too high. You can tell a lot about a person by their physical movement. Confidence, comfort, ease and happiness have a certain “look” to them on and off the Aikido mat. Self-consciousness, fear, anger and frustration have an equally identifiable “look.” Interestingly, the presence or absence of these physical attributes has nothing to do with how long or how experienced a person is at Aikido. It has to do with what they psychologically “bring” to the Aikido dojo. I have seen first day Aikido students demonstrate tremendous confidence and comfort. Similarly, I have seen experienced Aikido students demonstrate near-paralyzing timidity and unparalleled anger at times.
Again, what shows up physically on the Aikido mat is what they “bring” to the mat. Their physical appearance, posture, movement and fluidity are all part of a larger physical language that is Aikido. A student’s physical flexibility or inflexibility is often (but not always) congruent with their mental, emotional or psychological flexibility. As such, Aikido instructors will sometimes even challenge their students mentally or emotionally through physical movement on the mat or even verbally off the mat in order to help them progress in their Aikido training. Of course, these efforts are not always welcomed by students, but nonetheless, is still an important aspect of their training.
Those who make Aikido a life-long pursuit often do so not for the martial art and/or self-defense applications, per se, but for the self-transcending benefits of Aikido. Aikido truly is a physical path to self-mastery. Ultimately, Aikido is meant to be experienced firsthand, not just read about. Aikido is always challenging to describe purely in writing because the experience of Aikido transcends the written word. The practice of Aikido really represents an opportunity for transcendence on every level of existence. So let’s get rolling… and bring it!