Hombu Dojo 1968

Hombu Dojo 1968

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Four Methods to Wake Up

There is a small secret I want to share with you. When I teach Aikido, what occupies my mind is of course how to convey principles and waza (technique) but more than anything else, at the first part of each class, I try to wake the students up. A few students show liveliness though most of them only look lively, but actually not making the best use of their mind - focus, resiliency, width....

How do we wake up our mind?

It is easy!

Waking up A - Where are you going?
It has to happen already before class begins - when you get ready for class - at home, when you fold your keikogi (aikido uniform), when you prepare your body for class -shower, nails, etc...

The windows in our dojo are low, and when people arrive, I first see their feet. I like to observe the way people walk to the dojo. Some walk with so much energy - hurrying up happily to their Aikido class. Some walk in a lazy manner and some just stand outside and chat as if they give up their precious training time.

In the book "Zen in the Art of Archery", Awa Sensei tells his disciples: "When you come to class, on your way here, you should already focus on your training and aim everything toward the dojo. Walk as if there is only one thing in the world and nothing more important and real than shooting your bow".

Awa Sensei was one of the greatest Budo masters in Japan. My advice is that we all should fill our body with Ki already on our way to the dojo. Fill yourself with Ki and aim yourself toward the dojo. Change your clothes, and quickly start training.

Waking up B - Onegai Shimasu.
Greet and respect with a all your heart. When people say "onegai shimasu" and bow to each other, they are too often doing it just automatically and without meaningful intention. Yesterday I saw that some people in our dojo bow to each other and say "onegai shimasu" very quietly... almost whispering. I asked them: do you say "onegai shimasu" to their own toes? or to your partner?

Your bowing and your "onegai shimasu" must reach your partner's heart. Your voice has to be lively and clear. Using our oice in order to generate energy (Ki) is a very important part of our Budo training and one way to realize the meaning of Kiai. In Aikido we constantly communicate with our partner and one way to make connection with each other is by bowing and saying "onegai shimasu". The funny thing is that after my comment, some of the students said "onegai shimasu" with a very loud voice - actually aimed at me instead of their partner... hahaha.... That really made me laugh.

Waking up C - Be first.
There is something that I rarely do and it always brings laughs to our class... I say "hai", everybody sits in Seiza and I demonstrate a technique only once and quite quickly. Then I ask them to practice it. The students bow and then look at each other with a laugh and embarrassment, asking each other if they saw at all what I just demonstrated. Then they stand up and try to do whatever they noticed... Most of them did not see anything at all.

Our mind is usually too lazy and in Aikido class we usually expect to have everything demonstrated several times. In real life, too often we have just one chance to get something or to learn something. We have to learn how to notice as many things as possible already during the first demonstration of our teacher.

So... sometimes I create this short demonstration episode but don't do this in order to make everyone laugh. I am not in a stand-up comedy show. It is fine of course to laugh in Aikido class and I love it, but we must understand that in Aikido, most or the learning is done not only by explaining and instructing but also and maybe even mainly by endless efforts of the student to "steal" the ideas and secrets from his teachers. We must watch every demonstration as if it was the only chance in our life. From this idea comes the Zen saying "Ichigo-Ichie".

One small advice is to learn to be quick and first. When your teacher calls everyone, try to be the first one who sits and watches. When sensei ends his demonstration, try to be the first to bow and practice. Be quick - find a partner, bow, say Onegai Shimasu and practice the waza.

Waking up D - Smile.
A cheerful smile and friendly eyes... do not forget it. It will surely create joyful training. Just remember what a smiling face on a cloudy day can do to your heart. I see this smile and warm heart so often in seminars in Ameland and Castricum. That is one reason why I love training with you so much. O-Sensei told us to always train in a joyful manner.

Have a great day,

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ze'ev
    I really enjoyed reading this post. These are worthy things to keep in mind.