When a Japanese sword begins its journey to becoming a sword, it starts out as a lump of steel. The steel is hammered out flat, folded and hammered out again countless times. The steel is then hammered out, flattened, and cut into the basic shape, and clay is added to all but the edge of the steel. The sword is fired again to temper the steel, giving the sword its’ legendary cutting edge. The sword is then polished with stone to give it its brilliance. As you cam imagine, this process takes a long time, and is performed by experts. When the sword is finished, it is transformed into an instrument that is simultaneously a deadly weapon and a work of art. There are no short-cuts to this process; if one step comes out badly, the sword is scrapped, and the process starts over again. It is possible to obtain imitations, and they may be deadly, or they may be beautiful, but they are rarely if ever both. To most people, there is no substitute for the real thing.
At Aikido of Nebraska, when I ask the students why we do Aikido, the running answer is “to polish the sword”. I believe most students would agree that self-defense is not the primary benefit when learning a Budo (Martial Way) such as Aikido. Learning self-defense techniques against real attacks must remain a priority when training, or else there is a risk of the art becoming “fake” or just a complicated and ugly dance. But the real benefit is that training allows us to forge ourselves, face and push through our physical and mental limitations, become more aware of who we truly are, and reinforce the good habits and courtesy amongst our fellow man.
Make no mistake; there are days when your training becomes very frustrating. Hitting up against your personal limitations is a sobering experience, and no one like to be reminded of what they “can’t do”. However, with the right school and the right instructor, training is fun, and when something is fun, you don’t realize how much work you are putting in it. Also, one learns to not take themselves so seriously, and so learns to deal with training, and life, better.
Are you taking time out of your day to “Polish the Sword”? If not, come see us at Aikido of Nebraska, we’ll make sure that you are having so much fun during your training, that you don’t even realize that you are becoming a better person.