Mind Body Spirit Revisited

A prospective student came in one night and was observing class.  I asked him if he had any questions. He asked “what kind of mind-body-spirit improvement will I get if I train here?  What specifically do you do that improves mind-body-spirit?”  What a wonderful and complicated question.  I believe the student was right to ask such an important question, but I also believe he was looking for a one-sentence answer.  Silly Student.

Most martial arts schools pay lip service to the mind-body-spirit idea, but many do not deliver.  For many the concept is too esoteric, and it is left up to the student to “find” it within his/her training.  Actually I believe it boils down to a relatively simple concept – if you want to strive for mind/body/spirit improvement in your life, you must strive to become perfect at your chosen endeavor.

I had the privilege of watching the “Yamato” taiko drummers give a performance in Lincoln last weekend.  It was phenomenal.  They received multiple standing ovations.  The audience could tell at once that is was more than just a good drum performance.  It was athletic.  It was graceful.  It was transcendent. It was beautiful.  I read that the drummers all live together on the road, so they can pick up the nuances of each other.  Their daily routine consists of a 10K run, followed by weight lifting ( which was definitely required judging from their performance) until noon.  They practice drumming together in the afternoon, and individual practice continues until they go to bed at night.  They are on the road 10 months a year in foreign countries, and either prepare, perform, clear, or travel from their performances.

The Yamato drummers are a clear example of striving for perfection, and the mind-body-spirit is manifest in their performance. “Wait,” you say, “my mom used to say nobody’s perfect”.  That may be true.  But that does not mean you cannot strive to become perfect.  The struggle is what is important.

Do you want to find the mind-body-spirit connection in your Aikido training?  Excellent.  Strive with every fiber of your being to execute your techniques perfectly.  Strive to develop perfect awareness.  Become perfectly calm in your mind.  Will you ever become perfect?  Maybe not, but your training and your life will be taken to a whole new level.  The level of mind-body-spirit.

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What is the Ideal Aikido Student? #LNK

What is the Ideal Student?Some visitors who came in to observe an Aikido class one night, noted the adult students starting to clean the dojo, like they always do after class.  “Why do you make them clean the dojo?”  the visitor asked.  I answered, ” I don’t make them clean the dojo.  They are free to leave at anytime.”  The visitor looked at me like “Yeah, right.”, but didn’t say anything.  The visitor was correct in thinking that I did have something to do with the students cleaning up after class.  But the visitor obviously considered cleaning as a punishment, or “beneath” the students.  This misunderstanding is common, and begs the question; what is the role of an “ideal” student?

As a new student, I must understand that, in terms of the martial art, I know nothing, and accepting this is difficult for Americans.  All of us want to feel “competent” in whatever we are doing, even when we are just starting out.  But this is the very first step in learning how to extinguish our ego; our arrogance that we “know something”.  Once we accept that we know nothing, it becomes liberating.  We stop worrying about how we are perceived by others, and concentrate on learing what we are excited to learn.

But even this is not the primary requirement to becoming an “ideal” student.  What makes the ideal student is; the student is willing to learn whatever is required  in order to become a better person.  For example, when the student cleans the dojo, the student is learning to respect and appreciation for the surroundings that allow them to become a better person.   When the student says “thank you” to their partner each time, they are learning that their partner is assisting in their own self-improvement, and this must be recognized.

This willingness to learn whatever is required is not easy.  It requires great trust in the instructor to guide the student in their self-development.  It requires the student to give up their ego, and their own control, and allow others to help them.  However, the benefits from this mentality becomes priceless.  The student starts to excel past his peers, and become a person of power and integrity.

So, at least during class, give up your control, and allow others to help you become a person of power and integrity.  Become the ideal student.