If you just came in off the street and sat down at Aikido of Nebraska, you would probably say to yourself that the students say “thank you” to the instructor and to each other a ridiculous number of times. Why does anyone need to do that? Is it some power-game of the instructor? Some constant need of the students to stroke their self-esteem?
I find that I myself say “thank you” much more than I used to in everyday life. Yes it can be a non-thinking habit, little more than any other habit that you do mindlessly, such as brushing your teeth, or hitting the turn-signal. But for me, saying “thank you” is still in the forefront of my mind. It reminds me that I live in a society that does a vast amount for me personally everyday. It reminds me that everyday people do things for me that they didn’t necessarily have to do. If I have any success in life, it is a result of finding that success through other people.
In martial arts training, people train to get certain benefits for themselves, but at least at our dojo, they help others as part of their training. Thus, it is important to say “thank you”for every last thing another person does for you. They did not have to give to you; or they did not have to give to the extent they did. Saying “thank you” for all these “gifts” makes you realize of the thousands of little things that people do for you every day- whether you pay for them or not. It allows the student to gain 2 new character traits; 1)Humility, and 2) Gratefulness – character traits which will go a long ways to having a happy life.
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.
The martial arts sometimes attract the kind of people who enjoy doing harm to others. They want to be “ass-kickers”, and they want to make sure that if they are attacked by someone, that they can “take them out”. Often, without proper discipline, this annihilate -your-opponent idea gets these people into trouble. They attack and destroy on little provocation, and wind themselves up in legal battles or in jail. For this reason, instructors must select worthy students to learn power comes with responsibility.
At the other end of the spectrum, the majority of martial artists enjoy the self-development aspect of training, and do not like the idea that they may cause harm to attackers. It is not that the attacker “deserves” to have mercy upon him/her, it simply is about what kind of person the martial arts student wants to be. Most of us do not want to be the kind of person that inflict injuries on others, provoked or not. Yet, how can we learn to protect ourselves at the same time? It would seem like we cannot do both.
Aikido is a martial art that lends itself well to those who wish to not harm others, as it is purely a defensive art. But I tell my students at Aikido of Nebraska, with a surprisingly small amount of training, you can readily hurt someone, even in Aikido. Hopefully a good instructor will also teach you to use only the amount of force required to control the opponent. Even in striking arts such as taekwondo, or karate, students can be taught to “pull” their punches, so that they can deliver varying amounts of force. That is why true martial artists learn their art over years; it takes this long to have the control required to use only the minimum force necessary.
There will be rare times when martial arts students will have to use destructive techniques to control a situation, namely when someone’s life is at risk. But for most, this will happen rarely, if ever, in their lifetimes. So, it is possible to learn the martial arts and specifically learn to not harm others. Don’t let “I don’t want to hurt anyone.” as an excuse not to learn Aikido, or any other martial art for that matter.
Have you ever wondered how warriors and Martial Artists develop that “sixth sense” that allows them to anticipate movements of their attackers, and choreograph strikes and techniques with 4 or 5 attackers? I’ll let you in on a little secret.
It’s not magic.
They just pay attention more than you do.
“Reading” people is a time-honored skill, and is useful in all types of endeavors, from poker, to business, to martial arts. What does “reading” someone mean? It means that you pay attention to all the information coming to you from that person; how they hold their posture, their facial expression, how their weight is placed, where they focus their eyes, how they are reacting to you and the people around them, etc.
Seriously, when was the last time you noticed which way someone’s toes were pointed? Good Martial Artists notice those things. It tells them which way your adversary might move or strike, whether the will use their feet, hands or with a weapon.
Like anything else, learning to read people is not a skill most of us were blessed with; it requires patience and practice to master. As you become more attuned to reading opponents, you will find yourself evaluating people as they walk down the street toward you. Hone that skill. It will serve you well in all aspects of life, from music concerts to business meetings. The more you can learn to read people, the more successful you can become in your own endeavors.
The students at Aikido of Nebraska celebrated New Years Eve with excellent training sessions in the Martial Arts. What better way to start the New Year? The dojo is now 4 months old and doing very well. Membership is continuing to increase, and students (and Instructor) look forward to the simple daily act of training.
Its New Years Resolution-time! C’mon, You have been thinking about finding some stress relief, getting in better shape, and starting something thast could change you life. So, if you have been on the fence about training at Aikido of Nebraska, but haven’t done it yet, do so now. There are no high-pressure tactics; we want happy students. Come down and see a class, and talk with the other students to see what the “buzz” is about. When people see the benefits firsthand, they don’t have to be “sold”, they join.