My long-time aikido teacher, Pat, has been doing a great series of helpful and interesting posts over at www.mokurendojo.com about things his past teachers have taught him. I don't get to train with Pat as much as I used to, but I thought it would be fun to write a post about some things he's taught me over the last 8 years or so.
- All martial arts are the same - Well, not exactly the same, but different expressions of the same Thing. For the longest time, that was hard for me to swallow, being a guy that loves to categorize things into clearly defined buckets. But the longer I've trained, the more I'm convinced of it. It echoes Funakoshi's sentiment, "all karate is one"
- You can't be strong in two directions at once - This has been maybe the biggest fundamental concept that has shaped my aikido. Not that I've mastered it, but in a "yielding" art like aikido, this concept has been amazing. It's also helped a lot with my grappling.
- Teaching skills by moving on from them - This is something that's helped me as I teach aikido to my students - I have a tendency to camp out on one thing until they get it right, then move on. Pat's approach is to add a "part 2, part 3" and so on so I'm unconsciously getting better at "part 1" while I'm focusing on the new stuff.
- It doesn't have to look perfect in order to be Aikido and A hand is as dangerous as a knife - Or it can be, if a knife is in it (and you never know if there is)! A lot of times, we would do the Walking kata, releases, or JuNana with a training knife in one hand. Pat said this was a transformative practice to our aikido and I agree. Techniques had to work, or you get stuck with a knife. They still worked, they just didn't look as pretty as they do in formal kata.
- Be mindful - It didn't take me long to realize that after every time....EVERY time we did our Walking kata together, Pat would turn to me and ask "What'd you see there?" It caused me to be introspective and aware of what was going on during the kata, and kept me from mindlessly just going through the motions. I knew I'd have to have an answer! Occasionally my answer was "nothing", but most of the time, I was able to pick out something from the kata that was making it wonky, or something that was working well. Sometimes knowing the question was coming caused me to try something new during Walking just to experiment. I never felt like he was testing me; he was always genuinely interested, and would share observations of his own performance to me.
- I'm so bad, I make sixth dan mess up - Pat got this joke from Ms. Miyake, I believe. Sometimes when he would screw something up, he would jokingly put it back on me by saying "You so bad, you make sixth dan mess up". It was, ironically, Pat's way of letting me know he messed up. It was always encouraging to know someone who's been at this maybe 3-4 times longer than me still makes mistakes.