Monday, April 12, 2010

Post Mortem

As Sensei left us to head home for Jakarta, he spent some time discussing on how we want to continue our training. As a big proponent of feeling techniques and not discussing or watching them, Sensei knows our frustration of being unable to train regularly with him or his senior students. Nevertheless, given his history of learning to peel away the secrets of Aikido from his Japanese teachers who inherently protect Aiki as Japan's national treasure, it is not inconceivable for us to do the same. Especially with Sensei guiding us as he can.

A strong advise was to hold extra training after class especially for black belts. It used to be common practice in my old dojo that somehow died down as more and more senior belts left and work and family life became more important. We must however strive to do this in order to be better. In Kimura's book, he describe his tactics simplistically in winning the Judo Tourneys of his day and retaining championship over a number of years. He started out training 3 hours a day that became 6. And soon after he realised that his opponents will train harder so he started training 9 hours a day instead. When he succeeded in winning the championship again, his opponents said to him in awe. "I thought you trained 6 hours, so I started doing 6.5 hours a day. I didn't realise you had started training 9 hours!".

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers basically hypothesise that it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. He uses examples like the Beatles and other notables in his book and creates a plausible account of why the greats are greats and the good are just good. For the Beatles, they happened to have played a lot during their Europe gig when they first started out. It was the time when you played every single day for more than 10 hours and get paid nothing. Even so, the Beatles gained endurance, gained flexibility, gained a vast repertoire of tunes and they refined themselves. It was a back breaking experience that ultimately forged them into one of the best musical group ever.

So what is 10,000 hours to us? If we happen to practice 2 hours a session and maybe 3 sessions a week that would roughly make it 300 hours a year. So 30 years should be about it really. Now of course if you're talking about mastery of 1 technique that makes it 30 years of training Ikkyo alone. If we're doing all the other stuff as well, like katatedori nikkyo, morotedori sankyo, ryotedori shihonage, shomenuchi iriminage and etc etc... then those techniques will also eat up on your mastery time. Just to put an even darker spot on your glimmer of hope, this is to say if you're training 'correctly'. If you are training 'wrongly' then, those 10,000 hours won't really do much would it?

If you haven't asked yourself 'What have I gotten myself into?' by now, you must either be strangely abnormal or you have a true heart of a budoka. Sensei himself likes to refer to practitioners of Aikido as budoka instead of Aikidoka. I'll talk about that later since I don't want to digress.

Going back to conviction. It takes time to get to mastery. Some however have innate talent. And some are given enlightenment. That is why once in a while this world is blessed with a spark of genius. They are like beacons of light that other people stared with wide eye wonder and are occasionally blinded by. Mozart, Ibn Sina, Da Vinci, Tesla, Ueshiba... the list is there for you to look at. They did not take the full 10,000 hours journey to achieve mastery. Not because they lack dedication, but because they achieved mastery beyond normal human ken.

Sensei says there are 4 levels of learning in Aikido. This I have mentioned in my earlier post. In some arts it could be as many as 70 or 100 levels. Each level taking years to master. In an art like budo, one questions what kind of person would dedicate his life to mastering such a knowledge. We no longer serve Lords, there are no samurai's with land and peasants to guard, army to fight. Why spend so much time doing something that won't bring us wealth or prestige or position? For some, it is their calling to be a warrior. A modern day warrior as it is. For some, budo trains the heart and soul that is distinctly being less and less regarded by modern society now days. Call it what you will, the path of budo is just one of many that can lead a man to greatness. And the first step is to understand that that greatness is not us.

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