Saturday, January 15, 2011

Duty and Responsibility

Sensei has just gone back. Yet the burden which is not a burden has not lighten in the slightest. In this 3 weeks that he has been here, he has taught us much. Some I have seen, some totally new. Whilst I can say that I have learned much in the time he was here, there are many things left that I have to learn. Not just the refinement of Aikido waza and tai sabaki, but also the principles and foremost.. the matters of the heart.

In Budo one requires 3 things:
1. Self Abandonment
2. Self Sacrifice
3. Duty and Responsibility

Every human being, implicit in his nature, cultivates self preservation. Even with the foreknowledge of death, we strive to continue our existence by procreation or other youth fulfilling endeavours. To embrace its opposite, or Self Abandonment is perplexing. And truly this can only be achieved if we are able to understand self sacrifice.

I've mentioned earlier about sacrifice. Perhaps long ago, people understood sacrifice. Nowadays, sacrifice is becoming more of a rarity. You sacrifice time, blood and sweat for something. Its not a trade. You are not buying something in exchange for those, you're sacrificing. It is the hope that with that sacrifice that something good would arise out of it, but its not a barter trade, or a guaranteed exchange. That's the meaning of sacrifice.

It also entails a purpose. Usually a purpose of higher calling. That's where Duty and Responsibility comes to play. We are able to perform Self Abandonment because we can begin to Sacrifice, but in order to sacrifice our purpose is carved from Duty and Responsibility.

Besides this, Sensei reminded us of Knowledge, Wisdom and Truth. Most of us have gathered to train under him seeking knowledge. But how many intend to use that knowledge with wisdom? And how many of that to seek the truth? Sensei has said that Aikido is not his ultimate aim in life. You cannot bring waza or Aiki skills to the grave, you can't leave it behind to your children to trade with, surely there is a purpose to all the hours spent training and teaching others this art? Aikido is a perfect tool to understand spirituality, but only if you understand what it is you are looking for and only if you understand the meaning of its practice. As sure as some of us are stuck in the fixed forms of religion, most Aikidoka's are stuck in their waza practice. But seeking the essence, one can begin to understand of the existence of a true path. Not just an implied 'Do'.

Before his arrival here, I have wondered at what are the steps that I have to go through to achieve his understanding. Surely I cannot start at where he is now. Should I follow on his steps through Yoshinkan, Shin Shin Toitsu, Aikikai, Daito Ryu and Kashima Ryu? Follow sensei I think to myself, yet he is showing everything and I don't understand where to begin. Luckily I did not even have to ask, because Sensei has formulated a system to practice now. Where before we did basic, intermediate and advance skills interchangeably... now we have a more basic methodology in training using our waza. From Kamae, to half to hanmi. In this very simple methodology, one can strengthen the core or the first set of principles using Kamae waza than the 2nd set of principles using half hanmi and the final set using hanmi. All the time the stances being a starting point to develop both body, ki and aiki understanding. What an amazing system! Simple but effective.

My only worry is that there's no one here to monitor my mistakes whilst training this way. It can only mean that I have to be more vigilant in my training more than ever.

Something Sensei Ramlan said last night striked a chord within me. Much as Sensei has sometimes mentioned why Kobuta sensei always taught something new to the Indonesians but only repeated what his done the year before with the Malaysians, I thought it did not apply to us. (Whilst the Indonesians will train hard in the year what has been taught before, and Kobuta Sensei could see the progress and teach them something new the following year, the Malaysians will practice during the visit and completely forget to train that way the entire year. Thus by the next visit, nothing has changed.) But I can see that we too are culpable. Maybe some of the students have failed to show what they have learned, but as Senpai's we are responsible. Maybe we ourselves have failed to improved on what has been taught to us...

For me, our responsibility foremost is to our Sensei. To learn what he has to teach, and to practice diligently. Sometimes we forget some things that has been taught, sometimes we practice wrongly and make mistakes and sometimes we misunderstood the lessons. To make it all the more difficult, we are without anyone else to guide us here. Our next responsibility is to the junior students here... to guide them as we would ourselves, but to also cultivate them individually through understanding. This is part of our training, to be sensitive and learn about feeling instead of just blundering through or being a robotic parrot.

At one point in time, I thought about stopping to write in this blog. It seems so self righteous or self indulgent to write of things that I can barely understand. For all I know my writing can lead other people astray. But I realise, that to write this down is to record my understanding at every stage and that to use the mind we have been given is our own responsibility. Thus I do my duty, let everyone do theirs.

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