Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Art and The Labor

The Malays have a saying, tak kenyang sesuap nasi, what it means is 'you can't sate your hunger with a handful of rice'. What it actually means is that, if you were to practice once, you are unlikely to 'get it', just like eating rice... you need to eat more than a handfuls and so practice has to be more often done.

Most times both the teacher and the student falls into the trap of instant gratification, more so in this very capitalistic modern world that we live in. For a generation where the currency has no intrinsic value behind it, it is very ironic that we equate reward to the amount of dollars we spend. So for this generation, where there are endless 'masters' and instructors and teachers willing to teach you the secret of any art in return for some moolah, they expect a reasonable rate of return for the money they've spent.

Now this is kind of an arbitrary reading of the current situation, but on a whole it is true. Especially when it comes to children's classes. After all, you'd have parents remove their child from a school that consistently fails them or any slight grouse for that matter. It is kind of tricky, since teaching martial arts to children is pretty dubious at best.

I'm all for training them young, but modern kids are not the shaolin young un's whose parents had allowed the temple to adopt them because they can't support their own children. Nor are they the Thai kids whose crazy regime in Muay Thai is the only way out of poverty for the top 10%. These children are in survival mode. They understand that the only way for them to survive to adulthood and make a decent living is to practice hard and rise to the top of the ranks in their martial arts/sport. Our society sends the kids to the dojo to collect certificates for their extra curricular activity. Its not even close.

Not to disparage the kids, the adults that join modern dojos are more often than not the same... a way to exercise, a way to rid of excess energy or stress, a hobby and what not. Where is the serious practice that is expected of martial artists? Martial artists who in yesteryears practice no less than 4-6 hours a day, because slacking means death? That's the point isn't it? Slacking in your Aikido practice is unlikely going to be the cause of your death in this modern times. Thus, the real motivation for practicing martial arts is no longer the same as before.

Nevertheless, individuals practice for their own reasons, and whatever those reasons may be, the desire to train is there. As little or as hard as they practice is irrelevant. The fact is, with desire of knowledge, one must invest time and effort. A skill is learned, not bought. Thus to be skilled in Aikido, first you must have a wish to be so, second you must labor for it. That's the simple truth.

Now a lot of people may have fall in love with everything that's nice about Aikido and they may wish to have the skills to the same. But wishing to be an artist and buying the paint and canvas doesn't make one an artist. So love the art, but working hard is the only way you can become an artist.

I write this not just to remind anyone reading this, but mostly for myself. As I get older, with more kids and more work, its so easy to put Aikido in the back burner. But I saw something in this art. As effective and lethal silat may be, and more practical one would say, there is something unique about Aikido done well that it still has a part to play in my life. I fervently wish that I can live up to the art.

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