It has been more than 20 years since I last went to Sydney, almost as long as the last time I wrote in this blog it seems like. Much has changed but the way of Aikido hasn't. How it is perfectly normal for aikidokas to travel the world and take time off from whatever their itinerary is to find a dojo to practice in. Lucky for me, I have friends in Australia.
Practicing in a dojo instead of teaching in one is a different game altogether. Despite my dojo being called aiki Shoshin, or beginners mind, I was lamenting not too long ago how difficult it is to keep that frame of mind. Especially as the years of practice adds up. You tend to think, I know most of this, what I want is to delve into the secrets. Pretty soon, instead of having a sincere learning experience, you start to analyze whoever it is that's doing the demonstration. Looking for their good points and bad points. No doubt, being analytic helps and stealing techniques is a valid way to learn. But honestly, nothing compares when you just let go of preconceptions. And become an empty vessel.
That was how I felt last week. A complete misogi in training. No worrying about who gets it and who doesn't, just focusing on myself and my partner. That, and catching my breath.
Obviously you tend to see this in older aikidokas who delve into teaching. Being attentive to class and the students, other daily routines taking up your time, all would inevitably lead to less personal training time. And consequently too much talk too little action. The age doesn't help either, and as things goes, it's a worsening spiral.
Therefore, before your aikido becomes more of a rethoric and a case of slow methodical examples in front of class, people like us should find time to practice aikido like when we first tried for our dan grade. Hours and hours of grueling honest work.
Having an 'Aiki mind' doesn't mean it's an excuse to having blubber around your tummy. And it's not even a good example for your students. Some of the best shihans around remain as trim and as fit as they were three decades ago. Kobuta sensei, takeda sensei, saotome sensei to name a few...
I guess what I wanted to share was how important this training was for me. I felt really clean afterwards. I think above all, practice should be like this. It must produce this cleansing each time we train.