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Pleasure through Efforts During Practice

Kawaraban No. 79


by Kotaru Nagai, assistant instructor of Tendokan

(46 years – company manager – Aikido for 33 years)

A continuous practice not always makes pleasure. Therefore it is necessary to find some kind of wisdom scheme to ensure that the pleasure will not flag. The key for this is ‘Rei’ (manners, thankfulness).

In Aikido we repeat the same techniques over and over again. Naturally we become tired. What might be the reason? Talking to people for example we learn that they are delighted if something is interesting, and they become tired, if something is not interesting. Our interest fades away, if we get tired of something, and that is a condition where concentration fades away and the activity becomes a habit. Is not something else necessary to make sure that we do not fall into this trap?

In the Dojo there are many scenes where we maintain manners (Rei). If we enter or leave the Dojo, if we bow in line in front of the Shomen (wall scroll), and if we greet Shimizu Sensei; we greet each other during practice, and we great each other after practice as well … if such manners become only a formality, our heart/spirit does not communicate with our partner, and the manners have no meaning any more. For example, it is a completely different impression, if when greeting both partners show smiling faces instead of expressionless faces.  Depending of the degree how much we show our feelings, the connection to our partner will change. We do not talk about superficial manners, which result from habits, but about the necessity to generate a fresh feeling.

Nowadays things like clothes, food, and many other things are available plentifully, and we got used to it unintentionally. Whenever we come, the Dojo it flooded by a clean atmosphere, there are trainings partners, and we consider it as a matter of course that we are able to practice. Therefore, slowly and unnoticed the feeling of thankfulness will fade, and the freshness of spirit will get lost.

This spirit, which makes us forget politeness, breaks the harmony with others, trust will get lost, passion becomes cool, and people with such spirit do not show ambition any more. And for this reason Shimizu Sensei always warns us against “Nareai” (habits).

What do we seek in Aikido? Everybody may have his own objectives. But if only by mechanical repetition during practice the own-targeted objectives cannot be met, surely the question comes up, how then the repetitions (continuity) should look like?

There are people, who make no progress although they practiced for a long time continuously, there are people, who are always aware about their objectives, and there are people, who do not cooperate with others, who do not participate at joint informal social meetings and seminars, and who in the end avoid relations to others.

In Aikido people come into contact with each other, and they are polishing each other as Shimizu Sensei teaches us with the words ‘knife and whetstone’. If you satisfy only yourself (the spirit is distorted, stiffness), fresh experiences and new sensations will not develop. With other words, the sprout of progress will not come up. First of all a willing heart is important, to pull out our hidden large potentials. If we consider it as important to be emotionally connected to our partner and if we make efforts during practice, before we think of good or bad techniques, certainly the pleasure, which I mentioned in the beginning, will arise.

This pleasure is entirely different to mere self-satisfaction, and because we share earnest times with a partner, it is a living practice.  Many years of accumulated practice (continuation) will make our life more fruitful and will fill us gradually with a living strength.

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Peter Nawrot 11/2009