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Friday, February 4, 2011

Keeping Martial in Mind

I have a couple of instructors at the dojo who sometimes lament that we get so caught up in trying to master the softness and subtlety of aikido that we forget to make sure that our aikido actually works. To be sure, there is a temptation to get lost in the more internal aspects of aikido and end up practicing something that is more meditative dance than martial art.

I suppose there's nothing wrong with that; I'm sure there are plenty of benefits of practicing aikido that way. But I came to the dojo with the goal of becoming a martial artist, and my intention is to use my dojo time to pursue that goal.

This is hard to remember sometimes when the sensei wants to work on connection and softness and ki and I still haven't grasped the basic movements of the technique. It's not that I doubt my teachers have a purpose behind what they're teaching; it's that the purpose is not always readily apparent. And because I don't want to question my teachers at every turn, my unasked questions about purpose and practicality often remain unanswered indefinitely.

No doubt, some of the aikidoka reading this would reply that waiting for answers to reveal themselves and discovery of truth over time are a part of aikido. And they'd be right. But that doesn't make it any easier.

This is one of the reasons, I think, that I haven't been able to give up on taekwondo, despite my previously documented conclusion that aikido is where my future lies. In taekwondo, I never have the opportunity to forget about making my art work on a practical, physical level. If my kick lacks power, it won't break the board. If my kick lacks speed, my opponent will easily block and counter.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I think taekwondo is a more effective martial art. Taekwondo, with its great emphasis on competitive sport, probably has its own problems in that department. But for me there are many fewer obstacles in taekwondo to the maintenence of a martial state of mind.

This is what I'm hoping to cultivate in my continued training in taekwondo: a martial state of mind, which I can bring back to my aikido training. In terms of physics and technique, I've found very little compatibility between aikido and taekwondo so far. But I still think taekwondo plays an important role in my development as an aikidoka. Whenever I get lazy or bored in the dojo and start to forget that what I'm learning is supposed to be a martial art, I'm hoping my taekwondo habits will be there to slap my wrists.

And there have been days when my wrists have neeeded a lot of slapping.

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