View Full Version : Where is the thrill?

Mike Collins
10th October 2000, 23:48
I had a great night last night. My teacher beat the living doo-doo out of me. He used me for ukemi a few times, and several times throughout the night while going around teaching. He brought me to the edge of my ability at least 3-4 times, and truth to tell, probably took me past my ability at least once, but never once did I feel put upon.

I have had to take most of the last 4 months off training to work on some other stuff at home, and I'm pretty out of shape. When I was driving home, I nearly fell asleep at the wheel, I was so spent. this si the stuff that makes me, at least, get better.

My question to other Aikidoka is this: What is it that makes you keep coming back for more? Is it that perfect throw you saw or did just once that you're trying to get back? Is it (as it is for me) the thrill of meeting your own edge and watching it get just a tiny bit further away? Is it the pleasure of feeling a really good blend?

I think we all like all of this stuff and other things, I just wonder what each one of us finds in this stuff that really keeps the juice going?

I may never be really good, but as long as I keep at it, I think I'll keep getting better at least in some way.

Gil Gillespie
11th October 2000, 03:33
Well, Mike, since I always enjoy your posts I'll take a crack at kick starting this thread. With apologies to my wife and daughter, when I'm on the mat in our dojo there's just no other place I would rather be! Sometimes I feel worthless, sometimes I get dinged up, but surrounded by those faces I have come over the years to regard as family and being on the mat with my sensei again, it just doesn't get any better. There's a communal energy to our spirited dojo that just crackles! Dennis Hooker years ago described Aikido as "a positive addiction" & that's as good a description as I've ever heard.

I don't train to prepare for some future fight. I train in full commitment to the moment: ichi go, ichi e. My partner at the moment defines my Aikido of the moment. That's all the challenge I need! I've read some recent posts that maintained that if you're not training to defeat the street thug, then you're ridiculous. Awright, I've never had a problem being ridiculous------I just want to honor you by giving you all I got RIGHT NOW.

Mike Collins
11th October 2000, 03:49

I have a friend who says that it is a prerequisite for Aikido to be a bit strange. And yeah, the stuff about preparing for combat is, for me, crap. I did all my fighting at a young age, and I'm good enough at it that I can always bring that sickness to the fore should I need it. If Aikido has done anything for my ability to go in that arena it has screwed it up. Now I'd probably look to fit a technique in here or there instead of just going "bad" like I used to.

But the question I was trying to get to folks is what is the one thing that keeps you coming back. For me it is the need to get a bit better all the time, whatever that means. Fortunately I have a teacher who is capable of helping me get there by pushing me to my own edge, wherever that is in the moment. I get good, then lazy, then better and so forth. The whole thing is a process.

Better for me means a bit further from lazy. What does it mean to others?

Cas Long
12th October 2000, 13:39

I think perhaps that it is just that: a process, and therefore ongoing.

However, from training with some extremely long-term Aikidoka, this does not mean to say that just because one trains for 30 years, that you learn through osmosis & "just being there".

There is always something to refine or re-evaluate, and yes, something new to take on board- it is never "finished".

Cas Long

12th October 2000, 14:30

If you'll excuse an non Aikidoka barging in on your thread.

Someone suggested to me once that what keeps people training in the martial arts is fear and envy.

Fear - That you'll miss a good lesson or a great technique

Envy - You see your seniors and you want what they've got, you don't know what it is but you want it !

Personally I'd add amazement - you look around at beginners after you've been training for a while and think "Wow look how far I've come" which leads inexorably to "oh my God, look how far there still is to go - better train some more"

On the other hand most of that is equally true of Chess or Literature or even many sports - the more you do it the more there is to learn etc - We've all heard the many paths which are all The WAY etc.

So I guess for me the crux of your question is what keeps you specifically coming back to Aikido (or in my case JuJitsu). Everyone will have there own thing and for me it is a combination of the relationships and loyalty I feel for my club and also the incredible feelings that can be generated when aa technique just happens rather than you doing it or the amazement when you suddenly come to an understanding of how something works or when you just click with a partner and you could throw and take ukemi with each other for ever or or or .....

Hope this makes sense ?

Mike Collins
12th October 2000, 14:49
Thanks Robert,

Answers a sort of convoluted question beautifully.

13th October 2000, 05:03
what keeps me going back, over and over, are the subtletys and variations. within each technique there are a number of subtleys that seem obvious when shown but i would never have guessed on my own. things like hand placement, angles, movements. and to make things even more challanging these subletys shift from person to person. so as soon as you think you've got it figured out someone new comes along to train with and nothing works.
it's the challenge of the techiques, definitly, that keeps me coming/going back.

14th October 2000, 00:42
for lack of a better explanation (hey, I'm mudansha, cut me a break):

it's FUN!

;) Cheers everyone,

Nick Porter

Stephen Whiffen
14th October 2000, 05:00
Mike, as a fellow budoka, I have to put my 2 cents worth in. I am a devout practitioner of a "gentle" form of karate-do who also has a passion for aikido. As far as I'm concerned, a dedicated practitioner of budo is a brother to me, regardless of style or rank.

What makes me keep going back to the dojo? I would say an inner burning desire to be better, to be the best that I can be. Not in the egotistical, machoistic sense of being a tough guy, but in the way that I can face my deepest fears in the dojo and come out on top, in the way that I can feel myself get better and stronger and therefore, able to really be the gentle and loving person that I want to be. My sensei and others are a constant source of inspiration to me, and I sincerely desire to be the reach the high standard of living that they subscribe to while still remaining myself - besically, to live life to the fullest and be the best person that I can be. Training is hard!!! It has to be or it isn't true budo. But I feel totally alive when I train, and fully satisfied when I'm finished. In what other kind of arena in life can you get that much satisfaction and gain so much personal benefit?

Stephen Whiffen

14th October 2000, 05:56
My sensei said the other day, "aikido can not be taught. I can only lead you donw this path and trick you into learning aikido ofr yourself." I think we al have a pre-set notion of what aiki is. I personally come back every time just to have that notion torn to shreds and have a new one in its place. That it is a never ending cycle of replacement is a joy and an honor.

14th October 2000, 17:17
Teachers can open the door, but you must enter by yourself.

Nick Porter

Gil Gillespie
15th October 2000, 04:27
Dainippon, good post but the website asks that you sign your full name somewhere & that's not alot to ask.

I'm not usually asked to approach my limits in my dojo because they all know that this all came to me way late in life (40) and 12 years later I'm just trying to stay out there. When I did approach my limits was in Japan with Mochizuki Sensei's Yoseikan folks. Yoseikan Budo belongs to the early branches that diverted off the Aikido tree, hence it is very jutsu oriented. They feature serious elbow attacks in their waza so I have 2 gimped
elbows, one from 1990 the other from 1999.

When it comes to facing your limits and transcending them you must be willing and you must be capable. Alas I only manifested the former. It is very difficult to take ukemi in elbow hyperextension waza, so we purposefully avoid it in our dojo. I returned to Yoseikan in 1999 with a surgically repaired knee, and initially could not sit seiza as I had for years before my injury. But I was inspired because I was "in Rome." It was uncomfortable, painful even, but I hovered above my ankles, and now I have returned to seiza for Aikido opening and Iaido waza.

For health and sanity we must accept our limitations, but never desist in the effort to transcend them.

Mike Collins
15th October 2000, 05:40
Good points Gil,

Health stuff afflicts everyone who sticks with it for a long time, I think. Being stretched to your/my limits can and I think should include taking those injuries/ailments into account. My teacher has an uncanny knack for "feeling out" what I'm capable of on a given day,and getting me to go there (and a little beyond). No one should go to a point that causes them damage, but if the leg is no good, work the hand, if the body is no good, work the mind. If the body and mind can handle it, work the spirit. Shugyo doesn't have to be hurtful. I think it should get you outside the comfort zone, but not to the injury zone, huh?

Me, I got bad knees, such that a lot of backrolls, falls (especially from ukemi from Shiho nage) just kills me. So I tend to get thrown in a lot of forward rolls or sutemi type falls. Fortunately he's a benevolent guy and doesn't throw me in a hurtful number of sutemi falls. He does make sure I get SOME shiho nage falls though, just to keep the rust away.

What is very cool is I have seen this man (about 10 years my senior) take falls all day for his teacher from Japan. The most recent time he did it, I was amazed that he seemed to be very very tired. I was made to respect the fact that despite the tiredness, he kept attacking. Causes me to keep coming, when he's throwing.

Dennis Hooker
17th October 2000, 13:03
This was printed in ATM several months ago but given the nice interaction going on with this thread I thought I would post it here also. It gives my version of why I train. I hope my reposting it here does not bother anyone.
Thank you
Dennis Hooker

I recently conducted a seminar in Pensacola Florida and was struck by the diversity of the people present. They ranged form flight students and instructors to doctors and housewives. They ranged in experience from rokudan to rokkyo, and the former was as eager to train and share my knowledge and life as were the latter. It is a humbling experience. During the first day one of the younger attendees made the remark that he was a little bored with coming to the dojo everyday, and doing shoman uchi ikkyo got old after a while. Well as I have never been bored with anything concerning Aikido I took pause to consider this statement. I thought about why I was there along with another rokudan, godan, yondan, sandan, nidan and shodan along with a number of various kyu ranks. Looking at the more experienced Aikido folk, I knew I shared a bond with them that the younger people, especially the one that made the comment, did not or could not share. Itís a bond that transcends organizational structure. Itís an understanding that all Aikido (all budo) students must eventually develop and nurture or they will soon become bored with technique. They will gain their shodan trophy and move on to other endeavors. In doing so they will lose their grasp on the most precious gift offered by Aikido. That gift is not the ability to destroy another person, but a deep and abiding love of life.

This seminar had been postponed twice as I was going through another bout with a debilitating kidney illness and an episode of Myasthenia Gravis. When I finally got well enough to teach it, the seminar was rescheduled. Then ten days before the seminar I got a call that my mother was terminally ill with brain cancer. Two days before the seminar I sat with my frail, terminally ill mother in my arms knowing it would be the last time I saw here alive, then I left to teach an Aikido seminar. I could never have brought myself to leave my grief and self-pity had it not been for Aikido, and its lessons taught to me over a very long time by some very fine people. I could not have left my dying mother, had I loved her less. Among her last words to me were ďDenny, Aikido and Saotome saved your life, you have an obligation to pay them back, goĒ. So I went.

Standing there looking at my fellow students all this went through my mind and I knew I had to try and teach the young fellow that nothing about our learning Aikido is boring. I had to try and teach him something of ichi-go ichi-ye, about one time, one beginning. I had to try and teach him that every encounter is a first and last. I had to try and get across that nothing can be repeated and nothing can be practiced. It can only be experienced once, and then it is gone forever. How can you become bored with something you only do once? I had to try and teach him that each encounter with another of gods creations is a once in a life time event that can never be repeated nor taken back. Each encounter should be full and true, and never done with half a heart or half a mind. Each time you face another person and that person gives their body to you in technique then you hold that life in your hands. You hold in your power a gift more precious than gold, one that can never be replaced and is a unique and wondrous thing. How can you become bored with that? I had to try and teach that young man that accepting the gift of that life is an ominous and yet joyous responsibility. You accept it; you protect it and you return it better for the encounter. Then you offer your self in return. The uniqueness of ďgoodĒ Aikido is that we can do this in total trust and in so doing be all the richer for the encounter. I had to try and teach this young man we do not practice shoman uchi ikkyo. We experience it only once, and in that one experience we share a lifetime with another of gods beings. How can you be bored with that? You give yourself to me and I give myself to you in total trust, no equivocation or self-evasion what so ever. To learn to trust and be trusted is ikkyo. It is the first principle of Aikido, without which all other training becomes less by its measure. It is the first because it is the hardest. The hardest to learn and is the hardest to keep.

I had to also try and teach the young man that coming to the dojo everyday should not get old and should not need to be boring. As I looked at the faces of each of the more experienced men I knew they too embrace the concept of shoshin, of the beginnerís heart. How else could those ďotherĒ old worn down, tattered ragamuffins of old men, of whom I am one, be there. Our combined days of stepping through the doors of a dojo must be in the tenís of thousands. Yet there we are class after class, seminar after seminar, day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Why do we not become bored to tears? Itís because each time we step through that door itís with the heart of the beginner, and ready to encounter shoman uchi ikkyo for the first time, and we can hardly wait. Each time I hold my children, each time I kiss my grandchildren, each time I tell my wife I lover her, is the first and last time. And two days ago I held my mother for the first and last time. How, oh how, can one become bored with that? I am convinced that without Aikido this knowledge would have evaded me, this peace I have would never have been. I donít know if the young man really understood the lesson he got that day, but I hope so.

17th October 2000, 13:19

Thank you for sharing that with us. That was quite beautiful!

17th October 2000, 14:40
"Learn from the mistakes of others. You may not live long enough to make them all yourselves." by Prof. Jigoro Kano.


18th October 2000, 23:41
Originally posted by Kolschey

Thank you for sharing that with us. That was quite beautiful!

I agree. I don't think there's much more that could be said about this subject. Hooker-sensei, you have written another brilliant piece of writing. Thank you for your inspiration.

Nick Porter

24th October 2000, 23:57
What first attracted me in Aikido was the excellent break-falls the black belts were doing.
That of course was at first glance, because i had never seen an Aikido training before,later when i placed my feet on the mat i understood that there should be lots more than that behind it.And of course i was right,as time went by, Aikido became a "positive addiction" as posted above, whenever i am not able to go for practise...there is something "wrong" something is missing, training in the martial arts makes you experience wonderful feelings.You are able to eliminate your ego,face your fears,and become a better person,you are being tought respect towards everything,love,compassion,harmony.
Everytime i train in Aikido i learn something new,each lesson is unique even though sometimes it seems boring,YOU ALWAYS learn something new,after the lesson has ended you step out of the mat a better man.
There is lots more than the techniques and irimi,tenkan...Aikido is a way of living.

So what keeps me going on in the Way, is the fact that i wanna be a better man, and that i try to implement Aikido in my everyday life.