Friday, November 13, 2009

"Leave your problems at the door, they'll be waiting for you when class is over."

An AikiWeb thread asks what others think about these words on a sign at a dojo.  It is hard to imagine that there could be argument about something so simple, but AikiWeb is known for such debate. It is also true that some interesting points of view were revealed, including those considering the goal of integrating on-the-mats Aikido practice with off-the-mats daily life.  Some cited the possible use of Aikido practice as an escape from other responsibilities, and some suggested that the poor state of mind that you bring to your practice is a part of you to be worked out on the mats with everything else.

There is much to consider---including several questions of what I like to call "Applied Zen"---but, to get started, here is my first contribution to that thread:

If a bokken (image from Wikipedia) is swinging at your head, you'd be hard pressed to argue that you couldn't move because you're behind on the bills. Handling the attack does not deny the bills.

Similarly, your maiming the attacker because you had a bad day is also unjustified. A vigorous practice can positively transmute a shitty day into a wonderful evening, but there's no need to imagine your boss' face on uke as part of the process.

The ability to remain fluid is very important. Part of this is is developing the ability to realize quickly when you are stuck and to shift yourself quickly from that state. This "stuck" comes in different flavors between "attachment" (e.g., can't let go of a bad day, focusing on uke's grasp, focusing on uke's blade, etc.) and "aversion" (e.g., escaping life by going to practice, avoiding that technique because you're not good on that side, etc.), but the result is the same: you're out of "center."

The sign is a tripwire, a reminder. Changing clothes, bowing in, and so forth are other reminders: "This is where and when we practice Aikido."

What are your thoughts?

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