An endless road

I have been pondering the changes I’ve experienced in the last few years of my Aikido training. I’ve reached the rank of 1st Kyu (brown belt), and should be taking my Dan grade (black belt) in September 2008. I am now considered to be a “high grade” student, with a good knowledge of a broad range of Aikido techniques. I clearly have a better understanding of Aikido than someone who has just started training. Yet I don’t really feel any closer to knowing Aikido than I did when I started training 13 years ago. The problem isn’t what I know; it’s that my understanding of what I don’t know has changed significantly, and will probably continue to change for as long as I can train.

For example, there are two fundamental movements in Aikido that form the foundation for every technique; these are circular movements are known as “tai sabaki”, and in our dojo are termed positive (irimi tenkan) and negative (tenkan). When I first started to train, my tai sabaki practice focused almost completely on the placement of my feet, and getting my balance right. As I grew more confident, my feet started to “take care of themselves”, and I became increasingly aware of the placement and movement of my arms. Now, as my arm movement becomes more instinctive, I am conscious of how my weight is distributed as I perform the movement. Gaining knowledge and experience has simply opened up a new areas for me to try and perfect.

The realisation that I will never fully perfect my chosen art is what makes it so compelling; even if I practice the same movements and techniques for the rest of my like, there will always be something new to find in each of them. It’s a daunting prospect in some ways, but it’s also what drives me to keep training, to keep learning, safe in the knowledge that there will always be something new for me to try next time I step onto the mat.

<a name=”footnote1″”>1. Even though I started training in 1993, I’ve had a series of problems affecting my knees, and subsequently my hips, which have meant that I was unable to train for a total of six years within that period. Each time I’ve returned to the dojo after an extended absence has meant that I have had to train for several months, and most recently almost two years, to get back to the standard I was at before being forced to stop. This is why, after almost nine years on the mat, I am still only a brown belt; the path to Dan grade typically takes around five to six years.

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