Continued telephone Aikido interview
Sean: What qualities does a student need to have in order to be successful in the art of Aikido?
Sensei: Perhaps the most important thing people need is a willingness to learn, not to be too uptight, or too upset with themselves when they can't learn the Aikido techniques right away. It is OK to feel awkward and make mistakes – that is, after all, how we really learn. If you have a willingness to learn, and a willingness to make mistakes, then you are pretty much ready to train Aikido.
Something else that does help on the mat is a sense of humor. When you make mistakes, and you will, if you can smile and have a good time, then that is what it is all about. I think that is what life is all about – smiling and having a good time.
Sean: That is an interesting answer. I think if most martial arts teachers were asked the question, "What does it take to succeed as a martial arts student?" I think it would be rare to hear someone say "Well, you’ve got to be able to smile and have a sense of humor." I don't think those are behaviors people would normally think about as the pre-requisites for beginning a martial art. That is a pretty refreshing perspective.
It reminds me of that story I'm sure you've heard before of the student who climbs a mountain to meet with a master who has sequestered himself in an Asian mountain range. When the student gets to the top, he and the master start to have tea and the student is going on and on about all the training he's had. "Oh, I've trained here, I've trained there, I've done this, and I've done that." Meanwhile, as the student continues to talk about himself, the master starts pouring the student a cup of tea. The tea cup continues to fill up as the student continues to talk. The tea overflows the cup's edge and spills over but the master continues to pour the tea.
Finally the student, who has been watching the whole time says, "What are you doing? Stop pouring. Can't you see there isn't any more room in the cup?"
The master says, "Ah, yes, much like you. You've come to me with a full cup. If you want to learn anything from me, you need to present me with an empty cup." Maybe that is what you mean by having a willingness to learn, a willingness to be a beginner and to make mistakes.
Sean: Yes, that is what we always strive for in Aikido. As we practice for years and years we are taught in our training to come back to our "beginner’s mind" – or having that empty cup. Be willing to go into a situation and just experience it rather than think it is supposed to turn out a certain way. Just try it, experience it, and let your body take it all in. That is the essence of the art of Aikido.
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Castle Rock Aikido is a Denver metro martial art school.Located just 20 minutes south of Denver Metro and 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs, Castle Rock Aikido attracts martial art students from surrounding areas including Denver, Aurora, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Colorado Springs, Larkspur, and Franktown. Come try a class for free and see why we were voted "Best in Castle Rock for martial arts, 2007" by Castle Rock Magazine.
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