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Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

posted 8 Nov 2011, 19:38 by Dan James
brisbane aikido
Consistency of training is one of the most important things that leads to progress in understanding Aiki. Many say that all you have to do is turn up and thats true to a point, but it can actually have the reverse effect.

Aikido is a mind body art, regular practice trains both of these aspects. Many a burgeoning talent slips by the wayside with the 'plodder' more often than not that stays on the path of mastery.

Getting to a dojo, or finding a way to practice regularly at a challenging level is the key to unlocking this, but with the pressures of modern life it can be tricky to maintain. Simple things like finding a dojo that works with your lifestyle and tweaking both a little can have a profound influence. For example starting work a little earlier, deciding to go straight to the dojo from work/study rather than going home first, or taking a few hours of annual leave once a week to leave early have made regular progress possible for some. Similarly deciding on a level of commitment and sticking to it, rather than sporadic bursts of activity followed by prolonged absence has been the key to manage enthusiasm that can come and go. Quite simply, to do now as you mean to continue, to re-adjust as life's stages demand but always to find a way to continue is the secret to to enabling progress. Dealing with boredom or temporary plateaus is also a challenge, by finding a way to accept it as a part of learning and knowing that it will pass is a big mental enabler.

So once at the dojo, some progress is assured, but to continue to make progress Aiki practice should be a little bit uncomfortable. If you find you are comfortable doing the kata and freestyle practice then probably you have or are leaving the path to mastery. Its well known in sports science that the practice of blocked or set exercises can lead to a false confidence while performance actually decreases, variability and mindfulness are remedies. Uncomfortable is challenging new material, when you find Uke pushes you to the limits of maintaining form, some struggles to adopt recent changes in the kata, even having trouble with particular energies in the dojo. All these are important parts of variability and stress in training that lead to progression to higher levels of understanding.

Only through varied activity and the physical energies of uke will you find yourself in the melting pot of being put under stress where your Aiki continue to evolve and develop. Much of this we know about in a modern context through the development of athletes at the highest level and interestingly they share much with the traditional arts in their methods (see  Aikido as an Elite Sport)

For my own part I enjoy challenging practice a few nights a week, its much less that the intense training during the late Kyu grades and early Dan grades that seems to be crucial for embedding the art in the body, but enough to make regular progress. With Ukes 'giving me tune up each an every night' as my teacher, regular knowledge coming from others in the dojo and regular drinks of knowledge from seminars within Aikido Yuishinkai and  other schools of aikido, a professional interest in biomechanics  and some exploration through other arts I find I am getting by and making some progress…till the next plateau anyways...