Every young boy at some stage wants to become the “champion of all the word.” He dreams of it, pushes himself and is driven by young hormones. And then he grows up. Well most do. Others become cynical, accumulate fat and if they continue in that vein, become old, bitter, twisted and acrimonious. But it’s not the world’s fault. Change starts from within and has to be generated by more than wishing, but also active persistence. Others become “too busy” and still others have other excuses and become tame drones, office or cannon fodder or other hiding places. These are not warriors. These will most usually experience a mid-life-crisis in the form of a breakdown of some kind.
Those who continued to train and refine body-mind skills, through all the trials life brings, determined to captain the only ship anyone has jurisdiction over, themselves, will likely experience various forms of enlightenment on the journey instead. Arrival is not an issue. The journey is. Being better than anyone else is not the issue. Being better than oneself yesterday, is.
It has been my experience that there are none so determined than those who are determined and decide to make a choice, as the “runts of the litter,” the asthmatics, the skinny kid, the cerebral palsied, those in wheelchairs, any of the variously afflicted, when they make a decisions to make changes.
And, unlike those who sit on the ground and feed their doubting mind by never even trying, if you aim for a distant star, you will most often find you can climb at least half way up a tree. There’s an increased view to be had from even there.
The natural wisdom here is that nothing is ever achieved in leaps, but that there is no force in the universe that can stop small steps.
The gifted, instead, all too often fall by the wayside and get lost in the crowds of undetermined followers. After becoming bored by their gift of superior, inherited, natural ability, they go to sleep, stop feeding it, and slowly it drains away. Movement is life, stagnation is death. If you don’t use it you will lose it. That is the universal way and the law of nature.
The forward movement of Great Nature is the life that happens when you are making other plans. It moves relentlessly forward, the wheels of time and karma grinding all in its path. Intense necessity will either wipe you out, or you will change and adapt to survive. That’s the harsh reality of nature and evolution.
Actually, turning up to good regular, training, within one’s limits, without excuses and an open mind, will lend weight to the processes of transformation to whatever degree and enhance the possibility of survival in emergency. It also increases understanding of the forces involved and counterstrategies.
Just as time and tide wait for no person, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, wars and street attacks don’t usually give six weeks notice in writing. In any event six weeks is not long enough to prepare. Budo/Aikido needs to be a Way-of-Life, constantly picking ourselves up and reclaiming our potentials. For the excuse makers, O’Sensei and others had occasion to reclaim themselves from death’s doorstep following very serious illnesses by starting crawling on all fours, built up to shuffling around the block and adding increments daily. That’s the stuff of mastery and unlocking potential is also part of the genetic program over and beyond limitations which, as choice, can also be reinforced by the mind.
The rest is up to a decision and the resolve to carry it out. You can choose limitation or change. Both have their attendant pain so the choice is a non-choice. Choose now, pain or pain. Pain first or pain later. Excuses and complacency are only possible on the dole. Nature consists of challenges, but they are designed to nourish the soul when met. How many people take the trouble to prepare to be useful in their own society by doing the relevant courses to attain valid skills in first-aid, fire safety, water safety, search and rescue, etc.
No Budo, Aikido included, has any relevance up there with the faeries. If it cannot be applied it is useless and an indulgence. If it does not in some way serve the greater good, it serves nothing. Not even ego. Aikido is not primarily an academic, theoretically intellectual exercise. Unless a person is actively training, willingly confronting walls, meeting the pain of change and going through real barriers, they can have no real basis on which to edify. The ceiling or walls become well-known friends who one day melt away after incessant going up to them and massage them in training.
We are all doing time. The Kami that guard us will not supply the dynamite. We have been endowed with the fires of resolve. And many have escaped by scraping the walls and digging tunnels with a spoon. The movie “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) demonstrates one such episode of the principle. I think it took him twenty years. But no one achieves any mastery in less time in any field. And even then it is just a beginning.
In training you actively, willingly confront walls and ceilings, meeting the pain of change, then back off, then try again. That transforms. Training INSIDE current limits. It’s like knocking on a door. But it has to be consistent and regular. Forcing through barriers, no matter how young or fit will result in damage.
The most empowering secret of all Budo and also the most humbling is in the recognition of our limitations. And meeting them, facing them actively and daily, irrespective of the price: initial discomfort. Nature too exacts a price. Effort, no matter how small makes changes in increments. One atom at a time.
The ego wants to be the “champeen of all the world,” but even for the real champions, the rarefied heights cannot last. They are a temporary window of juxtaposition of energies which when capitalized upon, can provide but an enforced view from somewhere close to the mountaintop.
Fear won’t even try to start the climb and uses avoidance mechanisms to excuse not making the attempt.
The determined, with quiet resolve, manageable, regular installments, make progress. It’s not about matching anyone else and it’s not a race. Budo is not about theories but action and practice to improve oneself. Whether you are prepared to make the effort to excel without any excuses whatsoever. It’s not about being better than anyone else or even comparing. Rather, to be the best one can for now, for today. To shine, if even in private secrecy without pretensions.
Whether a person trains or not is entirely their choice. I have no judgment on that and nor should anyone else. However, if you do not practice regularly and consistently you have nothing to impart of any value on the subject other than idle theories.
Even then, mere words are no match for actual practice. If you do practice, perhaps, just perhaps, and only sometimes, will words evince an empathic response based on a commonality of experience, from others who also actively practice. To whatever degree, whether great or small, some measure of mutual gain may be had.
This much I know: If I am offered the choice to debate and exchange opinions or to actively practice, explore and discover in training, I will choose training every time! At least ninety eight out of a hundred times.
Hot air never won a fight and what you practice most you become good at.
The biggest danger, particularly in regards to Budo of any kind, is to end up believing untested theories and paying the price for such self-delusion.
That’s why we train and must keep training, to keep refining and stripping away the mental excrescences that get in the way of natural awakening, clarity of mind and effective skill.
On this basis we cannot be acrimonious about the cards dealt us by birth, ancestry or genes, but rather learn to use what we have been dealt.
That’s the journey and there is no arrival for anyone.
It’s just a journey.
We train for today.
“Champeen Of All The World” is a fiction. And it’s not worth finding this out when you end up walking on your heels.
But for the quietly persistent, the mountaintop can be experienced without such excessive striving as the unprepared would attempt. Rather, having earned the credit, often, when you least expect it, the mountaintop will come to you. And you will be offered a glimpse of that view anyhow.
An old Chinese saying which was later sung in a song states:“First there is a mountain. Then there is no mountain. Then there is.” Bruce Lee paraphrased it as:“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just a punch, a kick just a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just a punch, a kick just a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum.”
Resistance to the great flow which is the universal river of life, Kannagara no Michi, is futile. Only persistence makes changes. It is the Way of Nature, Life and the Universe and transcends all theories.