As an Aikidoka achieves the shodan, the black belt rank, it is usually and broadly said that at that moment -and by continuing training with dedication- an Aikidoka chooses that discipline for life.
Let’s take five minutes to better understand if, when and how does this sentence fit everyday life. An ordinary life that is immersed in what Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman defined as “liquid society”.
A society that looks in a continuous search for balance, in which everything seems destructured, starting from relationships, to jobs, to institutions, and so on.
A “for life” commitment is something that strongly differs from a liquid world, where everything changes and no certainty is allowed to resist to this pattern.
Yet such commitment strongly fascinates humankind. Architecture and artistic masterpieces are an evidence of the attempt of our ancestors to trespass the boundaries of time. And, generally, when walking in our towns, we are surrounded by buildings that weren’t raised yesterday; rather being a legacy of the ones who lived our environment before us.
According to statistics, in western countries, more than one married couple of two gets divorced. Probably this is the main hidden reason why many couples live their relationships without getting married, yet the will to spend their life “forever” is powerfully inspiring every couple’s life. Married or not.
This is our nature: nature seeks for stability and balance. And balance is something that may be experienced just on the long run.
Martial Arts and in particular disciplines like Aikido, tend to gather people who more or less intentionally, are attracted by their inner capability to contribute to rebalancing the individual’s psychosomatic system.
“Choosing Aikido for life” therefore may sound very attractive for two main reasons. First, the individual perceives himself as capable of a kind of rebirth, where he or she can start over a new chapter. This is very valuable, especially if the individual experienced many failures (as everyone does, by the way).
Second. The black belt represents a sort of goal. In effect, it is a goal. And a goal becomes a purpose in life. A purpose in life may become a pillar of the “new one” that the individual tries to build.
Discouragement may appear along this path. It does appear.
And when the black belt is achieved -when, in the Japanese way of thinking, you show you decided to really get involved studying that discipline- balancing issues show up with all their draining power. And discouraging, when you realize that black belt is the new white, may hurt and block.
Although you proudly wear your black equipment and dress (eventually linked to a certain quality of your skills), you quickly recognize that you still live in a liquid society. And that, since you are acknowledged as a senior member of the Dojo, you’ll be required to get more committed, involved and accurate.
But the clock still displays 24 hours. No extra time for black belt.
Fortunately, some golden nuggets van be found while walking on this path. Let’s discover a few of them.
First: a greater focusing capability. Since we aren’t (still) able to create the 25th hour of a day, we can develop the skill of better focusing on what we are living and doing. This is achieved thanks to the sometimes boring repetition of exercises and routines. A prolongated practice may give back to everyone the gift of a sharp and cleaner mind. That becomes day after day more able to take the best from experiences. A focused and present system surely benefit even from a short training more than a distract and waving one, maybe only physically present at an 8 hours Aikido event.
Second: a brutal clarity with our own schedule. Time matters, even probably what we call time doesn’t actually exist… A focused mind hates wasting time. And the attitude of trying to fully live our own life may result very powerful in our (new) habits. Everything of the daily agenda can be reviewed and optimized, even if we are forced to act in frameworks we cannot avoid (i.e. job time).
Third: a more sincere attitude of saying yes or no. Since a focused and time-efficiency oriented system is trained and molded like a sharp blade (in effect, Aikiken training is intended to develop decision), it is possible to fill our yes and our no with a new kind of presence and awareness, reshaping our daily tasks.
The list could go on with several other points. What we would like to stress here is that balancing issues can be solved (or at least reduced) if only we are available to analyze our daily life in the light of a discipline.
Some examples are surely inspiring but they can be misguiding -and, at the end, very dangerous.
It is unquestionable that the ones who chose a way for their life attract our respect. And sometimes trigger our envy, for, what we can see about them is a “simple” and “easy” life.
Radicality fascinates a lot. But the shape it has in our lives cannot be the same for everyone. Otherwise, we would be clones, not unique masterpieces.
Let’s say: it could be dangerous for a guy fascinated by St. Francis of Assisi copying St. Francis’ decision to publicly undress himself without having reached the same spiritual awareness.
The same may happen in every community. The junior employee that, by mimicking dressing code, language and gesture of his senior manager, surely learns a certain style but risks to loose the grip on the core. The daughter that modifies her temper just to make her grandmother happy, forgetting to understand why she should behave in that way. And so on.
Choosing “for life” someone or something for sure requires a significative investment in terms of time, passion, patience, the capability to manage unpredictable events and another billion things. But this doesn’t mean forgetting the need to look for and to achieve the own balance.
Physically sticking to a wife 24/7 doesn’t build the perfect marriage, nor saying her “I love you” once a year.
Dojo activities are a powerful tool in which experience the true and inner essence of commitment, that is growing and nurturing the self trough and thanks to others, always helping this kind of very personal process to be honored simultaneously in a group.
Commitment is an anchor for us, ships waving in the ocean of liquid modernity. Discovering the quality of this commitment -discovering our tonnage in terms of personal depth is our personal mission.