Joy in Training

“Always practice the Art of Peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.” ~Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Also known as O’Sensei (Great Teacher).

Still smiling and finding joy in training even into his 80's!
Still smiling and finding joy in training even into his 80’s!

One of the aspects of Aikido that I love is the joy expressed in our training. The first time I ever stepped foot in my dojo I was terrified. That terror was quickly dispelled when I saw the smiling faces on almost everyone in the dojo, even when they were training…especially when they were training. I thought it was odd. Smiles in a martial arts dojo? Shouldn’t they all be serious? After all, in the dojo you learn how to fight and do potential damage to another person. They shouldn’t be smiling!

However, as I trained and studied Aikido, I began to understand the smiles. It’s not out of a lack of seriousness (well, sometimes it can be a lack of seriousness), but an expression of all that O’Sensei taught. He believed that love was the ultimate expression of a warrior and Aikido…not killing someone or doing damage to his person. Love. When we smile in the dojo during practice it is because we’ve discovered something in our practice or in ourselves that makes us smile.

I’ve experienced many moments of joy on the mat. When I take ukemi (the part of the person who attacks and is then thrown or pinned on the ground), I like to savor the moment just after my partner breaks my balance and before I fall. I’m hanging on to a brief moment in time, like falling in slow motion. I can feel the exact moment when I lose my balance, and then I can feel the exact moment when I start to fall. It reminds me of when I used to swing as a girl and I’d try to swing as high as possible, to the point where the swing would go slack. There was a moment when I’d reach the apex of the swing and everything would just…stop. My upward momentum was gone, but I hadn’t yet started to fall down. Everything would hang…and then I’d fall.

I loved that moment. I still love that moment, but now I get to experience it on the mat. It makes me smile. I’m serious when I’m attacking someone, because I know that I’ll likely get thrown into a roll or highfall or pinned to the ground. When I get up from the mat, though, I smile. Sometimes I laugh. It’s exhilarating.

I feel like I’m experiencing, in my own small way, training in a joyful manner.

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