After class, Dee and I had a lovely lunch with Lawrence, our resident Senior Samurai. During our conversation we spoke about a topic that I think merits a brief post.

I had recounted to Lawrence a few experiences on the mat when I was genuinely afraid. Not worried, or put off, but legitimately scared, if only for a moment. It’s happened a few times in my Aikido career and I believe I am the better martial artist for it.

The fear I am speaking about is the total loss of control I’ve felt when thrown with vigor by a high ranking practitioner. Specifically, when I’ve had no idea what to expect, and was projected with power into the mat. The kind of technique that, had my ukemi failed, would have resulted in a serious fracture. Of course, looking back, I realize that the control my nages were exercising would not have allowed a truly debilitating injury. But at the time? Scared senseless.

There are lessons here on several levels, both on the mat and off. The main point, however, is this: You face your fear, and you survive the technique.

I think it’s crucial for our students to look for these opportunities, especially at seminars. Not recklessly, mind you—there are brutes out there whose connection with uke is—how shall I put it?—a bit lacking. And of course there are those less experienced practitioners whose ability to instill fear is caused by the fact that they don’t know what the heck they’re doing. Which of course is dangerous.

But the ability to face the unknown and survive, I think, is an important lesson in budo. In the best of circumstances, it may even spark a reexamination of your own practice, and what Aikido as a martial art actually is, rather than what your dogma may have led you to believe.

6 thoughts on “Fear

  1. Fear is an excellent training tool. Once you know how to fight through it, you are better prepared for the situation that induced the fear when that situation becomes legitimately frightening. Academy is good for that…

    On another note. I’ll be returning sometime this week, either before, or at cleansing class. See you all soon!

  2. I think taking a few hard ones are important. Once you pick yourself up and realize you’ve survived it trains your mind not to attribute stress to that sort of situation anymore. Sometimes a hard fall or getting hit is what you need to build confidence. You might be afraid to get hit the first time, but the 3rd and 4th time you can approach the situation business as usual. At least that’s how I’ve built up my confidence in the past.

  3. Yes and yes.

    The confidence thing is tricky, though. The times I am referring to are when I was completely helpless and totally outclassed. My nages could have seriously injured me at any time, just by adjusting an inch or two. Of course those guys had several decades of experience over me.

    But I did survive. And lived to blog about it! 😉

    For more run of the mill encounters, however, (say, in everyday training), I agree completely.

    Look forward to training with you again, DK.

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