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.