Aikido, A Lesson in Life

Written by a non-martial artist whose life has been impacted by Aikido

I need to caveat this note with the fact that I am not a practicing Aikidoist due to my personal circumstances. With that said, I have the privilege on being close to some amazing individuals who to me truly embody the essence of the art of aikido.

Based on my observations on the aikido classes taught at Naka Ima, I’ve learned that Aikido is more than just the lesson of the martial art. At Naka Ima, it seems the instructors always talk about the importance of connecting with your partner. And this is the one lesson I picked up that impacted my life in incredible ways.

How Aikido impacted my life as a non-martial artist

In a conversation the other day, the idea of connection came up, not about martial arts but in relation to life situations off the mat. The conversation made me think about my life, and how open I am in everyday life to making a connection with others or with anything… really taking the time, respecting and caring for all around me. The short answer to that question was that I wasn’t. Like many in today’s world, day to day interactions can be very superficial as we rush around in our busy lives. How often do we really stop to listen, or more importantly, pay attention to the body language or the feeling of the reply? Not enough. While I do consider myself a good listener, and a caring individual, I realized that I was not really connecting. As I traveled down this thought process, what was odd to me was that when I tried to think of times when I had taken the time, when I had opened myself up, those were some of my best memories, or things that had a great impact on my life and who I am… these were the truly happy times.

I have spoken generally about how we all let life pass by superficially… but I was worse than most. I intrinsically held myself back… almost protectively not to let anyone in…not wanting to connect at the risk of leaving myself open to be hurt. I for a long time justified this and believed that I could still connect by being a good listener. But this can only go so far…..this is not a connection. This can only be reflective for your partner at best.

In the conversation, it was discussed how you could make someone understand that just following or mastering a technique was not the end of it. Going through the technical motion does not make you a master, not if you can’t feel the connection. It’s is a difficult concept…

Aikido isn’t aikido if there isn’t connection, just like love isn’t love without a connection — and an artist can’t create art without a connection or a feeling. We all deal with this in other areas of our lives, something we get, but can’t understand why others can’t. It’s frustrating because you want to get them to understand…but they never will until they get there on their own.

I started this note indicating that aikido is a lesson in life. I’m sure this idea isn’t new to anyone at Naka Ima. The philosophy of aikido can read as a lesson for life… balance, non violence, neutralization of attacks, harmony, etc. For me though, the importance and positive impacts from the connection is what triggered in my mind. Will I be able to change my approach moving forward? I hope so, but it will take work and focus. What do I expect the outcome will be? To be honest, I don’t know. But as I said earlier, based on history, things are looking good.