I have lost some friendships, broke away from my aikido dojo and had a breakdown. I had faced the lowest point of my life and the people whom I thought I had their support and friendship kept their distance. I have helped those whom I have opened my heart to without expecting anything in return. But I felt used and betrayed. I opened my heart too much and allowed my weaknesses to be exploited. But through it all, I was glad that it happened and I would never change a thing. I was very lucky to have a few friends who stood by me and showed me kindness. And that was all I need.
I am slowly trying to rebuild my confidence. I said to myself this time in 2015 that 2016 is going to be a great year and it is despite everything. I learn to forgive everyday until I no longer feel anger and resentment. There is no need to wait for the new year for me to begin again. I just need to do.
My love for aikido has never fade and I will continue to be Acrostic Aikidoka. I am more determined to learn and grow in this art form and excited for the future lies ahead. I no longer hope for the best. Instead I aim to be the best version of myself and make each day count!
The 31 jo kata – I have a kind of a love-hate relationship learning this. I love it because practicing the 31 jo kata forces me to be more aware of my posture, balance and extension of the self through the jo. But when done badly, it can be disastrous because it could lead to ingraining oneself to a level of complacency, if you are unable to “autocorrect” yourself (does that makes sense??). Which is why I feel that weapons training is the hardest for me to grasp. I do believe that in order to achieve a sense of control of the self, my mind and the weapon must be as one. Sensei always advise us to set a certain goal when we are training. This is to make our training more purpose-driven as we discipline ourselves to strive to work towards a certain goal. In my own way, I used my 31 jo kata practice as part of my personal quest to truly understand the principles of the ‘square, circle and triangle’ in Aikido. There are moments during training when I try to consciously visualise each of these 3 shapes to understand the movements of the entire body.
“The body should be triangular, the mind circular. The triangle represents the generation of energy and is the most stable physical posture. The circle symbolises serenity and perfection, the source of unlimited techniques. The square stands for solidity, the basis of applied control.”
O Sensei (Taken from: http://www.koshinkan-aikido.co.uk/)
O Sensei used the three principles to help his students understand the concepts of the movements and techniques used in what they are learning. My Sensei’s advice to us was whenever we practice the 31 jo kata on our own, it is imperative that we inculcate a sense of discipline, focus and purpose in our movements.
I used to keep a journal diligently when I was an art student back in 1999 and I would have lots of little blank sketchbooks that I carried everywhere. I would gleefully filled in the blank pages with drawings from observations, poems, writings, etc and it became a form of solace as well as a source of raw inspiration for my projects. I stopped doing that when I started working. When I restarted my Aikido training last year, I told myself that I wanted to make my training more meaningful and so I started keeping a journal again. In my last post I wrote about some of the other reasons why I started journal writing again. I find it useful as it wasn’t so much about trying to memorise everything that I learned after each lesson. It was more of capturing what I felt, my thought processes at that time and snippets of Sensei’s advice. To me, learning Aikido gave me a chance to learn new complex problem-solving situations as there is always something new to learn at every lesson no matter how repetitive it was. Below is a small list of what I remind myself on the importance of why I’m doing a training journal:
Write it while its still fresh! I write in my journal as soon as possible or at least within 24 hours. (The longest I took was 48 hours and yes I did beat myself about it!) I started out writing everything that I remember about the lesson that I just had. Then I would slowly analyse what I wrote and divided it into different categories for elaboration. The key point to note here is NOT ABOUT MEMORISING. It’s more of distilling the information into small chunks of analysis.
Giving a sense of perspective. Journal writingprovides me with an opportunity to step back and think about what I’m learning, how I’m learning it and why do I remember certain things well.
Be constructive. I write about what I did well and what to improve. There’s no point in criticising yourself so much. (Coz in my case, there’s always something wrong with what I’m doing! Hahahahahah!)
At the end of the day, its really down to personal choice. I don’t share my training journal to anyone but I certainly encourage everyone to do it for whatever reason it may be. Whatever it is, your training journal has to develop naturally and it’s important to be consistent and have fun with it. If you are learning martial arts and have never had a training journal, I encourage you to try it!
I decided to consciously write down in a little notebook aka My Training Journal, some aspects of what I can remember during my Aikido lessons. Just like how I used to always take notes/ doodle when I was a student moons ago. It was something I wanted to do for myself when I started my training last year. I don’t know if there are other martial arts practitioners out there who diligently keep a training journal. I’m sure it would be interesting to see it. (Starting to imagine pages of secret codes and symbols). My so-called training journal wasn’t like something that I specifically bought. It was just a little hardcover book, I always carry around in my bag which I use to just note down or draw stuff on a daily basis. Writing is a comforting action (I’m talking pen on paper people!) sometimes as compared to burying my nose looking at my phone the whole time. I started writing what I remembered in that notebook one Sunday afternoon after training while I was travelling home because I had this impending feeling that I will forget whatever that I just learned. My training notes initially looked like scribbles (because I was either in a bus or train) with little anecdotes of what Sensei said in class. I also started drawing weird little diagrams of the movements of certain techniques. It’s just so funny looking back now but it made perfect sense to me when I first did it. Oh well.
But then I realised I wanted to capture the essence of what Sensei taught us in class and not really like the specific mechanics of certain techniques. Being a reflective learner is very important in all aspect of our lives because we learn new things all the time. Especially important, I feel, if we dedicate our lives to learning something we seek to enhance ourselves – like martial arts. So, I’m going to continue with my training journal and it is exciting to see how it has changed over the months because I don’t like writing the same way all the time.
I managed to go for training today after recovering from a serious bout of flu. I was really sore all over but I just wanted to push on. I’ve lost weight even though I’ve only been training once a week for 2 hours. My appetite and energy level is decreasing by the day even though there were no changes to my diet. I forced myself to eat regularly and not skip a single meal, but I’m still losing weight. But hey, as long as I can move without difficulty I will push on! I really wanted to train and catch up. It’s been too long. Come to think of it, taking baby steps is so slow and draining but I’m doing something about it in the best way that I know. I don’t feel like anyone else understand what I’m going through and to be honest, I’m beginning to feel like it’s ok if no one does. Have I changed? Yes, definitely. Do I feel motivated at all? I do and it takes some work. But I keep telling myself that it’s really not that difficult when I put my mind to it. I really want to improve and advanced myself. Baby steps again, I said. Aikido training do give me a sense of peace and structure that I’ve come to appreciate. It’s a shame that I’ve only realised it now. I feel that self-realisation is like a gift from God that one have yet to receive. But if you do, it will definitely come when you least expect it. Like falling in love or experiencing a moment of brilliance. Also, I am grateful for the people around me who have given me guidance, especially Sensei. Goodnight world!
How I wish sometimes life can be neatly sorted out or compartmentalised like what we do with objects or like gardening for that matter. Where you can visibly spot the good roots from the rotten. But in reality its not that simple. I’m not saying its impossible to do, just need some personal time, space and perhaps some sage advice from a very experience gardener to help you weed out the bad roots away from the good roots. Now my references starting to sound strange! Anyway, I find myself fortunate to have a wonderful and very wise friend who recently helped me get myself “sorted”. I shouldn’t worry too much and just think positively. Sometimes the simplest advice is the most hardest to do. But then again, who is making it hard on myself? No one but me. Time to start looking forward in life or I shall find myself trying to get out of this confusing maze that I had build myself.
It’s been almost 7 months since I restarted my Aikido training and to be honest, it has been the most challenging experience ever. But I am extremely fortunate to train with a group of wonderful people who are talented and supportive. Nonetheless, Aikido helps me a great deal in coping with my moods because eventhough training was very difficult for me at times, I do feel at peace in the dojo. I tend to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to be at my best, its a habit I am trying to manage. This unnecessary stress I give myself tends to upset my sense of harmony and it affects the way I train. The concept of harmony in Aikido I realised is that it has to be from within. If I am not in harmony with myself, how is it possible for me to harmonise with others? There are times when I train, I felt frustrated at myself and sometimes at others. This happens when I am not in harmony with myself, I perceive myself negatively and self-doubts sinks in. This unhealthy thinking has to go or I will be forever stuck in this vicious cycle and I will not be able to discover my full potential. There is this principle in Aikido called Masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi (true victory is self-victory, a victory right now), resonates deep with me. This traditional saying by O-Sensei held great importance for him and I will be exploring this further in my next post. Till then, I shall as ‘Keep Calm and Aikido On’.