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Master of puppets, I’m pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing

Master Of Puppets, James Hetfield

We are independent, free people. In everyday life we chose freely which choices to make, which directions to take and how to behave in different situations. We think that we do what we want to do at least. However, is that really true?

I love more and more to practise suburi. Through this training I have become more and more aware of feelings that I was not conscious about earlier.

When we do suburi alone we are usually, for a short while, able to perform a clean and beautiful cut. Later we will have a training partner in front of us. Suddenly we are unable to make the clear suburi we were doing just minutes before. Everything changed when the partner entered the situation. Why?

Even when we are doing the suburi without a partner for a longer period of time a wish to do it faster, stronger and more powerful comes creeping forward in our mind. Our own ego is pulling our strings changing what we decided to do and makes us do something slightly different. We are violating the restrictions we set for ourselves in order to study what is contained within. I think this is exactly what we have to work to conquer in this kind of training. If we are not able to be in control of ourselves when we are doing the simplest of exercises alone, how can we expect to do it when we have a partner? We are already dancing to every pull of the strings from the puppet master.

The ego is pulling our strings. Picture by Metallica.

What will you do if you have a training partner which blocks you? Will you alter your state of mind? Will you break your own restrictions that you decided to study within? Would you block him/her back to get even? Do you submit to the competition blinded by the ego, to show that you are better? Why would we do such things? It makes no sense at all when we think about it, but that is it right there. When it happens we are not thinking. Just dangling our puppet legs and arms to every jerk our ego make in our strings.

So how does it feel the moment we are pushed over the edge? There is a problem to study, we know this. However, I believe the wish to defeat the partner might blind us too much to realize that we are wasting our chance to practise to conquer the ego. It is much more challenging with a training partner than with individual exercises like suburi.

I am back from two weeks of aikido training in three countries. I experienced some episodes that was very interesting for the study of these things. Mostly it was situations created by the teachers, but also some situations happening by chance right there and then. Those random encounters appeared as much more challenging as I was not prepared for them. When I was prepared to just perform a kata and my partner tried to “sneak away”, there it was. The practice was not any more about the kata as my partner already moved us outside of the restrictions defined by the kata. However, the mind does not catch up so quickly and continue to try and find a way to throw the partner. I imagine myself walking around with toilet paper rolls taped as binoculars in front of my eyes.

Seminar with Endo sensei in Púchov July 2012. Photo by Tomas Svec.

We can experience all of this in the dojo, on the tatami. In real life these things are more difficult. There are more conditions and values to consider. The situations are far more complex and we might have to regard other aspects than what we will learn (and how much fun we will have) by doing different things.

Now I am back from the trip and as there are no training partners here anyway I will be doing lots of suburi to study these things from the most simple exercise that I know. I will do shomen uchi. I will try to cut the strings of the master one by one. I will find them, I will cut them, and I will be a little bit closer to freedom, I hope.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido make people happy!