In the morning I usually take three times longer to do completely ordinary things, than otherwise. I am still dreaming, lots of stuff is going on in my mind and I always end up forgetting to do this and that when I am there, so I have to go back to do it. Thus it takes longer time, and I always have the feeling of being late.

One morning this week I started the day with an hour of suburi before work. At the beginning I did my usual pre keiko meditation. It is a long time since I have had such a stress free morning before getting to work. The difference became very clear to me. Everything was so easy that morning. I even ended up having time for 15 minutes of guitar playing where I usually have had to grab my breakfast and eat it walking.

The meditation help me gather my focus, “lowers” my feeling and calms my mind. Breathing slowly, focusing on my breath and my posture. Everything slows down and my attention starts to gather in my lower belly. I try always to do this before the practice if I have the chance.

The pre training meditation at the seminar with Endo sensei in Púchov in July 2012. Photo by Tomas Svec.

I would like to bring this “silence” with me throughout the keiko (and in the rest of my life). So which kind of warm up exercises will help me maintain my focus? Actually it depends more on how I do the warming up than exactly which exercises I do. I should perform the exercises with focus on what I am doing, never letting my mind stray to distant thoughts. However, if we do exercises where the hakama moves up on the stomach it is more challenging not to let our feeling rise with it. Also, it would be a challenge if the whole atmosphere in the dojo is “noisy”, both mentally and otherwise.

Endo sensei almost always begins the sessions with some suburi exercises. We adjust the distance to uke, either out of range or passing him/her, searching for the perfect timing for doing it. As these movements are quite simple it is possible to keep working on our mental state. He is always very strict about laughing and smiling during these exercises. It has been among the most difficult things he ever told me to do: To try to be serious for a moment.

When we fail and the partner hit us in the head social convention requires us to laugh, because we made a mistake and we should laugh about our mistakes. Then of course, laughing, our mind is busy focusing on our mistake and we make more mistakes, getting hit in the head a few more times. So it becomes an evil circle that is difficult to get out of.

I am very happy when I am practising aikido. It is the best part of my life. However, I would like to smile and laugh because I am sincerely happy, not because I am imprisoned by some social conventions for when I should laugh. So I go as far as I am able to follow his advice and control my smiling and laughter, at least during this part of the keiko.

So how does this affect the main part of the training? Of course, in order to maintain the state we have been working on we would have to know the kata so well that we can perform them without thinking. Otherwise it would be impossible. However, I think it is a totally amazing experience if I am able to get this feeling of silence when I do aikido. Everything flows naturally. It just feels right.

One more thing I would like to add to this train of thoughts is concerning the location where we do the keiko. When we are in a new place the mind is often busy gathering impressions from where we are. I often sleep in dojos when I travel for aikido. It is both cheaper than the alternatives and I get something special from it. By living in the dojo, taking care of it before the practice my mind has finished gathering impressions when the actual keiko starts. By cleaning the dojo I have kind of cleaned my mind, and the silence I have been talking about is easier to achieve.

Vanadis Aikido Club in Stockholm. A place that has a special place in my heart.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido make people happy!