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I am working as a painter of a wooden church. When I first started, a few months ago, I tried to put what I considered to be just the right amount of paint on the wall. My ego was continuously pushing me to put as much paint as possible on the wall for the first layer.

However, what seemed to stick on the wall at first would sag (making the wall ugly) by the following day, which meant I would have to fix it before I could continue my work. We use the same kind of paint as they used in 1873 when they painted the church for the first time, so it does not stick to the wall as easily as modern paint. Also, it dries more slowly so we have to wait a longer period of time before applying the next layer of paint.

Different boards have slightly different surface and therefore will hold different amounts of paint. So I had to develop my sensitivity to feel what would be the correct amount of paint for each individual area. In addition to constantly reminding myself that less is very often more in this work.

Ørskog Kirke, built 1873. Photo by Halvard Hatlen.

This is very much like my own experience as an instructor. I think each person has a limit just like the walls of the church I am painting. The paint need time to dry before new a new layer of paint can be applied. I believe that our ego is pushing us to give too much because we are eager to achieve some results. However, if we are sensing the situation and paying attention to the details we know about how much paint each area can take, and how much new information a person can take in one go. Experience gives the ability to sense this with a group as well as with individuals, but through personal interaction with each individual we will receive feedback on this, just like by paying attention to the feeling of the wood through the paintbrush.

How new information is presented could also affect the amount of new information a person can hold in one “layer of paint”. I think that if one creates the necessity for a principle the principle “sticks” better than if it is pushed on to the person for a reason unknown to them.

In many ways I think instruction is similar to aikido itself. If we are trying to force it, it will not work. I think maybe it is better to guide people to discover as much as possible for themselves rather than to state our own experience for them. Maybe even by using the inception principle, so that it would be untraceable back to us. Something that could be difficult for the ego to accept perhaps? In addition to being a challenge to succeed with.

We are now at the time of year where my mind, almost autonomously, start preparing for helping the beginners of the new school year. This will be the first year for some time I will not be involved at all with recruiting and training with beginners, but it has almost become a mindset for this time of the year for me. At least in a small place, like Trondheim, it is always a struggle to get enough training partners to continue the practice, so the recruitment of new members to our clubs is paramount.

Good luck to all the aikido clubs of the world! Enjoy your keiko! Aikido make people happy!