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Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

James Hetfield Nothing Else Matters

I try to keep this blog about my own thoughts and feelings from the keiko. However, as a skeleton for this post I have used the seven virtues of the samurai. I will not go into detail about translations, versions and different ways others have been writing about it, but rather try to put into words some of my own thoughts around the general idea of the different virtues based what I have experienced on the tatami (and the post will be limited to the boundaries of the dojo).

This post could very easily have become a very lengthy one. I tried just writing the first that came to mind and tried resisting the temptation to draw too many ideas into the mix.

The seven virtues of the samurai, one for each fold of the hakama.

The seven virtues of the samurai, one for each fold of the hakama.



Are we considering both sides when we have a problem with our partner during keiko? I believe that we should use every opportunity to make changes and adjustments ourselves to make harmony. Trying to change our partner would waste our opportunity to learn. Also, the partner most likely will not change his/her way easily and we could create an unnecessary conflict by trying to force our way on our partners.

What is more important: Follow the study plan of the instructor or our training partner? I believe the instructor of a class is using his/her experience to outline a general study plan. However, every partner is different. Some partners may have injuries which would make them unable to perform some movements. Other partners have ideas that does not fit into the study plan of the instructor. Some partners lack the maturity to study, some seem to interpret the demonstration of the instructor completely differently than us, some lack the level to perform some exercises, some just want to talk about it and not practise at all (in which case all we can do is training on the ego). I believe it is better to study the set of problems presented by the partner with as much as possible respect to the idea of the instructor rather than start a war on the tatami to do exactly what the instructor demonstrated.

When we have a calm mind I believe we all know right from wrong. The difficulty is naturally to keep our cool when we are emotionally engaged. We might get angry or scared, or our ego might lead us to do things we know are wrong. We should not do the right thing for outside rules or because somebody demands us to do so, we should do it because we know it is right.



How do we treat our training partners? How do we react when our partner is challenging us? It is a great exercise to attempt to be able to still be courteous, polite and giving even if our partner is not. It is not something we should do because we have been told to be polite, but we should do it because it is aiki. I consider this an essential part of the keiko.

Whenever I have had a partner which I find somehow unpleasant to practise with I make an extra effort to bow to him/her with genuine gratitude when we are finished. If I didn’t get anything else from the physical training with that partner I at least got the challenge of controlling my ego.



How do we react when we are pushed to the limit and are afraid? There are so many kinds of fears in life. In the dojo we usually only work on the most basic ones. The fear of falling and the fear of the partner’s attack is maybe the most prominent ones. However, I am also very fascinated and interested in our fear of failing and our fear of loosing face in the training situation. In the dojo we face our fears in safe circumstances. We work on the aspects which triggers the fear and works on the feeling until we do not fear those situations anymore. Then we can go to the next level where we still feel fear and proceed with the same process again.

During this process we will gain the ability to keep our mind quiet and be able to control our actions even when we are afraid.



How do we behave in the training situation? In the keiko it can be confusing sometimes. We are told by the instructor to do something challenging, which will occupy our mind. Our training partner will tell us a whole bunch of other things which will occupy our mind even more. In this tornado of commands to follow and concider it becomes difficult to still maintain the serenity necessary to decide what is the correct thing to do.

Like I mentioned we all know what is right when we are calm. However, when stressed we are easily controlled by fear, anger, greed or wish to improve our social status. There are rules and etiquette, norms and expectations from others. However, in the end we, ourselves, are the only ones that matters. There are no such things as excuses. We know it is right or it is wrong.



How do we treat our fellow training partners? Do we follow the form we decided beforehand or do we feel what will be good for the partner? Being gentle and taking care of every aspect of the training for the partner is in my opinion the only way to understand aiki. Every hostile intention must be removed from our keiko. Do we take care of the less experienced or do we only wish to train with the advanced? Do we help include the ones that usually end up alone (for some reason), or do we try to make them feel welcome and appreciated (even though the keiko with them might is some ways be less fun than with others).

I know for sure that I have learned many very valuable ideas from practising with partners recovering from injury. From my experience I feel that bringing a partner with pains and injuries comfortably to the end of a kata is the same skill as being able to throw a difficult partner. Power will only hurt an injured partner and will get us nowhere with a difficult partner. I believe to become truly strong we must learn to be gentle.



Do we practice regularly or only when all the conditions are met? These things are reflected in the keiko. Personality colors the waza. The way we are uke and the way we are tori for our partners should be with honesty and sincerity. I believe that when we should grab we should grab fully and connect ourselves to our partner to the best of our ability. When the partner starts their move we should keep holding and follow the movement through instead of attempting to escape and disconnect. When we throw we should not ever try to trick the partner.

Are we able to admit that we can’t do something yet? Our ego will feel the sting if we admit not being able. However, it might be better to be honest both with ourselves and our partners.



Do we help out when our club needs a hand? Do we follow our teacher’s advice even if it is not what we want to hear or do we just change to a different one every time we meet a problem? Many clubs have to prepare the tatami before every session. Who will do that? Would we be there early to carry the tatami, or would we rather go to get some food before the practice? The same goes for cleaning the dojo. If we are serious about the things around the practice we will also benefit more from the keiko itself.

For me the cleaning and preparation of the dojo prior to the keiko serves as a meditation preparing me for the training to come. I truly enjoy it and do it not because I have to, but because it gives me something, and it is the right thing to do.

Seminar with Janne in Trondheim in November 2011. Photo by Kim A. Tinderholt.

Seminar with Janne in Trondheim in November 2011. Photo by Kim A. Tinderholt.

Enjoy your practice! Aikido make people happy!