The enforced social isolation and the inability to go training as usual at the dojo has resulted in many of my students paying attention to their own training and with it self reflection. I have tried to support this through Zoom or other video platforms which have been more successful than I thought they would be. I believe part of that success has been due to the fact that I am familiar with my students, including the ones who live in other countries. (Germany and Spain being the main ones abroad.) That familiarity and their willingness to work at it has proved to be a good formula while producing good results. Zoom, needless to say has its limitations. It has however enabled those with increased focus and commitment to observe themselves and put this into self study and self correction. In a nutshell they are working on themselves and on the details. This is the best way to be and should not be just for now. It should extend well beyond the current difficulties and become, if it isn’t already, the way to approach training.
I have always argued that it’s what you can do in your own time as and when you can that will shine through in your overall progress. It is that and not just the class time that allows you to grasp a deeper level of understanding. Many can’t and likely never will for various reasons. This is also ok but it is those who put the extra time and thought behind it that break through and get it in a fuller way. How much extra is good? That reminds me of the Zen monk in Chester college in the north west of England many years ago in a British summer camp. A question and answer time with him had one of the Scottish guys ask “How long should I meditate?” His understated reply was “How long do you personally sit?” The Scot answered back “About 20 Mins when I can.” The Monk continued “20 mins is good, 5 mins is good and if you can do 1 hour that’s also good.” Everyone laughed as his answers were basically whatever you can is good. It is in fact quite amazing that if you just put 10 or 20 mins a day or every other day in addition to your regular training, the results will speak for themselves. It is not merely the exercise of it, it’s the fact that you are connecting with the study, with yourself and the experience in class to bring about better Aikido, weapons and Iaido. Better self. It means above all that as a student you have accepted responsibility for your own training rather than depending entirely on the teacher and the dojo. Of course you can’t completely teach yourself, besides you need a partner in Aikido. You still need input, guidance and direction but the best students also dig in and self train which means they are reflecting on themselves and on what needs to be done.
Lockdown will eventually come to an end. Social distancing may continue for a while longer but at some point we will all get back to the mat or some form of traditional training. I think it’s also important that we retain this sense of self study and so when we do go to class we engage with it more fully and with an increased sense of purpose.