“State of Mind” by David Shevitz

“When most folks think about the various Star Wars quotes that best describe martial arts training (and there are many), the one that often comes to mind is the classic Yoda line: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” While I can’t even type those words without being overcome with a wave of nostalgia, I must admit that it’s the quote at the top of this entry that I think really strikes at the heart of martial training. It’s the simple truth: we often fail to perform at our best potential not because we can’t do it, but because we don’t believe we can do it.

It’s my opinion that few arts exhibit this fact more than aikido. Often referred to as an “internal” martial art because its effectiveness hinges on understanding and controlling yourself more than your opponent, aikido nonetheless is a relatively simple art from a technique standpoint. When I say this, I do not mean that there aren’t a myriad of techniques that require a great deal of technical proficiency. What I do mean is that the core movements that comprise aikido techniques take little time to understand and not much more time to implement. In fact, I often tell many of my new students that, by the end of class, they will have already understood most of what they need to know to execute whatever technique we’re practicing that evening. What keeps us training day in and day out, year upon many years, is not the complexity of the technique, but rather our own internal quest to find the perfect level of calmness, centeredness, and focus. Our goal is not to throw, but to move so naturally, so effortlessly, that our opponent is not left wondering how they were beaten, but rather why they even bothered to attack in the first place.”

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  1. Bob Nadeau once said he trained simply for “those magic moments”. I just get lost in the string-ball of techniques, but getting lost is liberating. Sort of like sailing in fog (when the water is shallow enough the big guys won’t get you): you could be anywhere and it’s marvelous. In more “real” situations, the mind is left far behind and only catches up over the next few days. Some folks call it Post Traumatic Stress, but you can get used to it.

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