“Being meaningful, an Aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

“Olympic athletes do not train to be in top shape, or to appear to be so. They train for the specific purpose of excelling in their event(s) of choice.”

Do you train meaningfully, or do you train with meaning? Small difference, huge difference, contingent on what these terms mean to you. There is no right or wrong label to be placed on the final choices made, or the results perceived. The great benefit of making personal choices, is that you need not justify them to anyone else.

Training meaningfully allows the student to focus, not on being meaningful, but on the fundamentals that then bring their own brands of meaning to the training, and its ultimate results. In this way, the added benefits of internalized commitment, effective muscle memory, and of proven habits honed from endless hours of effort, will naturally flow from those related movements, and be authenticated in the zanshin of the moment. No need to spend extra focus or narrow intent on making the training more meaningful, as the appropriate meanings are already included. Perhaps this approach may be called an “inclusive” method of training, where there is a clear and fundamental acceptance of whatever may finally result from the prolonged and fully committed effort. It is all good, being part of the mix of a balanced way of thinking, and of allowing of all components of one’s vision, and of one’s daily programming.

To train with meaning, however, requires a different set of commitments and mind sets, that allow for pursuing specific goals of training. Perhaps one truly wants to improve their ukemi to the extent of being unconcerned with who the nage is, or of any hidden agenda he may have. Or one may engage in a brutally intense regimen of conditioning, to outlast anyone else in a randori or marathon training experience. Olympic athletes, for example, do not train to be in top shape, or to appear to be so. They train for the specific purpose of excelling in their event(s) of choice, to the exclusion of just about any other reason for training. It is the purpose of being judged the best by others that counts for them, and not necessarily what they truly want for themselves, even after the glamour of the games is long ago finished and tarnished. Perhaps this approach may be called an “exclusive” method of training, where little else matters other than the specific goals defined and pursued. In the end, all effort is either justified and affirmed, or deemed unrealized and, unfortunately, an unmitigated failure and disaster, regardless of any other benefits that may have spun off from the amazing efforts and performances of the chase. All or nothing is this mind set.

Granted, most of the Olympians who have survived the grueling and time intensive rigors of preparing for and participating in the Games, do see themselves as far richer for the experience, and more enhanced as individuals. It is the inherently unfair and all too ignominious public perception and reactions that I actually target.

In my mind, then, to train with a more generously open agenda, wisely allowing for a variety of potential goals, and of an unrestricted range of acceptable results in the end, is much more in tune with the true spirit of Ueshiba Aiki, and of the Universal Aiki that I continue to study. I am surely not anywhere near where I originally intended to go with my training, and my life’s path. Yet, I can be content that I did my best, and accept what I now have with a deep sense of gratitude for being allowed to participate. Others who feel the same are my good and much appreciated friends. We can all acknowledge that one never plans to fail. So, by avoiding any failure to plan, we train happily each day with new meaning, joyfully affirmed by waking up meaningfully.

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  1. Thank you for another thoughts provoking article Takahashi Sensei.

    Yes, there is a difference to train many hours, without spare time for oneself, for one’s family or friends, just for one day in four years, preparing oneself to represent our country to get a medal.

    Or to train joyfully in our scheduled days, learning every day a bit more, but knowing that we will never stop to learn during a life, like we are doing in our Aikido and with what we are growing also as human beings.

  2. Nice article. What’s personally interesting is that many of the training methods adopted by elite sport are common in Budo – including much of the esoteric – albeit as a different paradigm.


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