Honesty may not be the first word you think of in connection with aikido, but on reflection you may come to realise that in fact it is a central pillar.
There are many reasons to train, but for me, the most important reason is to develop myself. I see aikido as a tool to help me grow. It’s a road without end, but such a fascinating journey, as the vista is always changing.
As a student, if you are to maximise the opportunity to grow, then you have to cultivate honesty. It is the necessary quality required to understand who you are and where you are at. And to progress, you have to continue to take a good look at yourself, and to be honest about what you see. Honesty is simply the optical tool required to see with 20/20 vision. As the ancient Greek aphorism goes, ‘Know thyself’.
To grow into the person you want to be, you simply have to know who you are and where you are at. Having this clear eyed view is essential if you are not to have an over-inflated sense of your own importance or the corollary, an underestimation of your worth. The truth is that we all have qualities to be appreciated, but we also have aspects of character that need to change. Learning to accept who we are is just as important as learning to fully accept an attack from another. In fact, it is the pre-cursor.
Typically your harshest critic is your own inner voice, and for many students that I have met over the years, the biggest benefit of their training has been to silence the enemy within and to gain a clearer insight as to their own worth. So as students, first and foremost, it is your prime responsibility to fix yourself. But it takes courage to really look at yourself in this way, to see the need for change and even more to do something about it.
The more you fix yourself, the better able you are to truly connect with others and in doing so, help them in their own process of self-development. As uke, we are not there to show how good we are. We are not there to find fault in others and neither are we there to bolster the ego of our training partner. Our job is simply to accurately reflect back to nage what is going on with them. We are the mirror they need to clearly see the results of their actions.
If we don’t give enough of ourselves or we give too much, we simply fog up the mirror and minimise the learning opportunity. Exploring this boundary is a fascinating aspect of our study, as everyone we train with offers the chance to examine where the borders are. Even with our favourite training partner, no assumptions should be made. The energy they bring having endured a bad day compared to a wonderful one can be quite different. Put simply, every single time we practise with a partner, it is a unique experience filled with possibility. Maximising this opportunity by finding the place that allows both parties to maximise their learning is truly an incredible thing.
It is one of the many dichotomies that we experience in our training, that whilst in the role of uke, our job is to assist the learning of our partner, it also provides a fantastic opportunity to learn so much about ourselves. In fact I would go so far as to say that I have learnt more in this role than I have as nage.
To get it right requires a great deal of sensitivity and the ability to park your ego on the side of the mat. Only then can the riches of aikido unfold and two people for a brief moment in time can effectively become one. It’s a magnificent feeling and something that seems to transcend our normal state of being. It is one of the times when I have an understanding of what people are talking about when they describe aikido as a spiritual art.
Cultivating honesty and seeing things as they really are in either role helps us on this upward spiral and anything less just gets in the way and impedes our progress. But if we get it right, it truly is a path of joy!
It does not take a wild leap of understanding to see that when you practise in this way, you will reap the rewards on the mat, but equally you will reap them off it. Whatever roles you take on in life, mother, father, friend or work colleague, you will become better at them. You will become a better member of the communities that you live within and you will better see things as they are. And in a world, where it increasingly feels that we are governed by self-interest and greed, we need more people who we can trust to see things in this way and who have the integrity to bring about the changes that we all need.
Reflecting on this, perhaps you will come to the conclusion that your training is far more meaningful and has more depth than you ever imagined. The stakes are high, but the beauty of cultivating honesty is that the potential rewards are huge. This is how we can make a difference and leave our mark on the world, and play our part on the road to reconciliation.