Why do people practice Martial Arts? Even better, why are people passionate about Martial Arts?
That is the kind of question that any martial artist would be able to answer, but more than likely none of them would give you the same answer. However, there are a few things I believe any martial artist would say about their particular Martial Art:
1.- It is NOT a hobby.
2.- It is worth a little pain here and there.
3.- It is a never-ending journey and it is supposed to be that way.
I have been practicing Aikido for a few years now. I started in a rather dark moment in my life and found not only great exercise, but also the philosophy and discipline I needed at the time and great people I have been lucky to befriend for years now.
I have also seen people come and go, sometimes people leave and come back and sometimes they leave and never come back, but there is something very particular about the time spent on a mat trusting each other while applying painful techniques back and forth.
Aikido is not an easy Martial Art to learn, since it doesn’t rely on kicks and punches, but body joint manipulations and using the attacker’s (uke) force against him/herself. Because of its sophistication, Aikido can be quite frustrating sometimes: not only can finding the right angle, alignment & movement be challenging; but also receiving the technique, finding the right way to take a fall and protecting oneself becomes an ongoing task.
However, the same challenging nature of Aikido is what keeps aikidoka engaged in practice and provides those wonderful “Eureka!” moments that every aikidoist experiences when s/he finds the proper way to apply a technique.
All of this can, of course, be translated into everyday life; even more, I have found that those who can find a connection between what they learn on the mat and their everyday life are those who tend to stick with Aikido for the long term because they learn that Aikido is not just “something they do”, but it becomes part of their own everyday life and shapes (like in my own case) new ways to face problems, challenges and everyday tasks.
In my few years in Aikido “motivation” hasn’t always been by my side. There are so many possible distractions that could prevent me from training, but “consistency” has always been there and always pays off because as soon as I get on the mat I know I am where I am supposed to be.
As good as the training itself and its teachings are on and off the mat, another very important part is the “Aikido Family”. As I said before, I have been lucky to meet a great deal of awesome people with whom I’ve been able to share many happy moments and also a bit of pain here and there.
In the last few month I have seen some of those people come and go and their presence, or lack of, makes me aware of the need to enjoy their passing by my own life and enjoy our common development and growth. It also makes me realize that Aikido is indeed a long journey full of challenges and that those challenges are nothing but opportunities for growth and also great opportunities to humble oneself and realize there is always a lot to be learned and that is exactly why we continue the journey.
Aikido really makes sense for me because of the people I train with and the many things they teach me and because all that teaching can always be connected to my own “real life” when I go through good and bad periods in my own journey. Like somebody once said “Hobo Kore Dojo” [Life is your dojo].