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Aikido Stress

When I trained in Aikido, I was a white belt. There were no colored belts. I did not become a yudansha in Aikido.

I loved Aikido training. It was always "hands on" -- we threw and got thrown. Because I had studied Judo in northern Japan as a child, falling was no problem. I enjoyed falling and fortunately never got hurt by taking falls. Actually, it was not just "fortunately' -- it was because of the rigorous breakfall training we did in Judo.

As much as I enjoyed Aikido training, I also found it extremely stressful. It is something of a paradox -- Aikido teaches peace and harmony -- but in some ways it is the most political and stressful of the martial arts. The break-up between Osensei and Tohei Sensei took place here in Hawaii at the Oceania floating restaurant. I was not there -- it was before I came to Hawaii -- but I heard about it from people who were there.

There was always an undercurrent of "group dynamics" (to say it nicely). Because Yoshioka Sensei was a senior, he had to attend to many "group dynamic" functions. I would hear about it from him and also observe it.

Even though I was a junior, I would get really stressed out! I even had heart palpitations at times! If I had to come to class late because of school or work, I would feel stressed. If I did something wrong, I would feel stressed. If there were larger problems, I would feel stressed.

Of course, this could have been my own creation. I am half-Japanese, and seem to have gotten shame and guilt with that half! I could have been projecting my own internal stress on Aikido. But I think that it would be fair to say that Aikido was pretty stressful (not physically).

Perhaps when you teach peace and harmony, it brings about the opposite. Perhaps when you internalize things so much, the result is externally opposite. I do not know.

However, I have tried to make my own Karate dojo, over the years, much less stressful. I am much more likely to overlook small breaches of etiquette and try to spend more time explaining little things to students so that they can avoid making mistakes. Mistakes still happen, but I do not view them as being earth shattering. Making mistakes is human.

My good friend, Sensei Gary Omori, teaches Aikido in the same facility as our dojo. His Aikido dojo is all on its own. It is not part of a national or international organization. He has a close group of students. I think that this environment is the best one for teaching Aikido or any martial art. When I see him and his students, they are always happy.

By the way, Omori Sensei was also a student of Yoshioka Sensei many years ago (before my time).

Martial arts should not be overly stressful. The martial arts are not a punishment or a bad tasting medicine. If martial arts do not make you happy and healthy, there are many better things to do.

In the end, we all grow old and die. It would be nice to do so gracefully and to bring as much joy and kindness into the world as possible. We should encourage our students with gentle nudges and shelter them from senseless politics (group dynamics).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin