One day I met this very enthusiastic young man that loved to ask questions continuously.
“I want to be a Master in aikido.” the young man said to me.
“How long will it take for me to accomplish this goal and what is the secret of achieving mastery?”
“How long is not a question I can give an answer to.” I replied.
“Why did you start aikido and why have you continued to walk the aikido path for so many years without stopping?”
This question made me reflect back to when I was a novice. Since I first saw aikido performed back in the USA in 1988, I knew this was my calling. The first time I put on my uniform and stepped onto the mat in Kawasaki, Japan, knowing less than nothing, I knew this was what I was born to do. The smell and cleanliness of the dojo, the quietness, the humility and explicit movements of the Japanese masters, the simple and natural way of being, nothing was wasted and there was no exaggeration or sarcasm. Everyone knew who he was and what he had to do. Everything had its purpose and we all helped each other to accomplish whatever had to be done. There was no complaining or criticising or pulling anyone down. When I made a mistake I was not scolded and made to feel inferior, a senior would gently and firmly say “Please do it this way.” If I could not get it, the senior would say, “OK, now try this way!” When I accomplished what I had to do and thanked the senior, he would bow and say “You are the one who did it, and now you know how to do it, please show other new members the way.”
In all my life up to that point I had never seen such humility, or been taught is such a positive and kind way. I love that about the Japanese character.
As to why I have continued to walk the aikido path without stopping? Well, maybe this will answer that question.
The first class I attended the Master read the following words and told us to meditate on them and I have been trying to live these words every day since then.
“Surpass Today What You Were Yesterday!”
To achieve mastery in any endeavour requires that your focus and dedication must be ongoing and never decrease. This is an integral part of Japanese culture, that permeates from the top of their society to the very bottom. The word the Japanese use for this is called kaizen. this translates as “continuous improvement.”
Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I say is “Thank you for this new day”. next I ask myself “How can I surpass today what I was yesterday?” Then I live and practice kaizen.
I believe we can all change and that each one of us should make use of the opportunity we have to improve continuously. Maybe I messed up yesterday, last week, last year, ten years ago. I am sorry. I cannot un-ring a bell. Crying over mistakes and wrongs that have be done is a step in the process of learning. The next step is to own up take responsibility and to improve the things. This is how we grow and mature.
To help raise the skill level of people in general I think we should introduce the concept I have just spoken about, of striving every day to surpass today what you were yesterday into the education systems all over the world. This would result is a higher quality of life for us all. What do you think? Until next time I wish you peace, love and success.