Once, a student admitted to me that the reason they hadn’t been around for a while was because they thought they had sufficiently received what they needed from Aikido to achieve and maintain harmony in their life. Then of course, life threw one of its famous breaking pitches at this person, and they quickly found their way back to the dojo. Now, before you snicker or dismiss this person’s proclamation as silliness, I would like to say that I know the person was quite sincere and whole-heartedly believed that a few years of Aikido would do the trick; the more I thought about it, the more I began to understand that this line of thinking is probably more common than you might think.
Who doesn’t like an instant cure, right? How many would choose a one-time pill as opposed to months or even years of some sort of therapy? How many of you reading this have always wanted to be proficient in a martial art but just never had the time or inclination for daily practice? Would you take a one-time martial arts pill if it were available? Sure you would (wink).
I explained to the student that much like my recently-prescribed allergy shots, Aikido must be administered on a consistent basis in order to feel the benefits. Truthfully, the dosage for Aikido should be daily! Aikido is not a cure, but rather a method. If one is devoted to their practice then over time some measurable gains can be made. However, this does not mean that even a very long-time practitioner is somehow impervious to life’s difficulties. I just had one of the toughest years of my life and through much of it I felt hopelessly lost. Does this mean that years of Aikido practice, study, meditation and spirituality failed me? No, in fact it was the daily training that sustained me. Recently I read an excerpt from the Dalai Lama in which he declared that he is eighty years old and still feels anger and other emotions as naturally as you or I. Imagine for a moment the lifetime of rigorous practice he has undertaken, it is difficult to even comprehend the depth of his study and training. And yet, he does not claim to be “cured.”
If ever you are ailing and there is a pill that will cure you in a single dose, by all means take it! However, please don’t view martial arts practice in the same way. Though training also has the potential to lesson your ails, it is set apart by the struggles that accompany it, the experiences that define it, and the wisdom that clarifies it…a pill is just a pill.