I’m on the road to a black belt. . . in the slow lane. I’ve been training in aikido for a long time. I’m not going to say exactly how long because even I’m embarrassed at how long it’s taken to get this far. I know this isn’t supposed to be an issue with a life long practice but it is. Admittedly I had a lot of detours along the way. My mom died, I quit to work in a play, then my sister died, which triggered a serious bout of depression and drinking. Finally my relationship with the senior sensei crashed for complex reasons, requiring me to switch instructors and get use to her style.
It does take a long time to get a shodan (first degree) rank in the Ki Society. I asked around and it averages about 7 years. As one sensei put it “Getting to shodan is a marathon but that last little distance is a sprint.”
You know those pathetic out of shape runners who straggle in hours after the winners have crossed the finish line and most of the spectators have gone home? That’s me, the stubborn turtle. I may be slow but I’m not giving up.
It’s not just learning cool moves or wearing the outfit that makes me look like a marshmallow with a belt around the middle. It’s not about being to kick ass if some dumb shit should threaten me. Frankly with my temper even before I started training it would have been a bad idea for some dumb shit to threaten me. I would have ripped their arm off and beaten them senseless with it. No, this path is about being centered and calm; choosing the right way to respond to any attack, verbal, emotional, physical, whatever. It’s about being here, now.
It requires persistence and discipline; that means keep training even if you’re tired from work or you don’t want to go to the dojo because the weather is lousy, I bicycle so that’s a great excuse. It means you may spends weeks learning a single waza (art) over and over until you’re sick and tired of doing it cause you never get it right but you need to keep doing it until your body remembers so when you’re attacked you, react automatically. It requires a lot including meditation and ki breathing. Most of all it requires a lot of self-examination.You have to reprogram the way you think, react and deal with situations to reflect what you’re learning. It’s worth it, really. I just wish it didn’t take me so damn long.