It’s been some time since I posted anything. I have been reflecting and sitting with the art for some time now. A lot has changed, mostly for the better and simpler. I took a leave of absence from teaching and took the time to reflect on where I was, and where I was to be heading on the path; my path. Sad to say, I lost some friends along the way, but that is expected, as we must often travel alone on our journey. I was once told by a great teacher of mine, Anthony Pallante, “It’s your Aikido” and that simple phrase has always stuck with me. I learned much from many teachers and friends I have had along the way, and still continue to learn from them; taking what they offer, and making it mine. Where I am now in my journey, I have blended several different styles and am at a point where a style of my own has emerged, come into its own so to speak. This was to be the crux of my recent dilemma. I had joined a wonderful organization with truly talented and respectful people. By that I mean they were about the art and the purity of it, with the politics removed. It was so refreshing to be with a group that recognized you for who you were, your performance, and not the rank you wore, what you showed on the mat was respected. Finally, a group akin to my independent style of training in the sense of possessing purity of heart and art. Only one thing was, their style was very different from what I have been accustomed to, It’s like being a Jazz and Blues player sitting in with a classical string quartet, it’s all music, yes, but different. The appreciated the way I fumbled through their style, never looking to stamp my signature upon their way rather aspire to reflect theirs honorably. No matter how bad I looked trying to do things their way, I looked to show respect and honor to they system and way. To honor the lineage and wonderful heritage Toyoda
I had joined a wonderful organization with truly talented and respectful people. By that I mean, they were about the art and the purity of it with the politics removed. It was so refreshing to be with a group of highly skilled martial artists that recognized you for who you are, your performance, and not the rank you wore but what you showed on the mat that was respected. Finally, I said, a group akin to my way of thinking and independent style of training in the sense of possessing both a purity of heart and for the art. The only one thing was, and there is always something, it was that their style was very different from what I had been accustomed to. It’s like being a Jazz and Blues player sitting in with a classical string quartet, it’s all music, yes, but very different feels. The appreciated the way I fumbled through in efforts to mimic their style, never looking to stamp my signature upon their way, but rather to aspire to reflect theirs honorably. No matter how bad I looked trying to do things their way, I looked to show respect and honor for their system and way; to honor the lineage and the wonderful heritage imparted by Toyoda Shinan was impeccably instilled and clearly evident in their ranks. A wonderful and organized curriculum with a method book to follow the system. Though I did not come up that way, and having joined the organization, I felt so very welcomed and accepted when in their company, yet felt I myself felt I did not represent their style as perfectly, and this bothered me.A wonderfully outlined and succinctly organized martial arts curriculum, with a method book to follow the system in place, was almost unheard of. Though I did not come up that way and having joined the organization, I felt so very welcomed and accepted when in their company, yet I myself felt I did not represent their style as perfectly as I wanted to, and this became like a splinter.
Another great saying from another great teacher, Peter Tamagni Shihan was ” Aikido is done in millimeters” The smallest of adjustments or changes can have a great effect on Uke or the overall technique. A certain flow in my technique has been evident for some years now, I no longer think, but feel and allow it to flow freely. I cannot describe it well enough to do it justice, other than is happens without thought, Takemusu would be O’Sensei’s operative word for it. And this became the crux of my dilemma with my new found friends; how do I resolve the matter of feeling like starting over in a new style, imparting to students confidently, and performing to the best of my ability as I am accustomed to doing in my style? How could I honor their lineage with true love, spirit, and perfection of technique when every time I tried to do it their way? I went back to thinking about the technique every time and the flow stopped. I fumbled constantly while thinking about and that I’m demonstrating the technique properly in their way in the pursuit of perfecting it. I was learning and teaching their way to new students, but I was not in my usual flow state and felt I was doing everyone a dishonor by not being the martial artist that I am when I am free to be me with my aikido.
Maybe in hindsight, I was too harsh on myself, but I am my worst critic. I literally sat up the next day after we put on a very successful seminar and demonstration taught by respected high-ranking members of the organization and said to myself; what te hell am I doing? It was a wonderful time and experience for both myself and all who came. I learned much, yet the flow was not there, the confidence I had in my own style and technique seemed to me to be missing as my persistent and somewhat obsessive compulsiveness to represent their way seemed to have created an insurmountable wall. As I sat up in bed that next morning, like an epiphany it hit me, this is not your path, this is someone else’s path, you must seek your own way. I had my answer; now lay the task of taking the first step. That step proved the hardest and most brutal. I had to tell a friend I could no longer travel with him.
Suddenly, the fog lifted and it all was made crystal clear, I was to become Ronin and follow my own path, wherever it lead. I can say I have been truly blessed and honored to have been in the company of such great martial artists and truly honest and decent people, they possess much in the way of honor, class, knowledge, and martial skill as any great aikidoka and teachers I have trained with in the past and are held in such high esteem by me. Though different in style, I consider them brothers in Budo. I was deeply saddened to inform the very person who introduced me to this art, that I could no longer follow this road. Sadly the relationship was strained by it all and seems irreparable. I had hoped they’d be happy for my new found truth, but it was not to be so. The organization, it’s instructors, constituents, and head of the organization, I hold with high regard and respect their “way”. Who knows where the path will lead. I am blessed to continue to train with good friend and teachers such as Anthony Pallante, Scott Harrington, Dave Maturo, and Mark Ahlquist. I was inspired to write this post as I recently read a post from my Irish Aikidoka friend who said it’s been a while since I wrote…. Check out his blog https://aikijoseph.wordpress.com/ He truly possesses the martial way and spirit. Peace!