I’m off at an Aikido seminar this weekend. It’s the yearly instructor seminar at Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington, D.C., the dojo where I trained for many years.
It’s like going home, because my life revolved around that dojo for so long. I have many friends there, and more friends will be coming in from across the country. It’s not unlike going to a science fiction con, except that there’s only one panel and everyone goes. And instead of hanging out in the bar, we drink beer after class. Plus we sweat. We sweat a lot, but at least it’s October, not July. (Imagine how much we sweat in July in Washington, D.C.)
Here’s the thing about studying any martial art. People start for all kinds of reasons, good and bad — they want to learn self defense, they want to be tough, they saw a Steven Seagal movie, they’ve been told it’s a good way to develop discipline — but if they keep it up for more than a couple of years, the original reasons fall by the wayside. After that, they just train because they train.
You might call it an obsession.
Serious martial artists don’t just drop in on a class once a week. Even busy people train three, four, five times a week, and those who can train every day. And when you run into an Aikido friend you haven’t seen in awhile, they don’t ask about your job or your kids or where you’ve been; they ask about your training. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a judge or a doctor or a carpenter or a science fiction writer or a dojo rat (someone who more or less lives in the dojo and doesn’t have a day job), training is what’s important.
It’s an obsession, but it’s a good obsession, because once you get past the desire to be the toughest person on the block, you’re training for self development and self awareness — to make yourself awesome in a way that has nothing to do with how many people you can beat up.
Nobody trains for more than twenty years just to be a tough guy.
Check out The Nancy Jane Moore Bookshelf for more stories.