by Sensei Robin Wilden
(Bognor Regis, West Sussex, UK)
Its very easy for us to practice the things we enjoy most in our training and excel at. This builds confidence and makes us feel good.
I was lucky enough to learn that true growth is through training the things we don't enjoy so much, for whatever reason. Maybe we don't find it easy, and it shows up our weaknesses in front of other students. We don't want to be embarrassed when something goes wrong.
So what do I mean by comfort zone?
Do you fall into any of these categories...
1. Feeling overconfident with your surroundings, maybe through relaxed body language.
2. Talk about things not related to your training whilst on the mats.
3. Not paying attention fully during demonstrations because you already know the technique being demonstrated.
4. Feeling yourself starting to breath a little heavier and stopping to rest before necessary.
5. Taking drink breaks or toilet breaks without asking the instructors permission.
From personal experience, I'll let you in on a little secret...
Everything you do, from when you first enter the dojo, until when you leave is a demonstration of character and etiquette that your Sensei is acutely aware of, and I mean this sincerely... every little detail.
Show respect to your instructor by avoiding using the wrong body language for dojo environment. This includes hands on hips, hands on back of the head and arms crossed.
Try to give your full effort and attention to every session, your Sensei knows when you are coasting in training. Hard work is always rewarded either by acknowledgement or by improvement in skills.
If you are finding something difficult, getting out of breath a little or seem distracted or frustrated, you may be offered a reprieve or alternative. Try not to take this unless your instructor insists.
The danger is that you will condition your brain to say its okay to take an easier route rather than challenge yourself to overcome this difficulty and find the answer.
Remember this is your inner voice trying to fill you with self doubt. Don't listen to that voice, you can change its path and reprogramme it. Sharpness in mental attitude transfers through to your technique.
I spent years tucking my leg under in a way to make my breakfalls easier. Like any repeated pattern, it becomes a habit and it takes a long time to change. You have to be stubborn with it and not give up. Did my ukemi look a lot worse while I was correcting the technique? Yes. Did it make my body ache to make those adjustments? Most definitely.
Do I ever look back and think it wasn't worth what I went through to put it right...... not once, not even for a single second.
For example, when sitting in seiza and your instructor says you can sit comfortably if you like, do you? Yes, you have been given permission but will you take that easier option or will you demonstrate mental strength and focus to take the tougher more disciplined way?
You are having a good workout on a technique, and you start breathing heavier. If you stop at this point because things are 'uncomfortable', your body will never realise what it is truly capable of achieving.
You should aim to keep going until you are no longer safely capable. Its a true test to see if your movements still work when you lack strength and your timing is even more valuable when you can't move quickly.
Allow yourself to experience this in a safe training environment. Train hard but smart, keep yourself hydrated to allow your brain to continue functioning fully.
Final thought for you...
Its so easy to forget that one of the main aims in Aikido is not whether you can control other people, its internal training to control yourself. That way we find technique through peace and understanding, rather than pain and destruction.
Sensei Robin Wilden
Arun Aikido Club
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