Can you master Aikido?
I won’t tell you the answer until we get to the end.
Have you ever climbed a mountain? Were you already in good shape or did you decide to climb the mountain after a marathon couch session? Were you hanging out in Baltimore and looked around and saw no mountains so you thought you would find one? Don’t worry; this has something to do with Aikido and the question we are considering. Did you run up the mountain and claim your mastery of it after having reached the summit? Perhaps you waited until you were down at the bottom once again? What if you climbed that mountain again? What if you left your home in Ft. Washington and ran up the mountain every day? Would you be its master when you do the run in a record time?
Let’s consider other martial arts. Are you a master of the bow when you have fired one every day for 100 days, 1000? Are you a master when you hit the bulls-eye every time? Or are you a master when you fire the bow without thinking of firing and still strike the eye? Are you a master of this martial art when others grant you the title, perhaps with a golden arrow and a kiss from Maid Marian?
Mastery is not a simple collection of forms, or movements, or even of belts or trophies. Mastery is a myth, a sacred height to be achieved by those who stop seeking to be better. Those who cannot seek because there is nothing left for them to seek, whether in Tibet or Baltimore, they are at the peak of an impossible mountain, at the tip of an impossible arrow tip. They are no longer seeking to move with others, because they have gone above them. Those masters are beyond the scope of what most of us can see and understand.
What would it take to master Aikido? Must you know every technique, or every counter? Must you know how to strike even when striking is not a part of the art? Should you feel the essence of those around you before they attack and then you are a master? Are you a master when your peers all look into your eyes and say, you are a master? Or are you a master when you have reached a height and expanse where you cannot learn anymore?
The truth is, you are never a master, even if others give you this title. If you forget that there is always room to grow then you may have never learned anything along your journey. To be a master one has to have no room for growth, and Aikido is all about growth and learning and the interaction between people that create positive change. Even the newest member of your dojo has something to teach the sensei that has been there for 20 years. At Falls Road Aikido we welcome you to seek mastery and to learn that that road has no end. Please, come and join us.