Aikido Training: A New Year’s Message from Sensei Sargeant

Not many want the long, hard job of making a real Japanese Sword from scratch, but most want to own a finished one!

To all T.I.A. Europe members and those in the world training the wonderful art of Aikido. My own personal thoughts for you to consider this New Year for the future of your practice, for students new and old.

Each year, the teachers of Aikido throughout the world see many take up the art of Aikido. The many different styles that are on offer will attract the people who like what they have read or seen Aikido to be; through their eyes. Each person feels that the style they are personally practicing is, or is going to be, the best style there is.  

Many bow to the picture of O’Sensei, the creator of the form that was taken from several different arts and put together by him and was called ‘Aikido’. You may know that he did not choose the name, but it was chosen by a religious leader? You can look into this more yourself, if you are interested.  

After travelling the world and training with so many others, I can soundly say that whatever the style, all teachers are thinking 24/7 about Aikido and how they use it daily, how they can improve the way in which they can help others in the world, and understand the beauty of Aikido and O’Sensei’s philosophy.  

Yes, on the mat we train in the art of awareness, and by hard constant training we become fit and sharp. Most practitioners have just a few goals: to be the best in the dojo, or in the area. I remember the days when I wanted to be the best in the world. Sadly this never happened and my ego will have to wait until my next reincarnation.  

The upside is that “in the last few years my eyes have been opened”. I can see that to want perfection was the last thing that I should have had as a goal; but was I ready to see this before? No, I was not, and this is why I have decided to share my thoughts with you in a different way this New Year.  

Perhaps we all start Aikido for different reasons. If you asked twenty students why they started, you would have many answers. But once in training, most feel that they wish to master the techniques over and above fitness and weight loss; if not why would you train each week and keep coming back?  

My own assumption is that we get a large fallout of students for the same reason as most gyms all over the world. You see, people are the same in how they think whatever their nationality. Those of you who have signed up to a gym to get fit and lose a few pounds will normally train intensely for a period of about six weeks and then stop. The determined ones may like the way they feel, and may keep going longer. For the majority, it is very unlikely that they will be there in six months from the start date!   

My opinion is that Aikido is the same. The teachers ‘in most cases’ feel it is their own fault, and poor teaching has lost the students. Please do think about how you can improve as a teacher and a person, but if you agree with my points so far, do not take it to heart when you lose students.  

To those who have been training for some time now and intend to continue, I personally wish you well in your quest. My own learning about trying to accomplish what O’Sensei hoped for in his life just keeps getting deeper.  

This now takes me onto the spiritual quest in one’s journey. As I have said, we mostly wish to perfect the technical in Aikido; if we can keep our interest long enough (and there is no time limit to when each person will arrive at this way of thinking), what we are looking for in our daily training changes.  

Over the years, my training has made me consider others and become more sensitive to the world’s problems. One could say it would be better to not be partly enlightened by the training of Aikido! But if this enlightenment makes us lose the chance of being a person with ultimate power by changing us into caring beings then I am happy with the outcome. Finding the true power of one’s body, together with the connection with the universe, thus giving one phenomenal power that can be called upon whenever required should still be worth training for! ‘However once found it is up to you how you use it.’  

If you can train through the hard times that you will come up against during the years of training, and get through the times when you feel like giving up due to Aikido not holding that excitement, I can tell you that this always passes in time. Your desire to train reawakens, this time with a different approach.  

This new beginning can help you find the missing part and lead you on to finding the real power of Aikido. If you find such power what will you do with it? Will you use it to destroy or to help others? On this point you will have your own strong opinions and who knows who is correct, but for me, the true power that I have found from many years of training Aikido has left me with understanding, rather than physical power; the only thing I need physical power for is to help push me into doing things for myself and others. The destruction of another has no place in true Aikido.  

To strive for the ultimate path you do not have to be the best at delivering a Shihonage, but to learn while training the basics:  to understand pain, to be broken and experience real tears from this pain, and lastly, to know how to laugh from the bottom of your soul. “Pain, Tears, Laughter”, these have been my best teachings. From here you can start to look outside your own self and go beyond the mat. It takes you towards others and their pain, tears, and even when they have nothing they can still find a smile.  

With help and constant training we all have the chance to become better people; it is the last reason why most take up the art. 

We cannot all be monks, and you may have read that a lot of martyrs were bad people when they started out in life only to change later, and this is what I hope from most students that I personally teach: ‘From a rough diamond to a beautiful person giving to the earth and not just taking’. No one knows their own future, but to look back on life is really interesting; one never would think that what they have become would have been their first wish?  

We, as teachers, teach. I teach and wait. Sometimes I wait for many years. What am I waiting for? I am waiting for the person to arrive, and then I can teach them more. Not more techniques — we do this all the time on the journey — but to wait for them to be enlightened in a small way. When I see this, I teach them more techniques, but on a higher level of understanding, and then just wait. It is all about waiting in hopes that we will all find a deeper path of total enlightenment before we die.  

A simple journey? “Of course not!” But those who seek it will find all the elements that I have spoken of, and possibly more. But it all ends in laughter!

With my sincere hopes that you continue in Aikido, whoever is reading this.

Tony Sargeant