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  • Recently, I had to write an essay about why I train. This was in anticipation of my first degree black belt test. I can tell you why I train easily, if not succinctly; the reasons have changed over the years. And really, it's only an indirect response to the question of what is Aikido, a question I get just as often as “Why do you do it?”

    What is Aikido, other than a litany of martial techniques?

    Aikidoka usually warn people when asked, “this might take a while.” Not because it's a complex answer, but because we fucken love talking about it. It's pain without injury, allowing your attacker to express his intentions. It's blending, it's physically turning yourself to see things from the perspective of your attacker.

    An 82 year old sensei from Shingu said it was about heart – kokoro.

    Last year, my sensei said, “The line between hurting someone and caring for them is razor-thin. And that is all of life.” So maybe it's towing that line.

    You learn, of course, through training, that it's so much easier just to hurt the other person. That's what makes Aikido so hard.

    You learn that you are the attacker, too. That nage and uke are the same. That to throw your opponent, you must overcome your desire to throw your opponent. That to take care of your opponent, you must first take care of yourself.

    What is it, really, then? It's the effect of showing up every day for seven years, it's the blind allegiance to teacher, it's remembering to breathe.

    It's the trusting that you're developing when you think you're in a rut.

    It's a lesson on life, and that's what makes it so goddamned difficult. It's easy to get in your own way.
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