Today I had the honor of leading Aikido class at the dojo (martial arts training hall) that I have been practicing at over the last decade. Although I am a second degree blackbelt, and have been training for the last 16 years, as might be somewhat traditional, I taught Aikido basic techniques. No matter how long I train, and no matter how much experience I might have, the basics are always something to return to in sharing Aikido with others. To offer a new lense on the basics, I shared experience of being injured to be the frame to look at basic techniques through- exploring how loosing some ability (due to injury) taught me to learn the underlying Aikido technique better.
Many Aikido techniques can be simulated with too much strength being used- trying to overpower the person that a student is practicing with… yet that’s not true Aikido. Aikido can be very powerful, yet in many ways its very subtle in how the technique attaches to an attacker’s attack, and harmoniously ends the attack. Learning how to be subtle, to be gentle, and through doing so, generating more ability to respond to an attacker.
Yet in getting to learn this subtlety, injuries do happen in Aikido (as in life 🙂
What’s interesting is that its because of some of these injuries I, as a 205 pound male who is use to using his strength, at times have had to “re-learn” how to be more subtle. On the Aikido mat, I have broken my left foot, separated my right shoulder, ripped my right knee (ACL), and broken my nose, among other injuries. Each of these injuries has been a training tool… forcing me to not to be able to use my strength as I tenderly try to heal an injury while still training. Each injury has a lesson that it offers, especially while the injury hasn’t healed, on how to be more subtle in the technique, requiring less physical power, yet creating an even more powerful ability to throw an attacker.
As a side note, its because of the use of subtlety that women or a youth or a smaller framed man can master Aikido perhaps faster than a “stronger” male- and have an effective means of defense in protecting themselves… those of us use to having sheer strength are, in a way, at a disadvantage to learning the subtlety of Aikido. In my case, that’s why I have learned so much after an injury.
What’s an example of this injury teaching process? One example- when I ripped my right knee ACL a year ago, I had problems stabilizing myself when moving quickly on the mat. My ACL ligament’s condition forced me to find stability in my muscles for the ACL wasn’t there there to hold me stable naturally. Relying on my muscles for stability made me bend my knees even more, bringing me closer to the stance that my Aikido teacher always told me to do before injury (the lower to the earth an Aikido student is, the more power he/she can generate from their legs in a throw). So now its been a year later since the injury, and I am at least 5 inches closer to the ground when executing a throw… and through this need, I’ve become a stronger Aikido practitioner, even though my injury has not yet fully healed.
There are many lessons that I offer from this idea, and as i have found Aikido to present insight for life, and insight for entrepreneurship. First, realize that injuries happen.. and many times injuries end up offering a way to learn a practice (like Aikido, like entrepreneurship) at a deeper level. Learning how to avoid getting hurt is important, yet, when getting hurt, or perhaps as in entrepreneurship hitting a business failure, see if you can, what is possible to be learned from the hurt, and go deeper. You’ll take your insight to a more subtle level in the practice that you’re following.