Making it count
Having achieved her brown belt, my daughter’s Aikido Sensei gave her about half a minute to rest on her laurels before starting the push towards her next goal.
She is ranked at 2.5 and must reach a 0.5 level before she will be invited to test for her Shidon or first rank Black Belt under the rules of the the Aikido World Alliance, the parent organization for her Dojo. That will take three to four years, and given her age she will then wait at her 0.5 rank for some time before the AWA confers their invitation.
Her Sensei figures that as she is on her road towards a Black Belt — she is now not only an apprentice trainee with respect to all of the techniques that she must master, but more importantly she must also begin to learn the responsibilities of achieving the rank. That is all pretty heady stuff for an 11-year-old, and yet, having been thrown to the front of her class to lead the warm-up, she has become cognizant of how difficult it is to command the attention and respect of a group of people long enough to actually get something done.
What she’s also learning is that small things matter.
In Aikido, stance is everything — much as in boxing — and finding the balance means a lot not only to her practice, but in her role as a novice teacher, to those of her students. Thus she now sees when something is wrong and has begun to correct the tiniest of movements. This process of breaking it down is helping her to ascertain the faults in her own practice — at least that’s her Sensei’s ingenious plan, though this last is perhaps the hardest to achieve.
Sometimes it is not really possible to articulate what happens beyond the realm of the pure mechanics of a particular set of movements. In Aikido, that might mean the execution of a series of moves with a partner — pretty difficult stuff in that both partners must also act in a kind of harmony with each other even as the one may be attempting to toss the other to the ground.
Boxing offers something similar — a remarkable improvised dance executed by two well-skilled fighters balanced for ability and for that little something extra that comes from the heart.