As I posted last time; the truth really is extreme and as humans, we tend to avoid it as long as it doesn't catch up to us.
Fred (it could be an Ethel, I just like the name Fred as it sounds a little "non-serious") is an Aikido player and has spent years on the mat before finally reaching that pinnacle of achievement ........... senior black belt-hood. Actually, his rank isn't all that high but within his dojo he has become one of the seni0rs on the mat. He is so highly ranked that when invited to learn new and stratospheric kata that he shows a slight ... shall we say ... demure hesitation.
Demure? Of course since he doesn't want Sensei to think him "uncommitted".
Hesitance? That's the reaction you get when you ask him to do some extra work on that new and more difficult material. It's subliminal and difficult to detect but there none-the-less.
So, what's that all about?
Humans in the dojo sometimes have the tendency to make a senior rank and then they begin to enjoy the position that comes with it including the authority granted them by Sensei, the admiration and respect of the junior players and in some extreme cases ... the hero worship from impressionable beginners who have no MA exposure and no seasoning. In my last dojo I observed this behavior as it led to senior players beginning to farm the mat for sex from juniors (pretty detestable in IMO as people come to learn and not be subjected to "Happy Hour Behavior" and "Ladies Drink Free" nights.
This new position can be seductive especially if this new senior ranked player has never experienced it before. Ah-HA you say; but what if he is a bank president or head of his corporate division or rich? He's already been worshipped there ... why the dojo?
No matter if all of those are the case outside the dojo. Inside the dojo is different. On the mat it carries hints and inferences of "Yoda-hood" and "Jedi Knight-ism" and is therefore somewhat "Magical" and "Ninja-like". It has a whole "other-worldly-ness" to it and therefore has nothing to do with life in the corporate world.
The seduction can, in some instances, cause the player to stop trying to learn new material, stop doing difficult things such as highly advanced or complex kata, can inhibit his desire to do the impossible such as becoming a truly competent randori expert. After all; he's already gotten to where he is and to begin the hard study-path again is to take on new challenges that he may not be up to and is to also imply that he really doesn't know as much as he thinks he does. He begins to engage in a bit of "denial".
Engage Internal Dialogue .............. "I'm good enough at randori now. Heck. I can already man/woman handle everyone in the dojo except Sensei and maybe one or two others. I already can do all the basic kata better than everyone else. I'm already Sensei' uke a lot of the time. I'm tired and I'm going home and taking every Saturday off. I really don't want to get to class early to do extra training and I have a cold beer waiting at the house so why stay after class?" ............ Dis-engage Internal Dialogue
It's easy to get lazy and enjoy the adulation of being the BMOM (Big Man On the Mat) aka BDOT (Big Deshi On the Tatami).
It's easy to not do the hard work of hour after hour after hour of tough and tiring practice once you (he) becomes relatively competent (as compared to others of the same rank) or extremely superior (in ability) as compared to others of lesser rank.
It's easy to begin to coast and once you start to coast it is admittedly difficult to get ginned back up and start that trek up the mountain again.
It's easy to rationalize it when you look in the mirror and say to yourself, "I'm good enough already for now. I'll think about doing more hard work next year. After all, I really don't feel good about it when I'm doing kata and Sensei comes over and starts correcting me. It makes me look dumb in front of the White Belts and I makes me feel bad because after all ..... my fundoichi doesn't stink and besides, how much more can Sensei tell me that I don't already know or can't discover on my own."
Think Fred knows he's saying this to himself? Likely not. That's how deceptive self-deception can be. It's subliminal and so internalized that without knowing it we can run this thru' our heads everyday and never really be aware of it. (Go study Transactional Analysis sometime if you really want to understand the concepts behind internal tapes.)
It's all too easy to lose sight of the path, lose sight of the big picture, lose sight of the possibilities, lose sight of what you intended to become when you started.
As you rise up in rank your horizons should be placed further out, not close in. You should understand how much more there is to learn, not become satisfied with how little you actually know.
Reaching your current "high rank" is supposed to open your eyes and cause you to look up at a horizon that may not be totally clear ......... not hood your eyes and cause you to lower your gaze because what you can see is both clear and focused.
So get refocused and re-discover what matters on the mat ............. or quit.
Aikido players and Bushi always move forward.
They don't stand still because it's the easy path.
Even if you are physically past the ability to take 1,000 ukemi you can still move thru' new waza without force or falls, you can still learn light randori, write treatise on Aiki, be productive.
But standing in place without forward movement or acting hesitant (as if you have a prior appointment) when Sensei says "Time to work" is not acceptable and is ........... not the "Way".
L.F. Wilkinson Sensei
Aikibudokan, Houston, TX
December 28, 2011