As a full-year student, I had the opportunity to continue my CIP for the entirety of this school year, and although I had extensive experience with aikido prior to coming to Japan, this semester allowed me to practice in a way I had never experienced before. Last semester, I went to practice in the way that I was used to – after school in the evenings. This semester, however, that didn’t work quite as well with my class schedule and because my dojo offered it, I decided instead to go to practice in the morning before school.
If martial arts are supposed to be a way for you to train your discipline and self control, then it seems to me that early morning training will double your benefits. Not only do you have to discipline yourself in practice, but the very act of getting up before the sun in a frigid bedroom definitely ups your discipline as well. I’m not going to lie – although I enjoy practice and think of myself as a morning person, waking up and getting motivated to go to practice at 5:30 am was a real struggle. And yet, it seems to be a natural part of seriously practicing a martial art here. The people I saw in the morning were the same people who regularly attended evening classes and held the most responsibility in the dojo. And although aikido is clearly an important part of their lives, they also hold regular jobs and do things outside the dojo.
Back at home, in my experience at least, this sort of culture doesn’t really exist. You hear of people going to the gym or going for a jog in the early morning before work or students going to sports practice before school, but this sort of lifelong commitment to a practice that isn’t your work seems to be rather unheard of in America. Again, I could be totally unaware of a significant portion of American society that contradicts my broad, sweeping statement, but perhaps it has to do with differences in societal values. I feel like maybe Americans might be reluctant to commit themselves to this type of strict practice because it would further limit their time at home, something that’s highly valued. Or maybe even that Japanese people and American people don’t see this type of training and its benefits in the same light.
Although there were times that I would definitely rather have slept in (and some times that I did), I’m incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to take my practice to a new level.
While I know, culturally, Hawaii can differ from the mainland, as an American, could you personally see yourself having that same dedication or continuing it when you return to the states?
Maybe not in terms of aikido, simply because the option to do so doesn’t exist. But I could totally see myself applying this mindset to other things; I’ve come to really enjoy doing things in the quiet of the morning.