A great thing about Aikido is that you can’t “buy” great Aikido. I happen to work in the golf industry, and what infuriates me is that people will drop $5k, no problem, for all of the top of the line equipment, etc., in order to “buy” a great golf game. They spend thousands of dollars on golf lessons and don’t practice between sessions. I know golf requires equipment, but take something like exercise as an example, if you just did body weight exercise with no fancy “shake-weights” (you know you wish you came up with that idea..) or special equipment of any kind, there’s plenty of clothing, supplements, and special routines that people pay a lot of money for to try to “buy” a great body.
I love Aikido because it’s raw. You can’t buy special Aikido training tools in order to become a better Aikidoist (not yet, anyways, *gulp*). It’s all about the soul, dedication, and practice you put into it. A big reason why is that Aikido is an inside thing, really. There’s only so much you can do on the physical plane of the art, most of it comes from feel and experimentation and has a lot to do with where your mind’s at. In our mass-marketing society here in America, I think it’s very easy to fall into this trap of trying to buy a skill. I’m a big fan of having a lot of choices in the marketplace, but it can be overwhelming at times. Think of any kind of venture whether it be a new sport, card game, video game, fashion style, exercise, music, drawing, painting, architecture, cooking, etc., and you can go online right now and find a million “how to” manuals, training aids, and “for Dummies” books for it all.
When starting something new, fear jumps in and tells us not to start until we’re extremely comfortable doing so. “Are you sure you’re ready?”, it says, in the back of our minds. “You know what, try buying this DVD, watch it first, and then you’ll definitely be ready… Look how good these people on the cover are at it, why not see how they do it first before just jumping on in?”, it suggests. How many times do we follow those orders? Following those orders are what those marketers are banking on. The lower part of ourselves doesn’t like growing. It’s scared of “failure” and is quite comfortable where it’s at. It’s easy to watch a video or read a book on a subject that is deemed “difficult”. Growing would mean death for this part of ourselves.
In Aikido, there are a few training books out there. There are even a few DVD’s you can buy (I bought a LOT of them when I first started training), but compared to other martial arts and things like it, there’s not that many. Why is that? Maybe it’s just because Aikido isn’t that big right now, but I really think that it’s because Aikido needs to be experienced to be learned. O’Sensei was very clear about this and the leading teachers in the art are as well (I guess the idea rolls downhill). O’Sensei didn’t show “perfect technique” or a technical system that was claimed to be unbeatable. He didn’t make it easily appealing to the lizard brain. He came at it from another angle. Watching videos of O’Sensei without understanding Aikido, it looks almost fake. How can that possibly work? A typical insomniac surfing the web for the next best “fighting system” with the intention to show off and impress their friends would skip right by it.
Aikido’s magic has to be felt in order to be believed. Experiencing aiki is what creates passionate users. Aikido plays hard to get. I don’t think people even think they can pick this art up fast when they see it for the first time, especially after they train in their first couple of classes, and if they did think so initially, it’s usually dispelled after the first class or two. There’s no false sense of easy mastery that is put out there to the mass consumer by this art. Something has to click in the student’s consciousness in order to want to pursue this art. This click usually is triggered at a different location in the psyche than, say, when we’re buying the Ultimate Cage Fighter system or something. There’s usually no delusions of grandeur in the egotistical sense when first picking up this art (unless, like a lot of us, we get our inspiration from Steven Seagal movies). But even then, the first time we step into a dojo, those delusions are squelched by the atmosphere of most Aikido dojo’s.
We can learn a lot from this, though. This carries over to any new undertaking. You can’t buy the skill. There are no shortcuts to mastery. Four payments of $9.95 isn’t going to cut it for proficiency in any endeavor. Start by doing. Get your hands dirty. Studying is okay. It’s good to withdraw at times to reflect and study what we’re doing. Real moments of growth are accomplished by digging in and doing the work. Putting ourselves out there in front of everybody and failing a few times is necessary to real, lasting growth.