Training Outside the Dojo

by Kodjo Pleune

The word aikido can be roughly translated as "the way of harmonious spirit." In aikido you learn how to take your opponent's force and use it against him. You don't fight force with force. The most basic situation I can think of is if someone is trying to push you to the floor, and instead of pushing back you move out of the way and let them fall. In essence, you let your opponent do most of the work for you. This doesn't apply only to physical situations, though. I have come to realize that aikido is not just about physical training but mental training as well. You can use the same principles to deal with any situation.

One of the core teachings of aikido is to stay relaxed, both mentally and physically. When something is really not going well, our natural reaction is to get angry and fight it. I find that getting angry doesn’t help me find a solution to a problem. What I try to do is take a few deep breaths and let the anger subside then approach the situation with a clear mind and more often then not I'll find a solution to the problem in itself. Once I started to keep that in the forefront of my mind, I was able to apply the principles of aikido to anything, from twisting my hips when throwing or hitting a ball, to diffusing a tense situation between friends and even strangers. That's not to say I'm relaxed all the time, but certainly more than I use to be.

If you can stay relaxed and focused you can deal with anything. This is something for me to strive for in my day-to-day life. And hopefully one day I'll truly be centered.