In Kokiakai we are asked to write an essay on what Kokikai Aikido means to us as a part of our Shodan test.
While I will not need the essay for a while, I have been thinking about the subject and thought it might be interesting to see how my response differs between now and when I actually need it.
My first thought is to answer in terms of the things I associate with Kokikai: friends, family, physical challenges and changes to how I react to stressful situations. Those items don’t go deep enough though as there is more to Kokikai for me than the tangible pieces I see and feel. The connections and changes I get out of Kokikai are certainly a part of what it means to me, but they are not the entire picture. When I truly think about what Kokikai means to me I come up with the fact that it gives me the opportunity to both succeed and not succeed in the same moment. That may sound contradictory, but that is how I view the art and what draws me to it.
Allow me to explain.
By this point in my training when a technique is called out in class I am usually able to perform it adequately. At the same time I realize, with the help of my uke or others, that I can do better (maybe my timing was a little bit off or perhaps I tensed up during the technique). The technique itself was a success (I was able to negate my attackers intent), but at the same time it was less than a success in that there is room for growth. This sounds like it would always be frustrating (and at times it is) but it is also a great mindset to get into. I may not EVER be perfect, but I can always get better than I am today. How to get there will differ for most folks, but it is the journey and the desire to take it that matter most.
While the connections I have gained from Kokikai are important to me, they are not the things that have changed how I look at life (or at least how I try to look at life). It is the mindset of always challenging myself to grow and to be better tomorrow than I am today.
I am reminded of a saying repeated in McDonald’s training (I worked there for many years).
If you are green you are growing, if not you are rotting.
I used to think I understood the concept, but I don’t think I ever really did until I experienced Kokikai.