Shihan asked a question at the end of class last night, “Are you contented?” He ranged out into many aspects of his personal life and then back into his practice of Aikido. Then he left the question open for us to think about. I promised him he would see my response on this website.

I am 15 years older than Shihan and perhaps that influences my answer. What I mean by contented may be something different than what he meant as well. We did not precisely define the terms we were using.

I would offer a couple of examples using Aikido. If the question is, “Are you contented with your Aikido?”, it might mean many different things and my answers might vary. If the question is, “Am I fully satisfied with how I perform techniques?”, then the answer is “No, not at all.” But if the question is, “Are you satisfied with the effort and time you are putting into practicing and the Aikido you have learned in the past several years?”, then my answer is, “Yes, I have come farther than I thought possible, I have learned so much, I have developed many new relationships, and I stand at a new beginning with the opportunity to continue to grow. It has been an amazing experience.”

Both those answers are equally valid.

Another set of questions and answers might be posed about my recent Shodan test. “Are you content with the Aikido you performed in front of the testing board?” This is a revealing question in many ways. I have my fragmented memory of the test. I have seen the photos that were taken. I have watched a video of the test. Again, it is how the question is interpreted that frames the answer.

If the question is, “Do you think you did great waza, awesome katas, and had a flawless randori?”, the answer is “Of course not. I was tired, it was the last day of a week long camp, I was hot. I made mistakes. As the test wore on, especially in the randori, I wasn’t doing anything that looked like Aikido at all.”

If the question is, “How do you feel about your performance in your shodan test?”, then my answer is, “I trained and studied hard. I worked on my stamina and my fitness for a year getting ready. I went out on the mat and put everything I had into that test. On that day I could not have done any more or any better than I did. And now it’s in the past. Nothing I can do will change anything about it. I am content with it.”

Again, both answers are equally valid.

Being overly critical of that which cannot be changed and being too accepting of what can be improved are both traps. Finding balance is what Aikido is about.

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