So it’s been about two weeks since I was promoted to shodan. I’ve actually tried writing about Aikido since then and it just doesn’t work out somehow. I’m so glad that I took shodan, I’m so glad that I passed shodan that I don’t know how to express it and not for any kind of celebratory or egotistical reasons but more that passing shodan feels like I’ve……..
There’s the stumbling block about writing about this “Feels like”…… Let me put it in simple terms: I’ve reread everything on the spiritual aspects of the martial arts that I own. I feel like a circle has been made, a gap bridged, a fractured thing made complete, something brought to rest peacefully. Completion. Wholeness.
When you tell people that you practice budo usually they come out with something like, “So you could really beat me up, then!” with that grin and I’ve had this question and seen this grin a couple of times over the past week and I’ve found myself responding with a polite smile. Both times what I was thinking is that this is a rather shallow view of something as profound as budo.
When I first started budo after all the bullying and the general shit of my childhood I was indeed looking for ways of beating people up but I was also looking for something that would give me inner strength because I felt quite weak and I found that. I found that in what other budoka had written, some of them ancient, some modern. I read everything from Hagakure, The Book of Five Rings, The Life Giving Sword, Bushido Shoshinshu, right down to Dave Lowry’s work and Kensho Furuya’s work. This I suppose should all go under the heading of philosophy but a lot of it is psychology.
For quite a lot of my late teens and twenties this was basically the system of thought that I built my life on and it’s a system of thought that has a deep profundity. For whatever reason, I suspect that the debacle over 1st kyu had a lot to do with it, I put all that to one side and looked for answers in other places, like western philosophy.
Now, though, I feel like I’m back on this path or rather that this path is now the most relevant one to my identity. I look in the mirrors when I’m in the dojo and there’s a guy there who, at this point, has spent half of his life practicing budo, reading about it, doing his best to absorb its lessons not just in a physical combative sense, but also as a way of working on and improving his character and I kind of like what I see. It brings a deep feeling of peace. I feel like I’ve overcome a huge hurdle and I’m quietly satisfied by that.
I suppose I feel that I’ve now got a greater sense of who I am. I recognise that person in the mirror a bit more.