Rising Star Aikido held it's annual Kagami Biraki ceremony on January 7th 2014. The following message was read by Mike Taylor Sensei issuing a challenge to the Rising Star Aikido students.
I just want to take a few moments to talk about goals in Aikido. While it is nice and exciting to obtain higher rank, to receive new belts, and to accept new responsibilities, this should not be the focus of your Aikido training. I'm not saying that these things aren't important milestones, but we need to keep in mind that thy are just that. Milestones on a lifelong journey
O' Sensei once said that we should strengthen ourselves to defeat our weaknesses. This can be interpreted in different ways. He could have meant to become physically strong, but we must realize and understand that the physical body will weaken with time. A better interpretation would be to strengthen the spirit and be mentally fit.
To do this, there are a few simple things we must realize:
First, Aikido is not a competition. Do not wory yourself with someone else's progression or achievements. Be the best you can be and find satisfaction in that.
Second, get outside of yourself. Keep an open mind to different ideas and new experiences. Never underestimate anyone. After nearly 25 years of experience I still learn something every time I step on the mat. Sometimes it's from a sempai, but most of the time it is from the students. The easiest way to get outside of yourself is to accept one of the hardest things to admit, you don't have all the answers and you're not always right. Accept advice graciously and ask for help. No one travels this path alone. Sometimes you have to give in to get your way.
Finally, third. Give of yourself. This may be done on the mat while taking a throw from a classmate, or it may be done on the side of the road changing a flat tire for an elderly motorist. We are judged by our actions both inside and outside the dojo. Remember the meaning of the word uke, the one who is sacrificed. There is more than one way to take ukemi. Take time to make sacrifices to better someone else's experience. You have no idea how much it means.
One of my favorite O' Sensei quotes is "tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit". This is my challenge to you as students of Aikido for the upcoming year. Leave your egos and expectations behind and try to make your slice of the world a better place. If you do this, you will be successful in all that comes your way.
I wish you a safe, happy, and prosperous 2014.