Friday, February 6, 2009

Symbolism pt. 1: Look at the Mirror

It has been way too long since I've posted anything here, so to get back into the swing of things, I've decided to start a series of posts explaining how we use basic objects and actions to explain Aikido principals and life lessons in the dojo. Anyone who has trained at Rising Star knows that Sensei Wally and myself try to use some form of symbolism in our teaching. In this first post we will look at the mirror.

Many times, in most of the dojos you visit, practice begins with the uncovering of the mirror. Traditions like this aren't often explained, but are usually accepted by new comers as "the way things are". With time, and a bit of curiosity, students learn of some of the symbolism that the mirror represents. Here is a bit of what I have understood through my years of training.

A mirror does not lie, always showing a true image and reflection of what is before it. It doesn't have the ability to skew the facts or make judgements, but rather shows things only as they outwardly appear. It is said that you only get out of the mirror exactly what you put into it. This relates to Aikido in that you only get out of practice exactly what you put into it. If you practice hard, honestly, and to the best of your ability, your techniques will be honest and the best they can be. If your training is sloppy and half-hearted, your techniques will reflect that and your Aikido will fail you when it is needed.

The life lesson here is that you get out of life what you put into it. If you live honestly and do things to the best of your ability, you should receive the same in return. Even when bad situations arise, as they always do, they are easier to deal with and remain situations instead of devastation. With a healthy mind and a clear conscience anything is possible.

One last note on the mirror. As was pointed out to me by a high ranking sensei once...

I was asked to explain the reason for the mirror at the front of the dojo, which I gave an explanation similar to what is above. He pondered it for a moment and asked if I truly believed in what I had just said. I replied that I did, wondering where this line of questioning was going. He then asked why I allowed my mirror to lie. The puzzled look on my face and my inability to respond prompted him to explain that my mirror did not give a true reflection, and he pointed out the fingerprints and smudges on the surface. A dirty mirror will give off a tainted image, so take a moment out of your busy life to clean your mirror, renew your spirit, and enjoy your reflection.

No comments: