Seishiro Endo in Rome for the third time – and I was not there

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I’ve always claimed it: Aikido is really useful right when your morale is low. To avoid training when you are down in the dumps is a bit like avoiding food because you’re hungry. Until we don’t grasp this, we haven’t grasped the real essence of the practice.

Now, maybe I should refine the concept more, since this has just happened to me last weekend. I avoided practicing in a very important and luring seminar, even though I had paid in advance. Why? I didn’t feel like it, I had low spirits…

Here I am, I talked and talked about the usefulness of Aikido practice when things go wrong and at the first hurdle I avoid practice myself! What I good teacher I am, am I? Let’s be clear: low spirits aren’t the only reason. A weekend Aikido seminar is a high risk situation when you’ve got family (let’s say, when you have kids). Anything can happen at the last moment and suddenly the plans for tomorrow are gone, great international masters notwithstanding. In my case, my wife, with her own prepaid reservation for Seishiro Endo’s third seminar in Rome, had an unexpected commitment and had to work – thank God she has a job, these days it is just enough…

So, all the planning gone, we could not be free for the event. But this is not the point. The fact is that I could have found a way to show up on the mat anyway. If I wanted. But I preferred staying with my 5 year old. I don’t see him seldom, this is not the problem. He could have stayed with the grands, though maybe not for the whole weekend. But I preferred his company to Seishiro Endo’s. Why?

I don’t think anyone is interested, but I use this blog for my own pleasure in writing; if accidentally someone is interested in reading it, well, good! Otherwise highlighting some concepts here is enough for me. Such an alluring seminar will be attended by a lot of people. Subscriptions were limited to 120, so this was the figure I was expecting. I didn’t feel like it. I had a couple of sad news a few days earlier, something I won’t describe here, so I didn’t feel like seeing people and exchange lovely smiles as usual. I knew that going around with my son would have “cured” me; Aikido, this time, wouldn’t…

For clarity’s sake: Endo’s work is interesting, of course, but it is not mine, it’s not what I’m working on since a few years ago. There are similarities, but the core is different. I’ve seen Endo just once, it was his first time in Rome, so I can’t say I know his practice. But I know what I need so I can nourish from the energy on the mat. For me, Endo doesn’t have this. Nobody has it – or better – only one person has it. I do what I can to meet this person on the mat whenever I have a chance. I need it. It is my fuel for tackling everyday’s life, especially in the hardest moments. That’s when I really do everything I can to train with this person, I go there even if I don’t feel like it, because I know what’s going to happen to me. I know very well the psychologic charge that kind of training – and only that kind – can give me. I simply cannot do without it. Many times I left for the training session forcing myself away from the wish of staying with my family in the weekend. You will think I am exaggerating, but this is the pure reality of it…

Even in the past, when planning to train with this person, I experienced the same feeling I’d rather be with my son instead of on the mat, but I forced myself to go anyway, for my son’s own good, so that I could be good – better – for him, so I could stay young longer beside him in the coming years. I feel obliged to work for this since I’m 45 years older than him. Therefore, for some years I’ve been limiting my Aikido traveling to just one day each time, one night out maximum. And I only travel to meet this person who gives me so much on the mat, no one else. These are times of crisis, money is never enough (one of the reasons why I’m being low spirited) and we must limit expenses. Only rarely, 4-5 times a year, I force myself to leave the family in the weekends just because I know that this will do good to them, too. This is why many Aikido teachers don’t see me on their mats anymore. This is why I must say no to many friends that invite me to some events: time and money are scarce – I do a selection. Besides, they say that Seigo Yamaguchi (accidentally Seishiro Endo’s teacher) stated that only when you have children you start doing real Aikido. And I say, many quit just when they have children. I sadly think about the moment they will tell them they quitted something they loved because of them. The sense of guilt is terrible… For what concerns me, I can say I passed a dan test 2 months after my son was born. I am convinced, since I did not quit because of him, my son will have a happier, healthier and less frustrated dad, just because he could go on practicing – maybe less, but more intense practice.

The strange thing is that the number of people this person gathers on the mat is far lower than the one Seishiro Endo gathers. Ok, those are different career levels, but it is widespread how the mat I’m talking about looses followers every year. Yet, it is the only one for which I do sacrifice a day with my son, the only one I travel for, I’m spending money for, the only one that gives me what I need. Is it maybe to hard for someone, physically and psychologically? But I think about how different we are, how people practice Aikido for very different reasons, to the extent that somebody can be vital for me and at the same time neglectable to others. We all do Aikido for our own different reasons. Mine are personal growth (within certain limits, since I’m already over 50 and the teacher I’m talking about is just 10 years older than me) and for psychological-physical wellness. Let’s face it, we often complain about how hurtful can the practice be: all those locks, torsions applied to our joints, in the long run can give rise to issues although we don’t make real combats (not mentioning the wrong use of knees and back, so widespread in our discipline). That’s why, just because of the lack of those issues, I sometime invest my money and my time to follow this man. Not others. Not that I don’t like them, but my aim on the mat isn’t certainly refining my techniques. I do this because I’m convinced that if I work hard to use my body as this person is trying to teach me, my body will be healthier and will stay so for longer. I couldn’t find any of this on all the mats I’ve stepped on. Never.

So, please don’t hold it against me if I’m writing I could do without Endo and I preferred the energetic positivity a kid is capable of, especially your own kid. I would have made the same choice (I already did it in the past) with Tissier, Tada, Cognard, Bachraty, Gonzales, Yamada, Osawa, Benedetti, just to name some foreign masters. They’re all great, with more crowded and steady mats. Maybe most aikidokas in the world don’t need what I need. They do Aikido for completely different reasons than me and the few ones still treading that mat. I’m not being arrogant, I’m only conscious, aware of what I need and want, especially when anxiety, tension, sorrow and uncertainty hit. This:

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