The importance of Shugyo

When translated and depending on the context, shugyo 修業 can mean the pursuit of knowledge, to study or to train. However, in the Aikido world it usually takes on the meaning of the latter, to train. It means to polish and polish to make your technique shine. O’sensei used to say the most important part of Aikido is found in shugyo. If you want to get the most out of Aikido. It is not in destination, but in the road traveled. Your answer will be found in the training or shugyo. Many students think that they will learn Aikido faster if they just ask the teacher question after question each time they come to the smallest roadblock in their training. This actually will hamper their learning in the long run, not to mention the majority of the time it is a Japanese social faux pas. Many times myself included, Americans and other nationalities tend to come off pretentious or with a sense of entitlement. The Japanese way of learning is very humble and respectful. They decide who they want to learn from, and then enter the class like a dry sponge and soak up as much as they can. It seems the majority of Americans enter class with their ego and individuality in tow. This slows down their learning because they are busy asking questions and validating themselves and their teacher on a daily basis when they should be learning. For example, “Why should I do it that way?” The Japanese have already validated their teacher and just assume what the teacher is saying is in their best interest. The Japanese would rather validate the teacher once at the beginning, and then jump on the expressway to learning, rather than waste time questioning what their already validated teacher says time and time again. Asking your teacher questions can also be seen as disrespectful to your teacher and your fellow sempai. The sempai probably already know the answer to your question so you are wasting their cherished practicing time as well. The teacher is the only one who knows what questions you should be asking anyhow. The teacher knows what you need to learn at the deepest level of Aikido. He doesn’t want you to satisfy your immediate curiosity by answering the little questions you have even though it seems important to you at the time. This can be compared to being in school. The teacher shows you what to study, but does not show you the exact questions that are on the test. If you were to ask what the questions on the test will be, you would just remember the test answers and not remember all you were supposed to study. If you study what the teacher told you to, you would pass the test without knowing the questions beforehand. This way you would remember your newfound knowledge much longer than if you had just studied the test answers. You would also have a deeper understanding of why they were the correct answers. Every question I asked of my teachers, I eventually answered myself again, but in a way that was more complete. I finally understood why they would get disappointed at me for not being patient and “just wanting to know”. They not only helped me understand the technique, but how to learn more of Aikido as a whole. Shugyo is the key to help you unlock the mysteries of Aikido. Quiet your brain and open your mind.

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