by Arthur Benjamin, Copyright © 1995 by North Shore Aikido

As I survey practitioners during keiko (practice), what comes to mind are the various aspects of concentration required to learn Aikido. As we all struggle with the task of mastering waza (techniques) and further on, the art Itself, we employ many tools that are at our disposal. For instance: the teacher; practice partners; taking tests; proper breath control; and of course concentration.

Concentration during Aikido practice does not necessarily come naturally and must, to some extent, be cultivated. When an instructor demonstrates a technique, you must carefully watch his or her foot movement, hip placement, body structure In general, and attitude. All of these things must be observed in an instant. There is no second chance, no Instant replay (unless in your mind) because the next demonstration will be a completely different situation. So you must develop an "eye' for what Is going on. If you are more concerned with who Is coming in the door of the dojo, the person sitting next to you, or how you, yourself look, you have wasted an opportunity.

During practice, you must concentrate on yourself, your partner and the technique ... an incredible task if you think about It, especially for the beginner. When you regard your partner, you must realize his or her size and potential In the moment. When your partner touches you, you must understand his/her balance, strength, and movement. Your timing and technique will be dictated by these factors, so you have to create an understanding of the situation as the situation unfolds. This must be done with your body as well as your mind.

Another troublesome point about concentration, Is that concentration and relaxation are not mutually exclusive concepts. Your cannot sacrifice being relaxed during a technique for concentration's sake. You really have to consider this factor.

The most obvious benefit of concentrating is safety. As the Dojo grows, the mat becomes more crowded and consequently more dangerous. If you don't control and focus your attention while throwing your partner, Injuries will occur. When you are being thrown, and if your ukemi takes you somewhere other than where you are thrown (I've seen it) It would be your own fault if you get hurt and your responsibility if you hurt someone else. So, as an uke (attacker) you must stay true to the movement. Also, of course, If the nage (thrower) Is twisting your wrist or arm, you must make sure you are moving during the throw to protect yourself.

As you can see, the Implications of concentration become wider and wider for us.

When considering yourself, try to understand your strengths and work to improve your weak points. For instance, only you can realize the proper stance for your body type.

You must master the basic techniques, which means making those techniques your own. However, this does not mean doing the techniques "your way' rather, it means how your body does the techniques as a result of your training.

When professional dancers or ice skaters practice, they constantly make adjustments to perfect their technique. We need this approach also, otherwise our fundamentals will eventually become sloppy and we cannot become more efficient with the art and progress.