The 40 Aikido and life lessons that 2012 taught me

Here are 40 of the best lessons that I have learnt, had reinforced or found a new angle on in 2012:  Hope they ring a few bells for you:

  1. If you’re not improving something at each session, you’re going stale and backwards.
  2. If you want an A-Level dojo, you can’t afford to settle for B-Level practice.
  3. Practice Atemi in your aikido.
  4. Practice against free attacks, punches, kicks, grabs, rugby tackles – taking the speed out of the training.  This is where Takemusu lies.
  5. Regularly practice multiple attack work – it is vital to efficacy and understanding O’Sensei’s magic.
  6. When doing techniques look for complete precision.  When doing randori look for takemusu.
  7. Get hit – done right this can be therapeutic, honestly!  And it is very good for your budo.
  8. Transform your fitness and you’ll transform your Aikido.
  9. Don’t waste time in bickering about other styles, train instead.
  10. Exercising for 20 minutes first thing in the morning is a game-changer.  As a teacher try to give your students exercises that they can do in their own time.
  11. It is when you least want to get up and go training that you are going to get the most out of it personally.
  12. Don’t do it if you’re not having fun.  It is the job of the teacher to make training stretching and fun and the job of the students to bring enthusiasm to it.
  13. If you’re not scared a lot you’re not improving and growing very much.
  14. It’s never been easier to be of service to a large amount of people in aikido (and few things are as rewarding).
  15. People are craving transparency, authenticity and community. Give it to them through your dojo.
  16. Progress comes in hills and plateaus. Understand this and your approach to training becomes much more relaxed. (I’ve been working on integrating this lesson for years).
  17. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax (When you relax, your brain shifts into alpha state–the time when real breakthroughs and those profound realisations present themselves).
  18. Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. (And without change, there is no progress).
  19. Dream big in your Aikido – plan a trip to Iwama, or Japan or a big seminar – push your boundaries.  Aim for that which you think is out of reach.
  20. Pursue excellence versus chasing perfection.
  21. Celebrate small wins in your club and with your peers and you’ll unleash a huge amount of momentum and positive energy.
  22. “There is no purpose in wanting or pursuing many techniques.  To master a technique, one needs to make each technique, one by one, his/her own.” – O’Sensei, Budo.
  23. “I don’t fear the man who has done 1000 kicks once, I fear the man who has done 1 kick 1000 times.” – Bruce Lee
  24. Begin with the end in mind: We should not lose sight of the fact that our aim in aikido is not to master techniques but to master the principles of aiki through the techniques.
  25. Delete ‘victimspeak’ from your training. No more “I can’t” and “It’s not possible” and “It’s so hard.” More “I will” and “This is awesome” and “I can”
  26. If you inspire one person each session, your class hasn’t been a waste. It’s been a blessing.
  27. Live an amazing path in Aikido but enjoy your life, family and friends along the way. What’s the point of becoming an Aikido legend but a failed human being.
  28. Look people in the eyes when you talk to them on the mat. Smile at people when you train. Say “please” to respect them. And “thank you” to appreciate them.
  29. Don’t be on time–Be early.
  30. The person who tries to master everything at once achieves nothing. Focus. Focus. Focus. **More on this with the goal planning to come
  31. Spend time in silence each day. You’ll never do O’Sensei level work if you’re over stimulated by technology.
  32. Your behaviour on the mat broadcasts your truest beliefs.
  33. To have the results only 5% of Martial artists in the world have, have the guts to do what only 5% of the Martial artists in the world are willing to do.
  34. World-class begins when you think you’ve done a great session but know you can do a better session.
  35. Everyone’s in Aikido Human Resources. And we are all there to develop the talents of the people we train with.
  36. Mediocrity is a mindset. Avoid the mental viruses of negative people.
  37. Problems and loss of motivation come to test your commitment to your goals, hopes and dreams.
  38. Begin to feel energised through your practice – be like a dynamo.  You should generate Kokyu energy.
  39. At the end Budo is as much about what you take out as what you put in.  Rid yourself of tension, fear, doubt, redundant and superfluous movement and unnatural or incorrect movement. Your movements need to be precise, calm and powerful.
  40. Use your time in Aikido to make the world a better place.

Enjoy your training and let 2013 take your Aikido to new heights.

Inspired by Robin Sharma’s 50 lessons of 2012. If you haven’t read his stuff check out, ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’ – awesome book.

In Aiki,



6 thoughts on “The 40 Aikido and life lessons that 2012 taught me

  1. Thanks for this Sensei. There’s lots to think about there for the new year.

    Re: points 8 & 10
    Do you have any specific exercises in mind to help with conditioning for aikido?

    Best wishes for 2013

    • Hi Matt, yes plenty. Kettlebells are great for functional power and done right they are great for that intense conditioning that matches a real altercation. Slow push ups, squats, sit ups, pull ups and planks are also great; they have been around for ever but there is a reason for that. Sprints and hill runs are good and you don’t need to do many of these to get real benefit. There are also loads of other body weight exercises that you can do short intense work on. Tan-ren Uchi is good training if you have access to one. Heavy carries are great for grip and all round functional strength and endurance and heavy lifts like deadlifts are great to kick start all round conditioning and strength. I could go on…but in a nutshell, go hard, go heavy, go home.
      Have a cracking 2013 Matt.

      In aiki, Matt.

  2. You have a talent of presenting great truths not just of aikido but of life. I look forward to sharing some practice with you over 2013.

  3. A Great document and a really good ‘Road-Map’ not only for Aikido but for life.
    It is a privalge to be a memeber of Sensei Matt’s club, which is never dull, always interesting, occasionally challenging, always rewarding and without exception, populated with some of the nicest people you could wish to meet.
    I look forward to 2013 with a real anticipation.
    Happy New Year to each of you.

    Danny H-M.

  4. Thank you for sharing. Although I no longer train ‘on the mat’, I will always be an aikidoka, and your thoughts can be applied in every aspect of life. Best wishes for 2013!

    • Thanks Heather, great to hear from you and I hope that all is well in your world. Stay great. Matt.

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