The Ai-kitchen

An Aikido blog. There could also be food. Maybe.


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The new year, real life and capacity.

This is usually the time when we come up with resolutions, deciding on amazing things we will accomplish in the new year. Very rarely do we really think about what that actually means though. Fundamentally, if we want to accomplish something different than before we need to change how we spend our time and effort, and possibly money. That part is simple. What is not so simple is that usually we are already using those resources for something at the moment, and we need to re-prioritize. This means spending less time and effort on things we are currently focusing on, even if we don’t realise it. We all have limited time, and limited capacity for willpower, energy and decision making. This capacity can be extended for sure, and that is a very worthwhile thing but every once in a while it is a good idea to, in addition to deciding on things that would be great to do, examine that capacity and see just how far it extends.

To be able to do more stuff that improves our life requires having spare capacity and therefore successful goals need to take this into account. Instead of saying „I’m going to get more exercise“, finding the things that eat our time and effort and eliminating the ones that can be replaced by exercise might work better. There is not really any special reason to do this at the beginning of the new year except for the symbolism. Which can be important I suppose.

If you’re one of my two regular readers you might have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. This is exactly the reason why, I examined my capacity and found I had other things that were more important for a little bit. Deadlines at work, helping a family member with a move, some personal fitness goals and research for the Aikido class took priority. So the blog had to take a back seat for a while, which is OK for me. Now some of the other things are resolved, it’s back, and hopefully I can keep it fairly regular.

I’m generally a bit cynical about the success of new year’s resolutions, but in 2014 over the course of the year I did complete all of mine except one. However a bit more went into it than just deciding to do something. I had a version fo the standard „more exercise“ one, but it was fairly specific and started when I decided to do it at the beginning of December 2013, I didn’t put it off until January 1st. I had a „go on a special diet for a month“ one (strict paleo). This started in January, but there was extensive preparation, and my girlfriend did it with me so there was social support as well. And we were prepared for the extra effort, time and cost. There are a few more like that, but the theme is pretty common. Take into account the full impact and where extra time & effort will come from. The one I didn’t manage, learn a language, had exactly this problem, I did not consider fully where I would find the time or energy to devote to the task.

This year I really only have one, which is to get more & better sleep, something I’m usually terrible at. And you guessed it, I already started, though I’m still working out some of the kinks. There are a few other things, but they are ongoing processes and don’t really fit the „new year’s resolution“ mould, so I don’t consider them as such.

So this is an Aikido blog, what does this have to do with Aikido? Two things really. The first one is that a lot of people tend to use the new year’s resolution to decide to start learning a martial art. That’s great. However, please consider that this might represent a significant investment of, you guessed it, time and effort. The single biggest factor of success and improvement in the martial arts is consistently showing up to class (something I have not always been great at, an I could always tell the difference in my development when I was regular or not). In the context of real life and other priorities, work family etc. this is not always easy, so make sure you have considered this, and that going to class can be part of your regular routine.

The other related issue is how time is spent in class. The planning I’ve been doing for the dojo is related to this. From this month there will be a few small tweaks, mostly to the conditioning part. A little bit to the technical, to take into account the strengths and weaknesses highlighted at the recent gradings – very solid basic technique, much better than I was hoping, and excellent improvisation, but confidence and decisiveness need work. How time and energy should be spent in class is the subject of countless debates, both online and in person between folks. If you ask 20 different martial artists, you will get 20 opinions. There is limited class time, how much depends on the set-up of the dojo. A balance between conditioning, kihon, technical training, ukemi, application and so on needs to be found. With Aikido usually the focus is on kihon, ukemi and technical practice, with application and conditioning often neglected. Conditioning can be done outside of class, that is true, but if the majority of students have sedentary lifestyles that might not be realistic. Setting “homework” is an option, but it’s  important to assess if people will actually do it. Unless we want to select only for people who will, if that’s not the case we need another option. Application training is often neglected because, frankly, most Aikidoka either A) don’t care because it’s not what they are practising for or B) wouldn’t know where to start. It’s outside the comfort zone, and that can be scary.

Before the recent gradings there was more technique and ukemi focus with us too. The next two months will see more conditioning, to build a baseline level of fitness. Then I will re-asses. In light of this throughout January I’m going to do more posts on fitness and conditioning.

So, Happy New Year everybody, and if any of us have fancy new years resolutions, we should spend a little time sorting out how they will fit into our lives, it can save us a lot of trouble later 🙂