Aikido membership requires dojo duties that extend to more than just cleaning the mats and dusting after a workout; an important part of the physical and mental training involved in Aikido instruction, and deeply rooted in all martial-arts discipline, is service. Service is a way of showing respect for the art, our teachers, the ancestors in our lineage and to each other as we learn collective cooperation, respectful engagement and inter-generational communication. It’s also a way of bonding with each other, since during regular training there is little time for personal-relationship building because there’s no socializing allowed on the mat. Workdays give Aikido members and their families a great opportunity to get to know each other in a relaxed environment while still engaging in meaningful practice and contributing to the welfare of the dojo.
Most recently, on Sunday May 15, instead of the usual 10am adult class, we cleaned the garden. A passerby would have seen a swarm of busy workers, masked, gloved and wielding tools, carefully tending to our communal domain. Together the group of children, teenagers, adult members and community friends, cleared the dojo garden to restore it to the visual symmetry of the designed landscape.
Many hands made for a morning of light work. Weeds were pulled; lawns were raked; the deck, swept; and pottery was dusted and righted in their places. Throughout the enterprise, there was an air of joyful community as strangers began to get to know each other and old acquaintances reunited over the whirl of activity in the pollen-filled air. Stories about culture, practice and tradition flowed. New connections were made as the diverse community of practitioners drawn to the practice of Aikido put hearts, minds and bodies to work in service of the school and demonstrated their commitment to excellence.