Seeing behind the shihan

I remember in my early days of practice, being blown away by the abilities of the shihan. Everything they did seemed so effortless, natural and powerful. I really felt like they were born with some special gift.

I came across something in “Daily Self-Discipline” by Martin Meadows that sheds some light on this:

“What an average person sees when she looks at an elite performer – say, a world-class tennis player – is that his abilities seem natural, easy. She concludes, “He was born with it. It was given to him.”

And she couldn’t be farther from the truth. What she sees is an event – the act of winning. What she doesn’t see is thousands of hours of practice. His sore body, countless hours of drills, lost matches, and everything else that has made him the tennis player he is today. He had never been born with his abilities, and neither is anyone else. It’s the result of a long process taking years or decades, not mere days or weeks.

Substitute “shihan” for “tennis player” and this certainly applies to Aikido. Even the gifted had to put in the consistent, hard work.