There are three basic aspects to training in Aikido. They are the physical or “who you are,” the intellectual or “what you know” and wisdom or “what you understand.” These three attributes naturally lead to what you can do.
Some things about you can’t really change much, like your height or overall body size. On the other hand, strength, speed and flexibility are attributes you can clearly improve with effort. It’s popular for people to say in aikido (and in other jujitsu based martial arts) that size and strength do not matter. This is simply not true. Good technique can help you beat a bigger person, but it doesn’t eliminate the fact that bigger stronger opponents have an inherent advantage that always has to be respected. Improving your personal attributes means training to be strong, training consistently and cross training for strength and stamina.
The second attribute of a good martial artist is knowledge. Greater technical knowledge is clearly an advantage, but don’t mistake good technical knowledge for simply knowing a lot of techniques. It’s much better to know a few techniques well and have a great technical knowledge of them than it is to be a technique geek. Your goal is to know yourself as completely as possible and to bring the other person into “your world.” The better you know your own world the more in control you will be.
The third attribute is understanding the principles behind your art. What’s the inner wisdom behind your actions? This means understanding things like balance, grounding, extension, leverage, angling, breaking the opponent’s power and mental calmness. Understanding the principles of what you’re doing turns your technical knowledge into effective technique. It also allows you to respond to situations and techniques you may have never encountered before.
Wisdom also means considering the situation in its entirety. Is your response going to minimize any unintended consequences? Are you careful not to act out of fear or frustration? A good martial artist exercises discipline and restraint and thinks beyond just what is in front of them.
~Philip Greenwood, Sensei