I have pondered for a long time about what it is that has kept me doing martial arts. There are elements of fitness, self defense, self-cultivation... I'll even admit that there are aspects of ego. Knowing the things that I know and being able to do the things I can do makes me cooler - at least in my own mind. But you'd think that after 20 years of fitness instruction, self-defense training, and ego amplification, I'd be about as cultivated as I'm going to get.
But I'm not done. Not even close.
See, it's not so much the self defense or the sense of personal power or any of the usual reasons. Its the wonderment.
The sense of amazement - you remember it from the first time you took a fall from a true master - a technique that instantly translated you from upright and running to horizontal and still - with no inbetween time.
That sense of possibility when you see a demonstration of something that should be impossible, at least from your usual understanding of physics.
The Magic. The Mojo.
But aikido and judo are kinda like smoking crack. When you get habituated to a certain dosage it takes a bigger dose to get a similar effect. Changes in your perception as you get better at martial arts cause you to see more of it as less magical.
Lately I see the magic more often in the eyes of my students than in my own performance. When I'm able to inspire that sense of wonderment at the magic that inheres in the world around us... that's the best part of practicing martial arts.
Sorta like a kid at Christmastime...
Does that make me Sensei Claus?