Although the word “consistency” carries connotations of constancy, compatibility, custard and snow conditions, it derives from the Latin verb “consistere”, or “to stand firm” (composed of “con” meaning “together”, and “sistere” meaning “to place”). Hence it’s original meaning has a sense of “standing together”. (Which brings to my mind the words, “Together we stand, divided we fall.” Canned Heat, I believe, “Let’s Work Together”. Any chance of a musical link?).
For a martial arts school, the need for consistency in the Canned Heat sense would apparently be obvious. We all need to be on the same side and concur about what we are doing and how we are going to do it. Technical consistency is a basic essential to function correctly. Standards need to be met and maintained, and this is easily done by adopting a curriculum with which all students are intimately familiar and constantly strive to perfect. If everybody is doing everything in exactly the same way and doing it well, it makes you distinct as an entity. You know who you are, and you know you are part of something – an example of coherence and consistency.
The idea of “standing firm” also has a more direct application to training. Need I say that basic “chudan kamae” represents “standing firm”. Of course, flexibility is required but the “firmness” is more of attitude and approach. Training begins with kamae. Everything you do is an extension, an elaboration, a complement to kamae. Any technique is a moving, adaptable posture. But you have to be in the correct frame of mind in the first place to be aware, to assess and to act accordingly. Developing this skill requires a consistency in itself, such as going to the dojo on a regular basis, paying attention, concentrating on your work. It’s your own personal quality control – or do you rely on your teacher to consistently remind you?
So, given those two aspects of consistency, we can look at a third, which in militaristic terms could be, “What are we fighting for?”, or “Who are we fighting?”, or “Are we even fighting at all?” Is there a battle? Is there a war? Is there a victory to be achieved? Students may enjoy the physical challenges of training and be quite happy to comply with the given curriculum, but their underlying motivations for wanting to train can be diverse. There does not seem to be the need for consistency here, “so long as you enjoy it and it makes sense,” then just do it. Philosophical interpretation of training can be left to the individual, and in terms of “standing together”, it becomes more a question of personal conviction. You believe that everyone has a very good reason for training, and even if it’s not the same as your own, you assume it must be convincing because who would subject themselves to those demands unless they were at least as committed as you (if not more so)? And that provides a consistency.
For me, training has always been an exploration into some part of myself that I do not fully understand, which I find is paradoxical. It seeks peace yet investigates violence. There is violence in the world, and it always begins with the individual. I know I have violence in my heart, so I could theoretically start a war, but training has allowed me to explore that impulse in a very safe way and also to see alternatives. Indeed, to transmute the emotional response into something productive. I have always trusted my training to be an expression of a kind of transcendental principle, a manifestation of a truth (whether relative or universal – I cannot say). Over the years, my understanding of that principle has evolved, but never really changed.
It’s almost as if training has not provided me with answers, but a way of asking better questions. And I now see training as a tool that will allow me to be aiki, a perfect expression of acceptance, of complete oneness, a manifestation of truth. I have to refer to it as a “martial art” because it inherently deals with violence, but violence is only the extreme condition of non-acceptance, judgment and issue. Truth transcends conflict. Truth needs no defence.
Training simply provides specific opportunities to experience what is true, and each time that occurs you embody it further. It is the complete opposite of defeating an enemy, it is a surrender. You simply allow it be. Each experience of “it’s not me doing it,” is a step closer to simply being. This state of acceptance, without fear, judgment, issue, or need for things to be different, is another condition of consistency