Students often ask me, "How do I get better at Aikido?" I pretty much answer them the same way Furuya Sensei answered me when I asked this question some 26 years ago, "You get out of it what you put into it." Jigoujitoku (自業自得) is the old Japanese proverb equivalent of, "You reap what you sow" and this goes for the martial arts too. If one wants to get better one has to put in the time and effort - It really is as simple as that.
But you might be asking, "How" do I do that? Outside of coming to class consistently and constantly, one needs to put in their own work. Whenever Sensei talked about doing something outside of class, he referred to it as "part of my own training." A student once told me this story about how Sensei would try and grab exactly 100 pieces of copy paper in one grab and that he could consistently do it too and that Sensei told him it was part of his training to develop his intuition and his eye. Another student told me how Sensei would clean all his calligraphy supplies and pack his bag the night before class and when he asked Sensei about it he said that he did it, "as part of his own training."
Doing something "as a part of one's own training" is something that one comes up with to make themselves better. We identify an area of concern and come up with a strategy to overcome that insufficiency. For instance, if one gets winded in class, maybe they stay for two classes to build up their stamina, take up running or try and lose weight.
To get to the root cause and develop a strategy to overcome it, one needs to know what the problem is first. One method students might use to determine the cause of their deficiency is a method Sakichi Toyoda of Toyota came up with called the 5 Whys. He said that any problem can usually be solved by asking the question, "Why?" Asking the question "Why?" to each answer forces us to have to confront something that we are consciously or unconsciously avoiding or it forces us to have to think creatively as we think outside of dogmatic thinking.
Here is an example: Why 1: I get so tired in class - Why? Why 2: I am out of shape - Why? Why 3: I need to lose weight - Why? Why 4: I overeat - Why? Why 5: I skip breakfast so I am hungrier at lunch and dinner and end up making poor decisions
The fix: I will eat breakfast in order to help me make healthier choices at lunch and dinner
O Sensei said that the goal of Aikido training is Masakatsu Agatsu or "the truest victory is the one over oneself." WE not our teacher, our spouses or our friends make us better. Asking "Why?" enables us to get to the root cause of our dysfunction and thus become better and with time and effort gain a victory over ourselves.
It is my job to teach class, it is your job to make you good. Therefore it becomes obviously true that as Sensei said, "You get out of it what you put into it."