In 1958, the Green Packers were the worst team in football with a 1-10-1 record. In 1959, the team hired Vince Lombardi as the head coach. On the first day of practice, Coach Lombardi called the team together and held up a football and simply said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” All the players, being professionals and who had played football their entire lives, looked around quizzically. Lombardi paused for a moment and explained, “As a team last year we were horrible at the fundamentals of the game of football. Nobody here knows how to block and nobody knows how to tackle. All I saw last year was grab, grab, grab!” From there he outlined his strategy for the coming year, “What we’re going to do now is go back to basics and we’re going to learn, drill and practice the fundamentals until we become better at them than anyone else in the game. If you do this with me, I will make you champions.” In that first year, Lombardi punished the players and drilled them to exhaustion with the fundamentals of football. He expected nothing less than absolute dedication and a 100% effort from his players. That first season saw the Packers immediately improve to a 7-5 season with its rookie head coach being named coach of the year. In 1960, the Green Bay Packers won the NFL Western Conference for the first time since 1944. From that first year, the Packers not only went on to win nine post-season games but eventually the first two Super Bowls as well.
Vince Lombardi knew that in order for his players to be successful they needed a foundation of skills by which to stand on.
Training in Aikido is no different. The reason why we drill the basics over and over again is so that those movements become ingrained or "second nature." Sensei always quipped that, "You can always fall back on the basics." One can have all the athleticism, potential and opportunities, but without mastering the fundamentals they will be lost. A paraphrased quote of the philosopher Seneca reminds us that, "Luck is where opportunity meets preparation."
If one is to look across the board at any one who is good at anything, I will bet they all have a solid foundation of the basic skills and Aikido is no different. You want to get good at Aikido? First master the basics.