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So this morning (Sunday), I was at the park with Sensei and another senior student, for a "study group". Both of them are studying Kyu Shu (spelling?) and get together to practice outside of class once a month. They invited me (YES , another opportunity to train!) so there I am, too. It's very interesting, and adds another layer on Aikido in terms of atemi and precision in blending and directing energy.
At the end of our session, I managed to end up face down in the grass, basically pinned, unbeknownst to us, my right hand smack on top of an ant's nest. Hmmm, I thought, the grass is itchier than ususal, I look over and my hand is covered.
So as I was driving home with my hand shoved into a large carryout cup filled with ice , I was thinking about WHY do I do this. Not really doubting my own commitment, but wondering how I can possibly explain why to someone else.
I don't expect that I will ever run into a situation where I need MA to survive. I mean, it could happen, but physical conflict isn't part of my job, as it would be for a police officer, for example. There are many reasons why I am addicted to Aikido, but the reason that supplies the most drive to my commitment is that I find a reflection of my spiritual life in the physical discipline of Aikido.
And that led me to start thinking about the idea of martial intent. We'd been talking about that a lot this morning, because many of the pressure points we'd been practicing striking are a bit under a set of muscles. You have to strike with intent in order for uke to even tell whether you are hitting the right spot with the right angle etc…or not. Without martial intent, nothing really works.
So I wondered, do I apply martial intent in my prayer? Do I just fluff along when I pray, or do I bring my mind, my will my attention to bear on the issue, am I seeking the Lord with a fierceness of spirit? I am thinking of the times when Jesus left the distractions of the crowd to pray. Or am I alert to the issues of spiritual warfare and able to intervene decisively when a martial response is called for? As Paul wrote, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. I think there's a principle here; that many of the powers and forces that we wage battle against cannot me touched by fluffy prayer, but only by prayer with martial intent. This bears some more thinking on, and I feel like I only just understand a tiny bit on this…
And this leads to another issue; ministry. Not that I'm suggesting that we should approach ministry with martial intent; that would communicate the wrong message (ya think?). But intent, that's a key ingredient. Ministry doesn't just happen. You don't just fall out of bed and bam, you've taught a spiritual truth. You have to study with the intent of being edifying -- the teacher asks, what do they need to know, and how can I communicate it to them. Or walk past someone and oops, you encouraged them. You have to invest, spend time listening, thinking, praying; all the time thinking, Lord, how can I strengthen their faith, how can I lift up their spirit? And then when you're together, you have to focus your attention and spirit outside yourself, listening to them, to the Holy Spirit. Intentionality. As people fully committed to following Jesus, taking seriously his only command (love one another as I have loved you), we can't afford to be spacey, because not only will we get sucker-punched by the enemy, but we also will fail to have any noticeable effect in our ministry.