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I was at a meeting in a church basement the other day. There was a low table and several rows of flimsy folding chairs. The small narrow room is usually used for the church's preschool classes.
I was standing behind the low table looking at the front of the room…there were doors on either side of me and the main door was at the other end directly in front of me with the length of the room between me and it. Most of the chairs were between me and the door. There are cabinets and shelves along the walls.
The furniture provided a path way that would limit any physical attack to a very small area. If someone tried to hit or grab me they would be limited in their movements by the smallness and cramped conditions of the space. I would be less limited because of my awareness and my willingness to use my environment to my advantage.
In my last 2 classes I set up conditions similar to the church basement room (as best I could in the dojo). Nage started down the pathway and uke attacked from the end of the narrow corridor we made. Some nages forgot all the Aikido they have and started to struggle and just use their hands and muscle strength. Other nages relaxed and explored the situation, using uke's energy and the environment to nage's advantage. As you could guess the relaxed nages were much more effective.
We often set up situations in class that reframe The ABC's of Aikido. When the ABC's are remembered the situation seems easy and effortless. When the situation grabs us and we give away our focus and centeredness our technique and effectiveness is compromised. My challenge to myself is to focus, have good posture, pay careful attention and see what happens. I stay out of my head and move. I may get corrected. That is okay. I can incorporate the correction the next time when I focus, have good posture and pay careful attention.