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In aikido and I am speaking of the aikido I train in and am not comparing it to or denigrating any other style; it really is not about fighting.
What I mean by fighting is that it is not a sport or a contest. For me, aikido is self-defense. It is about what I have to do to protect myself. This to me means in daily life and self-defense situations.
Aikido is conciliatory and restorative. My training helps me protect myself from others and from myself. It reduces life to the simplest form where I have to feel what is and do what I can. I can blame and I can whine…and I get to see how ineffective both of those responses are. I can come back to center and accept and do what I can. I can move or change myself. I cannot change another. Another may be moved when I move or change.
My focus must be on moving me and not them. This truth is so good for me on the mat and out in the world. I am empowered when I keep the focus on me and what I can do instead of wandering off my path to meddle in other people's business.
An example on the mat is having uke grab nage's wrists and hold. If nage tries to move uke, uke will resist. If nage moves herself, extending energy and maintaining connection, uke will move with nage. A way to do this is to roll the shoulders up as we retreat. Uke will follow nage almost in amazement because of the conduit for energy to travel through that nage creates.
In life people will follow the same way if you lead with intention and positive energy. One day 2 guys came into my office as I worked alone. They were both obviously very high. One sat down and started talking to himself as he rubbed his head. The other leaned over my desk and told me repeatedly and loudly what I was going to do. I did not feel scared just very uncomfortable. I stood up, checked for my car keys which were hanging from a carabiner from my belt loop and then walked around my desk and invited them both to follow me. They did -- right out the door. Then I invited them both to follow me over to the entry way gate. I said, "Stand here," as I walked through the gate and slammed it shut, locking them in temporarily. I got in my car and drove away. The one who was telling me what to do got very upset and I could see him gesturing as he yelled. I didn't care. I was safe.
I led and they followed. I created a conduit for their energy to flow through. I did not force them. I moved what I could, me. And since I extended intention and energy I created a connection that they both responded to. This is one self-defense situation that ended with me being safe and the guys being bewildered but unhurt. My commitment to defending myself can be peaceful or violent depending on what the circumstances call for. But it is not a contest. It is self-defense.