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Joe McParland sent me an email a while back, part of which appears below:
"In my progression as a nage, I'm hoping to reach mushin, operating effortlessly and spontaneously within the situation. I have no expectation of who will attack, what the attack may be, or how I will respond to a particular attack---it will just happen. The wake-up call is wondering if I can reach no-mindedness by practicing no-mindedness just half of the time, holding intention the other half of the time."
This got me to thinking about the nature of the relationship of attacker and defender. I am so accustomed to recognizing the dualities that permeate Aikido that I have always assumed that uke and nage are two sides of the same coin. But I am seeing that this may not actually be true; that there may be a fundamental difference between the two that necessarily arises because of the need for uke to initiate the attack as a result of his intent. Now his intent may be to hurt or, in the case of mat training, help his opponent, in either case the nature of his intent is irrelevant. What's important is the fact that intent precludes an empty head, so to speak.
The other thing that I began to ponder is the whole concept of trying to reach mushin. For instance, while playing a game of Risk with a couple of buddies, one of the players rolled the die too hard and it careened off the table. Without any volition on my part my hand shot out and plucked the die out of the air and returned it to him, much like Master Po's annoying little habit of plucking flies out of the air in the old Kung Fu series. Afterwards, what struck me was the clarity of that short sequence as it occurred. I have had other incidents like that both on and off the mat. It seems to me that this state of mind, or rather lack of same, arises naturally when the situation calls for it and that my Aikido training endows me with tools that can be spontaneously employed when needed.