View Full Version : Aikido With an Attitude: The Other Intenal Strength (or Weakness)

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05-18-2007, 08:58 AM
There has been some very interesting, instructional, and inspiring discussion and debate about conceptualizing and practicing Aikido as an internal martial art.

In stereotypic generalities, we think of martial arts as external-hard or external-soft. The external-hard are the bashing arts that offer resistance to resistance and competitively entering into power struggles to see who will win. The softer external arts are more relaxed, do not resist, but still maintains victory through bashing or submission. External arts rely on muscle.

Internal arts rely on structural alignment, concepts, subtle movements from the core, and energy. One of the examples often given as a demonstration of internal strength is to knock people away or down with the slightest detectable motion. This is obviously, from watching old footage, a skill O'Sensei Morihei Ueshiba had, and included, in his gift of Aikido to us.

Pushing people away is easy. Adopt an attitude of arrogance, superiority, anger, fear, depression, yadda, yadda, yadda, and see how fast people move away from you. I do not have to push people away from me; I can stop them from even approaching. I have been known to do this at quite a distance. Some people are so highly skilled they can repel (check your ignore list for examples) people just by posting in an Internet forum. It is easier to find and push your mental and emotional buttons than it is to practice the physical techniques. However, is that the internal strength you want?

IMHO, true internal strength, is not pushing people away, but getting them to invite and welcome you into their practice and lives.

Applied kinesiology, or muscle testing, is similar to unbendable arm ki testing. Hold your arm out. Have someone press on it to test your strength. Now, think of something that is true, positive, or good for you. Your arm will maintain its strength. Now, think of something that is false, negative, or bad for you. Your arm will lose strength. Yes, love will keep you strong and anything fear-based (anger, depression, anxiety) will weaken you.

Internal strength, ki, follows not just our physical structural alignment, but also the intent and intensity of our mental attitude.

Do not take my word for it. The dojo, the mat, your own practice, and experience will teach and convince you. The next time you practice (which hopefully will be very soon), without a word, do a technique while maintaining some negative fear-based attitude. Next, do the same technique from a confident positive joyful attitude. Experience any difference in your technique?

A negative fear-based attitude will "make" your muscles tense, constrict your movements, and elicit resistance from your training partner (or mate, friends, co-workers, or boss). A positive love-based attitude will "let" your muscles relax, your movement flow, and elicit cooperation from others.

The choice is yours. IMHO, true internal strength is not fear-based pushing people away (that would be an internal weakness), but love-based being invited and welcomed in.

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!

(b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan) Lynn Seiser Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 37 year. He currently trains and hold the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), and the upcoming (2005) Advanced Aikido Concepts and Aikido Buki-waza for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appears in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, and abuse living in Marietta, GA.

Kevin Leavitt
05-19-2007, 03:09 AM
Thank you for your perspective Lynn! I think you have focused wonderfully on what is the core of why we need to practice Budo, and what we get out of it.

I like you concepts of internal and external. I agree, they are more a state of mind and perspective than anything else. The concepts of internal and external may manifest themselves physically, but they begin with a single point of thought.

As has been proven throughout history and time, battles, wars, and conflict start way before the actual physical (external) manifestation of violence begins.

To me this is what being internal is all about. the realization and mindfulness that the thoughts we think, the values we live, and the choices we make....all impact the world around us!

Thanks again!

05-19-2007, 07:17 AM
Thanks for you kind words and support Kevin.

I once heard that, "It wasn't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." Its often the only thing that brings us home.

05-19-2007, 04:44 PM
Wow, you hit my nail right on the head! Or rather, you grabbed my center and our stories lined up like our spines...this is what I train for.

05-19-2007, 06:30 PM
this is what I train for.
As do I.

Janet Rosen
05-20-2007, 07:54 PM
Who do I want to be? How does that manifest in the world? .... training helped me figure out that those were the key questions in my life AND training helped me work on them. Seems there are many of us in this boat :-)

Albert Oktovianus
05-21-2007, 02:15 AM
Seiser Sensei, your article has showed me what 'internal' really means in Aikido.
In my early year of trainings, I've experienced some real life confrontations and in those confrontations my Aikido techniques dissapeared like smoke.
Lately, I've been experiencing a great 'internalization' of Aikido (if it can be called that) ;) .
I realized now that techniques can be perfected, but the right attitude and emotions has to be the base to build those perfection also.
Now I hope I won't choke as much as the last time I was faced with real life confrontations. :cool:

Peace & Respect,

Albert. O

05-21-2007, 06:13 AM
Who do I want to be? How does that manifest in the world? .... training helped me figure out that those were the key questions in my life AND training helped me work on them. Seems there are many of us in this boat :-)
Oh yes, IMHO, its a very big boat.

Training and questioning help us get beyond the external-contextually-learned-ego-idenity to what we all know to be true and what is the right thing to do.

Perhaps we want to be who we already really are.

When the external-contextually-learned-ego-identity is incongruent with what we alerady know is true and right we have stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, confusion, conflict, and violence.

We all know who we are and the right thing to do. Lets have the courage to do it and the discipline to keep doing it no matter what.

05-21-2007, 06:18 AM
Lately, I've been experiencing a great 'internalization' of Aikido (if it can be called that) ;) .
Please, its just Lynn (I am no Sensei. Just an old man having fun.)

I too experience a great difference in my training and discipline when I have my head on straight (positive, calm, or even empty).

IMHO, its when the body, mind, and spirit are congruent that it is true internalization plus external manifestion. I look forward to a glimpse of that (but probably not this life time).

05-26-2007, 12:32 PM

I agree. We are seeing quite a few of our students as they progress to higher rank become worried and down on themselves because of a percieved lack in their abilities. This negative energy only hurts their performance more.

IMHO, we must all practice joyfully, not only on the mat but off.

See you on it.

05-29-2007, 07:16 AM
IMHO, we must all practice joyfully, not only on the mat but off. See you on it.
You people have an excellent dojo (Roswell Budokan). Good instruction, good students, and just good people. You make everyone welcome. The rest will come.

I always enjoy sharing the space and time there. Glad I found you. Glad I joined.

Rei, Domo.