09-11-2009, 11:34 AM
"A friend is a gift you give to yourself." This quote is attributed to the late Robert Louis Stevenson, and it may well aptly describe a key reason why most of us train in the art of Aikido. Choosing to practice with a friend surely beats trying to train with an enemy.
In our competitive society, we encounter numerous opportunities to witness people acting as antagonists, real or perceived. It is no wonder that we acquire defensive attitudes, postures and behaviors that reflect our sense of wariness, suspicion and separation.
What we inadvertantly miss is the golden opportunity to make a friendly gesture, that is both polite and genuine. Such a small investment of time and energy may well result in a positive response, leading to mutually beneficial conversation and positive interaction. Why not adopt gestures and speech to explore hidden opportunities to open a closed mind, or to deflect a defensive posture by the other person, inviting possible friendship instead.
This is part of the mission of living in Aiki, practicing off the mat, what we attempt to practice with our partners on the mat. The skills of appropriate and mutually satisfying training may easily be transferred to social situations, bringing our "partner" into line with our intentions of peace and harmonious dialogue.
A key component of the martial integrity of Aikido, is to establish and confirm as early as possible, whether a situation or an individual presents a real threat, or an opportunity for meaningful interaction.
How embarrassing and unfortunate it would be to misread the other person's true purpose of approaching you, and greet them with inappropriate aggression or mistrust. Surely there are options in both speech and body movement, that can give us enough time and space to judge more accurately.
The principles of Shisei (body and mental posture), tsuriai (balance), ma-ai (proper distancing), hanmi (preparing for irimi or retreat) mizu no kokoro (immovable spirit) are among the Aiki fundamentals we incorporate in our training on the mat. Why can't we transfer the essence of such skills and awareness off of it as well? I think we can. I think with should. I think that it is time to start now.