View Full Version : B: Blending, Balance, and Bull

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10-19-2011, 09:37 AM
Breathe in, blend
Breathe out, balance


When I first learned Aikido, I learned that the two very important processes to stay mindful of were blending and taking balance. Everything else is Bull****. This still seems true today.

I would have to say that everything in life starts with breath. We can go without food and water for days, but we cannot long without oxygen, without breath. The most valuable and vital activity, which should be extremely natural is taken for granted and neglected or totally uncultivated. I was surprised that there was book after book on how to breathe. Breathing, okay, in and out, right? Wrong. There is a lot more to breathing than we think. Perhaps we have been so socialized that our normal breathing is no longer natural. This is true especially if we want to integrate and invigorate our movement and our lives on off the mat, inside or outside the dojo.

During the warm-up exercises before Aikido class, we often had to do breathing exercises. I seldom received an exact sequence, explanation, or the rationale for doing them. It was another opportunity to "steal" the techniques because no one was going to give it to me. Over time, I did figure out that we were to breathe in and out to relax the body, center the mind, and cultivate energy (Ki). Energy is connected to life and life is connected to breathing. The more forceful the breathing, the more forceful the living. The calmer our breathing, the calmer the living. No breathing, no life. This concept is repeated and reinforced in many disciplines and arts. It seems breathing exercises are a study in and of themselves. To just sit and breathe naturally is a simple technique often used in initial meditation training and is a lot harder than it sounds.

I also learned in Aikido that the biggest category of throws were classified and called, Kokyu-nage: breath throws. I originally thought that unless otherwise specified, it was a Kokyu-nage. I later discovered that all throws were Kokyu-nages: breath throws. While I must admit, there probably were times that my breath could knock someone over, I do not really know that I have or could or will ever throw someone with it. Someone later finally told me that Kokyu-nages were also considered timing throws. I was to learn to time my breathing with the execution of the movement. I was to breathe in when I entered and blended and breathe out when I threw them.

At stressful times in my life I have often had a simple internal mantra: "shut your mouth and breathe". I think most people can immediately see the wisdom in these words (especially if you know me).

blend: (1) to combine or associate so that the separate constituents or the line of demarcation cannot be distinguished, (2) thoroughly intermingled, (3) to combine or mix together, (4) to merge with (5) to produce a harmonious effect

Most of us are so concerned about the "I" that we totally forget about the "we". This simple pronoun is what most marriage and family therapists listen for. Many times the biggest problem in relationship is that there is no "we". When we do not come together in a relationship, it becomes a competitive adversarial scoreboard. In this game, there are no winners, only losers. We all win together or we all lose together,

Blending means to make a direct connection to another human being. It means no longer being distant and no longer being alone. So much of today's suffering comes from the ignorant attachment to a singular sense of sense. When we listen to the internal dialogue of people going through depression and anxiety, we only hear the "I" as they are in this all alone. This existential angst fosters and facilitates helplessness and hopelessness. Yet, it is a fantasy and a myth. We construct the learned ego identity in our minds (with the help of family and social imitating and modeling). When "I" dissolves, "we' begin. Overcoming this dichotomy is the basis of psychological, social, and spiritual development and growth.

balance: (1) a center with two equal weighted ends, (2) a means of judging and deciding, (3) stability produced by an even distribution, (4) an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements, (5) physical equilibrium, (6) a cancelation of equally opposing forces, (7) a stable calm state

In Aikido, I remind people that their job is to keep their own balance while taking the balance of the other person. Done properly, the blending itself will take balance. Sometimes it is useful to connect and be a temporary support to your training partner. They will rely on your posture and position to hold them up. Then a rather slight movement will eliminate that support and create a hole for them to safely fall into. So say that we do not actually throw people, but create the situation and let them fall. There are many things that we try to "make" happen, which usually implies the use of force. There are other things in life that we have to "let" happen. Aikido gives us the opportunity and experience to maintain physical and mental balance in the midst of chaos, confusion, and conflict.

In couples counseling I remind people that their job is to maintain their own balance while being a support to the other person so they do not lose their balance either. In fact, if two people are both off balance, they can temporarily lean on each other. The healthiest relationships have a mutual reciprocal process in which partners take turns helping the other partner keep their balance. We also tend to pick people who balance (not complete us). If we are emotional, we tend to choose cognitive people. If we are a spender, we tend to choose people who are savers. If we are spontaneous, we tend to choose people who are planners. Of course as soon as we find someone who balances us we tend to ask them to be more like us, thus destroying the balance. This same dynamics works well in business partnerships. Perhaps we can learn to accept and appreciate (even nurture) this balance in all we do.

bull: (1) an large animal you don't want in a china shop, (2) a stubborn tenacious state of mind that doesn't listen, change, and is unwilling to yield -- bull headed (3) a vulgar lie meant to deceive and manipulate -- bullsh*t, (4) to domineer or force into compliance --bully and bulldoze

When we focus on force, we focus all of our intent and intensity on forcing something or someone to be the way we want them to be. Force is about control. Control is about fear. We can have fear or we can have love, but we cannot have both. Perhaps we need to see through the illusions of force and gain a perspective of collective (not personal) power that focuses our intent and intensity in loved based decisions, directions, and daily discipline.

In relationships, we only force (or manipulate) other people if we truly believe they would not be with us of their own free will. If they knew who we really were, they would leave (at a fast run). Force is also a statement of our own unworthiness. Many people live with the internal judgment of not being good enough or worthy of love and abundance. Behind the bullying and bulldozing of others is the bullsh*t we mentally feed ourselves. This mental bullsh*t creates, facilitates, and perpetuates our feelings on an emotional level. These emotions motivate and dictate our behaviors in self-fulfilling (and often self-destructive) ways.

We can easily see that most martial arts, by definition, fit this bashing type of model. While there are many animal forms, perhaps most model off the bull in the china shop scenario. Their goal, while preaching protection and peace, is to bring destruction.

Perhaps someday we will practice and appreciate the need for blending with each other in life, helping each other maintain balance, and that all the rest of it is bull.

Breathe in, blend with empathy and compassion

Breathe out, maintain balance gently

No Bull

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

Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds 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), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.

10-19-2011, 12:17 PM
Good stuff, Lynn! Always helps to move back into fundamentals. Simple works best for me...

Thanks for sharing!

10-19-2011, 05:04 PM
Always helps to move back into fundamentals. Simple works best for me...
Do you mean to tell me that there is anything more than fundamentals or simplicity?

No one tells me anything anymore. (Not that I really listen. ;-)

Thanks for responding.

10-19-2011, 09:00 PM
Do you mean to tell me that there is anything more than fundamentals or simplicity?Yep. There is complicated and confusing. For me, this is a large and formidable area, and one that I try to avoid, even though I seem to be surrounded by it... ;)

10-19-2011, 09:58 PM
Seiser Sensei,

You have the unique talent, among others, of making the complex appear simple.

Thank you for the enlightening details into important concepts we use every day.

Looking forward to "C" what appears next month!

in oneness,

10-20-2011, 01:08 PM
Looking forward to "C" what appears next month!
Can't get anything by you, can I?

graham christian
10-20-2011, 02:00 PM
Nicely put once again Lynne. Keep making the complex simple, it's good.


10-20-2011, 05:06 PM
Keep making the complex simple, it's good.
Thanks for the encouragement.

My colleagues often ask if I really am such a simpleton.

I smile and say, yea pretty much.

Peter Goldsbury
10-21-2011, 06:23 AM
Hello Lynn,

Clark appears to have given you a couple of hints about C (next month?), but I assume you have 23 more columns after that. Right?

Best wishes,


10-21-2011, 06:50 AM
Clark appears to have given you a couple of hints about C (next month?)
Wish I could take credit for that bit of foresight, but I'm more pathetic than prophetic... :o Looks like Francis saw it coming, though...

10-21-2011, 01:04 PM
Clark appears to have given you a couple of hints about C (next month?), but I assume you have 23 more columns after that. Right?
Yes agreed, we may just "C" some confusion and complications in future columns.

Sometimes you just have to find a writing device to stimulate ideas.

10-21-2011, 01:06 PM
Wish I could take credit for that bit of foresight, but I'm more pathetic than prophetic... :o Looks like Francis saw it coming, though...
Perhaps I'll ponder that for possibilities next December.