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Fear causes a loss of connection. Loss of connection is the root cause of conflict. Combat happens when conflict cannot be resolved by nonviolent methods. Combat restores connection, albeit in a very harsh and destructive manner.
The Aikido of Ueshiba is a martial way that mitigates the harshness and destructiveness of combat by providing me the opportunity to select the appropriate level of violence to apply in a given situation. No violence at all to absolute lethality and everything in between; as an Aikido practitioner the full spectrum is at my disposal.
How to re-establish connection, to neutralize the fear that separates me from the other, using the least amount of violence, is a core component of my Aikido training. I do this, not by rehearsing ever more varied scenarios, but by allowing my training to have its way in effecting change within me. My training strengthens my body, calms my mind, purifies my spirit and integrates all three allowing me to attain my strongest possible state of being.
Patches of red, maples, to be sure, first to go over; yellow, orange and rust begin to dot the canopy of green that has, since May, blanketed the Berkshire Hills here in western Mass. Autumn is coming and with just a hint of chill in the air my practice begins to subtly change with the season.
Back in the day seasonal changes affected barely more than my wardrobe. I existed not in tune with the seasons, more like beyond their influence altogether; summer, winter, fall, spring; other than differences in temperature and the form of precipitation I moved thru them as though within a Gardol Shield (for those of you old enough to remember the old Colgate Dental Cream commercial from 1956). As I have aged I have become more aware of the seasons; their differences and similarities have been imprinted in my body to such an extent that I have never felt more acutely alive. The quality of light as it changes throughout the day, the transmission of everyday sounds, the seasonally specific aromas of the world, the touch of a breeze… seem to permeate my being in ways that bring me to an intimate knowledge of just how real the oneness of all things really is.
Fall is the twilight season, a season of softness and blurred edges; early high color giving way to the browns and grays of winter. Fall practice for me begins to evidence itself with the emergence of techniques that emphasize soft blending movements; Ki practice, less evident in the heat of the summer months, reappears with g
As the Ruler passed into the mist that arose about his bridge the Master of Anywhere turned, and looking at the Road that lay before her with newly awakened understanding, began the long journey back to Anywhere. And so it came to pass, after many days of travel, that she decided to stop for a time in Someplaceelse, a town very much larger than Anywhere nestled in a wide valley between the Northern and Southern Ranges.
One day, while exploring the manufacturing district of Somewhereelse, she happened upon the shop of Wood Worker. Having used many implements of wood in her daily life and taken them pretty much for granted, she decided to see how it was that they came to be manufactured and learn what manner of person would devote his life to learning and mastering the craft of working with wood. Upon entering she was immediately assailed by the odor of freshly cut wood that permeated the shops interior. The smell was rich, wholesome in a way that spoke of living things, an earthy aroma. Work stations were individually lit with warm yellow glow globes rendering the larger space in varying degrees of blended light and shadow.
The Master of Anywhere stood in the doorway letting her eyes adjust to the relative dimness of the shop when Wood Worker ambled over to her, greeting her with warm words and a kind smile, "Good day Madame, how may I be of service?"
"Good day to you Wood Worker. I am the Master of Anywhere and I am trave
Once again I practice the previous exercise, two partners continuously pulling, pushing, lifting, compressing at various points on my body.
This time, however, instead of remaining in natural stance, I allow myself to move. I find that I am able to move at will in directions of my choosing, regardless of how and where I am being tested by my partners. I move slowly, deliberately opting for directions that sometimes take me directly into the path of the oncoming force; other times moving away; still others moving into stillness.
This form of the exercise really brings the manipulation of forces to life for me. My partners, looking always to help me, provide enough force to bring me right to the point of structural failure and then slightly beyond. This way I am able to slowly increase my ability to absorb and manipulate ever greater amounts of applied force.
Standing in natural stance I feel the hand begin to push on my shoulder. Lightly, at first, then with increasing pressure. As I adapt to the pressure I feel another hand begin to press into my lower back; again lightly at first, the pressure steadily increasing. For a few moments I have hands simultaneously pressing at my shoulder and lower back and then the hand at my shoulder is gone and I feel two hands begin to pull down and back on my shoulders from behind. After a short while of pressure on my shoulders and lower back the hand at my lower back is gone and moves to the side of my head and begins to push…
So it goes, push/leave, pull/leave, lift/leave, compress/leave in succession so that I experience a constantly changing variety of forces applied to various places, sometimes alone, sometimes in tandem, while I maintain natural stance. With practice I'm finding that I can bear quite a bit of pressure without moving.
This and other Ki exercises we regularly practice are designed to find and enhance what we refer to as correct feeling. Correct feeling is central to developing a strong stable center.
Once upon a time there lived an esteemed martial artist in the little town of Anywhere. She was an acknowledged Master, locally famous for her supple strength and structure. In fact, she could handle any amount of pushing or pulling on various parts of her body with amazing, uncanny even, ease. She was able to manifest her intent with the slightest of gestures, sending large strong men flying off balance at a whim. When attacked she would just seem to melt into the attacker, absorbing the energy of the attack until it dissipated or was sent back amplified by her intent, the intensity being such that the attacker was totally overwhelmed. All of this while displaying the softness of a young willow in the breeze.
In addition to being able to perform with accomplished skill, she also possessed the ability to pass her knowledge on to others and, as it turned out, she proved to be as consummate a teacher as she was a performer. Other martial artists of high repute would continually find their ways to Anywhere in order to test her skills. All who met with her and got to experience her skills first hand would come away suitably impressed; proclaiming that here indeed was one in a million, a martial artist whose internal skills were without parallel. Many requested that she take them on as students so that they too could learn to control themselves with the same degree of expertise as she did herself. Reluctantly, after much pleading
I used to think that my study of Aikido was all about seeking. I have come to understand that it isn't about that at all; my study of Aikido is all about finding. O Sensei, IMO, never intended Aikido to be a ‘one size fits all' art. Consequently, I don't want to emulate him. I can't, not being him, recreate his Aikido in myself. His Aikido was an amalgamation of his life experience; quite unique and surely far different from my own. In a sense, he didn't create Aikido, it grew out of him and all that he was and did.
What I learned from Maruyama Sensei primarily was how to learn about Aikido through discovering myself. I got from him the notion that waza is but one tool, not the finished work. Ki exercises and testing are likewise just tools of discovery. Forms, exercises, practice… my toolkit for delving into my self and my relationship to the rest of creation from which my Aikido grows and is enriched as I grow and learn.
The canvas accepts the paint
yet the paint itself leaves no mark.
are rendered and disappear
as soon as they are completed.
The painting can be finished,
leave no shadow of itself
on the canvas
which is always blank.
On the mat
like the canvas,
accepting the attack,
which leaves no memory
to note its having happened.
Mary and I are on opposite ends of the worry spectrum. She tends to smack herself around over things that happened in her past while I save most of my fretting for events that have yet come to pass. Each of us sees that the other worries needlessly. From my point of view she is unnecessarily reliving events long ago consigned to history's round file; so why bother? From her vantage point I am living events in the future that may or may not actually happen; so again, why bother? What we have in common is that each of our proclivities separates us from Now, backward for her forward for me.
Aikido training has helped me immeasureably in honing my ability to remain focused on the present, getting ever closer to experiencing Now directly. While I know that direct experience of Now is impossible since Now has no extension beyond the moment I can approach it without limit. The ability to shrink the extension of my point of reference broadens my awareness of living life in the present.