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We had a visitor to class. An older gentleman who'd studied Judo for 20 years. He came in shortly after warm-up wearing a black belt and a swagger as he checked out the class that rented the training hall after his. He slouched and stumbled to his feet with every technique when he wasn't laying with legs splayed towards the front. He talked much of differences and unrealities of aikido habits as he trained with our highest sensei for the whole night, who in turn engaged politely, and then he left just before end of class.
I'd sat in the corner that night and watched. I saw it all.
We had a visitor to class. An older gentleman who'd studied Judo for 20 years. His understanding had been growing about the complementary nature of different styles over the course of his training and his thirst to learn had drawn him to our class even though traffic had kept him late. He was conservative yet outgoing, smiling warmly as he was spoken to, yet claimed a corner of the room to be out of the way. His previous Judo training was a blessing and a curse that night, making aikido unbelievably different and difficult to grasp yet similar enough to stretch understanding by through exploration. He shared his delight and frustration with our most senior sensei, an older man of an open nature who put him at ease with welcome, relatability. He had to leave early, however, and bowed his way off the mat before slipping away.
I'd sat in the corner that night and watched. I then saw it all.
For this post I am grossly underqualified and comicly overpaid as it is. Warning! However, impudent brat that I am, I'm still going to dip my toes into writing on the topic that has completely grabbed me at the moment; the nature and implication of space. In aikido, of course, but perhaps in ways that aikido can also shadow.
Kudos to whover inspired this; I read a blog or something recently that really struck a chord. But for the life of me I can't remember who or where! Much love to you, mysterious stranger.
[Edit: It was from the blog post in White Belt Musings, a really great read. Solid blog, excellent post.]
It talked of thinking about the play of space in both the physical and inner sense. Balancing the empty and the occupied, with each movement, each moment changing the balance. The illustration used was a sumi-e painting where the essence of character is captured by as few ink brushstrokes as possible. An example. So it's the interplay between absence and presence that invokes meaning. Possibility and finality. Motion and stillness.
Some people talk louder than others. You hear some people talk and you think that just because the voice is dominant it's true. Or universal. Or inevitable. And when you think so, that's when everything changes. Because you have, just by believing it.
Someone told me once that there are no depths to thought. Someone else told me that everything should be doubted, that personal experience is a subjective beast. Meh, let them think so, I've already wrestled with these thoughts, so, whatever. The one that I'd been believing, though, is that the learning process travels in plateaus; along for a while, jumping up with a realisation and along again for awhile. And when I realised that I'd taken it on (well, maybe without internalising it, but certainly without questioning it), it pissed me off!!! Because if I accept that this is true, I become passive in the learning process. I become blind. My gauge for progress becomes duller because I'm waiting for 'the next big wave', when the heightened power of tidal rips actually happen under the surface. ...More
A friend was telling me about the characters of motivation she's come across in her work. To motivate a horse to react or move, she says, you have to harness its fear. Nothing else is so strong or true, she says, so immediate. I think she must be right.
But otherwise? The self as its source?
One could have a dog's motivation, the willingness to confront the new or unexpected head-on and so protect the space left behind. A self-appointed martre and leader combined.
One could have a hawk's motivation; the coolness of character to act only when necessary, decisive when it is time and yet aloof in instincts to sit back and judge the situation.
One could be motivated to act like the spider is; to build and rebuild the situation regardless of the cost or how the wind blows. Constancy here can be powerful, the silent and methodological plugging away like a trickle against stone.
One could be motivated to act like a fly is; everpresent, pervasive, there for its own purpose at all costs.
Okaaaay kiddies, thanks GC for this post; it's had me spinning for quite a few days.
I talk more about the intellectual and emotional dilemmas of learning/practicing aikido than anything else because it seems the greatest (in more than one sense of the word) characteristic of this discipline is that it offers choice. Choice to maime or not, choice to run or not, choice to impose the self on an outcome or to allow the self to be imposed upon. The choice to choose.
If you are only aware of one way to respond then there can be no decision. Or shame in the decision itself further on down the track (though remorse, for example, can be attached to other parts of the experience). What I am talking about, though, is the inevitable complexity of this response when a choice is possible. And further, the intellectual and emotional situation that may introspectively tangle us long after the physical has occured.
[A few side arguments. If one has choice but lacks introspection, has the significance or maturity of the choice been made negligible? If this is negligible, is there still a choice being made? Can we draw a parallel between the journey of learning aikido and learning about onesself, and does the second emerge to supercede the first over time?]
It would seem superficially that we seek justification for the undesirable choices we make. Further, to who? A simple answer would be that we either seek to please our society, our family, our God, etc. and either justify the lack of positive influence we would like to be known for or appease the expectations of others/ourselves. This is the simple answer. Reputation (either with self or others) seems the most typical motivator for those living in an egalitarian-style setting.
A more complex answer can be likewise simple, but requires a modicum of thought. ...More
In an earlier post I talked briefly about the conflict of desire and virtue. Or, more plainly, the influence and importance that our choices have once we become aware of them. Read it, the post titled 'Needs and Wants', and then read on.
This is an issue very deep in my heart, something I think about almost continuously. The justification for defence, but under what circumstances?
I'm sitting here at the kitchen table working on a project that'll take me far into the morning. It'll be a long night, but it's been a long day too. Mind wanders.
I was at the fire station today assisting with a course. As I was guiding our newest member on how to provide a safety line, a protective hose for others testing extinguishers on the outside firepit , we saw a tiny something darting back into the burning brush. Long moments passed. I won't go into the details; safe to say, by the time we could act it was too late. And I couldn't then act, despite knowing that what I needed to do was the right thing. Another did, at last, and we moved on to the next part of the course.
In aikido we have such power. In an Irimi Nage we act with such intimate ownership. Can I claim this right over this person just because they attack me, and could they do anything but attack me in the first place? How could I know?
So apparenty there was this girl who trained at our dojo before, and left briefly before I started, leaving a gap of women among all the lovely boys there to play. And it's funny in a way, she's gone but left such an impact. A tangible contribution. Like walking through a room and leaving just a trail of perfume?
The stories left of her courage and her heart are more than enough for me. But for the others... Shortly after I started, several others did too. Younger girls. Often I feel that there is a secret expectation that I'll be there for them and guide them because we share a gender and so maybe see with similar glasses. Even though technically, we're not that different. Just in age. For them, though, are the stories enough? Can they last and follow a trace of perfume in the air? Will others?
If I leave and this is true, what else will keep them? Who can speak into their world as moments of interaction at aikido class start sucking in every other part of their lives? Can they be strong, and alone? Or can't I leave?
I need to go though. Soon, perhaps in a year. There's not much I can do apart from place another in their world to offer guidance. But will she stay, and will she last? And can I still leave knowing that I'll leave all this?