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Interesting sentence. In and of itself it says nothing since it can be read and interpreted in two completely different ways. First: "You're not doing my Aikido."; meaning the Aikido you are doing isn't the Aikido I'm doing and since I'm the big hoo-ha the Aikido you're doing is wrong and therefore is not Aikido. Second: "You're not doing my Aikido."; meaning you should not be attempting to just copy me and do my Aikido. Find Aikido within yourself and do your own Aikido.
Same sentence two very different implications. The point is without the surrounding support structure of the total situation within which the statement occurred; we have no way of knowing what the speaker actually meant. In addition, even if present at the time of its utterance, there's no guarantee that you or I would hear it the same way.
But why even worry about it? Easier to just show up and train; more fun too.
If I am in tune with my surroundings resistance disappears and my sense of "otherness" is replaced by feelings of inclusion. When I am centered, Ki unblocked and flowing, things seem to "go my way"; life is good and I feel light and flexible. Those times when I am out of sync and my Ki stagnates are punctuated with seemingly insurmountable difficulties that plague everything I am trying to do, life seems not so good and I feel heavy and stiff. Maruyama Sensei would often show two ways of doing something and then ask suggest "you decide which is better." How I face all situations in life is my choice. I can choose the path of light and wisdom or the path of darkness and ignorance.
Aikido is my way of training myself to be in harmony with my environment no matter what the circumstances may be at any given moment. This is a more important goal for me than the ability to overcome an opponent or the acquisition of power.
At first I saw Ki tests as merely measures of my progress in mind/body coordination. Later I began to realize that continued practice of Ki tests fostered a strengthening of my center as well. It's like weightlifting, various exercises using progressively heavier weights builds strength as muscle fibers are first ground down and then rebuilt in greater density. Ki exercises using progressively stronger testing force builds mind/body coordination via a similar tear down/rebuild process. In the case of Ki however, it isn't muscle fiber being torn down and rebuilt, it's my ego.
Katate ryote tori, an uke on each arm. They grab hard, no pulling or pushing, just remaining immobile. My objective is to extricate myself from their grasps; while moving as slowly as possible. Technique is optional. Breaking the grip is enough.
This exercise is a really good focusing tool. I have to focus on my center and focus my intent in order to find the paths of least resistance down which I may move.
I wait. While just standing there feeling the energy being expended by my partners I can gather it into my center, let it build, adding to my own power. Power can be released explosively, but this exercise calls for a deliberate slow release of the stored up energy. Watching it happen from the outside is kind of like watching paint dry, but feeling the collapse of first one partner's structure followed by the others is quite extraordinary.
"The Art of Peace is not easy. It is a fight to the finish, the slaying of evil desires and all falsehood within". - Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace, Translated by John Stevens.
The practice of Aikido isn't always comfortable for me. Introspection is a large part of what Aikido practice forces me to do and I've had to learn to overcome my natural reticence to delve too deeply into my own innards, so to speak. Training strips away layers of falsehood that have been built up as a child and continue to be added as life progresses. So it isn't about "getting there" in any formal sense, it's more a process that continues as long as I live.
Part of what Mary and I do in classes we teach is find ways to make students confront their inner selves in ways that make everyone, us included, uncomfortable. Once at a seminar we were teaching Mary had everyone pair up and take turns whining at each other. The result was quite illuminating. The majority of the students there jumped into the exercise with gusto and while no one was comfortable with it everyone later agreed that they learned something about themselves for having done it. Two folks were so put off by the exercise that they left the mat until it was completed. Hearing them whine at each other as they walked off struck me as somewhat ironic since that was the object of the exercise in the first place. The point of the exercise was for students to excise a natural reaction (whining about an adverse situation), bring it ou
Push or extend, resist or absorb. Which is better? What works for me? I push uke and he pushes back, I extend thru uke and he falls. I resist uke and he exerts more force, I absorb his force, redirect it and he falls.
Many years ago one of my buddies, a wrestler of high repute on our high school team decided it would be cool to attack me from behind and bring me to the ground. There was no intent to harm on his part, just the normal horsing around engaged in by sixteen year olds in those days. Outweighed by an easy thirty pounds I had no chance of powering my way out of the situation so I just accepted his force, bent from the waist, let him pass over my back and led him to the pavement. I supported his head as he landed, no harm done. Onlookers suitably impressed, I tried to look nonplussed as though what I had just done was the most natural thing in the world. Truth be told, I was just as surprised as my friend laying there on the ground. The whole thing happened without any thought on my part. This incident came to mind not long ago when I felt myself being challenged by one of my students during practice. I look upon those tests as a chance to relax more and exercise my ability to absorb the force being applied, or extend thru it.
Push or extend, resist or absorb. It's always a choice. Training is a way to strip away my ego and make my choices based on the needs of the moment.
The following story is true. It happened when I was eight or nine years old, can't remember exactly. Bobby and I (seems like in those days almost every first name ended in a "y" or "ie") were walking thru the woods, where the high school we graduated from years later now stands, when we came upon a man who promptly performed an act upon himself that doesn't require further elaboration here. We weren't so much scared as taken aback by the suddenness of the encounter. What scared us silly was the Bowie knife that appeared in his hand when he finished and him saying something to the effect "Ok, now it's your turn".
Bobby and I looked at each other and something extraordinary happened. I could hear him counting in my head and was sure that he could hear me too. I knew at the count of three we were gone and sure enough when I hit three in my head we both took off down the trail. I don't know if the man attempted to follow us or not, I never looked back because I wasn't just me anymore. The connection Bobby and I shared in those moments was so complete that we each seemed to be running on four legs. Needless to say we didn't stop until we were safely back on the streets of our neighborhood. When things returned to normal, we sort of just went back to being kids again and we never talked about the incident. Bobby died of an OD a year after graduating high school so I'll never know if he actually shared the same connection I felt with him on that day.
I trod my path and the journey is long, no end in sight. Not that it matters for the journey is, and not the end which brings to a close that which is worth traveling. And enjoying it so much why would I want to hurry it along? Is it the promise of attainment; the acquisition of mastery? Or perhaps power only just dreamed of, quickly gained at the expense of… what, if anything? If I could cut it short, gain in a year what otherwise would take most of a lifetime, would I want to; would I be crazy not to? What of my students? Do I short change them because I realize the value of the road long traveled?
I think not. My students are free to seek their ends wherever they desire. They aren't bound to me or forced to stay with me on my road. There are alternatives available to them. Many of them, over the years, have availed themselves of those alternatives. Some have returned, some not. It's the way of the world.
Besides, I see myself more storyteller than teacher. My Aikido is my story, my practice the telling. I'm continually amazed when I see people still interested in the tale, still showing up after 10, 15, 20 years and more. I realize that the story is no longer my own, but ours. Together we weave a tapestry that contains a part of all our lives. And of what importance is mere power in light of such shared experience?
"The techniques of the Way of Peace change constantly;…The Art of Peace has no form - it is the study of the spirit." - Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace, Translated by John Stevens.
Regarding techniques; I learn them, I practice them, I perfect them. I use them to condition my body, to train my mind, to purify my spirit. Technique forms the core of my practice, yet my ultimate aim is to free myself from the constraints imposed by the very technique I practice day in and day out. My personal challenge is to transcend technique, to break through into a realm where responses to situations arise from the situations themselves and are not imposed by me or my partner.
When I paint I start with a blank canvas, usually white, sometimes black or gray. Using a variety of brushes and techniques I apply color to the canvas and as I progress a scene gradually appears. The clarity of the scene is dependent upon the distance from which the painting is viewed. The optimum distance for viewing a painting will vary with each observer; but generally, too far away and the scene will fade to obscurity, while if too close the scene becomes just a collection of blobs and streaks of colors.
Uke and I are a blank canvas upon which we will render our Aikido. Practicing randori we employ a variety of attacks and defensive techniques, and as we progress the breadth of our Aikido gradually appears. Viewing Aikido being performed is akin to viewing a painting. An observer too far away sees an obscure blur of motion, too close and the synergy of uke and nage is lost as the frame of reference of the observer becomes too narrow.