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Aikido training turns me inside out; the form of my technique is an expression of the depth to which I have plumbed in my effort to understand myself, my relationship to others and my place in the universe. If I am fortunate enough to train and teach for another 30+ years I expect many vistas as yet only imagined to be opened up to me. It's going to be one helluva fun journey.
Applied force only feels powerful when it is given somewhere to stop and rest.
I get in a right stance and have my partner stand just outside my right leg and put both his hands on my right hip. He then will begin to push directing his force towards my trailing left foot. I absorb his force into my center and let it flow thru my left leg and foot into the ground. From right stance this exercise is relatively easy and even beginners should be able to complete it successfully getting a good idea what correct feeling actually feels like.
I like to make the exercise harder by bringing my rear foot forward until I am in natural stance as my partner continues with his push. Continuing, as my partner pushes, I slide my left foot forward until I'm in a left stance. Bringing my right foot forward into natural stance and then into a right stance, I can continue moving this way all the while having pressure applied to my hip.
I have a center to which is drawn that of which I am. And still my center draws not just but gives back as well and so becomes a continuous loop of giving and receiving. Thus is my connection to the universe established and reinforced.
Having established that I am of the universe not merely in the universe, what then is the nature of my of-ness? How am I linked to the totality?
I think of myself as an energy well. Energy condenses at my center (one point) and coagulates into the matter that forms my body. As a living entity I also emit energy in the form of electromagnetism. Thus I am seen to be simultaneously an attractor and an emitter and so my connection to the universe is established. I am simply a conduit; but not so simply after all. For added to the physicality of my of-ness is another component: self-awareness. Self-awareness cannot be explained by any of the sciences; it cannot be measured or quantified. Self-awareness is a mystery. For all that we can say is that it is inexorably linked to life.
Practice of Aikido enhances my self-awareness. As I continue to train I become more acutely aware of my intimate connection to the rest of the universe. It is as though I am ‘tuning' myself as a master piano tuner tunes a Steinway. Aikido training integrates mind and body resulting in mind-body just as Relativity integrates space and time into space-time. I am a continuum; a temporary ripple of the Continuum.
Because now is all there is it takes no time to move from here to there yet I force myself to measure its passage.
Consider; the moment, discrete, standing alone, is all there is yet I perceive moments continuously giving rise to the passage of time. My body is locked into the moment; its very physicality guarantees that it can only be in the moment. My body is constrained by the laws of physics. My mind, however, is relatively boundless, constrained only by the limits of my imagination. The continuous nature of my mind creates the illusion of the "passage" of time. The dual nature of time, discrete and continuous, provides the framework upon which the dual nature of my self, body and mind, is able to exist.
Aikido training allows me to experiment with the nature of my perception of time. Using G. Spencer Brown's observation that I noted in a previous entry:
"In general, a contraction of reference accompanies an expansion of awareness, and an expansion of reference accompanies a contraction of awareness." The Laws of Form by G. Spencer Brown page 10.
I recast it as follows:
In general, a contraction of reference accompanies a slowing of time, and an expansion of reference accompanies an acceleration of time.
In theory, if I could become completely centered, achieve perfect mind/body, time should, as perceived by me, come to a standstill since one point is without dimension and my frame of reference would also be without dimension. That is to say I would
My partner attacks. I throw and keep my hands on him at all times, doesn't matter the technique, I want to keep my hands connected with him. I don't attempt to control his movement as he rises from the mat to attack, just feel his movement, blend with it and throw him again. Repeat as often as desirable. We usually practice this exercise in a circle, throwing each uke 3 or 4 times before moving on to the next attacker.
I face my partner in natural stance, knees locked. I raise my arms fully extended, elbows locked, to chest height. My partner raises her hands and places her palms on mine. While I remain stiff and resistant she begins to push. She slowly increases her pressure until I am taken off balance. She notes how much force was needed to move me.
We reassume our initial positions. This time I relax, keep one point and let my knees and elbows bend slightly. As she begins to push I make no attempt to resist the incoming force, instead I absorb it into my body and let it flow into the ground. I notice that my bent arms help to dissipate her force so that only a portion of which reaches my shoulders which, being relaxed, give it no place to rest. I find that I can stand on one foot or move into my partner with relative ease as I gain more and more experience coordinating mind and body.
Beginners can start this exercise in right or left stance, bringing the rear foot closer to the front, as they gain more experience in absorbing the force, until they are in natural stance. When working with a beginner, push with just slightly more force than it took to push her off balance in the first repitition of the exercise as she learns to relax and absorb. This will enable her to gauge her progress, learn how correct feeling manifests itself in both mind and body and provide positive feedback on her efforts.
To paraphrase what someone once posted in the forums; who in their right mind would refuse the power of Superman? Is Aikido then all about the acquisition of power? Is attaining power an end in itself? Is that why I train? And having attained power what then do I do with it? Is continued training simply an effort to constantly increase my power? What's the point?
When the acquisition of power becomes my primary objective of studying Aikido I have lost my way. The seductive nature of power is based on a false premise; the premise being that power is a measure of worth. Worth as a person, worth as an authority, worth as a provider and protector, worth as a martial artist, the worth of my training methodology; these things are not simply a matter of determining the magnitude of my power.
The length of a journey is measured more accurately by the changes undergone by the traveler than the time it takes to complete. It's not that the journey itself changes the one doing the traveling; rather the journey provides a framework upon which change may occur. Change is inevitable. It is a function of life and growth. I can view changes in myself only in historical context. Since now has no span yet is all that exists, I can note how I have changed but never be aware of change as it is occurring.
As I continue my Aikido journey up thru the years of my life I can appreciate how fortunate I am that this art provides me with a healthy structure upon which I am able to engender change in myself. Mind, body and spirit have all benefited from my pursuit. In Aikido I have been given a great gift. Via teaching and providing a place for others to explore their Aikido I hope to give something back and so complete the circle of take and give.
Uke attacks with a right handed shomen. I evade his strike and with my right hand resting lightly on his right arm, my left hand lightly on his lower back, move behind him.
We have choices. He can turn to his right and come find me; he can turn to his left and come find me; he can step straight back and come find me; he can continue forward and choose to leave me be. I can try to force him to turn to his right by pulling on his arm and shoulder as I continue to turn or I can suggest he turn to his right by making it seem the most logical and safest way for him to move. However, once he has chosen a direction I will encourage him to continue along his selected course. Once we are moving in concert the technique will happen of its own accord; will feel and look effortless.
For me Aikido isn't about controlling uke and bending him to my will. I practice to make each encounter agenda free and seek to control only myself. My relation to uke is all about suggestion and encouragement. I suggest and then encourage him to pursue whatever choice he makes regarding my suggestion.