Is aikido a fitness regimen?
Obviously, for most of us, it is much more than a simple set of calisthenics. While a good practice will promote many health benefits, aikido study goes far beyond cardiovascular health, muscle tone, proprioception, and coordination. So we might be tempted to say that aikido, at best contains a component of fitness, but is a much wider endeavor.
As long as we're limiting our interpretation to physical fitness, then this makes sense. Yet it risks overlooking an essential understanding, namely that "aiki" is itself an expression of "fitness" in the broadest sense, inasmuch as it means "to fit together."
Fitness, then, can be seen as the fundamental quality of "aiki." Among many other valid interpretations, it can be useful to think of aikido as the way of fitness.
In addition to physical fitness, we also have to consider mental and emotional fitness. Once these qualities are developed to a sufficient degree, it becomes necessary to move beyond the individual to the societal and the environmental. We must learn social fitness, economic fitness, and ecological fitness.
We learn aikido from the standpoint of tactical self defense. In so doing, we learn increasingly appropriate and efficient methods for dealing with stress, managing conflict, and restoring or perpetuating balance. We foster vitality.
When we ask if someone is fit, the question is usually about their level of health or their rightness for a task or relationship. In aikido, we understand this is not a yes/no proposition, but a matter of becoming. We seek to become increasingly fit it all arenas where we should fit.
Are there situations where we should not fit? Of course. We are human beings with human limitations, and despite the wise advice of sages, we cannot truly "be like water" and fit the shape of every container.
Knowing (which is to say, becoming increasingly aware) where we can fit and how we should fit in is crucial. Understanding situations where we do not, can not, should not fit, is also essential to fitness.
Humans are resourceful and adaptable. We've found ways, albeit limited ones, that allow us to fit ourselves underwater, on the highest mountain tops, flying through the air, and on the moon.
The downside to this is that we can also learn to tolerate torture, injustice, and gross inequality. We become tolerant of things that should remain intolerable. Such adaptations, when practiced and habituated, do not promote fitness and cannot be considered aiki. They are, in fact, maladaptive.
Aikido must be practiced with increasingly holistic methods. In the long run t is not enough to gain advantage over our enemies if it perpetuates hostility. We cannot enrich ourselves if it impoverishes others. We cannot nourish ourselves if it depletes the very resources that sustain us.
Fitness is what allows us to perpetuate ourselves, whether in the individual or in the Darwinian sense. As living, sentient beings, this is our birthright. We do right when we seek health and prosperity and longevity.
True fitness allows us to see that these things are best achieved in a world that loves and sustains us, that cares about our own well-being. Where such a world does not exist, we have to grow one.
Part of fitness is learning to see the world as it truly is, and fitting ourselves to that. However, if we make progress in this way alone, the world does not progress.
The other part of fitness is in understanding the world deeply enough that the endless room for improvement becomes apparent, and the way forward opens.
Utopian visions are only misguided when they are -- well, misguided. If you can think of one way in which society can be improved, made more perfect, then that is a utopian vision. If you act on that impulse, and align it with the consent of everyone affected, then you are behaving as a true Utopian should.
Whether or not there ever was a Garden of Eden is irrelevant. If there was, we weren't fit for it. Much more probable, in my view, is that it wasn't fit for us. We need a better Garden. We need a world, we need worlds, where we fit in. We need an environment that is not only not hostile, but actively promotes all aspects of our wellness.
In short, we need to recreate the world and keep recreating it until it fits us. Currently, we ourselves are not fit for the task, and therefore must find ways of improving our own fitness.
This is the inevitable aim of aikido, and the right goal of any human endeavor. The alternatives are our own extinction, or a retrograde slide into primitivism, or a tenuous steady-state struggle where everything keeps getting worse as everything keeps getting better.
Where do you fit in? As individuals and as a species, we have the choice to decline, to stay the same, or to evolve. Each action by each individual aggregates to have an affect which increases the probability of one of these scenarios over the others.
What you do matters. What you do or fail to do affects the lives of thousands of people, whether you like it or not. Your own life, which too easily is dismissed as trivial and insignificant, will have an impact that lasts thousands of years.
What are you up to today? What are you doing right now? If you're not too busy, why not get involved in the evolution of our collective future? Can you think of a better hobby?
Let's go to the gym together. Let's go to the dojo. Let's move toward a future of our own choosing.
Let's get fit.
Still Point Aikido Systems
Austin TX, USA
I often ask about the missing referential index: fit for what.
Fitness is activity specific.
What is the internalizes model we are trying to make our lives fit?
The closer the fit is, the less conflict.
That applies to both the negative and positive qualities of the fit.
Nice article. Compliments and appreciation.
This is an interesting read both for the play on the word "fit" and the connotation of "fit" within a progressive ideology of forcing change. Thanks for the post.
For me, my aikido starts with me. If I have my stuff together, then I can express aiki within myself. If I can express aiki within myself, then when someone connects to me, I can express aiki through that connection. My aiki goes south as soon as I try to affect someone.
For me, fitness is a quantification of my ability to adapt to the environment in which I find myself. When I was focused on externalizing change, I found it difficult to affect my partner, especially in a discrepancy of skill. Now, I focus on internalizing change. This is producing a different and real affect on my partner. As the current thread about uke have indicated, aikido is going throw this change directed less at nage "affecting" uke and more at create parallel roles for uke and nage. This is a real problem for me as I realize that aiki is really about me, not my partner. The concept of "affecting" my partner is false and the harder I try to affect my partner, the more difficult it is to do so.
As for Eden, I once heard a sermon summarize Eden as a place that we would only enjoy until we decided there was some place better, whether that place existed or not. Ignorance was the reason Adam and Eve stayed and once they ate from the tree of knowledge...
If I remember the story correctly, the tree with the apple and talking snakes was referred to (as you sadi) the tree of knowledge (of good and evil). When we starting judging, we lost paradise.
Ignorance leads to suffering, not bliss.
How's that fit? LOL
In the sermon, the connotation was that man (and wo-man) was content in the garden under the trust that God would provide for their needs. A state of "blissful ignorance", insulated from the world, so-to speak. It was the serpent who, under the guise of knowledge, tricked Eve into taking the fruit. In this sense, gaining knowledge was what expelled Adam and Eve from Eden and lost [them] childhood ignorance.
"Ignorance" as the pejorative we use was a product of early industrial period progressivism. The term came to use to describe that which you should be aware of, but were not, thus implying a deficiency of competency. The famous reference to "Ignorance and Want" from Charles Dickens', A Christmas Carol, is an illustration of "ignorance" as an undesirable trait, specifically the undesirable trait of being ignorant of the plight of fellow man. The Latin, ignorare, was a reference to ignore, or not pay attention to. The common usage would have been applied to a topic about which an individual would have no need to be knowledgeable. A farmer may be ignorant of court custom, a banker may be ignorant of fabric dying, etc. Many biblical references, especially KJV and older, apply ignorance in this sense. Some New Testament references clarify ignorance with "willful" to apply the perjorative deriliction of responsibility. Any newer books than KJV and this all goes out the window, of course.
Ultimately, judging is a by-product of knowledge and something against we must be vigilant. So in that sense, Adam and Eve compared Eden to a utopian imagery crafted by the snake and were fooled in to judging Eden to be insufficient. It follows that one of the first things Adam and Eve realize is their nakedness in the wildreness, their inability to protect even their bodies from the world. Ouch.
Edit: "Each action by each individual aggregates to have an affect which increases the probability of one of these scenarios over the others."
"Affect" should be replaced with "effect." I know the difference, but this got by on proofreading. Apologies.
If we are made in the Image of the Creator, then we cannot be fully realized until we become Creators. A paradise not of our own making leaves no room for our own creation. It's necessary that we become dissatisfied, to a degree, so we can see how we might do it differently -- even assuming the hubris that we can do it better. This requires knowledge of good and evil. As with aikido, we continually awaken to things that can harm us and all that we love, and so we recreate ourselves and the world to engender more good, less evil.
Disclaimer: I'm not a theologian, nor even a believer, but I do find the language and the stories useful for exploring certain truths.
As for affecting the self or the other, I find that in moments of oneness, it becomes possible for me to operate in a way that allows the unified system of self and other to become more self-directed, more self-correcting. In this case, "self" means "system self" rather than (just) "me self."
The more I think about controlling my partner the more often I lose it; the more I think about only controlling myself, I also lose it. Only by joining self and other do I regain my self control.
Saw a business the other day after reading this column called "Git Fit" had to laugh thinking of you. To me I leave the theological arguments to those that like to argue about such. In this regard reflect in the Yin/Yang, the ceaseless interplay and ceaseless interdependence of all of nature. To me this is what you describe here so wonderfully as always.. I always say to my students as people as human beings and different cultures that we need to look for the commonalities and contrasts. We have to look for the beauty in each others cultures, the food , the art, the dance, the physical arts, the interesting differences in colors in clothing and realize that as people we have far more in common, than we do apart. Great column as always Sensei. The human race to survive must learn to live together, this reflects on our environment and our sustainability
Git Fit? Is that a fitness club for gits?
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