Budo and Everyday Life
This may get wordy...
1. I came to aikido as a frustrated yogi: I really liked getting to know the rest of the universe by getting to know my body, but I didn't like the philosophy of yoga, which has a very Egyptian, fear-of-death emphasis on preserving and healing the body ad infinitum. I was getting into Zen buddhism, and thinking about how yoga's tendency to retain/preserve/protect really feeds into a very serious fear of death that I have (doesn't everyone?)...
I didn't want to feed my fear of death, and started looking past yoga, and started looking at budo instead, especially aikido.
2. I spent a year plus doing aikido with a great teacher and enjoying it a lot and reading a fair amount about the philosophy of budo and aikido, and was feeling really good about things. The philosophy of Budo seems to emphasize ephemerality, says "Yes, death happens, could happen right now" in a way that really helped me to "be present" - to engage fully with the world around me rather than withdraw from life and control it through yoga practice. I liked the idea that I was getting a little hurt every now and then in practice. I liked the fact that practice was in no way restorative. I'm not a masochist or anything, this helped me to understand that my life is an essentially ephemeral thing, and that I have a certain amount of control (good ukemi), but that eventually everything plays out, including me.
So far so good.
3. But you know, I have chronic pain for the first time in my life - my hips are tight, my knees hurt, my feet are flat again after years of yoga to create an arch! I need my body for other things, like making money. This has put me in a real aikido slump.
In all seriousness, has anyone else been trying to resolve this paradox? Does anyone else need the acceptance of destruction/ephemerality/death that budo fosters on an existential level - and yet have a hard time accepting or managing it on a physical level?
Re: Budo and Everyday Life
I can however make a few comments about 3.
Most Aikido practice does not exercise and work the body in the same way as yoga. For example relatively little time is spent stretching and contorting (making some assumptions about the yoga that you do). Did you stop the yoga exercises while you were doing Aikido? I ask this because I am not so sure that it is the Aikido causing this rather than your body withdrawing from a training regime.
Whatever the case, if you spent years doing the physical training of yoga it would be a serious loss for you to stop now. The amount of practice may be lessened - think maintenance rather than improvement. Same with Aikido, if it is taking all your time cut back a bit, find a balance. Too much Aikido too soom will put strains on your body that depending on age (I'm assuming you are not 20) can become chronic.
By the way if you use your body for work, I think it is very important to choose a leisure activity which does not add further strain to what is stressed at work.
Finally if Aikido is designed to overcome anything in the moder setting - it is fear of injury. Our practice is not so intense that death comes into it.
I think Peter may have hit the nail on the head, but I also wanted to add another thought.
I think that a lot of styles of AiKiDo stress movements which are very hard on the joints. I would include many of the more mainstream AiKiDo styles within this -- from what I've seen, ASU, AiKiKai and Yoshinkan all have this tendency. In truth, though, the elderly practitioners (the 'shihans') of these styles often revert to more natural and more comfortable movements. You wil be told that only by using exaggerated hanmi and super-powered hip action will you be able to understand how the more natural, smaller movements work. Perhaps that is true, but in the interests of your own body it may be worth exploring the possibility that easy, comfortable and natural movements may provide a framework for the same learning that the big powerful movements do.
At last, somebody started this thread.
Just for reference Fisher-san. I have a bad knee from torn ligaments thanks to my stupidity (this was way before aikido). Also, I have the flattest feet around, it's so flat not only that it's archless, it actually looks like theres a piece of skin protruding from the palm of my feet.
Actually what you are experiencing, Fisher-san, is not a paradox. It is a process. We all went through the same process. Probably not necessarily physical, could be mental or spiritual as well.
Physically is easier to deal with though. Just take it easy. You shouldn't be hurting yourself training, this is not sengoku jidai (the warring states era) anymore. We all have other jobs other than be soldiers. We have more choices to make these days.
But if we are talking Budo, it does not necessarily mean through training or cutting someone's head off everyday. The following should be payed attention to:
I know I sound like a broken record, but I know exactly what you're talking about. I was a walking wreck when I did nothing but run, stretch and do Aikido. I took a little over a year off and did nothing but work on fitness.
For endurance I used primarily interval protocols with calisthenics, running, stair climbing, etc... For strength, I worked on building basic strength and muscle mass in the big movements: pullups, pushups, rows, overhead press, dips, squats, and deadlift variants. I went back to Aikido and the stresses are all well within functioning parameters. No injuries, no problems, no limitations. I haven't been able to train as consistently as before for situational reasons, but I've done a few marathon seminars and trips that I couldn't have even dreamed about doing before, with no fallout other than a couple days of soreness.
Yoga is nice, but it's not a holistic preparation for dynamic athletic activity. From your description, it sounds like you are simply engaged in an activity that is too demanding for your state of fitness and conditioning. Take a half-year off and get in shape, then try again. Sartre and Camus are optional.
Lots of good thoughts and comments here. I thought Opher and Peter's observation was especially insightful.
The only other thing I can add is to look around. See how your classmates are handling this. See how the senior students have learned to cope with this type of training. If your body is reacting this way, you can bet that it is not the only one that is doing this.
Paradox or a pair of ducks?
Getting old really sucks, at least when that old body starts to tell you to slow down and you forget to listen to your body?
I am not sure I should get into this subject, partly because all the doctors tell me I should not be doing what I am doing in aikido, at least they have never had some one with my particular disability who has been able to.
Funny thing about getting old, you don't realize how it creeps up on you until the pain is almost unbearable, or the injurys accumulate to the point you think you ought to quit whatever is creating the injury, or stress. Yeah, it isn't any fun, but you know ... it is a lot less fun thinking you can't go to aikido, or get a practice in now and then than it is to nurse those injurys along and watch a few classes.
I wouldn't be so quick to toss practice, as modify practice so that it happens at a rate you can deal with.
Make a decision to use common sense instead of being goaded into trying to be the young unbreakable practitioner who can shake off minor injury, pains, and aches .... listen to what your body is telling you.
Ow ...Ow ...Ow ..
Me? I have cleared it with my sensei to sit aside when the room is moving while I try to stand still ... gotta get some practice in?
Interesting... first a clarification.
"Yoga is nice, but it's not a holistic preparation for dynamic athletic activity. From your description, it sounds like you are simply engaged in an activity that is too demanding for your state of fitness and conditioning."
Peter Rehese wrote:
" Did you stop the yoga exercises while you were doing Aikido? I ask this because I am not so sure that it is the Aikido causing this rather than your body withdrawing from a training regime."
To dispense with the training issues: I was doing a form of yoga called astanga that is particularly effective in terms of building strength and endurance, increased lung/cardio capacity, in addition to the contorting softness you're thinking of, Kevin. I *was* in really great shape - I think Peter's right, I think aikido/no yoga has been getting me slowly out of shape, or in a different shape. I did quit doing yoga, and yes I do think there is a simple answer in finding some balance - in doing both. I think part of my dismay is that aikido is way more fun and easier on my mind, but that my body has gotten really used to an extremely thorough exercise regimen. I have been back on daily yoga, and I feel more comfortable and stronger already, but I don't want to quit aikido any more than I want to spend 4 hours a day exercising.
Here is my larger question (and why I wanted to put this in Spritual and not Training). I am interested in the process Thalib is talking about. I find great satisfaction in connecting what I do with my mind to what I do with my body. Drawback: In my enthusiasm, I keep collecting these really intense passions for these mastery-driven, detail-oriented, time-consuming body pastimes - from astanga yoga to rock climbing to aikido. Anyone else have a hard time balancing aikido and another intense drive, like a career, or another exercise, or whatever? Anyone out there figuring out how to be okay with not being a completely devoted aikidoka? Anyone else have a strategy for doing more aikido even when they're doing less aikido (Thalib-san, that list is going right on my refrigerator, that is exactly what I am talking about.)?
As an intense, perfectionistic, driven and competitive person who needs to feel good about her practices, it is important for me to figure out this balance thing.
Thanks for the responses thus far.
Budo and Everyday Life
The origianal poster posed a very interesting question which was: How do we reconcile the two pursuits of Budo (Aikido) and yoga (physical fitness)? If you look at yoga (I presume you are referring to Hatha yoga?), we in the West place an undue emphasis on the physical aspects on this spiritual activity. I believe this is where you contracted your belief that it's a fear of death activity, whereas my understanding of Hatha yoga is that it links the physical to the spiritual, very similar to Aikido. So in this regard, there should be no distinction between the two pursuits. You also mentioned that you became interested in Zen Buddhism. The Buddha taught after practicing some very austere flesh-negating practices, that the body is in fact very important because it's the vessel in which the spirit resides. Therefore it's important to take care of it and to nurture it up to a point - that is, not to pamper it. To the extent that we are healthy and unimpaired by illness and chronic pain, we need our bodies to enable us to attain spiritual enlightenment. So, for me, there is no paradox, they are mutually supportive and our training should also be so.
Please allow me to retell a popular zen story that I think is related to your problem:
A young woman approached a great martial arts master.
"Oh most venerable sensei" she said. "I have come to study your incredible martial art. I will train very very hard. How long will it take me to become a master?"
"I think 10 years," the master said.
"That's far too long! I will quit my job, and train every day for hours. Then how long will it take?"
"Perhaps 20 years."
"What? How can this be? Fine. I will leave my family, live as a monk and think about nothing but training. When a fellow student does a technique once, I will do it 100 times. I will follow your every word and never look back. Now how long will it take?"
"At least 30 years."
I wrote a related story on another thread.
I spoke with a JuJutsu-ka last night, a friend, during another friend's birthday party. We suddenly got into talking about Budo. Now his perception of Budo is like, when somebody is taking a martial art taht is Budo. Like let's say I take Karate or I take Judo, then that means I'm taking Budo.
One can't just "take" Budo, you live it. I tried so hard expalining this to him, but we're on a different wavelength. It's not like when I am able to beat up a guy that tried to rob me or hurt me and call that Budo. It's not like I train day in and day out at the dojo and call that Budo.
Budo and Bushido is not as simplistic as that. They are very idealistic and so is Aikido. There is no "instant" in understanding this. It is a lifetime thing. I might not even get it in my lifetime, but at least I am on the sidewalk of that path anyway, lookin at people that are actually on that path, and looking at people that got lost in the way.
The more I understand about the martial way (Budo), it is more about preparing for death other than trying to survive. A soldier trains his whole life for a battle that may never come. The soldier lives with a certain code of conduct and attitude other than their training. Maybe when that battle comes in he maybe the first one to be killed.
The soldier that tries to survive using the sword defending his life caused by fear of death in battle will usually be the first one to die.
A good soldier lives by Budo, but that is too idealistic. Most just throw away parts that is a burden to them and teach the ones that are practical. Many take Budo as physical training like people take any understanding of martial arts. It's not like I'm saying they're wrong, it's a process.
Being human it is normal to train in the physical first until discovering that "wall". Only then if one decides to go beyond that "wall", one will start looking in inside of out. Budo is physical, mental, and spiritual. Training only the physical side will make one empty, training only the mental will make one theoritic, and training only the spiritual side will make one passive.
We are blessed with body, mind, and spirit. It is our responsibility to take care of them.
People find their balance in different ways. I tend towards 'balancing' by wildly oscillating between extremes. This works for me because it gives me the freedom to put the time and energy into the things I'm excited about right now, rather than feeling crushed by an over-structured life full of a variety of activities that I've committed to. I'm sure that I pay a price for this because it can sometimes turn into dabbling.
The other thing that I find really helpful (and, of course, this may not be true for anyone else) is knowing where my central commitment is. Right now, that's AiKiDo. Tai Chi, Yoga, dance, exercise are all ultimately judged (at least to some extent) by whether they 'fit' or 'complement' my AiKiDo. Ideally, when I add a new activity it should make me feel like I'm getting more out of my AiKiDo and not less.
Ideally, this is true of my career as well. And my relationship with my partner.
Ideals are great as long as you don't take them too seriously, right?
this is a great thread. i am a musician in "regular life." i have been dealing with several sprains, to different parts of my hands since i started aikido. they get in the way sometimes when i need to play.
it often occurs to me that i am screwing up my hands by engaging in such frequent practice. i have also been looking for some balance in order to keep my body strong, as opposed to keeping my body constantly on the verge of injury.
i like this idea of strengh training outside of the dojo so prepare our bodies for all this crazy stuff we put it thru in the dojo. i might just need to hook that up.
yeah i tend to collect hobbies too.
rockclimbing, mountain bike riding, just about to start scuba diving and would love to get back into some more team sports not to mention doing some qi gong and yoga and many many other things like mountaineering, hang gliding..... the list goes on. at the same time trying to deal with university assignments and exams.
fortunately i dont work (well not regularly anyways) and dont intend to start soon. work just gets in the way of my life hahaha.
but aikido comes first and foremost. i feel i have to choose one of them because if you keep changing from thing to thing you will get nowhere. it is only by dedicated and regular practice can you achieve anything. besides all my other hobbies were only ever made possible by the loss of fear and the desire to embrace life to the fullest that aikido has instilled in me.
Good to hear from you again, and with quite the questions. So I'm not just blowing wind, let's see: I've had one of the classical 'traumatic' childhoods, have lost many loved ones to various forms of demise and have wrestled with/examined life & death issues from many angles for decades now. This is in response to your first question. Budo training is a part of who I am because it speaks to me of these issues of how we perceive life and death, that the intensity of each is no different in the moment. On the mat I am constantly faced with life and death in many forms because I'm there 100% (might not always appear that way after a tough day at work :D ). Any energy shift is about life and death; the mind blows open or the ego slams you shut; you realize you escaped blowing out your knee by a fraction of a movement, or were that close to getting your neck twisted. Personal encounters are constantly expanding and contracting, which they do in daily life, but the physicality of the training--for me--makes it all more real somehow. If this is what you meant, then yes, I understand how this training speaks to you.
~~About the other part of your question: I'm 46 and have learned I can have nothing without honesty (with where my body/mind is at any given time), balance and prioritizing. I work a 40 hr week, keep a household, train (up to 6 times a week), am a floundering novelist and am thinking of taking up drumming. I also practice yoga 3 times a week, but do it to stay limber for Aikido. Also light weight training twice a week for bone density. This whole schedule flexes and flows, naturally, as Life dictates at times. In my 2nd year of Aikido I passed through were (it seems) you are now(?). I think overall just prioritizing and organizing, with that onging dash of honesty, helped beyond messure. I don't know if your dojo offers different sorts of classes but one thing that helps me is mixing up the training i.e., beginner's class, advanced class, weapons, ukemi, centering...all a different flavor and different body work/intensity. Also--and this was a BIG lesson for me!--admitting when I'm not up to steam or am nursing a tweek and it's okay (even with myself now) to train low intensity. I find this a wonderful time to work directly on the subtle principles and movements. I came to Aikido from a similar MA but the ukemi was different enough that I had about 3 years of body adjustment but now actually see my body improving through training instead of just being beaten down. It does happen if you allow the time.
~~Hope some of this helps, Deb, take care. Perhaps someday we'll meet on the mat :D
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