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Old 04-18-2005, 04:03 PM   #81
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Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,471
Re: causing no (serious) harm

Hi Rob,

First -- great post. Thanks for the reply. I also want to say that I do not mean to be critical -- and I am certainly not trying to criticize just for the sake of criticizing. In truth, I am very interested in your process. As one can tell from our own web site, we too are trying to tackle this issue. That is why, as you said earlier, we often tend to agree and/or overlap in our ideas. I think there are some parts where we diverge, and it's those parts where I am most interested in learning "how" or "why" you are doing what you are doing -- to help me reflect deeper on what it is we are doing (our own how and why). So I am very appreciative of this conversation.

You wrote:

"To constantly practice "do minimal damage" under increasingly difficult situations in an increasingly effective and minimized way forces me to constantly practice reconciling self and other in a physical way -- as I started describing in my last post. I think that if I constantly practice reconciling self and other in a physical way, it will slowly have a strong impact on my psychology which in turn will be invaluable in my pursuit of purifying my will to violence."

I do agree that we can "bridge" between the mind and the body and/or between the body and the mind. Sometimes, we may travel from one thing to the other, or vice versa, but either way, this is possible -- in large part because ultimately the distinction between the body and the mind is a false one (as you well know). Here there is much overlap between our two ways of addressing this issue. I also agree with your take on ukemi -- or your understanding of how ukemi fits into this whole process.

However, I am still very curious about what "increasingly difficult situations" might actually mean in one's Aikido training -- because this is central to our own position at our own dojo. Sticking with ukemi, for example, we often progress from being allowed to lower ourselves into a fall, to being thrown into a roll, to being thrown into a breakfall, etc. When most of us use the expression of "increasingly difficult situations" in reference to ukemi, we generally mean this type of progression. If our training is somewhat intense, we often also come to mean being thrown hard, or dangerously hard, and/or being thrown "unexpectedly," etc. Yet, when I look at most ukemi -- even or especially in my own personal history -- ukemi never really moves beyond that first step of being allowed to lower ourselves.

Let me explain: To be sure, things are at various points in our training just as you described them. There are times in our ukemi when for example our attachment to Self simply lends itself to poor ukemi. So at some level it would make sense that we should seek a type of reconciliation of Self or self-attachment in order to progress in our training. It would also make sense that being allowed to lower our self into a fall requires no reconciliation of self since this is all about ego-reification and/or makes use of ego-reification. In addition, it is also true that "increasingly difficult situations" can be noted by how much reconciliation of attachment to self they require. However, I would suggest that what we see in most Aikido ukemi requires only enough reconciliation of self to ensure that one can survive by continuously being attached to self. In the same way, at the level of self, that we are allowed to remain self-centered when we are allowed to lower ourselves into a fall, so too does the usual "hard," or "intense," or "unexpected" breakfall do the same. In particular, as we are allowed to lower ourselves into a fall in the beginning of our training, putting our body wherever our pride, ignorance, or fear "requires" it to be, so too are we allowed this same way of practicing fear, pride, or ignorance in the posting of our front foot just prior to our front breakfall.

From another angle: As I said above, when we are allowed to lower ourselves into a fall, we put our body (as we use our body) in a place that is more determined by fear, pride, or ignorance -- by our attachment to self more than anything. This we often want to say, "…is what we do naturally." Such that, in the beginning, we might out of fear fall before the throw is actually executed; or we may out of pride seek to slow or resist the throw as it is happening; or we may out of ignorance try and do a cross-lateral roll over a homo-lateral roll; etc. When we first start, all of these mistakes seem like the thing that is most natural -- the least contrived. They seem this way because they are most accordant with our habitual self up until this point.

As training progresses, as we come to find a new "natural" (learned) way of moving, we start to see that our old "natural" way of moving is actually a type of enslavement -- a kind of habit that is indeed based in fear, pride, and ignorance. We see that in order to learn the new "natural" way of moving we will have to, to some degree, reconcile certain aspects of our being that are related to our fears, our pride, and our ignorance. In a way, we trade one learned way of being (habitual) for another learned way of being (Aikido tradition) -- or so it seems. What actually happens, in most cases, I would propose, is that we trade one type of response based in fear, pride, and ignorance, for another type of response that is also based in fear, pride, and ignorance.

Let us say that the highest reconciliation of Self required in ukemi or acquired via ukemi has to be the execution of what we can call the "pure" attack. It is that full engagement of oneself with no attachment to self, to the attack, the ensuing fall, the nage/uke distinction, the offense/defense distinction, etc. Let us also say that the most "impure" (the most lacking in the need for self-reconciliation) ukemi is the ukemi in which we are allowed to lower ourselves. What do we see at the "highest" levels of ukemi? Are we really all that far from lowering ourselves into our fall? I would say, "Not as I have seen it." As I said earlier, even when people speak of "increasingly difficult" ukemi, we still see such things as the posting of uke's foot -- such that as when we are allowed to lower ourselves, we fall (in the front breakfall) from a state of balance -- a state where we reify the ego and not reconcile it. Only we are so trained, into a new type of "natural" way of moving, a new habitual way of employing our fear, our pride, and our ignorance, that we do not recognize this state of balance as a state of balance. Through our culture, we come to recognize this as being "unbalanced" and/or irrelevant to being thrown "unexpectedly" -- or we may come to think of it as a safety issue, etc. It is the same way that when we are allowed to fall we believe we are not falling in a way that is slave to our attachment to self.

We try very hard to get rid of this posted foot and this misrecognized state of balance in our own practice at our dojo for the very reasons you have mentioned -- having to do with the reconciliation of self. As a dojo open to visitors, we often see great uke from elsewhere suffer all the slings and arrows of their beginner days when they are not allowed that posted foot anymore. More commonly, we see it in all of our own members as their ukemi is pressured from having the posted foot to not having the posted foot in the front breakfall. What this says to me is that no true reconciliation of self takes place up until now -- that no "hard" or "unexpected" fall can do the purifying. Rather, without an actual reconciliation taking place, what happened is that one was simply cultured from one type of habitual self to another type of habitual self. One traded the lowering of oneself for the culturally acceptable way of lowering oneself (into the front breakfall via the front foot posting) -- in both cases, one is quite far from "pure" ukemi, from reconciling fear, pride, or ignorance.

As I said, the same thing can be said about having "increasingly difficult attacks." I agree, this is a necessary element when it comes to purifying our will to violence. Yet, tn most cases, in Aikido, when people speak of "increasingly difficult attacks" they are not really doing anything that would actually necessitate a reconciliation of self. They are, as with ukemi, simply trading one type of habitual (cultured) self for another more "acceptable" type of self (soon to be habitual). For example, when most Aikidoka speak of increasingly difficult attacks, in their training, they are generally referring to grabbing very hard (vs. grabbing very lightly), or they are talking about striking very quickly (as oppose to striking very lightly). Etc. There is not really a continuous progression in the sophistication of the attacks one is training with or against. There are, at most, only variations on the same Aikido curriculum or theme -- which means that one's attacks remain quite far from sophistication and thus quite far from truly needing a reconciliation of self. Seldom do you see timing changes, direction changes, set-ups, barrages, etc. One just goes from grabbing lightly to grabbing hard -- for example -- and as a result a nage just needs to learn that it is basically the same thing -- and hence that one can act basically the same (no reconciliation of self required). Or, one simply takes things like timing changes, direction changes, set-ups, barrages, etc., and puts them inside the same basic teaching model -- e.g. making forms of them (in which cases they are not really advancements or sophistications in the attacks one is training with or against). All of this is revealed when such a practitioner actually comes up against such things via their training and/or via a real life encounter. Again -- we see this every time in our own members as their training "progresses," and/or in visitors that come to our dojo for this type of training. The progress of their training -- to this state -- shows that progress along these lines has not occurred. Again, I would like to suggest that you read that article I posted on our web site and/or that you at least look at the third video clip -- as it shows the lack of progress in self-reconciliation as the training progresses in attack sophistication (which means that "attack sophistication" of the usual kind does not at all lend itself to self-reconciliation).

Here is the link for the article and the total four clips. You will find the clips at the bottom the page (just scroll down) -- I am pointing out the third clip as an example of what I see at our dojo as students come face to face with the progress and the lack of progress of and in their training. Please see "Clip Three."

thanks again,

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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