If I work hard and "make" the technique work, it is wrong.
If I relax and" let" the technique work, it is right.
Why is easy so hard to learn?
To practice Aikido, one must be completely relaxed. When I first started in Aikido, everyone told me to relax. In frustration, I kept trying to tell them that this was relaxed for me. I could not "make" myself relax. The harder I tried, the tenser I got.
Coming from the streets and the bashing arts, making a technique work through force was something I was not only used to, I was good at it. Every time I "made" an Aikido technique work, I was wrong.
When I feel the technique, it is wrong.
When I do not feel the technique, it is right.
Why is easy so hard to learn?
There were a number of things that I had trouble getting my head around. In Aikido, I heard the expression that wherever the head goes, the body tends to follow. For me, wherever the head did not go, I just did not get. Initially, I did not get Aikido. Okay, many will say I still do not get Aikido, but I am beginning to get a glimpse into getting a peek at it. Before I could learn anything about it, I had to gain some level of technical proficiency. I still was not relaxed enough and I was certainly still trying hard to be relaxed and make the technique work. Like I have been saying, easy is hard to learn. It just did not (does not) feel right.
I had searched and watched many Aikido classes. I did not like the way they attacked and I certainly did not like that it looked like everyone was just tanking in practicing. It is funny how easy things look from an ignorant spectator position. Everything looks easy from the bleachers. Finally, I watched someone make it look easy to throw someone hard. In fact, he made it look easy to throw me and hold me down. It was hard to find someone with this level skill, but then it was easy to sign up, show up, suit up, shut up, and begin to learn.
Here are a few of the things that I found hard to make easy:
Do not make them attack, invite them, and let them enter? At first, I took my tried and true ready stance. It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull and saying that it was okay to attack me now. I tried to look fierce; a good defense is a strong offense. Sometimes, I was good enough that my uke would just laugh at me. When I was ready for the attack, they did not want to. When I just stood there, no stance, they would come to me (or not). So much easier.
Let them grab me? I do not know about you, but I always thought that the point was not to let someone grab me. Now, I am supposed to let them grab me and then use their hold to control them. This just goes against my original well-trained way of thinking. However, when they grab it does tie up their hands up, lets me know exactly where they are, and gives them a false sense of control and confidence. Okay, grab my wrist.
Do not stop their momentum, get off the line, and let them pass?. In the old days, if someone attacks, I would tend to move directly into them, force on force, man-to-man, stupid-to-stupid. The infamous clash of the warriors doing battle. Never retreat. Okay, these head on collisions were often as damaging to me as it was to them, but what am I to do, act like a matador and avoid the horns of the attack? Yes, that is exactly what I am to do, and it is a lot easier on the body.
Do not make them fall, take a position which takes their balance and let them fall? In the old days I would hit, kick, elbow, knee, and head butt. If they fell down it was because of the sheer power of my blows. Yep, that is battle. So what is this idea of moving in such a way that my posture, positioning, and timing allows them to naturally lose their balance and fall down all by themselves? Where is the fun in that?
Why is easy hard to learn? Because it goes against, sometimes directly opposite, the way I used to think. Changing how the body moves is one thing, but changing how I think? Now that is an art.
Why is easy hard to learn? Because it is what I do not do. What I do is easy for me to detect. The harder I do it the easier it is to detect it. Of course, it is easier for the other person to detect too. Rather defeats the purpose. I can make myself tense, but I have to let myself relax. "Let" is so much harder to learn than "make", but makes life so much easier.
Why is easy hard to learn? Because I was taught, that life is a struggle, a fight, and a battle. I was taught that easy was lazy and would never accomplish anything. Anything worth having was worth the hard work it took to get there. I made everything a struggle, a fight, a battle, even when there really was not one present. I worked hard, even at the things that were easy, and broke more things than I fixed. Now, it is hard to learn the easy way. I learned the hard craft of fighting, now I have to learn the easy art of peace.
I can "make" myself angry
and try in vain to control the world ("make" it how I want it to be).
I can "let" myself be happy
and control only myself ("letting" me be who I know I truly am).
Why is easy hard to learn?
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of services, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.