Knowledge is the death of learning.
My students, I have taught you many things. Some of you have learned about walking through doors, and not walking through walls. And now your aikido is all about seeking doors, and avoiding walls.
Some of you understand a bit about solid and empty. You have learned the stillness of a shared center, of letting the attacker strive for the collision of solids, while you simply push empty. Emptiness is your orientation, emptiness is your goal.
A few of you have experienced the rare feeling of doing nothing, next to nothing, and accomplishing everything. So now nothing is your advantage.
I have taught the "maximum extraction of all extraneous effort." Some of you have tasted effortlessness, and have abandoned your efforts.
And though you scratched your heads and raised your eyebrows when I spoke of Izanami and Izanagi, when I talked plainly about male and female, you were patient and tried to understand. Now in a flash of insight, you see how the parts fit together perfectly, and how the child of aikido is born from this union. Like puzzle pieces we come together this way, but not that way. So your aikido is a union of divine principles made manifest.
I talk, I write, I demonstrate the concave and the convex, the ebb and flow, the attractive and the radiant, the inbreath and the outbreath, the sagittal, coronal, and transverse. You know about omote and ura, irimi and tenkan, soto and uchi. We explore compression, tension, torque, shear, and bending. The youngest child in our classes knows about pronation, supination, flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction.
We are growing our roots and our branches.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for reading. Thank you for practicing.
Thank you for learning, for studying, for thinking, and experimenting.
You have learned much, and I'm very proud of you. What I ask of you is very difficult. It is not intuitive. The words we use often refer to abstractions, and abstractions turn out to be concrete concepts. Concepts that, at long last, you know and grasp.
You know. You've gained knowledge. You've sweated, struggled, fought, given up, persisted, and finally prevailed. I am pleased.
Having come this far together though, I owe you this:
Your knowledge is wrong.
Knowledge that satisfies is always wrong. Understanding that makes sense is always deceptive. What you know, you cannot learn. Therefore pray that you never know aikido. Your surety, your confidence, your experience, and all your skills and concepts are now your enemy.
I know, because I see it.
You look for doors when it is time to break down walls.
You push empty when it's time to move mountains.
You do nothing when there is work to be done.
You work for efficiency not realizing that nothing is more efficient than death.
You put all the pieces of the puzzle together, but the picture that emerges is your own ink blot.
This is not aikido.
If all I taught of aikido was freedom, this too would be a very good teaching. But then, you would be trapped in an idea of freedom.
It's ok, because we need solid ground upon which to walk. But in walking, we must leave solid ground to take the next step. What you know gives you comfort and a sense of security. Leave it. Your leg swings forward, moves through the air, the heel comes down, then the whole foot, and lo! a new concept, a new idea, a new understanding. Already the other leg is lifting, leaving behind the firm earth, the firm footing, the firm knowledge. This is progress. This is becoming. This is the path.
You don't know aikido, and neither do I. The only aikido you can know is a dead aikido. But we can experience it. By all means, accumulate experience, but never let your ideas or your knowledge or your learning stand between you and the immediacy of the present.
If your experience isn't making you more alive, then you're not doing aikido, no matter what technique you use, what principle you espouse, what ideal you exemplify.
There can be no repetition.
Like the great man said, history never repeats itself... at best, it merely rhymes. So though you hold your treasure horde of memories dear, not forgetting the lessons you've learned, and though you look to the horizon with hopes and vision, and though there are times when the patterns match and certainty crystallizes with absolute clarity, what you are experiencing now has never happened before.
Now is the fulcrum of past and future. Now is the only balance point available to you. And now is something you've never seen, heard, learned, or experienced before. Now is the thing you must truly know, but now you see it, now you don't. The moment is gone and everything has changed, But now persists.
So my students, you may quote my lessons back to me, and I'll be glad when they are working for you, and sorry when they fail you. Do try to remember that I can't give you knowledge, and it's far better for everyone if I don't even try. Remember that as a sensei, I'm only a proxy. Practice with me by paying attention, by heightening awareness, by being on alert, and by having an authentic encounter.
But then look beyond. Never mind what you heard or what you've read or what you saw. My lessons were never for you to carry around like so much baggage. What knowledge I give will kill you.
The only value that I can bring to you is the realization of your right to exist (and you can get that elsewhere). You are sovereign in all that you experience, and you alone govern your affairs. We can enrich each other, yes -- but any thought that other beings rule your emotions or dictate your actions is nothing less than a draught of poison.
Abandon your addiction to the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Consume and be consumed by life. All that you know of life is just your own life.
Just your own...
Your own life.
Still Point Aikido Systems
Austin, TX, USA
Ross Robertson lives and teaches aikido in Austin, Texas.