Breathe in, the gift
Breathe out, the giving
I have always heard that it was better to give and to receive. Always figured that was a rule made by the people on the receiving end of things. Yet in fighting, it made sense: I would certainly rather give a solid right cross than to receive one.
gift: (1) something given, (2) a notable capacity, (3) something voluntarily transferred without compensation
Gifts come in all sizes and shapes. Sometimes the most beautiful picture-perfect face hides a selfish evil heart, and the less than perfect ones often have a heart-of-gold and a beauty that perfection will never know.
Gifts may come with strings attached. That high left jab may include a follow-up right low cross, high left hook, and a right uppercut. Sometimes a gift is only given so that you will reciprocate. It can be a gift, an explanation, or an apology. It may be a "white-elephant" as a joke or an insult. It may come wrapped in pretty paper with ribbon or it may come in a brown paper bag. Some gifts are never given.
I remember in Aikido training the first time I heard to "accept the hit as a gift", I was not sure what they meant. In the bashing days, I knew it was a compliment when my training partner thought I was good enough to hold nothing back. Often they had more faith in my abilities than I consciously did. Fortunately, my unconscious body reflexes for survival saved me from too much damage. The gift from my former instructors and training met the gift my current training partners gave me by trying to knock my block off. Just shows you that two gifts can make a right.
What is important is how an attack is perceived and interpreted. If we see the attack as an ego attempt to do grave bodily damage in training (or under-mind my self-worth/esteem in the real world), we respond one way. If we see it as an opportunity given us by our training partner (mates and co-workers) to develop our perception, our assessment, our decisiveness, and our ability to respond, then we thank them for the gift.
In counseling couples, it is hard to realize that our partners (and children) often open up and act out where they feel the most vulnerable and the safest. People tend to fear closeness and intimacy. The closer we get to someone, the more vulnerable and afraid they may become. To test that safety, they may act out. They may take their frustration with the rest of the world out on us because they feel safe enough that we will not abandon them. This is an opportunity to show them who we really are. It is a gift.
give: (1) to present or convey, (2) to grant, bestow, transfer by formal action, (3) to accord, offer, or yield to another, (4) to put in the possession of another for their use
When we receive a gift, it is natural to want to give back. That is why some charities will send something (like address labels) along in their solicitation envelops. If they give first, they will expect to receive. It is a reciprocal process. Most of you already know that I really like reciprocal cyclical systems. That is why I am a family therapist.
One of the sensitivity drills I like to use on the mat in training is to have people connect both arms so that they are making a circle. As one pushes on the other's hand, they let the energy go up their arm, across their shoulder, down the other arm, out their hand and into the other person's arm. Which is turns goes across their shoulders and back. After a short while, they realize that no one is really controlling the flow and energy. The more relaxed they become, the more this exchange just seems to happen by itself, if they do not get in the way.
In life they say that the harder we push, the harder life will push back. Life pushes us hard, so we push back on life. Many think that we have to give back what we receive. Because it is better to give than to receive (especially if you are particularly competitive), then you may feel the compulsion to push back even harder.
If a training partner or loving mate is having a rough day and gives us anger, we tend to take it personally and give back our own anger. This seldom improves our training or our home life.
There is a difference in reacting and responding. Reactions seldom come from conscious choices but are a result of experience (especially painful experiences). Responses are something we choose based on our perceptions and interpretation of the current situation in from of us. That is what training and growth is all about. Just because I have been and am currently receiving violence, does not mean I have to react and give back violence (though that may be the appropriate response at times). Perhaps what training is about is not to react out of the normal fight, flight, or freeze response, but to respond with empathy and compassion. Perhaps training and practice is the opportunity to change our unconscious reflexes into our conscious responses until these new ways of being with each other (even in conflict) become our new unconscious reflexes.
Sometimes, it takes intelligence, empathy, compassion, wisdom, and a huge dose of courage not to give back exactly what we receive. Perhaps we learn to take in the bad and breathe out the good. When others are in pain, fear, and suffering, let us accept and appreciate the gift of an opportunity for healing.
growth: (1) a process of growing, progressive development, evolution, increase expansion, (2) to spring up, (3) a natural process
I once heard that if you always do what you have always done, you would always get what you always got.
If we are to move ahead in our training and in our living, it will be by doing something completely different (and not the Monty Python way). If we want to keep growing, we must get off, stay off our unconscious automatic pilot, and stay mindful to the cause and effect consequences of our actions.
It is said, that growth is a natural process and progress. We have to do something to stop the normal and natural, constant and continual inertia and momentum of growth. Perhaps we receive that gift every day. We have the opportunity to consciously, with compassion and courage, to change. We grow further apart or we can grow closer together.
When you bow to each other on the mat, thank each other for the gift of giving of yourself in mutual trust, respect, training, and growth. When you enter your work place, be thankful for the gift of work, to be of service, and as a means to support the family. When you enter your home, be accepting, appreciative, and grateful for the gift of another opportunity to encounter the most courageous act of all, loving each other.
Breathe in, the gift
Breathe out, mindfully give back
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, 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 over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance and Yondan (4th degree Black Belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and 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, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is an adjunct professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.