Paula Lydon wrote:
~~Hi All! I'm still having a hard time reconciling the martial/spiritual aspects of Aikido. Just when I think I'm focusing on movement/blending and flowing with my partner, they take a shot at me and tell me I'm open. I, of course, want to fly into them because I was being all open and trusting and then kick myself for ever having let my guard down. So then I go back to training in a very martial head and someone else says, 'chill, just relax and move; you're acting like you on a battlefield and it's just the dojo'.
Hmmmmm...What do you do?
Well, that's the whole point isn't it? Life is a battlefield and the dojo is the place where you play out those battles again and again. As near as I can understand what O-Sensei was talking about, being in a state of connection with the Universe takes care of these issues of "letting ones guard down" as being something that happens when you "focus" on movement / blending with the partner. When you are in a state of connection you don't have a guard to let down. There isn't anything to guard against.
Most of us do not have any experience with this state. We have to keep up our guard because we are afraid of what will happen when we let it down. If we let the guard down we are vulnerable, open to be hurt by some unanticipated threat to our self image. So we keep up the guard, keep those threats on the outside.
But it's all a misunderstanding... We are already connected, it actually takes effort to keep ourselves from this fact. When we REALLY experience the connection, there isn't a separation between the blending / flow and the state of having no suki (opening).
This is THE central issue in training. It's all about this as far as I can see. Why does your partner choose a particular instant to show you your suki. Is it just your suki they are showing you?
If we feel like the martial aspect of the art is in conflict with the spiritual then that's a pointer for us to look at how we envision both. If they are in tension, opposite aspects of the nature of things, then we can only do one at a time... we'll either be connected or defended.
But O-Sensei is telling us that this is the illusion. These are not oppositional aspects of anything. They are the same! Budo is Love is the message he gave us. The sense of harmony which comes through training should foster that sense of oneness that alows us to experience the energy which brings things together in the universe. Love is that energy as I understand O-Sensei When one is able to exist in that state of connection, the issue of openings, etc goes away. There is no defense because there is no defender and no attacker.
None of us consistently experiences things in this mode. We bounce back and forth in our training from one state to another. Our very attempts to be "martial" thwart our efforts to exerience the true connection between ourselves and our partner (and everything else for that matter). One of the great things about this search is that our fellows, who have no more idea about this stuff than we do (often less) get to be our teachers.Every time that guy does that annoying atemi, everytime your partner spaces out and you can feel their lack of "presence", any time something scares you or pisses you off it's a lesson.
If we are really lucky, train hard , and try to be honest with oursleves, perhaps we might actualy figure things out and stand alongside O-Sensei as he watches those who came after trying to "get it".