Breathe in, what others believe they know
"To be or not to be, that is the question
Breathe out, what you believe you know
." To be what? How do we decide what to do or who to be? How do we know what we know? How do we know our knowing?
Epistemology is the study of what is knowledge, how knowledge is acquired, and how do we know what we know. This is our attempt to find truth.
Many equate knowledge with intelligence. Other see it as wisdom. For some it's simply the accumulation of trivial information.
IMHO, most of us live with a degree of ignorance. We accept the information given us often without question or query. What we are told, we believe to be true. It is probably believed to be true by the people telling us (our parents, teachers, instructors, etc.). We create who we believe we are through imitation and identification with those in our immediate external environment. The inside becomes a reflection and duplication of the outside. Because the internal and external match, we decide they must be true and decide to live in agreement with them.
I often tell people that they only need to figure out three things. First, you have to know what you really want. Second, you have to know what you need to do to get what you want. Third, you have to do it. I also describe this as the three Ds: decisions
, and daily discipline
. You have to decide
what you want. Then you have to know in what direction
it lays. Then you have to have the discipline
to walk in that direction everyday. If you decide you want to be good at Aikido (or anything in life), you then find a place to train and show up on a regular basis where eventually over time with practice and competent instruction you just might gain some insight and skill into the art we practice.
In Aikido (or other martial arts training) I often talk about automating our responses by understanding OODA
. First we observe
and become aware of what is happening in the external environment. Then we have to orient
our thinking and evaluate the information. Next we decide
what to do about it. Finally, we act
on it. We can learn to be more externally aware and perceptive of our surroundings. It's the middle two stages in the process that can be cognitively and intelligently sped up by some forethought and planning. In Aikido there is always the practice of being aware of how you are being approached and attacked, if it is an honest and genuine effort, what are all the possibilities to respond to it, narrowing it down to one, deciding it's a good one and deciding to act on it. It takes so much longer to describe that process than to just do it. But that is the goal in training, to go through this decision making process so mindfully slow so often that the response behavior is automatic. This takes practice and patience. Many people try to bypass the new learning stage and stay stuck with their old behaviors and frustrations.
This applies to beliefs too. Many of us old bashers were taught to defend ourselves (and others) through force and violence. I remember starting Aikido training and asking when I finally could hit somebody. I was shocked to find out that I was not only not supposed to hit them; I wasn't supposed to do any damage to anyone. I thought damage control simply meant I got to decide who got damaged. To do Aikido I would not just have to change my behavior, but my awareness (observation) and my assessment (orientation) to make my decision to decisively respond assertively with non-violence and non-malice. So how do you decide to re-decide something that has been literally pounded into you your whole life?
This implies that for a period of time I was going to have to live my life looking inside myself to decide not who I was but who I wanted to be. I had to figure out if I wanted to be a good man, what beliefs I needed to justify it and give myself permission to act against the social norms and my past identifications, decisions, and directions. I was not just learning a new martial art; I was learning to become a new person. I wished I could say it's the one I have always been underneath all my chaos and confusion, that it was my true self, but I know that is not true. I had to discover and decide what truths, what knowledge would allow me to evolve in a more transformative and generative direction, of which Aikido was only another tool, a context, or an opportunity to practice my new daily discipline.
As my search continued, I simply stayed with the decision to be a good man. This was not going to be an easy direction to maintain. It seemed that everyone had their own idea what that meant. There is not congruence or consistency in the spiritual, psychological, social, philosophical, cognitive, emotional, and what ever else I could thing definition of a good man was. With some concentration and contemplation I was able to discern the common denominator and directions. I had one path, one line to follow. If something was online with that, I'd decide to do it. If it was off that line, I'd decide not to. I didn't have to make a lot of decisions, only the one to walk in the direction of being a good man. The decision making process became rather easy and automatic. Actually once that decision was made, most of the rest made themselves. On some level, in the quiet calm of our conscious and unconscious, we all know what it means to be a good person. Let's decide to do it.
I decided to give up the search for truth, enlightenments, and self-actualization, since we all seem to believe we have a monopoly on it and accept that this was simply my decision to arbitrarily accept different cognitive constructs and practice different non-violent non-competitive behaviors and expressions on the belief or faith that someday it will work. I decided to be a good man and study Aikido since it was congruent and consistent with my direction and discipline.
How do I know what I know is true? I don't. But when I look at my life now, I know it is better than it used to be and far better than I deserve. That's good enough for me.
Breathe in, what others believe they know
Breathe out, what you know
Knowing (without knowing)
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 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.