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Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice
Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice
by Wendy Palmer
04-17-2008
Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Training in aikido and other martial arts fosters confidence, strength and awareness, but to be whole people we need more. We need to learn how to be in relationship with the world with out dominating or being dominated. Our martial confidence can give us personal strength but it is the open heart, the intention and capacity to protect and include the attacker that will allow for connection and appreciation.

The open heart gives us the possibility of transcending our survival instinct. The element of compassion changes the frequency of the shared field. Compassion has a strength quite different from that of muscle power; it is not only open and inclusive; it also has a blade like aspect that can cut through unnecessary and reactive behavior. The sword of compassion is the sword that gives life. The way a tree is pruned to cut away the clutter and unhealthy branches, the sword of compassion cuts through our survival behaviors permitting the refinement of our artistic qualities to emerge.

Aikido took me beyond survival and brought my encounters to the level of art. Art is magnetic and appeals to the part of us that yearns to be lifted out of survival and fear of separation to the awareness of universal connectedness.

For over thirty years I have had the opportunity to witness my competitive tendency while training in this non-competitive martial art. In aikido we receive promotions by demonstrating competency in a variety of techniques and dealing skillfully with vigorous attacks rather than by winning over our opponent.

There are aspects of competition that are helpful for our spirits and our survival. We become stronger, faster, smarter and more creative by looking to the champions as a benchmark and striving to manifest the next level of ability. There are also aspects of the competitive drive that are unskillful and tend to foster aggression and dominance. Dominance and aggression are used as a vehicle to gain control of a situation.

When someone throws me hard I can still feel the urge to answer with an even harder throw. My awareness of this tendency gives me the option to respond differently. Over the years aikido has taught me that I can match hard power with soft power and shift the feeling of the exchange. Soft power decreases aggression and opens the way for an equal exchange of energy. This is important because if my partner is twice my size it is unlikely that I will be able to win or dominate the interaction.

Winning over someone is different than sharing universal movements with that person. I have come to be most interested in the magnetic approach of dealing with an attack. Using magnetism involves developing a feeling for the clear fluid energy contained within the form or shape of a technique. The key is to be able to focus more attention on the feeling and form of your movement than the speed and power of the attacker. The more you concentrate on and enjoy the sensation of your own movement, the stronger the magnetic pull toward that movement will be. Thus, the energy of the attacker is drawn into your flow. If your mind wavers, however, and shifts on to the attacker, that small split of attention can be used to draw your energy into the attack instead of drawing the attacker in to your energy flow. Once you focus on the attack, you are giving energy to the attacker. If the capacity for a magnetic response is interrupted, the only alternative is to attempt to control the attack.

Most of us don't like the feeling of being controlled. When I feel controlled, my tendency is to become feisty and look for a way to reverse my partner. Conversely, when I feel magnetized, I feel as if the person I attacked is inviting me into their being and we are moving together. There is nothing to resist.
~ * ~
Responding to the attacker with a magnetic approach develops soft power. Little by little, we learn to tolerate the impact of a strike, grab, wristlock or throw and be able to relax around the pressure. Without the intention to escape or control, the attacking energy can be invited into and absorbed by the space or ki of the one receiving the attack. When this happens there is a sense of moving together as one. This way of connecting is different than the experience of two separate people, one controlling the other. With soft power there is one unit of energy moving along the same path.

One of the greatest hindrances to the magnetic approach is self-consciousness sparked by the desire to be in control. We want the security of knowing that our technique will be effective. We want to feel that we are in control of our partner. The desire to be in control is a normal survival response, but what I love about the art of aikido is that we can move beyond survival to a vast and universal perspective in which all life is connected and interwoven. Such an orientation is not self-conscious. Since it relates to the connecting aspect -- that of the space and energy -- rather than individuals, there is no thing that needs to be observed. All awareness can be involved with the movement of energy through space, organized and contained by the form. The result is soft fluid power enjoying the beauty and purity of the form. This kind of feeling is not only beautiful and fluid, it is difficult to resist or counter which makes it effective from a martial perspective.

There is a lovely word in physics to describe the nature of a laser beam. The light is said to be "coherent." Ordinary lenses may focus light, but a laser creates an alignment and unity of character that goes beyond that. By allowing the body to relax within the form, aliveness in and around the body becomes unified and moves along the flow line of the form.

To unify ki we need a reference point, a source or origin that allows the ki to emerge as a tangible experience. In nature, plant life is vertical, establishing a root and extending up to the sun. The human body too is vertical in nature. Focusing our attention on the vertical quality of ground and the dignity of the upright posture we establish our center. Not as a point, rather as a core of energy that includes the entire body. There may be points along the core that emanate different textures -- for instance, energy from the mind has a different quality than that of the heart or the hara -- but they are aspects of a unified field of life force. It is from this vertical core of life force that we extend out and include our attacker inviting them into our flow line. When we execute a technique the entire field flows along the line of the form.

What does this soft fluid power imply for how we can live our lives? How can the understanding and insights we glean from engaging in physical pressure and the intensity of attacks in the dojo inform the way we interact off the mat? What I appreciate about this state of inclusiveness is that it is equally effective in martial as well as domestic and work situations--which can be equal or more challenging than attacks in training sessions. Some people can keep cool and calm on the mat but become violent in traffic.

For a long time it has been my passion to bring the principles I am exploring in aikido into the world we encounter when we leave the dojo. I call this exploration Conscious Embodiment. It is a model that uses principles from aikido and mindfulness practice to address the challenge of how we can live our everyday lives with increased presence, confidence and compassion.

This inquiry has led to some interesting shifts in how I practice aikido. I want to practice staying on the line as well as get off the line. In our life outside the dojo, 'getting off the line' is not the way I would want to meet all the intense encounters in my day. In Conscious Embodiment we explore staying put and allowing others into our personal space. We practice with a double wrist grab applying pressure and notice how the survival reflex puts up a boundary in order to control the amount of energy that enters our personal space. From the point of view of the martial arts, boundaries are there to be pushed upon, with the possibility of breaking through and taking control of my partner. If the person I am attacking, however, accepts my energy into a fluid flow, rather than putting up a boundary, my whole body relaxes and I lose my desire to be in control.

In Conscious Embodiment, we practice opening our personal space and inviting the incoming energy in. This is possible because the person being pushed shifts their identity from what we call the 'personality' to a part of ourselves we call 'center'. Most martial artists know what it feels like to be centered. In sports it is called being in the 'zone' or in a flow state. The zone is usually described as being spacious and fluid. I believe that when we are in the 'centered state' we relate to the situation from the point of view of how much space is there rather than the speed and power of the attack. This enables us to stay relaxed and feel as if there is plenty of time. Our focus shifts from the anticipation of the attack to the space that the attack is moving into. Science tells us that there is more space than particles in any situation. By relating with the space, therefore, we can change the feeling of the interaction. When someone applies pressure to your wrists you can think of all the space in your body, the space around you and your partner. The pressure then becomes dissipated into the space. If I am attacking some one who is centered, I feel as if I am attacking space. With no boundary to push against, I have no reference point upon which to focus my attack.

I teach this exercise as a way to practice listening. The push is a metaphor for communication. We give what is being said -- the content-- which is represented by the pressure on the wrists -- lots of space in which to land. The result is that the person speaking/pushing feels heard and relaxes. This opens the door to the possibility that a genuine, satisfying exchange can take place.

When we shift our attention to the shared space, it is important to distinguish between being spacious and spacey. If we are spacey there is no body there to listen, which can be frustrating for the speaker and dangerous for the listener. When we are spacious there is a presence that is inclusive. Instead of a solid feeling we experience interconnection through a sense of porosity.

In Conscious Embodiment classes, we imagine that the pressure is negative content coming from someone or a part of ourselves. The idea is to recognize the tendency to stiffen or collapse, put up boundaries and shift into the control and defend pattern. We take time to examine how the pattern organizes and where it originates so we can learn to affect it before it develops momentum. I discovered, for instance, that my control/defend pattern originates in my solar plexus. Paying attention to it, I can feel a slight contraction beginning in my solar plexus region. Lengthening my solar plexus area inhibits the 'personality' pattern and gives me the option to shift to a centered and spacious state of being. Repetition under mild pressure develops the foundation for a centered state. Little by little, I can ask for increased pressure in order to strengthen the ability to recover center while under stronger pressure.

This Conscious Embodiment practice allows us to slow down an interaction that might take 1 or 2 seconds in normal aikido training. Instead we take 5 or 10 minutes to examine subtle shifts of attention and energy that trigger the personality's survival reaction. We are putting ourselves under the microscope of awareness in order to probe the deeper layers of patterns developed by years and perhaps generations of our survival drive stemming from our reptilian brain. This layer of survival bases its focus on the need for fight or flight and the bandwidth of awareness involved is quite narrow. When we shift to a centered state, the bandwidth expands as we are involving the limbic and the neocortical aspects of our brain. This awareness allows us to tap into a vital adaptive aspect of our potential. The result is that we are able to process information beyond the survival level of speed, distance and power. We can also relate with textures and qualities of energy as well as the possibility of enjoyment arising from an appreciation of a shared matrix. With practice we can shift from our personality's vigilant guardian to the nurturing caretaker of center.

Conscious Embodiment has allowed me to examine energetic patterns that activate emotional and psychological states that stand in the way of recognizing the universal picture. I can see how my energy splits into conflicting configurations rendering me weak and confused. By shifting my energy pattern, I can change the way I experience the world. Irritation and anxiety are the result of a system that is divided and overwhelmed. Awareness is the key that allows me to recognize when I am losing center. My memory of the grace and clarity of center motivates the transition from awareness to action. Recognizing the pattern as it emerges and consciously activating a centering process can reconnect us to our artistic and compassionate nature.

We are gradations of vibrating molecules interconnected by the space that we share. Mae Wan Ho, Ph.D. at the Open University in England writes, "The (human) organism is coherent beyond our wildest dreams. Every part is in communication with every other part through a dynamic, tunable, responsive, liquid crystalline medium that pervades the whole body, from organs and tissues to the interior of every cell..... The visible body just happens to be where the wave function of the organism is the most dense. Invisible quantum waves are spreading out from each of us and permeating into all other organisms." [Mae Wan Ho, " The Entangled Universe, "Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures, Spring 2000]

When we experience interactions from this perspective of interconnectedness it becomes ridiculous to want to dominate or defend against another. Sadly, we don't. Before long, the 'personality' or survival reaction kicks in and we revert back to the control and defend pattern of dealing with pressure. Anyone who has practiced martial arts for any length of time will recognize that no one stays centered -- just as no one stays in the zone. The point of training is to develop the capacity to recover center in the midst of the action.

Am I still competitive? Oh yes. My survival tendencies are still alive and well within me. The difference is they don't dominate my life the way they used to. I have the option to shift my attention and activate a centering process. The pattern of center organizes around a vertical core and the awareness of space. For a moment there is no 'other' with whom to compete. Compassion replaces competition. My boundaries expand and permeate the interaction with fluid ki. Time stretches out before me opening to a universe shimmering with life reminding me that we are all in this together.

~ * ~

Wendy Palmer has been teaching classes and workshops in Conscious Embodiment for over twenty-eight years. She is a sixth degree Black Belt in Aikido and she teaches at Aikido of Tamalpais in Sausalito, California. Wendy is author of two books: The Intuitive Body: Discovering the Wisdom of Conscious Embodiment and Aikido (North Atlantic Press, 1994) and The Practice of Freedom: Aikido Principles as a Spiritual Guide (Rodmell Press, 2002). She offers coaching in embodied leadership for individuals, groups and teams. Her clients include DaimlerChrysler, Genentech, Oracle, McKinsey, NASA, Pfizer, The US Forest Service, and John F. Kennedy University.
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Old 04-18-2008, 08:51 AM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Osu Sensei,

Nice to hear from you (again).

Compliments and appreciation.

Rei, Domo.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 04-18-2008, 10:05 AM   #3
Susan Dalton
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

What a lovely article. Thank you.
"Before long, the 'personality' or survival reaction kicks in and we revert back to the control and defend pattern of dealing with pressure. Anyone who has practiced martial arts for any length of time will recognize that no one stays centered -- just as no one stays in the zone. The point of training is to develop the capacity to recover center in the midst of the action."
I really like how you put that. We don't have to be perfect. We just have to dispassionately see where we're imperfect and keep at it.
I'm working on that one little piece...
Susan
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:02 AM   #4
Charles Hill
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

To anyone interested in how they might put the ideas of the article into practice, I highly recommend Palmer Sensei's book, The Intuitive Body. It is full of practical things you can do. This book, along with the one Conscious Embodiment class I took while visiting the Bay area years ago, has done more to develop my Aikido than almost anything else I have done.

Charles
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Old 04-19-2008, 08:15 AM   #5
MM
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

With respect to the author, I have to say that none of what I read seemed like aikido to me. You could replace "aikido" with "yoga" and "ki" with "prana" and the article would pretty much read the same, IMO. Which, to me, isn't a good thing.

But, I guess, for better or worse, the martial art, formerly known as Aikido, has been changed throughout the years to now be defined however anyone wishes -- Regardless of Ueshiba's martial prowess the budo world acknowledged, regardless of Ueshiba yelling at his students that you couldn't do soft until after you'd done hard for twenty years, regardless of the many other martial artists who tried to break him and failed, regardless of the many who followed him not because they understood his spiritual babble (find me some who did) but because of the power he made real.

There is a time for the spiritual, but not until it has been tempered in hot fires and beat upon by hard hammers. There can be no "sword that gives life" if the sword has not been forged. And then, that sword must stand against all those who would try to shatter it, physically, not just mentally/spiritually/whatever.

I've said it before. Ueshiba stood against many challengers from other arts. Shioda did. Tohei did. Tomiki did. If you aren't working towards that, then there is no Aikido. There is only Art being called aikido.

All very much IMO,
Mark
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Old 04-19-2008, 08:40 AM   #6
G DiPierro
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Quote:
Using magnetism involves developing a feeling for the clear fluid energy contained within the form or shape of a technique. The key is to be able to focus more attention on the feeling and form of your movement than the speed and power of the attacker. The more you concentrate on and enjoy the sensation of your own movement, the stronger the magnetic pull toward that movement will be. Thus, the energy of the attacker is drawn into your flow. If your mind wavers, however, and shifts on to the attacker, that small split of attention can be used to draw your energy into the attack instead of drawing the attacker in to your energy flow. Once you focus on the attack, you are giving energy to the attacker. If the capacity for a magnetic response is interrupted, the only alternative is to attempt to control the attack.
This is an interesting article, but I think the core logic of this approach to training is fundamentally flawed. The idea of focusing solely on enjoying one's own movement while ignoring the movement of the attacker makes almost no sense as martial strategy. Focusing on the attacker's movement is not "giving [away] energy to the attacker," it is an appropriate and reasonable response to someone who has entered your space and attacked you. Such a person merits a response consisting of your energy and awareness.

To think that simply enjoying your own movement will somehow "magnetically" draw the other person out of their intent to attack and into your movement seems to me to be more based more in fantasy than reality. I cannot imagine something like this working against any kind of real attack. If such a thing were possible, it would invalidate the need for even training in martial arts at all. Suggesting this that this is an effective martial strategy is, in my opinion, dangerously misleading.
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Old 04-19-2008, 08:52 AM   #7
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Thanks for your article, Wendy .I use these ideas all the time at my job....

Mary
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Old 04-21-2008, 07:05 PM   #8
Sharon Seymour
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

How interesting to read folks' varying responses to this article! I was struck by "The key is to be able to focus more attention on the feeling and form of your movement than the speed and power of the attacker." For me, this idea presents the very powerful martial strategy of responding from your own frame of reference. To be drawn into your attacker's frame of reference is to allow the attacker to dictate your options and have the initiative in the interaction. Only by waiting until the attack is committed can I find the optimal response - if I am tied up trying to anticipate my opponent's decision, I'm already stuck and will probably be too slow in my response.

The idea of "enjoy[ing] the sensation of your own movement" is certainly a challenging one. The primary definition of "enjoy" is "to receive pleasure from;" a secondary definition is "to have the use of" or "benefit from."* This seems to reinforce the idea of staying in your own space and inviting the attack in to your center of power. I don't want to buy in to aggression. If someone chooses that mode of expression, it is their option, and I can choose to stay in my space or mindset and meet them there. The learning curve for truly receiving attacks has been very long for me. The reaction of slamming the door to protect my space is deeply rooted. Consider the idea that "irimi" doesn't mean barging in to your opponent's space, but rather, entering into relationship with them on your own terms.

Many thanks to Palmer Sensei for contributing this excellent essay, and to the respondents who have opened up new ways of viewing it.

*(American Heritage College Dictionary)

-----
There is more to balance than not falling over.
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Old 04-21-2008, 08:30 PM   #9
G DiPierro
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Quote:
Sharon Seymour wrote: View Post
How interesting to read folks' varying responses to this article! I was struck by "The key is to be able to focus more attention on the feeling and form of your movement than the speed and power of the attacker." For me, this idea presents the very powerful martial strategy of responding from your own frame of reference.
To me, a statement like the one you quoted is somewhat akin to saying "The key is to be more skilled than your opponent." It's not really a martial strategy but a martial truism. What the author is suggesting, though, is not just that one should focus on one's own movement, but that focusing on and enjoying one's movement will somehow create a "magnetic" force that in and of itself controls the attacker. I find that notion to be wildly unrealistic.

Quote:
To be drawn into your attacker's frame of reference is to allow the attacker to dictate your options and have the initiative in the interaction. Only by waiting until the attack is committed can I find the optimal response - if I am tied up trying to anticipate my opponent's decision, I'm already stuck and will probably be too slow in my response.
You seem to be contradicting yourself here. If you don't want the attacker to take the initiative and dictate your options then I would suggest that you do not wait until the attack is "committed" (whatever that means) in order to try to "find the optional response" but that you make the attacker choose from several sub-optimal responses that you have made available through your own movement. This is a fairly basic strategy that is common knowledge to people in many martial arts.

Quote:
The idea of "enjoy[ing] the sensation of your own movement" is certainly a challenging one. The primary definition of "enjoy" is "to receive pleasure from;" a secondary definition is "to have the use of" or "benefit from."* This seems to reinforce the idea of staying in your own space and inviting the attack in to your center of power.
I don't think it is a challenging idea at all, but actually a rather simple one. However, by itself I do not think it will be even remotely effective in a physical conflict. I also don't see how it in any way suggests staying confined to your own space or "inviting the attack in." I would think that, in a real conflict, inviting someone who is trained and skilled at attacking to do so would be a very bad idea. Even inviting someone who is unskilled or untrained at attacking to do so seems to me to be needless and unwise.

Quote:
I don't want to buy in to aggression. If someone chooses that mode of expression, it is their option, and I can choose to stay in my space or mindset and meet them there. The learning curve for truly receiving attacks has been very long for me. The reaction of slamming the door to protect my space is deeply rooted.
The issue isn't really one of choice but of the ability to overcome the other person's will and ability to inflict aggression upon you with your own ability to remain centered and avoid letting that aggression control you (either physically or psychologically). I find the author's ideas on how to do this to be overly simplistic and out of touch with reality.
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:44 AM   #10
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
You seem to be contradicting yourself here. If you don't want the attacker to take the initiative and dictate your options then I would suggest that you do not wait until the attack is "committed" (whatever that means) in order to try to "find the optional response" but that you make the attacker choose from several sub-optimal responses that you have made available through your own movement. This is a fairly basic strategy that is common knowledge to people in many martial arts.
Actually, there are several choices concerning initiative or "sen". One of them is to allow the attack to fully commit. At the instant of full commitment, it is almost impossible to make a change. There are a number of koryu that practice cutting the attacker precisely at this instant. That doesn't mean that you are allowing them to control the interaction as the mental connection was there before movement ever started and effects the mind of the attacker before he initiates.

Quote:
I don't think it is a challenging idea at all, but actually a rather simple one. However, by itself I do not think it will be even remotely effective in a physical conflict. I also don't see how it in any way suggests staying confined to your own space or "inviting the attack in." I would think that, in a real conflict, inviting someone who is trained and skilled at attacking to do so would be a very bad idea. Even inviting someone who is unskilled or untrained at attacking to do so seems to me to be needless and unwise.
One of the fundamental principles of "aiki" is that in any technique there is an instant in which you "accept" the attack. You must be at the spot where you could be struck, even if it is only for an instant. This is the whole basis fir "irimi". If the attack is more physical as in a grabbing attack, you must accept the energy and take it into your hara before you try to redirect or you have no real power beyond what is available from your muscle structure.

I am not saying that initiating isn't a sound martial strategy. But it is not the only one. And the idea of control is largely mental; it is on before the attacker ever decides to initiate... This is true whether you are seen to move first, you move at the instant the attacker "decides" to move, or you allow the attacker to move first. Mentally, it's all the same. The Mind is inside the attack before it materializes which gives you complete freedom to choose your timing.

Quote:
The issue isn't really one of choice but of the ability to overcome the other person's will and ability to inflict aggression upon you with your own ability to remain centered and avoid letting that aggression control you (either physically or psychologically). I find the author's ideas on how to do this to be overly simplistic and out of touch with reality.
You can always spot the "fighters" because they take everything back to physical conflict. If that is the way you look at what you are doing, you miss entirely the benefits of Aikido training for the rest of your life.

Unless you are a soldier on the front lines or are a police officer working the streets, the chances that you will use Aikido technique in a physical confrontation are quite low. I have taught for over twenty years and not a single one of my non-law enforcement / security students has ever used a physical technique.

The Founder had something else in mind in creating Aikido. It was meant to be a trans formative process. It was definitely not about fighting although it utilizes a martial paradigm.

If you take what seems to be effective martially as the model; for your actions in life, you will find that there are VERY few instances in which the martially optimal response applies very well. in most cases the martially based response will only make things worse.

When your spouse presents you with divorce papers, your boss says he is unhappy with your performance, you are having a disagreement with your teen.... these are very real conflicts and they are the kinds of conflicts which folks deal with every single day. Most "attacks" we deal with daily are not physical and yet they are very real attacks. How one chooses to deal with these every day conflicts determines what kind of quality of life one has. If one can let go of the fear based desire to reduce everything to a "fight", one can use ones Aikido to provide all sorts of useful strategies for lining. Far more useful than the ability to enter in and cut down the enemy in an instant.

Over and over the Founder stated that Aikido wasn't about fighting, yet so many people try to take everything back to a fight. What's the attachment to the idea of the fight? Why is it so hard to let go of that and do something that goes beyond?

When O-Sensei lamented that no one was doing his Aikido, it was not him worrying about his students inability to defeat enemies. It was that so few of them saw in Aikido what he saw.

Wendy Palmer Sensei not only teaches Aikido at a dojo but she takes her Aikido out into the world and uses the principles to make the lives of non-Aikido folks better. She deals with conflict every day but it is the kind of conflict that we all deal with constantly and are so poor at handling. Discounting her insights because they don't seem to be the best way to deal with a street attack, which most of us will never do in our lives, completely misses the value these insights have for daily living. I think that is a big mistake.

O-Sensei saw Aikido as a means to transform society and promote a peaceful world. I absolutely believe that tailoring the art to the mind of conflict will never achieve that. Then it's just another jutsu and a rather funky one at that. If it is fighting everyone's worried about, then do a combat art. That makes more sense. But I think that not fighting was much more what the Founder had in mind and Palmer Sensei speaks to that model in what she teaches in and out of the dojo.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 04-30-2008 at 11:47 AM.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 04-30-2008, 12:33 PM   #11
RonRagusa
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Over and over the Founder stated that Aikido wasn't about fighting, yet so many people try to take everything back to a fight. What's the attachment to the idea of the fight? Why is it so hard to let go of that and do something that goes beyond?
Hi George -

Perhaps it has to do with age. Younger people harbor many fears that we older folks have, over the years, purged from our makup or at least come to terms with. And what better way to meet one's fear than with aggression? That is until one has trained for a few decades and begins to realize that most fear is an illusion.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
When O-Sensei lamented that no one was doing his Aikido, it was not him worrying about his students inability to defeat enemies. It was that so few of them saw in Aikido what he saw.
Could it be that rather than lamenting he was admonishing them to not do his Aikido but their own?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
O-Sensei saw Aikido as a means to transform society and promote a peaceful world. I absolutely believe that tailoring the art to the mind of conflict will never achieve that. Then it's just another jutsu and a rather funky one at that. If it is fighting everyone's worried about, then do a combat art. That makes more sense. But I think that not fighting was much more what the Founder had in mind and Palmer Sensei speaks to that model in what she teaches in and out of the dojo.
Nice.

Regards,

Ron
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Old 04-30-2008, 02:30 PM   #12
G DiPierro
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Personally, I think that aikido should not be primarily about fighting. I've even said just the opposite in another thread not that long ago. In fact, the reason I don't do aikido anymore is that I have found that it is far too concerned with fighting for my taste. Most of the people I have encountered in the art actually enjoy fighting a great deal and take a lot of pleasure in throwing people around and pretending they are martially powerful.

They like to talk about how "deadly" their art is, or how they have discovered some magic technique that "magnetically" controls real physical attackers, or how certain strategies of various koryu that are very much about fighting should be used in aikido, but then when they are called on it and challenged on their effectiveness, they retreat back to the position that "aikido is not about fighting," using it not only as a get-out-of-jail-free card for their own lack of effectiveness, but also as a moral trump card meant to imply that those who are concerned about effectiveness are somehow less spiritually developed than all of these wonderful, peaceful aikido people.

People in aikido love to think that they are simultaneously highly skilled fighters yet somehow above fighting, perhaps because this is how the hagiographical accounts of Morihei Ueshiba have cast him. Rather than actually doing the same kind of training he did, though, they want to take the short cut to enlightenment, and create a martial fantasy world where their cooperative partners make them look like highly accomplished martial artists who can easily and gently handle the most powerful attacks. When presented with evidence that what they doing would never work on a real attacker, they say that it doesn't matter because aikido is not about actually winning in a fight, so please just let us get back to pretending to win in a fight like we were before. If aikido is not about winning in a fight, then why do you simulate that activity over and over again? If you have become so detached from any connection to the actual act that you are practicing that you have to completely deny its reality, then there is something seriously wrong with your art.

I'm not the one who brought up the subject of physical effectiveness in this thread. The original author claimed that what she teaches is effective in physically controlling a real attacker due to some "magnetic" force created by enjoying one's own movement. I find this notion preposterous. Yet somehow I am to blame for honestly challenging someone else's highly suspect claims of physical effectiveness. If you really think your art is not about fighting, then why do you spend so much time talking about how effective it is in a fight? Why do you claim that you can effectively control a real attacker if that is not actually your goal?

I'm not the one who is making aikido about fighting. It is all of the people in aikido who want to be good fighters and who are constantly coming up with all sorts of ideas and theories for why they are. When people in aikido stop making claims that what they do is effective in a real physical conflict then you can say that aikido is not about fighting and I will have no problem with it. Quite honestly, I don't expect that to happen any time soon, though, since I've found aikido people of virtually all styles to be very attached to the idea that they are good fighters and very unwilling to let go of that idea, even as they proclaim that aikido is not about fighting.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 04-30-2008 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 04-30-2008, 07:31 PM   #13
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
Personally, I think that aikido should not be primarily about fighting. I've even said just the opposite in another thread not that long ago. In fact, the reason I don't do aikido anymore is that I have found that it is far too concerned with fighting for my taste. Most of the people I have encountered in the art actually enjoy fighting a great deal and take a lot of pleasure in throwing people around and pretending they are martially powerful.

They like to talk about how "deadly" their art is, or how they have discovered some magic technique that "magnetically" controls real physical attackers, or how certain strategies of various koryu that are very much about fighting should be used in aikido, but then when they are called on it and challenged on their effectiveness, they retreat back to the position that "aikido is not about fighting," using it not only as a get-out-of-jail-free card for their own lack of effectiveness, but also as a moral trump card meant to imply that those who are concerned about effectiveness are somehow less spiritually developed than all of these wonderful, peaceful aikido people.

People in aikido love to think that they are simultaneously highly skilled fighters yet somehow above fighting, perhaps because this is how the hagiographical accounts of Morihei Ueshiba have cast him. Rather than actually doing the same kind of training he did, though, they want to take the short cut to enlightenment, and create a martial fantasy world where their cooperative partners make them look like highly accomplished martial artists who can easily and gently handle the most powerful attacks. When presented with evidence that what they doing would never work on a real attacker, they say that it doesn't matter because aikido is not about actually winning in a fight, so please just let us get back to pretending to win in a fight like we were before. If aikido is not about winning in a fight, then why do you simulate that activity over and over again? If you have become so detached from any connection to the actual act that you are practicing that you have to completely deny its reality, then there is something seriously wrong with your art.

I'm not the one who brought up the subject of physical effectiveness in this thread. The original author claimed that what she teaches is effective in physically controlling a real attacker due to some "magnetic" force created by enjoying one's own movement. I find this notion preposterous. Yet somehow I am to blame for honestly challenging someone else's highly suspect claims of physical effectiveness. If you really think your art is not about fighting, then why do you spend so much time talking about how effective it is in a fight? Why do you claim that you can effectively control a real attacker if that is not actually your goal?

I'm not the one who is making aikido about fighting. It is all of the people in aikido who want to be good fighters and who are constantly coming up with all sorts of ideas and theories for why they are. When people in aikido stop making claims that what they do is effective in a real physical conflict then you can say that aikido is not about fighting and I will have no problem with it. Quite honestly, I don't expect that to happen any time soon, though, since I've found aikido people of virtually all styles to be very attached to the idea that they are good fighters and very unwilling to let go of that idea, even as they proclaim that aikido is not about fighting.
Hi Giancarlo,
Actually, there is nothing here that I really disagree with. Aikido, because most styles have no competition attracts a very passive aggressive type of student. There's a bit of variation in what I would call East Coast and West Coast Aikido (folks don't get crazy on this, there are many exceptions on each coast). I think that the East Coast (where I started) model temperament tends towards the "Aikido as a martial art" side of things. The West Coast, especially the Northwest (where I currently am) tends more towards the "Aikido as spiritual practice / conflict resolution" side.;

There are aspects of Aikido which are quite effective martially. I have taught Aikido based arrest and control to law enforcement and security personnel for many years. Virtually everything I have taught has been used at one time or another on the street by my police students. That doesn't mean that I think I am a great fighter... Ellis Amdur Sensei once said that the definition of a "martial art" was training to fight another professional. By that definition Aikido doesn't even qualify. There are things that I have learned from my Aikido training which would apply in a fighting situation but the form my technique would take would not even be considered by most folks to be Aikido. So, you are right.

But I do not think that teachers like Wendy Palmer Sensei are really seriously trying to maintain that the art, as they and most of the rest of us normally practice it, is some kind of uber fighting style. I do not think that they are trying to maintain that they would defeat some Muy Thai trained mixed martial artist in a fight. Most of us simply do not train that way. (It's not that one couldn't... Jason Deluccia has done more of that than most but his technique is extremely eclectic and can't be considered Aikido, even though quite a bit of Aikido is in there.)

I have known Wendy for many years. I think she has taken her Aikido off the mat into the world in a way that most of us have not. My own Aikido is simply not very accessible for most folks. Despite the fact that I am not particularly interested in fighting any more, we do maintain a martial paradigm which is too demanding for most people. People like myself may have some impact on the art by trying to put it in touch with aspects of training which have perhaps fallen away... but I don't see practitioners of my ilk taking the art to the world and using it to change things for the folks who will never enter a dojo to train in anything. I am an Aikido teacher for serious Aikido practitioners but I am not going to change the world except by extension as my students take what we have done together and run with it. My environment is the dojo and I don't take what I know out to the world to any extent.

Teachers like Wendy Palmer do that. When they talk about "attacks". I think they are generally talking about the kinds of attacks one encounters every day from the typical untrained person who is simply fearful, angry, depressed, etc. These attacks are not from highly trained professionals and in the vast majority of cases are not physical but rather emotional, verbal attacks within the workplace, in relationships, within families, etc. Aikido principles can be applied successfully in managing these conflicts. That is what I see teachers like Wendy Palmer Sensei addressing when they use the language of violent confrontation to describe conflicts which are anything but true martial encounters.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 04-30-2008, 10:11 PM   #14
dps
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Re: Soft Power, A Magnetic Approach to Practice

Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
What the author is suggesting, though, is not just that one should focus on one's own movement, but that focusing on and enjoying one's movement will somehow create a "magnetic" force that in and of itself controls the attacker. I find that notion to be wildly unrealistic..
There are two parts to what the author said. You left out the part where the author said :

" The key is to be able to focus more attention on the feeling and form of your movement than the speed and power of the attacker."

"Once you focus on the attack, you are giving energy to the attacker."

It is not that you are ignoring what is going on but that your response is automatic due to your training and your mind is not focused on the attack or the attacker.

David
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