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Old 01-06-2009, 12:29 PM   #1
dave9nine
Dojo: Aikido Institute - Oakland
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Emotions on the mat?

hi all,
i witnessed an interesting thing on the mat yesterday and wanted to get people's take.

a good friend of mine became visibly emotional on the mat (well, visible to me--im not sure if anyone else saw it). im not sure what the reason was and after talking to this person, i dont think it was one thing in particular. the person told me after that towards the end of class they just felt overwhelmed, like they were vulnerable and not 'energized.' the person was called up to be uke for someone doing jiyu waza, and didnt seem ready to be thrown--upon finishing, the person had a puffyness of eyes and just didnt look into it.

now, i know that everyone has good/bad days on the mat, but that's not what i want to get at--that's an easy response. instead, i was intrigued when the person said that "emotions are just a part of me, so if im being true to myself, im going to let them come out, no matter where i am at the time" (paraphrase). they also said something like since aikido is a spiritual practice, emotions should be perfectly appropriate on the mat (another paraphrase)

my immediate thought (which i didnt share) was that A) "spiritual" does not necessarily mean, or include "emotional," and B) if aikido is (or can be) a practice that helps facilitate a meditation of sorts, a connection with breath and oneness with the universe, a communion, a clarity, etc., does this not mean that an ability to control one's emotions would be a bi-product, or even an actual goal?

I am reminded of buddhist thought and the image of a monk as an example of one who strives to find 'non-attachment', and thus a freeing from emotion. Not that it doesnt exist, but that they have gained the ability to simply observe it and thus not let it take physical form in the body--such that someone else could "see" it.

What do you guys think? should a practice like Aikido help us to connect with our own bodies such that we should be able to avoid being overcome by emotion no matter where we are? Is there a place for emotions on the mat, or should our practice have the goal of being able to control our emotions? Was O-sensei an emotional person? or, was his art to conquer emotion?

-dave
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:48 PM   #2
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: emotions on the mat?

I remember I felt really weird when I first started aikido when I would get thrown. I'd been tossed around for wrestling and loved it. Even when someone much better than I was slamming me during wrestle-offs...never teared up.

Something about not resisting the throw in aikido seemed to affect me emotionally. I really don't know and can't explain it. It did pass though, so hey...tell your friend to give it time.

And yes, I think you should control your emotions on the mat. There are plenty of places where you should control your emotions. If you want to let loose, go somewhere safe and or private and let it all hang out.

I strongly suggest that you don't break down weeping if someone attacks you. I think it just makes them more vicious.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 01-06-2009, 03:00 PM   #3
Russ Q
Dojo: Shohei Juku Aikido Gibsons
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

One of the main reasons we train, isn't it....? Training, that night, provoked your friend to some unexpected emotional response. Now he/she has a chance to reflect on the experience....maybe he/she will see where the emotion is coming from and that will be enough, maybe he needs to take Ron's suggestion and find a safe place to let it all hang out....Likely, he will be stronger for the experience.

Secondly, I think your ideas about emotion are right on. Emotion is present - to observe it is all you have to do. I think it's less about control than about understanding (knowing yourself). As for emotions having a place on the mat...., I think they are there whether we like it or not. Again, observing the emotion in yourself helps you understand yourself. When you understand yourself you are calmer, more centered and dare I say it....happier....? The more you practice (with this in mind) the better your insight into yourself. As the "internal" becomes more clear, so too does the external....

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 01-06-2009, 03:58 PM   #4
gregg block
 
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

depends on the appropriateness of the emotion and how dramatic it was. I mean you have to have self control.

Ive gotten a little "pissed" when i've be "face planted" from someone. Probrably had a pissed off look on my face for a split second then shook it off and went back to work.

If someone broke out with a full blown of case of the "sniffles" in my do jo there would be "ball-busting" a-plenty during the post class exit. (of course not in front of Sensei)..
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:27 PM   #5
lbb
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

For some reason, being bonked on the head (like, when it comes into contact with someone's knee) has a weird effect on me which is partly emotional. I think this is a new thing, although maybe not -- before I started training aikido, the only time I ever got whacked good on the head, I was out. I get a bit choked up like I'm upset or about to cry, but that's not the emotion that I feel -- the emotion is anger and annoyance. When that happens, I just stay down and say, "Sorry, rang my bells a little bit" and wait until that feeling passes.
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:50 PM   #6
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Controlling your emotions has always been a pillar of masculine achievement. I think acting rationally and without intent to harm is a good goal.

I'm not sure why this should be true:

"I strongly suggest that you don't break down weeping if someone attacks you. I think it just makes them more vicious."

Why would someone else's pain make you want to hurt them more?

Anyway, one should never confuse things that are theraputic with actual therapy.
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Old 01-06-2009, 05:11 PM   #7
sarahhair
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

I have left the mat in tears after a class from being frustrated with myself not being able to do a thing or just feeling overwhelmed from being in a large group of people who are all much bigger, stronger, more experienced, and sometimes just plain scary.

Usually I can actually keep it together while on the mat and just let it go once I get off the mat. This is probably my best case scenario for the time being, though the goal is to not feel overwhelmed or to be able to just let it go entirely.

I have been on the mat in tears twice. Once when my sensei just wanted me to work through it, when I had no idea how to do a technique, and he had me just try it over and over in randori. We talked for a while after class, and he made it clear to me that he was not trying to teach me the technique, just trying to let me work through my fear on the mat instead of waiting until after I leave.

The other time I cried on the mat was during a demonstration. I was watching sensei teach part of a jo kata, and weapons simply terrify me. I have a very unnatural and incredible fear of weapons. I started crying just watching the demonstration and realizing I was so close to a stick. I pulled it together by the time I was expected to actually do the kata, so maybe I am learning something. No one else saw me crying, and I made it through without incident.

I have a point... Aikido is different things to different people. Part of why I love it is that I suck, really, really, badly at it and I enjoy the humbling feeling of doing something that everyone around me is better at doing. I just don't get that in very many other areas of my life and it is such a relief to take a break form being the biggest, strongest, most capable person around. Part of what I love is that feeling of overwhelming fear and learning how to manage and control it. One of my first responses to fear is emotional, specifically, laughing, then crying. On the mat I will be heard laughing to myself often, this is how I deal with fear. If it does not get laughed off after a moment or two, next, I will turn red, my eyes will well up, and I will cry. Like I said, this has happened twice on the mat, and many times off.

All of it is training. I am training to deal with situations differently than I have dealt with them throughout my entire life before aikido. All of it is valid training. Your friend has training to do, as does everyone. This just might be a more prominent area for his training than it is for yours. Some people need more training on their ukemi. Some need more training on their irimi-nage. I need more training on managing my fear. Maybe your friend has a similar need.

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Old 01-07-2009, 07:37 AM   #8
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Quote:
I'm not sure why this should be true:

"I strongly suggest that you don't break down weeping if someone attacks you. I think it just makes them more vicious."

Why would someone else's pain make you want to hurt them more?
Frankly, I have no clue why this is so. It is simply my observation. When someone shows signs of percieved weakness, they tend to get pounced on. I don't think it's correct...just what happens.

Maybe your experience with others is different.

Best,
Ron (I'd love it if mine was different)

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:54 AM   #9
DonMagee
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

I've always had the exact opposite experience. Walking on the mat has always caused a positive change in me. I could be having the worst day ever, 100% pissed off and just putting on a gi and stepping on the mat turns me into a laughing, joking, friendly guy.

I've had it even cure headaches and overall just not feeling 'well'. I've often wondered what caused it.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 01-08-2009, 02:56 PM   #10
Jacob Clapsadle
Dojo: Aikido Institute of Oakland
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Quote:
Dave Lewin wrote: View Post

should a practice like Aikido help us to connect with our own bodies such that we should be able to avoid being overcome by emotion no matter where we are? Is there a place for emotions on the mat, or should our practice have the goal of being able to control our emotions? Was O-sensei an emotional person? or, was his art to conquer emotion?
I suspect that the answer is the typical aiki-paradox, kind of both. From what I've read, O-Sensei was a mostly serene person who still had flashes of intense emotion. The art is perhaps more in 'channeling' emotions than 'conquering' them. During training sessions on the mat, impassioned outbursts are not really appropriate- but that doesn't mean you should suppress all your feelings. Personally, I try to remain stoic while I train, but I sometimes go through a whole range of emotions in the course of a single class. I attempt to let myself feel things without letting it affect how I train, and I have had some strange experiences in this endeavor.

One time, I was angry about some personal things, and it kept nagging at me during class. When all those hormones get pumping (not to mention all the ki energy), Aikido can really amplify emotions that are already strong. This time, instead of trying to bury it or 'get a grip', I focused on the feeling of anger, not the thoughts or causes, but the physical experience in my chest and throat. The feeling became very strong, but suddenly it wasn't anger anymore, just a kind of exteme sensitivity and passion. I felt better- still emotional but not in a 'good' or 'bad' way, just kind of human.

Experiences like this make me wonder about the true nature of emotion. If an 'enlightened' person is not at the mercy of their emotions, is it because the emotions are not there, or because they are more in touch with them? Feelings of anguish and ecstacy can be very similar in their physical sensations- we can cry from both joy and sorrow. It's just the thoughts that make them different.
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Old 01-08-2009, 03:10 PM   #11
lifeafter2am
Dojo: Shindai Aikikai
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Quote:
Jacob Clapsadle wrote: View Post

Experiences like this make me wonder about the true nature of emotion. If an 'enlightened' person is not at the mercy of their emotions, is it because the emotions are not there, or because they are more in touch with them? Feelings of anguish and ecstacy can be very similar in their physical sensations- we can cry from both joy and sorrow. It's just the thoughts that make them different.
It is about being in touch with you emotions and understanding them. By doing that they no longer control you. One should not be devoid of feeling, but also not let them rule their every action. From my Aikido practice I feel like this is being cultivated within aikidoka.

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 01-20-2009, 09:12 AM   #12
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Quote:
Gregg Block wrote: View Post
If someone broke out with a full blown of case of the "sniffles" in my do jo there would be "ball-busting" a-plenty during the post class exit. (of course not in front of Sensei)..
This statement confuses me. If you would not do the "ballbusting" in front of the sensei it would appear to me that "ballbusting" is not an appropriate action to take.

Becoming emotional because you are overwhelmed is something practice should help individuals better deal with. It seems to me "ballbusting" would be counterproductice.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 01-20-2009, 07:01 PM   #13
Buck
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Quote:
Dave Lewin wrote: View Post
hi all,
is a spiritual practice, emotions should be perfectly appropriate on the mat (another paraphrase)

my immediate thought (which i didnt share) was that A) "spiritual" does not necessarily mean, or include "emotional," and B) if aikido is (or can be) a practice that helps facilitate a meditation of sorts, a connection with breath and oneness with the universe, a communion, a clarity, etc., does this not mean that an ability to control one's emotions would be a bi-product, or even an actual goal?
I feel the spiritual side of Aikido is really vague, and therefore people often shape it into their own interpretation for justification of their (bad or good) behavior. I think it maybe a stronger justification for the nicer emotions to say it is the right of every human to show emotion. I think it makes people uncomfortable when certain emotions are shown and especially when they are not controlled. I agree that emotions are perfectly appropriate and it depends on the emotion. Crying is fine, rage isn't, for an example. Most of all, I don't think associating that with Aikido spirituality as a justification for emotion is a good thing.

I don't think Aikido is a thing that is designed to control emotion, no more than ice skating. A successful skater learns to control or hide emotion that occurs from external and internal sources and stuff. I think it is an huge responsibility to put on a martial art that has a strong Japanese unique spiritual side.

Many of us see the showing of emotion is the lack of self control, and in amass is chaos. We favor rational and logic over emotion in a way that we are to squelch emotion unless it is used productively and control is exercised. We find it the acceptable thing because of this or that to put a stop on emotion rather then see it co-exist with rational etc. We are human, emotion is part of us and has a purpose and function just as our eyes, limbs, lungs etc. Not to recognize that, that emotion is vital and needs to be understood and not removed like an appendix. Does Aikido deal with controlling emotion, I don't think so. No more than it teaches rational or logic. It is too much to ask from a martial art.
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Old 02-08-2009, 10:08 PM   #14
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Ron,

I see what you mean. As in the context of the 'ol "street," not the dojo. Weakness IS encouraging to an attacker.

That reminds me of a bit of a funny story. I took my lovely wife to Amsterdam for her 40th birthday (what a beautiful city), and someone decided to approach us for some unpleasant reason. Being Brooklynites, we smelled a hustle on the guy. He asked us if we spoke english...I said no and my wife said yes at the same time. We both stepped back and assumed our natural, New York bred "I'm cool with you but if you get nasty I will be forced to man-up" stance and the guy actually said "sorry, nevermind forget it" and hustled off.

Proof positive, baby!
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Old 02-08-2009, 10:41 PM   #15
Barbara Knapp
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

I think its a good idea not to get involved in someone else's feelings. For some people, practice does bring up a lot of feelings, it isn't necessarily anything deep. For me, when I get very tired and hungry I get wildly emotional. Learning to manage that and other feelings without denying it, making it more than it is, or letting it get in my way, has taken some time and practice, and is a very useful skill- a lot more so than nikkyo has ever been (much as I love nikkyo)...

I am also learning to try to let other people deal with their emotions without judging them or trying to fix them. Its not about me, its their practice. None of us does it perfectly. I have my own stuff to work on.
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:11 PM   #16
tlk52
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

an interesting observation

I think that on the mat it's a whole universe of human experience. and where all of peoples personality traits play out visibly.....

also that over time the practice itself visibly molds the people practicing.
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Old 02-12-2009, 08:07 AM   #17
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Emotions on the mat?

Hi Barbara,
Best post in the thread. Thanks!
Best,
Ron
Quote:
Barbara Knapp wrote: View Post
I think its a good idea not to get involved in someone else's feelings. For some people, practice does bring up a lot of feelings, it isn't necessarily anything deep. For me, when I get very tired and hungry I get wildly emotional. Learning to manage that and other feelings without denying it, making it more than it is, or letting it get in my way, has taken some time and practice, and is a very useful skill- a lot more so than nikkyo has ever been (much as I love nikkyo)...

I am also learning to try to let other people deal with their emotions without judging them or trying to fix them. Its not about me, its their practice. None of us does it perfectly. I have my own stuff to work on.

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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