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Feel the Finesse
Feel the Finesse
by Lynn Seiser
07-23-2009
Feel the Finesse

Breathe in; internal finesse in being.
Breathe out; external finesse in movement and relating.
Feel the finesse.

It is easy to feel the big muscle movements. They are the ones that really make you feel like you are doing something. And there is no doubt about it. But are you doing Aiki or are you wrestling?

I was told that if I could really feel what I was doing, then I wasn't doing Aiki. If I didn't feel what I was doing, yet it seemed to work, then that was probably Aiki. It's always the opposite of what I think it is.

Same with uke. If they feel what I am doing, then it's muscle, it's wrestling. If they don't feel my intent and movement, and they lose balance and the ability to resist, then I was probably doing Aiki.

I often get to meet people who have been watching Aikido for sometime. After watching it, they think they have an idea of what it's about. I did too. But when they suit up, bow in, and actually feel Aikido, they realize it is nothing like it appears.

In school and in business I was told and taught that the magic is in the details. If I take care of the big picture, the little pieces don't always fall into place. Yet, if I pay attention to the small pieces the big picture soon becomes apparent.

In relationships it's the same way. It's not only about showing up on assigned holidays with the appropriate gift and card, but about showing up everyday and making sure the other person is okay and knows they are accepted, appreciated, and loved.

As teachers of Aikido we need to pay attention to how we present ourselves and how we run the class, demonstrate and explain the technique, and being role models.
Finesse: refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture; skillful handling of a situation; the withholding of one's highest card or trump in the hopes that a lower card will take the hand; the quality of being exceptionally good (noun), to outmaneuver (verb).
Finesse cannot be seen because it is fluid and effortless. Finesse cannot be explained because it is illusive and subtle. Finesse can only be felt, and what is felt is best described in what is not felt.

There are not that many techniques in Aikido. Yet, there are infinite variations, combinations, and applications. Once you have the basics down (which usually takes until your black belt) you can begin to move from craftsman to artist, from wrestler to Aiki, from the big circle into the little, and from the form into the finesse. But it takes practice (a lot of it) and constant awareness and mindfulness. While you can use muscle to "make" Aikido work (or what I have been calling wrestling), it takes finesse to "let" Aikido work.

I always hated when people would say to just stand or just move naturally. I thought I was. Okay, it was natural for me after all those years of bashing training. Oh, I guess that's called normal and my normal was anything but natural. I was using so much energy and was so misaligned that gravity (which is not fond of us older people) was pushing and pulling in cruel and unusual directions. There was no finesse to my stance. Since I am not much of a defensive player, my stance showed my offensive and often aggressive nature. As I learned to "let" my body align, I found a frame that could hold me up. I found that my posture mattered in all I do. After a lifetime of poor posture, I was beginning to just stand. Not offensive or defensive, but just stand. I was finding a frame from which I could move. This applied psychologically as well. I have always respected and appreciated those people who move through life with finesse. It was natural and effortless and I wanted me some. But few told me how much work it was to stand and be natural.

Finesse in movement was (and still is) difficult for me. I am not a graceful man and can still trip over my own feet. I watched tapes of old masters of many different martial arts. They would limp and hobble to the mat, but once in motion it was smooth, effortless, and subtly unperceivable. And I wanted that too. I began to practice my movements slower. I heard that the only way to retrain (neuro-plasticity) the neuro-pathway was slow repetitive mindful repetition, leaving no gaps in the neuro and muscular alignment and pathway. Not using momentum, but using mindfulness of movement. After thousands of repetitions, it is supposed to come and appear natural because it is now newly wired in. I look forward to that day.

For now, I simply know I need to stay mindful of my decision, my direction, and my discipline to find finesse in my training and in my life.

Breathe in; internal finesse in being.
Breathe out; external finesse in movement and relating.
Feel the finesse.

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.
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Old 07-23-2009, 03:19 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: Feel the Finesse

"the devil is in the details" :-) A good essay, Lynn; thank you.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-24-2009, 05:46 AM   #3
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Re: Feel the Finesse

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
"the devil is in the details" :-)
So are the angels.

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 07-24-2009, 09:14 AM   #4
Janet Rosen
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Re: Feel the Finesse

It's an odd phrase, isn't it? I have always interpreted it to mean that there is danger lurking in innattention, hence an odd command to be mindful.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-27-2009, 02:16 PM   #5
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Re: Feel the Finesse

Quote:
In relationships it's the same way. It's not only about showing up on assigned holidays with the appropriate gift and card, but about showing up everyday and making sure the other person is okay and knows they are accepted, appreciated, and loved.
You put into words something that has been on my mind for a very long time. So hard to find people in the world who truly think, and more importantly act, this way.

Quote:
Finesse cannot be seen because it is fluid and effortless. Finesse cannot be explained because it is illusive and subtle. Finesse can only be felt, and what is felt is best described in what is not felt.
I know this feel because I have it as an equestrian. I look forward to the day I find the beginning of it in aikido as well.

Very nice article. Thank you.
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Old 07-27-2009, 09:53 PM   #6
Susanne Serwotka
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Smile Re: Feel the Finesse

Hello Lynn,

I find so true what you write, specifically about the difference between "finesse" and "wrestling". My personal training goal last week was, inspired from you article, to not let uke feel what I am doing.

It's hard for me, because of my karate background I still feel using kime and explosive muscle power equals great effect, but the results were so rewarding. I tried to make my movements smaller, more subtile, "feminine", soft, almost undetecable, and the more I did that, the more I was able to find uke's and my center, align them and take the balance. If you are a smaller female and you are told you can throw a guy double your weight without using muscles, you are of course subject to self doubt and want to put this to the test...and I am glad I did. Regained a lot of confidence last week.

Also, I found this worked better for uke as well: Because the approach is softer, they don't resist so much, thus less opportunity to "wrestle" and get hurt.

I now ask uke for feedback: if I am "jerking" or "wrestling" I turn it a notch down, until uke feels only a soft manipulation.

This has improved my training a great deal - Thank you!
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Old 07-28-2009, 11:52 AM   #7
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Re: Feel the Finesse

Quote:
Susanne Serwotka wrote: View Post
This has improved my training a great deal - Thank you!
Osu Kohai,
Yes it cetainly has. Compliments.
Always enjoy training with you.
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 07-28-2009, 11:55 AM   #8
SeiserL
 
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Re: Feel the Finesse

Quote:
Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
You put into words something that has been on my mind for a very long time. So hard to find people in the world who truly think, and more importantly act, this way.
Osu,
Thank you for your kind words and response.
Yes agreed. I think we all already know what we need to do and that we need to be more gentle with each other and the world. The courage is to have the daily discipline to act on it no matter what the social norm is. But, I think there are a lot of us trying. Its a start.
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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