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Sheepdogs
Sheepdogs
by Lynn Seiser
06-15-2010
Sheepdogs

Breathe in, compassion and protection for the sheep
Breathe out, assertion towards the wolves
In between breaths, the sheepdog

Last time we talked about the sheep and the wolves, the victims and the predators. This is the usual two position dilemma many people find themselves in. This is a no-win situation. Both sheep and wolves, victims and predators are fear-based and trapped into a relationship pattern that will never resolve itself.

The third alternative position and role is the sheepdog. The sheepdog is the protector and the rescuer of the sheep. The sheepdog is the enemy of the wolves. Both the sheep and the wolves fear the sheepdog. Feared by both, the sheepdog belongs to neither. The sheepdog is also trapped within the relationship pattern of the sheep and wolves. The sheepdog position and role has its drawbacks as well.

Besides the relationship patterns between victims and predators, the rescuer provides an added ingredient that may actually perpetuate what it is trying to resolve. This is common where the attempt to resolve a problem or situation actually mimics and perpetuates it.

Let's establish a triangle relationship between the victim, predator, and the rescuer. The scenario usually plays out as the predator attacks the victim and the rescuer protects the victim by attacking the predator. In human relationships, especially those imbedded in a relationship, the positions have actually just shifted. When the rescuer attacks the predator (for attacking the victim) they are now becoming the predator. The predator (now being attacked by the rescuer) becomes the victim. The victim now becomes the rescuer to the predator (or they don't like the interference and implication that they cannot protect themselves) and attacks their rescuer. Animals are much wiser than we humans. I have never heard of sheep attacking a sheepdog for protecting it from the wolves.

Sheepdogs are a special breed. They are raised only to be of service. The only one who knows their daily discipline is the Shepard who is also a sheepdog in his or her own right.

Is being a sheepdog a destiny or a choice? Only humans have the consciousness to contemplate this existential question. A sheepdog doesn't question its nature because it is engrained enough into their identity and existence that this is not just what they do but it is truly who they are. Most warriors are like that. A martial artist is like that while someone who studies martial arts is not. It's a Zen koan thing: to find the answer stop asking the question.

Can a sheep become a sheepdog? Can a wolf become a sheepdog? In the animal kingdom, the answer is simply no. They are what they are. But since we cannot find any DNA that genetically predetermines, predestines, or mandates that humans live in fear, we can assume that the sheep or the wolf can become a sheepdog if they so choose and accept the daily discipline to evolve. The discipline or evolution is not just to change what we do in behavior, what we think in our thoughts, or what we feel in our bodies, but who we are in our identity. Sometimes perhaps the best sheepdogs are those who were at one time sheep or wolves. By having been a sheep, one can find motivation of courage and compassion in truly knowing and understanding what it is like to live in fear and as a perpetual victim. By having been a wolf, one knows their weaknesses and fears and how to fight them (they may become the predators or predators). Yes, we as humans can change. One avenue of change is to make a decision, to set a direction, and to accept the daily discipline of Aikido as a way of life.

In Aikido we are taught to practice loving protection of our enemy. Aikido is often thought of as defensive and non-violent. And I would agree that the practice of Aikido is just that, but the direct application of its principles may not always be so clear or so simple. One may consider that the best defense of one (or many) may be a strong offense towards the offending predator. One may consider that the loving non-violent protection of one (or many) may be the violent application towards the offending predator. Perhaps we need to remember that reality is not always a philosophical discussion of the highest ethics. Many times in the realities of a less than perfect world, the only choice is who will be hurt or die. When one is in that situation or context it is too late to contemplate the question. A moment's thought is a choice to die. A sheep will die. A wolf will kill. A sheepdog will fight. That is loving protection. That is both compassion and courage.

There are other choices beside the triad of sheep, wolf, or sheepdog. Perhaps we will talk about them another day. But for today, let's be sheepdogs.

Breathe in, compassion and protection for the sheep
Breathe out, assertion towards the wolves
In between breaths, the sheepdog

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 06-15-2010, 02:29 PM   #2
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Sheepdogs

I had this very discussion with a friend last year. Excellent article. Thank you.
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Old 06-15-2010, 05:18 PM   #3
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
I had this very discussion with a friend last year. Excellent article. Thank you.
Thanks for reading and commenting.

Compliments for having the conversation.

IMHO, too many people miss the opportunity to discuss and decide their roles in life.

Thanks for your kind words.

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 06-15-2010, 08:06 PM   #4
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Re: Sheepdogs

Very nice piece, Lynn-san... I think many of us have this same conversation with ourselves every day. It makes good sense to get one's bearings often, as well as to make certain one regularly makes the correct decision.
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Old 06-16-2010, 08:58 AM   #5
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
I think many of us have this same conversation with ourselves every day. It makes good sense to get one's bearings often, as well as to make certain one regularly makes the correct decision.
And that is the daily discipline.

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 06-27-2010, 08:33 PM   #6
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Re: Sheepdogs

Great article Sensei.

The relationship among Sheep, Wolf and Sheepdog is a concept I use regularly when explaining certain aspects of how human beings deal with danger, fear, insecurity and those who provide security and protection.

I think it is a good model to use in explaining many aspects of Aikido training as well. Imho the Sheepdog walks in the place of balance between light and dark, life and death or attacker and defender, shifting his internal balance as needed to deal with the challenge at hand.

Best regards.
LC

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Old 06-28-2010, 10:43 AM   #7
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote: View Post
Great article Sensei.
Thanks for your kind words.
It is a useful coneptualization.

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 07-02-2010, 04:26 PM   #8
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Re: Sheepdogs

Lynn
This is a nice article - - but to be picky, there are two kinds of sheepdogs.

One kind is actually a big buddy of the sheep http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_guardian_dog

The other kind is probably what you were thinking about, a herding dog that acts sort of like a wolf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herding_dog
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Old 07-02-2010, 05:01 PM   #9
SeiserL
 
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Henry Brown wrote: View Post
This is a nice article - - but to be picky, there are two kinds of sheepdogs.
Agreed.
There are probably as many kinds of sheepdogs as there are many kinds of wolves and people.
We all have to decide for ourselves which one we are.
Thanks for reading and responding.

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 07-03-2010, 10:20 AM   #10
Randy Sexton
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Re: Sheepdogs

As I was growing up I saw a lot of abuse and swore that I would grow up and never be a victim or allow someone to be abused in my presence. That decision got in into Taekwondo for the past 30 years and as I grew I learned to reassess my ideas about people as victim or predator and grew more understanding and compassionate. I started Aikido over 3 years ago and I an now once again being challenged into the uncomfortable position of truly loving my enemy and am beginning to understand the true power of love. It has and is continuing to mold me into a kinder and gentler more compassionate Sheepdog. As always, thank you for your kindness and insight.
Doc Sexton

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will"
Gandhi
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Old 07-03-2010, 01:04 PM   #11
SeiserL
 
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Randy Sexton wrote: View Post
It has and is continuing to mold me into a kinder and gentler more compassionate Sheepdog.
Osu Doc,
They say that you cannot teach a old dog new tricks. True.
But an old dog can still learn new tricks if they choose to.
Replacing anger/aggression with compassion/assertion is surely one of those tricks worth learning.
Yet the identity is maintained, still the sheepdog.
(BTW, it was good seeing you again.)
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 07-05-2010, 06:55 PM   #12
Russell Davis
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Re: Sheepdogs

Hi read the article and thought it was great, I can relate to much of what you say, as a kid 4/5 I was subjected to an attack of sorts by a gang of older boys, since then everyone and their dog used to beat the crap out of me. My mother always told me not to fight. but as you said in the article, the victim can become the bully after time, and yet I often found myself amongst the first to rush to the aid of someone else. E.g. I ran to help Monica Seles to save her from the knife man. I joined the Forces and got a bit of a reputation, but even though I was more confident in my ability to defeat another person, I was still very nieve about people in general who would continue to take advantage of this right thro till today and Im now 52/3?
Even my ex wife used to humiliate me, yet I would defend her to the death if need be? my crew from Spec Ops were pretty much the same, wwweliteukforces old fort seige, Im the guy with the GPMG.
On one job a little baby boy got killed, I picked him up and was inconsolable, the medics had to con me out of handing over the wee boy.
Yet on another job, I could take many lives as easy as breathing?

We all make judgements about people without even knowing them, we just go by how they look, or by what others might say about them, even if its a pack of lies. and just like the proverbial sheep we dont want to rock the boat, or stand out from the crowd by asking questions, or by going against the flow

I will continue to read your article again and again, it has been of some help to me.
Thank You for taking the time to write it.
RPD
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Old 07-06-2010, 01:03 PM   #13
SeiserL
 
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Russell Davis wrote: View Post
I will continue to read your article again and again, it has been of some help to me. Thank You for taking the time to write it.
Thank you for reading and responding.

It is interesting that statistically most people will guard more to protect others than to protect themselves. I like that about us. Perhaps not as selfish as we think.

Most people don't recognize or appreciate the sheep dog until its time to act. Often we don't recognize and appreciate ourselves.

I saw a poster about fire fighters that said courage is when others are running away a few run towards.

I always hope my humble words are of some assistance.

Thanks for your kind words.

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 07-07-2010, 06:43 AM   #14
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Re: Sheepdogs

Interesting discusiion.

One of my students used to describe me as a "sheep worrier" in that at large seminars I tended (in her words) to "stalk" practitioners and then jump on them to train.

BUT after reading this article I think that makes me a herding dog.
So thanks for restoring my reputation - at least in my own mind!
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:29 AM   #15
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Re: Sheepdogs

Just wanted to say I enjoyed the article. Especially since my wife and I raise, train and show Australian Shepherds. Watching our dogs work sheep is an amazing thing. And it extends to family.

Our daughter was born 1 month early. She had a few medical issues we were watching before birth, so she spent a few extra days at the hospital. As I brought her home for the first time our "alpha" female was waiting at the door. This Aussie was an aggressive sheep/cattle herding dog. Exceptionally aggressive and powerful. But that day the look on that animal's face is something I will never forget. She stood back away from me as I came in, her ears back, with the softest "expression" I'd ever seen on her face. It was so unlike her that I pointed it out to my wife. So we stood there holding the newborn child. The dog (Maya) then slowly walked up to me and sniffed. She stood on her hind legs with the same look and gently licked the baby's forehead.

Later we put the baby in a small little bassinet on the floor. Our dog came over and wrapped her body around the outside of the bassinet and just watched her. For the next 2 hours.

A few months later we were out at a park. I was sitting on a blanket with the baby enjoying a warm day while my wife was working on the dog's obedience training (another thing she does). Suddenly the dog turned and ran back to me, breaking her training. My wife was yelling at her to come back but the dog completely blew her off which was absolutely out of character. The dog came over and stood in front of the baby staring off into the parking lot. Next I heard a low growl come out of the dog. A few seconds later a young man appeared walking out from behind some bushes off in the distance. As he walked closer the dog growled louder. At that point I realized he was carrying a stick and was walking erratically. I grabbed the dog's collar and just waited. Within a second or two the young man realized the dog was growling at him and there is no mistaking a "real" growl. He veered off and started walking away. The further away he got the quieter the growl became. She stood there for another minute or so until he was well out of sight. Then she looked at me, I scratched her head and told her she was a good dog, she wiggled a bit and tore off back to where my wife was standing and went back to training.

Anyway, I was reminded that day why I trust my herding dogs' instincts. They may not always be right, but their experiences are often such that they cut through the noise and get right to the point. There is no question about their purpose in life. No question about "why" they do what they do. No deep philosophical quandaries. They just do what they do. Period.

Maya, the Aussie, is retired now. 13 years old, bad eyesight, and almost deaf. But every morning I find her sleeping at the foot of my now 9-year-old daughter's bed, watching for wolves.

I learned a lot about life from my dog.

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Old 07-07-2010, 10:12 AM   #16
Janet Rosen
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
But every morning I find her sleeping at the foot of my now 9-year-old daughter's bed, watching for wolves.
I learned a lot about life from my dog.
I was greatly enjoying Lynn's essay & the various comments... Keith, your's just says it all.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-07-2010, 12:53 PM   #17
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Anyway, I was reminded that day why I trust my herding dogs' instincts. They may not always be right, but their experiences are often such that they cut through the noise and get right to the point. There is no question about their purpose in life. No question about "why" they do what they do. No deep philosophical quandaries. They just do what they do. Period.
Thank you for your great illustration.
There is no question.
There is only knowing and doing.
When we know and accept who we are, life gets simpler.
Thanks again for joining the conversation.

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 07-07-2010, 12:54 PM   #18
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I was greatly enjoying Lynn's essay & the various comments... Keith, your's just says it all.
Thank you for reading and your kind words.
Agreed, Keith said it all and said it well.

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 07-07-2010, 02:37 PM   #19
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
... Maya, the Aussie, is retired now. 13 years old, bad eyesight, and almost deaf. But every morning I find her sleeping at the foot of my now 9-year-old daughter's bed, watching for wolves.

I learned a lot about life from my dog.
Great post Keith... We need to pay attention to our "sheep dogs", for sure.

Best regards,

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 07-08-2010, 06:02 PM   #20
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Re: Sheepdogs

Glad my post was helpful.

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Old 07-09-2010, 10:49 AM   #21
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Glad my post was helpful.
Connection, communication, and conversation is always useful and helpful.
The journey is meant to be shared.

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 07-13-2010, 09:36 PM   #22
Keith Larman
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Re: Sheepdogs

This thread motivated me to go through some old photos.
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File Type: jpg sarah_maya.jpg (31.3 KB, 10 views)

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Old 07-13-2010, 10:07 PM   #23
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
This thread motivated me to go through some old photos.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-14-2010, 06:49 AM   #24
SeiserL
 
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Re: Sheepdogs

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
This thread motivated me to go through some old photos.
I've seen that look before.
Very cool.

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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