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Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?
Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?
by Lynn Seiser
10-12-2007
Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

If I work hard and "make" the technique work, it is wrong.
If I relax and" let" the technique work, it is right.
Why is easy so hard to learn?

To practice Aikido, one must be completely relaxed. When I first started in Aikido, everyone told me to relax. In frustration, I kept trying to tell them that this was relaxed for me. I could not "make" myself relax. The harder I tried, the tenser I got.

Coming from the streets and the bashing arts, making a technique work through force was something I was not only used to, I was good at it. Every time I "made" an Aikido technique work, I was wrong.
When I feel the technique, it is wrong.
When I do not feel the technique, it is right.
Why is easy so hard to learn?
There were a number of things that I had trouble getting my head around. In Aikido, I heard the expression that wherever the head goes, the body tends to follow. For me, wherever the head did not go, I just did not get. Initially, I did not get Aikido. Okay, many will say I still do not get Aikido, but I am beginning to get a glimpse into getting a peek at it. Before I could learn anything about it, I had to gain some level of technical proficiency. I still was not relaxed enough and I was certainly still trying hard to be relaxed and make the technique work. Like I have been saying, easy is hard to learn. It just did not (does not) feel right.

I had searched and watched many Aikido classes. I did not like the way they attacked and I certainly did not like that it looked like everyone was just tanking in practicing. It is funny how easy things look from an ignorant spectator position. Everything looks easy from the bleachers. Finally, I watched someone make it look easy to throw someone hard. In fact, he made it look easy to throw me and hold me down. It was hard to find someone with this level skill, but then it was easy to sign up, show up, suit up, shut up, and begin to learn.

Here are a few of the things that I found hard to make easy:

Do not make them attack, invite them, and let them enter? At first, I took my tried and true ready stance. It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull and saying that it was okay to attack me now. I tried to look fierce; a good defense is a strong offense. Sometimes, I was good enough that my uke would just laugh at me. When I was ready for the attack, they did not want to. When I just stood there, no stance, they would come to me (or not). So much easier.

Let them grab me? I do not know about you, but I always thought that the point was not to let someone grab me. Now, I am supposed to let them grab me and then use their hold to control them. This just goes against my original well-trained way of thinking. However, when they grab it does tie up their hands up, lets me know exactly where they are, and gives them a false sense of control and confidence. Okay, grab my wrist.

Do not stop their momentum, get off the line, and let them pass?. In the old days, if someone attacks, I would tend to move directly into them, force on force, man-to-man, stupid-to-stupid. The infamous clash of the warriors doing battle. Never retreat. Okay, these head on collisions were often as damaging to me as it was to them, but what am I to do, act like a matador and avoid the horns of the attack? Yes, that is exactly what I am to do, and it is a lot easier on the body.

Do not make them fall, take a position which takes their balance and let them fall? In the old days I would hit, kick, elbow, knee, and head butt. If they fell down it was because of the sheer power of my blows. Yep, that is battle. So what is this idea of moving in such a way that my posture, positioning, and timing allows them to naturally lose their balance and fall down all by themselves? Where is the fun in that?

Why is easy hard to learn? Because it goes against, sometimes directly opposite, the way I used to think. Changing how the body moves is one thing, but changing how I think? Now that is an art.

Why is easy hard to learn? Because it is what I do not do. What I do is easy for me to detect. The harder I do it the easier it is to detect it. Of course, it is easier for the other person to detect too. Rather defeats the purpose. I can make myself tense, but I have to let myself relax. "Let" is so much harder to learn than "make", but makes life so much easier.

Why is easy hard to learn? Because I was taught, that life is a struggle, a fight, and a battle. I was taught that easy was lazy and would never accomplish anything. Anything worth having was worth the hard work it took to get there. I made everything a struggle, a fight, a battle, even when there really was not one present. I worked hard, even at the things that were easy, and broke more things than I fixed. Now, it is hard to learn the easy way. I learned the hard craft of fighting, now I have to learn the easy art of peace.
I can "make" myself angry
and try in vain to control the world ("make" it how I want it to be).
or
I can "let" myself be happy
and control only myself ("letting" me be who I know I truly am).

Why is easy hard to learn?
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of services, 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 10-26-2007, 03:00 AM   #2
driri
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Hello Lynn,

very nice column, I enjoyed reading it.
I can really relate to your saying that easy just did (does) not feel right. I have only been studying aikido for 3 years now, after an odd 30 years of karate. It is really a struggle to move away from the thought of fighting and to start looking at letting go and relaxing.
Reading your column at least assured me that I am not the only one having trouble turning my state of mind around

Thanks again and kind regards,

IJsbrand den Drijver
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Old 10-26-2007, 06:12 AM   #3
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Osu,
Thanks for the agreement.
I spent my first year going home after Aikido training, wrapping my hands and bashing a heavy bag. I was so frustrated by Aiki. It was the opposite of everything I had trained my mind and body to do. Now, 13 years later, I am a bit more relaxed.
No, we are not alone.
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 10-26-2007, 09:10 AM   #4
MM
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Hi Lynn,
Great article. I keep forgetting to ask where you trained fma/jkd. And how you compare/contrast that with aikido? I'm finding myself in a similar situation, but only just started fma.

Thanks,
Mark
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Old 10-26-2007, 09:28 AM   #5
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Smile Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Thanks Lynn,

Agreed!

It's so easy to fall back to the human "doing" rather
than the human "being" mindset. And if I am a human "doing", then "it's all about me". If I start thinking that "it's all about me", this is a good indication that my ego has once again seized the reins. I have read that the quality of my aikido is in inverse proportion to how much my life is ruled by my ego and the belief system that goes along with it. My ego wants to convince me that I am (terminally) Unique, that i'm different from everyone else. As long as I insist on maintaining this warped, isolationist view of individuality, how can I ever hope to effectively blend with someone else's energy? "That's impossible! I can't blend with you, I"M ME! I get frustrated, very very frustrated, to the point that I have to stop what I'm doing and sit. And I sit, quietly, I drop the ego, I take a deep breath, things start to flow, my aikido improves, my state of mind improves, I feel relaxed. "This is so easy, why didn't I just start from here in the first place?" I realize that this is how I like to feel. I make a vow to be like this all the time. 10 minutes later, It's all about me again. The great circle begins another revolution.

Why is easy so hard?

Maybe I'll read the Tao Te Ching online for a while now. For me, the definitive text on "being" v. "doing".

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

ART! - http://birdsbeaks.blogspot.com/
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Old 10-26-2007, 02:25 PM   #6
phitruong
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Lynn, great article. resonate very well with me. I am still wrap my hands and pound the bag; I pound with my head too just to make sure the idea getting through. I am still fighting hard to relax. one of this day I'd even lose.

years ago my wing chun sifu shown me a relax punch which he called soft fist punch. it was one of the most powerful punch I had received. The fist and every thing on his body were completely relax, even on impact. Of course, I was young and stupid, I ignored it and spent time on pounding things hard. Aikido principles are working through my thick skull and giving me a better understanding of the soft fist punch. I would say that aikido principles completed my other trainings.
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Old 10-30-2007, 04:00 PM   #7
Susan Dalton
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Beautiful article, Lynn. Thank you. My mother had the softest touch--she'd lay a hand on someone's arm and the fight would cease. She was an operating room nurse, and she'd ease fear away with that touch, too. A few, very few, people are gifted with soft, relaxed touch. It's one of my goals, too.
Susan
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Old 10-31-2007, 05:59 AM   #8
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Quote:
Susan Dalton wrote: View Post
My mother had the softest touch--she'd lay a hand on someone's arm and the fight would cease. She was an operating room nurse, and she'd ease fear away with that touch, too.
I think it's "Therapeutic Touch" (created by a nurse) that transmits healing energy through laying on of hands. Tohei had a similar system.

I am trying to study more of the energy medicines and finding the relaxed "let" of touch transmits the emotional content. So what we think and feel while doing Aikido makes a great difference.

Fascinating stuff.

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 11-05-2007, 10:31 AM   #9
BK Barker
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Wow.... I am sort of at a loss for words. I have read this before and sort of got it but I just read it again and I was totally enthralled with it... maybe I should say engrossed... captured... heck I dont know but wow.

I felt every emotion of what you was saying/explaining and found those in myself. I find that it is a constant struggle to relax completely even though I feel relaxed physically I might not be relaxed mentally which then seems to reverse being relaxed physically.... many many way to look at things and it is so hard to learn easy. Thanks for the article Lynn I always look forward to reading your posts!
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Old 11-07-2007, 03:45 PM   #10
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Brian,
Thanks fro your kinds words. I always try to write something that somebody somewhere will read and find useful.

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 11-09-2007, 08:49 AM   #11
Esaemann
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Lynn,
Thank you for the article. Reminds me of the story of the student who asked his instructor how long it would take him to master Tai Chi. Reply - 10 years. Student frustrated asked what if I try/work really hard. Reply - In that case 20 years. My comment - 10 years to overcome that thinking, then 10 years to master.

Will, regarding your comment.
"My ego wants to convince me that I am (terminally) Unique, that i'm different from everyone else. As long as I insist on maintaining this warped, isolationist view of individuality, how can I ever hope to effectively blend with someone else's energy?"

I've found in the area that I live, in the general public, if you are relaxed that you are unique. Unless among like minded folks.

I'm in the dangerous trap that says "I am better than those not at least studying the way". I believe some taoist (students and adepts) share this trait. But I also believe at times that I am nothing, and therefore, have no ego. Very Yin/Yang - confusing, but most of the time it doesn't bother me; except when I sit and think or write about it
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Old 11-09-2007, 09:53 AM   #12
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Eric,
We are all unique, thus all the same.
Better or worse, are both judgments.
Overcoming the mind, now that's the art.
Thanks 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 11-09-2007, 11:19 AM   #13
Esaemann
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Overcoming the mind, now that's the art.

A big smiling Ai to that. My Tai Chi instructor says let go of the mind and/or just let go during tuishou.
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Old 11-23-2007, 08:35 PM   #14
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

I like the poem. Did you write it? I'd like to share it with my online aikido group in multiply, if you don't mind. I will cite you as the author, of course.

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Old 11-24-2007, 03:45 PM   #15
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Quote:
Rafael Ayala wrote: View Post
I like the poem. Did you write it? I'd like to share it with my online aikido group in multiply, if you don't mind. I will cite you as the author, of course.
Yes, I wrote it.
I would be honored.
With my permission, please feel free to share.
That's why I write.
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 08-10-2011, 03:01 PM   #16
Janet L.
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

As a beginner, I am constantly shocked that on those occasions I get something right it's so much easier than what I was doing before.

I've just about reached the conclusion that the way to tell when I'm getting something right, it feels easy. (At least unless I'm missing it altogether.)

Hmmm. . . If it is all so easy, why am I sweating so much?

A belated thank you for an excellent column. - I only discovered Aikiweb last month, and I'm slowly making my way through the archives.

- Janet.
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Old 08-10-2011, 03:46 PM   #17
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Quote:
Janet Lowther wrote: View Post
I only discovered Aikiweb last month, and I'm slowly making my way through the archives.
Welcome to the Web.

It is a great resource and opportunity that we are all very appreciative and thankful for.

IMHO, we all mistakenly do it right every once in a while.

Thanks for diggin' through the archives.

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 08-12-2011, 07:28 AM   #18
Mario Tobias
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Hi Sensei,

Nice article. I think why the things we do in aikido is hard to learn is because we as humans are wired to make things work with how we are familiar, comfortable to make things work. I think there is some level of fear to venture outside our comfort zones to try the unfamiliar & experiment since it might lead to failure and we as humans are programmed to avoid committing and admitting to mistakes ie if the techniques dont work. If something doesnt work, we quickly go back to what is familiar but not necessarily correct.

IMHO, the dojo is the perfect place to experiment with the unfamiliar and commit mistakes so you can analyze them later, but most of the times both uke and nage serve as obstacles to experimentation.
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:18 PM   #19
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
IMHO, the dojo is the perfect place to experiment with the unfamiliar and commit mistakes so you can analyze them later, but most of the times both uke and nage serve as obstacles to experimentation.
Yes agreed.

IMHO, the dojo a safe place to study and practice.

Its is in accepting failure that we find we have something new to learn.

It is in overcoming (entering and blending) with obstacle that we learn.

Overcoming and changing our habitual way of thinking and moving (force against force) is easier than living with resistance for the rest of our lives.

Perhaps there is no hard or easy.

Perhaps there is only the courage to train and live with humility.

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 08-12-2011, 02:38 PM   #20
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

I am so glad Janet dug around and brought this gem to the surface! This is exactly what I am working on in my training right now. I plan on asking Heiny sensei for some work on this area during her visit with us this week.
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Old 08-15-2011, 06:25 PM   #21
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Quote:
Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
This is exactly what I am working on in my training right now.
Thanks for your nice comments.

Learning to relax the body, calm the mind, and "let" the technique work is all I ever work on.

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 08-16-2011, 09:12 AM   #22
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Maybe because it's counter-intuitive to the way most of us live our lives trying to be safe, trying to get what we want, and trying to be "happy"...

Best regards,

Chuck Clark
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www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 08-16-2011, 10:26 AM   #23
SeiserL
 
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Quote:
Chuck Clark wrote: View Post
Maybe because it's counter-intuitive to the way most of us live our lives trying to be safe, trying to get what we want, and trying to be "happy"...
Osu Sensei,

I could not agree more.

Though I am not too intuitive or intelligent, I do think that Aikido is more natural than our socially learned normal. Therefore it does everything the opposite of the way we think it should.

A we learn in suggestive arts, when we "try" to be safe or happy, we are not. "Try" implies failure.

Its when we decide to practice our daily discipline in the direction of what we want, safety, and happiness that we actually begin to manifest that intent in our practice and lives.

Thanks for reading and responding.

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 08-16-2011, 11:45 PM   #24
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Lynn,

I tell my students that the hardest part of learning any real budo is that it is really counter-intuitive to most everything else they do, or have done in their life in western societies. They usually then, think about that a bit (usually a few minutes because they're "smart") and then say, "I think you're right. It'll be a lot easier now that I understand that..." :- ) There are the ones that hang around and end up getting it after a number of years... and then the ones that quit come back for visits and point out to me when watching that they recognize what I meant and are sure they could "do it now...."

As a good friend and student of mine and a very fine budoka was fond of saying, "Ya buy 'em books, and buy 'em books and even read some to 'em and then all they do is end up eating the covers."

:- |

Regards,

Chuck

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Old 08-17-2011, 05:22 AM   #25
Anita Dacanay
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Re: Why is Easy So Hard to Learn?

Wow - this column was written before I joined aikiweb, so I am glad that it resurfaced at this time. Your words hit home in a deep way right now for me, as it seems they have for others as well.

We have these stored ways of living with anxiety and acting out of that feeling. We store the patterns in our minds and bodies. Aikido, if practiced with sincere desire to learn, seems to bring these patterns to light and allow us numerous opportunities to try and learn a new way.

I am always amazed when I am in class, sweating and struggling to "get" something to work... then, somehow, for one moment, I release and let it work - WOW! I'm so happy - I got it! Right? Then I try to repeat what I just did, and, as my 11 year old son would say: epic fail!

I find it so hard to release these patterns, but I also think this is where Aikido helps us find unity and compassion. We realize that everybody else is struggling just as hard as we are - or did struggle at some earlier point. It makes the notion of blending possible, because we realize that we have acted out of fear or anger any number of times in our own lives, how can we judge others for doing the same?

Thank you for one of many great columns.
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