Breathe in obvious
Breathe out subtle
Some things are more obvious than others. Some things have to be pointed out to us before we see them. Some things we always stay blind to.
At first we learn the alphabet. Then we learn to combine letters into obvious words and words into obvious sentences, and sentences in obvious paragraphs. Later we learn go beyond subject, verb, and object agreement into the use of adverbs and adjectives to bring our words life and color. And if we are really lucky, someday we will learn to write poetry.
First we learn the form. Then we learn variations of the form. Then we drop the form.
First you learn the craft and then you express your art.
Obvious: (1) easy to see, observable, noticeable, (2) clear, (3) apparent or evident
In life we often miss what is right before our eyes. We sometimes have to ask what is the referential-index, obvious to whom? We see ourselves, each other, and the world through the interpretative lenses of personal past experience. If we were not taught what to look for, we may not know. What is obvious to us may not be obvious to others (and vice versa). It is easy to look on a calendar and see the obvious days of celebration we need to acknowledge with each other, it is easy to simply do what we are told. To keep a job, we need to follow the job description. Some things in life are right in front of our eyes. Yet we still have to open our mind and heart to observe them. Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.
In the dojo we see the physical technique in motion. We see it broken down into easy to see and easy to follow steps. Yet, it is not as obvious and easy as it appears. I see a lot of people watching Aikido thinking that they understand what they see and then being somewhat disappointed that what they obviously saw was not what was obviously happening. They thought they would be studying their perception of Aikido and not what Aikido actually is. They thought they would simply learn to fight not how to live simply. Again, sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.
Subtle: (1) understated, indirect, elusive, (2) intelligent, sensitive, clever, perceptive, (3) slight, delicate, restrained, (4) imperceptible
In life, perhaps it is the subtle that matters most. Remember being told that it is not what you say but how you say it that matters (translate: what got you into trouble). Later we learn that less than 20% of communication is the obvious content of what we said and that the other 80% was in the subtle nonverbal expression of how we said it. Ever hear the expression, if you want people to listen, then just whisper? It is true. It is not the words we shout from the roof tops that matter most but the soft words we whisper in the ears of people we are closest to that will be remembered. It is not the big gifts we give on days that gifts are expected, but the little everyday gifts we give for no other reason than to let that person know they are important us. It is a look or an attitude that conveys what words could never say. Perhaps life and love is a subtle nonverbal art. Sometimes the obvious can only be communicated in the subtle.
In the dojo we often learn to go from hard to soft, from external to internal, and from the obvious to the subtle. Once we have a basic education and understanding of what to do, we look for the ways to do it softer with more subtlety. In Aikido, things are seldom as they appear. We often do not see the subtle centeredness and connectedness until it is pointed out to us. Because the message is subtle, so is the response to it. Because we do not sense what is happening, we cannot resist it. Because it is subtly soft we cannot use our obvious strength or force to react to it. Perhaps this sleight of mind and body is the subtle secret of Aikido? It is easy to overcome someone with obvious brute power and force, yet that only changes their body position (until released) and not their heart and mind. Discovering the quiet subtle way of Aikido may be more about the process of training and learning and not the content/techniques itself. Perhaps it is not about the obvious control of other but the subtle control of ourselves that allow us to move on the mat differently. Hopefully we will take that out of the dojo and into the world.
Elegance: (1) styles and good taste, (2) conciseness. (3) grace, (4) refinement
In life, there is a rhythm to everything from the clock ticking on the wall to our hearts beating in our chest. There is a synchronicity of coming together and finding that shared rhythm. It is what we all look for and few find. We choose how we live our lives and how we love each other. We can facilitate and perpetuate the pattern of obvious failure that has been endowed to us from past generations and early learning experiences or we can choose to subtly express ourselves through the elegance of how we live. Some people go through life rather clumsily out of rhythm with others while some find a grace is a quiet shared experience.
In the dojo, we find many people still practicing the technical steps as if counting to the music. We find others who are practicing how to enter and blend with the rhythm and pace of others and dance with subtle elegant abandonment. Some think about the technique they want to do and others find the spontaneous simultaneous expression of the encounter happening with no conscious effort.
Perhaps our goal is that our subtle elegance as human beings in this shared temporary existence will find the obvious inter-connectedness and inter-dependency that overcomes our duality and insistence on individuality to find and express what is in our mutual best interest.
Breathe in obvious
Breathe out subtle
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 over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and 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, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.