Breathe in, ready
Breathe out, aim
Sequencing and timing is very important. The right thing said or done at the wrong time seldom works out well. The wrong thing at the wrong time is certainly going to make matters worse and usually has extreme repercussions/consequences. The right thing at the right time is effective, efficient, graceful and elegant.
Ready: (1) prepared and set for something, (2) finished and available for us, ((3) on point/verge of doing something or likely to act, (4) willing to do something, (5) quickly produced, (6) planned and prepared in advance, (7) intelligent, alert, and quick-witted
In the dojo, we often talk of the warm up exercises as solo training for cultivating a martial body. A true artist will make whatever they do look natural and easy. We don't see the hours, days, weeks, months, years, and lifetimes that go into that appearance. We often say that the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat. Many people don't think of taking a martial art until they find themselves in the situation where it would be useful, and then it's just too late. I have met many people who wished they had started or wished they had never stopped. Perhaps they were just not (or are not) ready for the daily discipline of martial training. So how does one get ready? Usually it's a rather long drawn out and unconscious process before it become a conscious decision that can be acted on. We often think that it's just about training the body through cardio-vascular, stretching, and strengthening exercises and then endless repetition of technique. Seldom do we talk about being mentally and emotionally ready to face what will come up in training (and you might be surprised). We prepare for tomorrow by the training we do today.
In life, ready does not mean paranoid or hyper-vigilant (these are projections of internal fears and fantasized negative outcomes, which may be signs of posttraumatic stress). Being prepared/ready is to give some forethought into what we are getting into and what are the possible and potential long term cause and effect consequences (good and bad) of our actions. Being prepared/ready means to live in the flow of time. We are ready to accept our past and are willing to learn from it. We are ready to accept this is where and who we are today. We are ready to evolve and change (but that's more about aiming). We often think we are preparing for the future by projecting the past on to it. There is wisdom and intelligence in assuming that life has a momentum and inertia which repeats and perpetuates itself if we travel an unaltered course. If we want something different out of life, we will have to be ready to think, feel, and act differently. Being ready may mean generically prepared in our own skills and resilience to know that whatever happens (good or bad) you will figure it out and be okay. Are you ready to let the training change you?
Aim: (1) point or direct an object/weapon on target, (2) plan and train to do something, (3) direct message, (4) intention, goal, or target, (5) degree of accuracy
In the dojo, targeting becomes an important issue. We can focus on how to punch, but we also need to focus on where to punch. In solo training and kata we can see the difference. Someone may just be going through the motions. With someone else, you can see (almost experience) the direct aim and targeting of their imaginary opponent. The training is real and becomes alive. I remember being at an Aikido seminar and being told to look for all the openings to strike (yet, we tend not to strike in Aikido). After we became aware of the opening/targets, the technique application became connected and effective even though we never actually hit the other person. They could feel the difference in our energy too and responded to the difference. At another seminar we worked on the structural alignment (aimed through the other person) necessary to control the opposite side of the body for possible attacks. At yet another, we were instructed to pay attention to the path/aim of the technique and its final destination and then move as if it's a foregone conclusion and already done. In sword work/art I was taught that my center and hands were the rear sights of a gun, the tip of the sword was the front sight, and the opponent was the target. I was to align/aim the sights with the target.
In life, an important question is what do you really (not superficially) want? What is our goal and purpose in life? What is the point we are aiming for? Many times, people review their past and have a long list of things they know they do not want. They know they do not want it because they had it and it certainly did not work. So often we keep repeating the same pattern hoping for a different result which never happens. When we focus on what we don't want we tend to bring it more into our lives and often have no energy or intention to go after what we truly do want. We blame the past and other people for our repeated and perpetuated failures and unhappiness. Yet, we are the only consistent factor/variable and usually the only one paying the price. Perhaps if we end up in the same place repeatedly, we are the one driving there. If we aim the past through the present, we can see what the future holds. Unless we correct our aim.
Fire: (1) burning, (2) blaze, (3) discharge/shoot a gun, (4) launch/discharge of projectile/bullet forcefully, (5) continuous attack, (6) gem's brilliance, (7) eagerness or passion, (8) to dismiss somebody from work, (9) tell somebody off
In the dojo, if we are mentally, emotionally, and physically ready, we still have to get on the mat and do what we have been thinking and talking about. I always remember the Denzel Washington movie Man on Fire
where he helps recondition the startle response of a child he is body guarding. They had to reframe the starting gun for a swim meet as a friend, not an enemy to be feared. They had to recondition the startle response from flight or freeze or fight or moving forward off the starting blocks. They say to make some an automatic reflex response it may take many hours and repetitions. But it's so worth it. I remember standing with my back against and wall and my hands in my belt letting people punch at me until I didn't blink or flinch. I also remember learning not to retreat but move forward into the fight. I learned not to be a passive victim/spectator of the defensive but to enter and take charge. Often the fire in the eyes of somebody who is ready, whose intent/aim is to win at all costs, is enough to end the conflict (to win a fight without fighting).
In life, to get what you want, you have to walk the talk. I often counsel people that the three things that make a difference in life is knowing what you really want, knowing what you have to do to get it, and getting up every day and walking in that direction. Many people feel entitled to get what they want without actually working for it. Usually they are unsuccessful and unhappy people. This external locus of control (blaming others) does not seem to be an effective strategy or tactic in life. I had a client whose spiritual awakening was realizing that after years of praying for a miracle that it was he was going to have to change and go to the miracle (it was not coming to where he was). One of my all-time favorite quotes if that we do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training.
Life is about the accumulative cause-and-effect consequences of choices we have made. When we are ready to take total response-ability for our lives, aim at what we really truly want and need (love), then we get off our behinds and walk towards it with a fire in our hearts, minds, and eyes.
Ready, aim, fire. On your mark, get set, go!
Breathe in, ready
Breathe out, aim
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 lives with his wife and trains on the Florida Gulf Coast (chasing grandchildren).