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by Lynn Seiser

Breathe in, connect and enter
Breathe out, extend, enter deeper, blend and become one
Always all inclusive

I remember hearing all this "connect, enter, blend, become one" philosophical stuff when I started Aikido. It made about as much sense as "let them grab you", and "take the fall", and worst of all "don't hit them". I had no idea what all that meant or where it might lead me. It was all I could do some days to get up and go train with people telling me to "relax more" and "move naturally" when this was as relaxed as I got and going in circles was something I did a lot, but not naturally and certainly not on purpose.

Not this and not that = exclusive
All of this including that = inclusive

I like to read philosophy. I even received a double major with it once. I always remember my instructors telling me that the higher levels of logic were always more inclusive and lower levels were more exclusive. It's like molecules contain atoms, but atoms don't contain molecules. Sentences contain words, but words don't contain sentences. And yes, you could get into potentiality theory. You could say that the atom contains the potential to become a molecule and that words contain the potential to become sentences. But that's a different philosophy class. Being philosophical has often helped me see the big picture and get my head (and body) around the little picture of direct application. And that is where it is for me, direct application.

I remember being in an Aikido seminar and having difficulties with a particular technique. The Sensei kept telling me what to do, but I just wasn't getting it. He finally said that I was putting my training partners outside my technique and that I needed to include them. By mentally beginning to think of putting my training partners inside my technique, it worked. Instead of being outside my sphere of influence, he was in it.

Later I began to understand that ki tended to follow the mental focus. While I still don't experience the rush of ki energy or flow, I can begin to control even what I don't feel. If I think about connecting my center around and into my training partner's center, we are connected. When I move he moves. Instead of including just his hands and arms, leaving his body outside (exclusive), I began to move as if I was circling and including his body, spine, and center. My forward momentum or even leaning would take his balance (inclusive) because he was included in my mental focus and technique. It's another one of those "where ever the head goes, the body (and ki) follows" things I am so fond of.

I versus you = competitive, exclusive
We = cooperative, inclusive
Us versus them = conflictual, exclusive
We = connected, inclusive

As a family and couples counselor I already knew the concept. I would listen to people talk about their lives and their relationship. It's usually the "she did this" or "he did that" or it's "mine" versus "theirs". Hear the use of pronouns? After a little while of compassionate listening, I would often ask, "Where is the we or us?" Their mental maps of their relationships were still based on an individual model. No wonder they were having trouble, they weren't connect, they were not including the other person except perhaps as an inconvenient nuisance who wasn't thinking, feeling or doing what they wanted them to do. The opposite can be equally true. There is a ceremony in which each individual lights their own candle, then lights a candle representing their connectedness, then blows their own candle out. Symbolically and metaphorically there are no longer two selves, only the connectedness of "we". Sorry, if you want more light then keep all three candles lit. It's not an either/or proposition. To have a "we" you will have, by definition, an "I" and a "you". In fact the connectedness through "we" means the more I help and support you, the more you help and support me, the more "we" grow as individuals, as couples, as families, as a common-unity, a country, and a world. We all win or we all lose together

The next time you are on the mat, include the other person in your mental focus and technique. When with family and friends find the similarities and connectedness and include them in your mind and heart, in your "we".

Breathe in, connect and enter
Breathe out, extend, enter deeper, blend, and become one
Always all inclusive

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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