Breathe in, connecting.
I picked up a funny habit in my training. Okay, a lot of people would say there are a lot of funny habits in my training; of course the funniest is just me. But this one seems to work. Really.
I watch most people train, struggling to find that connection and rhythm with their partner. Once they do find it, they try hard to stay in it as long as possible. Of course the harder you try, the less likely you are to stay in it. Flows are like that. You have to "let" them happen. You cannot "make" them happen.
I found that my biggest problem wasn't staying in the connection and flow, but actually finding it in the first place. So that told me that while I still needed more practice in maintaining the connection and flow, I certainly need much more practice at finding it. So once I found it, I would purposely step out of it, lose it. I wouldn't take as many turns as tori/nage as was customary. I would bow and take another turn as uke. Let's not forget how much we learn about a technique from being in the receiving end of it too. There is still a connection and flow from that side of the relationship as well. It is just as important to learn to follow mindfully as it is to lead mindfully.
I find that as a Sempai, I can often teach someone how to feel the technique by initially leading them through it by being on the receiving end. I find I can feel where the technique works and where is doesn't by listening with my body, not my eyes and mind. There is often a deeper understanding that comes from that position. I have to find and re-find my connection and acceptance of receiving from others. This is no easy task for me. I tend not to be uke for people when they are testing because I will automatically compensate and counter the technique. By receiving it helps me to remember that it's not always about me. Sometimes I have to find the flow and take the fall because it's about giving while receiving. I remember when I started training that my Sempai would remind me that to thank them I had to repay the favor by realizing my Kohai are as important, if not more so, than my own egotistically drive towards excellence. I remember and repay them everyday I train.
After awhile, one realizes that there is no difference between giving and receiving. Even standing in line, waiting my turn can be a place to practice staying connected and flowing with everyone I am training with. It all flows by itself one into the other.
I find this is also true in communication. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is lecturing to you? The communication is one sided, theirs. On the other hand, have you ever had a conversation with someone who didn't talk to you at all? Again it is one sided, non-verbally theirs while verbally yours. In one way communication, no one wins, so everyone loses. The trick to good communication is to find the flow of expressing yourself alternated with the flow of listening to the other. Then re-finding the flow of expression and re-finding the flow of listening. Never leaving the flow of connectedness.
Try this on the mat. When it's your turn, step up and do a few repetitions. Feel the connection and flow. As soon as you feel a bit of the flow, bow out and take a turn at receiving. Next, step up again and re-find the connection and flow. With practice, this will not take as long. Finding it the first time always takes more time (discipline and patience) than re-finding it again. When you feel it again, step out again. Now it's your turn to practice re-finding the connection and flow of being on the receiving end.
During the holiday season many people are attempting to re-find the meaning of the season. Often they only re-find the stress of not being connected and not flowing. Take a break and a breath from the planning and shopping and remind yourself what the season is really all about. Now make it your discipline and practice to stay mindful of that while you go through your days. If you re-find it often enough it will become your habitual way of perceiving and being, connected and flowing. Practice that everyday for the rest of your life.
From me and mine, to you and yours, may you have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season. May we always find a way to re-find each other.
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.