April transformed itself into an unusual month in which I ended up doing a fair amount of self-reflection. Kaizen Taki’s outstanding seminar on ukemi brought my thinking back to re-examining the idea of “soft.” I know that I have made some very good progress over the last nine years in softening up and finding different ways to approach waza and ukemi (since the Aiki Expo enlightenment about my own level of ignorance) . This seminar opened my eyes to how much more work I had ahead of me and some great ways to accomplish some of this hard work (pun intended).
I was called suddenly by my father at the end of last week that he was heading home to then go to the hospital in order to receive a kidney transplant. My father’s many years of “hard living” on his body has taken it’s toll over the last twenty years. This was going to be his tenth surgery in that time period. Despite all that he has gone through, he still goes to work as a physician most days of the week! Unfortunately for him, he has a pattern of going bonkers from the all of the drugs that are required for surgery. I knew that my stepmother needed help so I “closed up shop” and flew down the next morning to help out. He basically did not sleep for any more than thirty minutes over the next 72 hours after surgery! He vacillated between goofy bonkers to combative bonkers, trying to tear out tubes inserted into his body. I spent a period of approximately 25 hours standing over him and using my skills sets developed in Aikido to restrain him in a manner that was not violent or excessively rough on his body. His tense movements would thwart his efforts, resulting in him releasing his tensions (at least for maybe 30 second!). For the last six hours, I would lie down and do Ki breathing for several minutes to re-invigorate my body so that I could stand up and continue this saga for another hour. Who would have ever thought that all of my training would be utilized in such a setting. I was exceedingly thankful that my training brought me to the point where I could physically and emotionally remain centered for such an extended period of time in order to keep my father safe.
Some great threads on the Aikiweb brought my attention to understanding the levels to which people seek to develop their Aikido skills. Some people were content to develop internal skills and keep them separate from other aspects of their life. Some people sought to develop what they believed was the “Aikido Philosophy” in how they thought that they lived their lives without believing that this philosophy needed to extend to effective application of waza with dedicated attacks. The ends of the spectrum that are typically represented on some of these threads would make an outsider ponder what Aikido might actually be!
I look back into my own history in which learning to be a very good fighter was my main way to develop my self-esteem, but then manifest itself into my creating this pattern in too many aspects of my life. What started out as a helpful and healthy path at a particular time in my life became an unwieldy and self-destructive path that I needed to acknowledge, make peace with and move beyond. Aikido became an indispensable tool in developing a more peaceful path in my life. I was exceedingly fortunate to find Imaizumi Sensei, who is one of those rare individuals who truly walk their talk. The goal of training in Aikido under Imaizumi Sensei was learning to remain a calm center amidst conflict and turmoil while maintaining the ability to maintain peace and safety in a physical realm. As a psychologist, I am well aware of most people’s ability (especially mine) to talk their way into leading people to believe that there is both understanding and the impetus for change without anything beyond the words. The realm of the physical does not lie. You cannot hide behind false words in a physical encounter. For me, Aikido was and remains a powerful transformational tool that creates real, positive change in myself.
Aikido continues to help me transform into a better person. I am becoming calmer, more patient, more connected and caring to the world around me. I use this sensitivity not as a weakness or vulnerability, but as an increasingly, finer-tuned antenna to the world in which I live in. In doing so, I am not sacrificing any martial arts ability. As a matter of fact, I am becoming better in my ability deal with physical conflicts. I have expanded my martial arts training so that I can deepen this capacity in a much more severe setting. Studying under Ushiro Sensei forces me to never sit on any gains and always seek to move far beyond my comfort zone in order to develop myself to even higher levels.
My goals for Aikido are reflected in how I approach my training and how I teach my students. First, you must develop the proper body, breathing skills and movement skills in order to successfully execute effective waza. This process will develop a profoundly deeper sensitivity to yourself and consequently others around you. This awareness will effect the way in which you live your life. It will make you a more sensitive, caring person who is better able to effectively manage conflict without the unnecessary violence that diminishes our overall sense of humanity. It will develop and awareness of Ki and expand your ability to access and use it.
So what are my current goals in Aikido? I am seeking to lose my short-temper (it is profoundly better than over twenty years ago, but still has a ways to go….). I am always looking to deepen my ability to effectively connect with the energy of those around me. I am always looking to deepen my ability to access and increase my internal power (ki). I am always looking to see that these goals reflect in my execution of my waza. I aim for less physical tension in my body, maintaining a better center and guiding others primarily at an energy level.
So what are your goals for Aikido? Remember, these goals can always evolve and change!
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here