In occident, we are the children of Cartesians. We cultivate intelligence but our body is sick, it is the victim of blockages and tensions. Hence, we understand a lot of things with our brains, we elaborate intricate and elegant theories, but as soon as it is time to turn words into concrete actions, we find it extremely hard...
Our libraries are filled with books that we rightfully worship, but although they contain outstanding philosophical work these books are actually asleep. In the reality of daily life, humans hate and kill each other: there is an opposition between body and spirit.
The practice of Aikido allows the reconciliation between body and spirit.
A beginner often registers to an Aikido class in order to learn how to defend himself. He is however taught that in the first instance, the enemy to defeat is not outside, but inside him, that the only form of competition in Aikido is against oneself. He is taught that it is necessary for him to first find a balance, to unify his body with his spirit. But the beginning Aikidoka also quickly realises the existence of a certain dualism; he sees the movements that his teacher demonstrates, he understands them, but his body is incapable of reproducing them. He becomes aware of his inability and he suffers from it.
The first step on the path of Aiki consists in unlocking his body in order to eliminate tensions and blockages. Little by little, the body supported by the mind moves and the inertia increases, even though the intellect is still very much present. The movements are awkward and clumsy.
André Nocquet and Morihei Ueshiba
The second step consists, through the tireless repetition of the same techniques, in forcing the mind to let go. The movement then becomes purer, less jerky. The practitioner has rendered his body more intelligent. The gesture is spontaneous; the mind is calm, serene, and available. It is at this stage that efficacy appears but paradoxically, it is also the moment when it is no longer a priority. The aikidoka who has become more confident and he has fewer things to prove. He is master of his technique; he has made it from the stage of comprehension to the stage of sensation. The true master says "feeling is better than understanding".
In the third and final step, the awakening of the body allows the spirit to be freer. The body is no longer a hindrance but instead, it has become a springboard for the spirit. Body and mind support each other and progress together. The aikidoka feels through his body that his gestures, his physical behaviour, have a spiritual extension. The practice of dodging, the art of canalising energies without blocking, and the habit of being physically available and receptive, all help him to discover a philosophy of peace, non-violence, and altruism. The words that the beginner hears, appreciates, and understands with his mind resonate to the deepest of the aikidoka's being. At this stage, there is no more discrepancy between body and mind, they are one. The aikidoka has become a complete human. Because of the transformations that took place within him, he discovers another way of looking at the world and a different way of living.
But he also discovers that for him, Aikido has only started...
(Original blog post may be found here