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Understanding Aikido
Understanding Aikido
by Lynn Seiser
05-19-2011
Understanding Aikido

Breathe in, understanding
Breathe out, understanding
Aikido

What is your understanding of Aikido?

When I think of this question, it appears to me it has three parts. The first is what is understanding. The second is what is Aikido. The third is what is my understand of Aikido.

What is understanding?
understanding: a verb, to grasp or comprehend the meaning, nature, significance, or explanation of something and to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude towards it.
Understanding is often used as a noun or a statement about what one knows as truth or fact. Understanding is an active verb, a mental cognitive process of making sense of something. Linguistically we often say that the mental map in our minds is not truly the territory it was created to represent. However, it is how we often negotiate that territory. Many people live more by the map in their minds than in the actual reality territory on which they live. Therefore, we have to understand that we do not know or experience the true nature of anything. We can accept and appreciate the limited understanding our understanding brings. Something is not true simply because we understand it and it is not false simply because we do not.

What is Aikido?
Aikido: a non-violent non-competitive non-confrontational martial arts developed in Japan in the early 1920's by Morihei Ueshiba after a life of martial arts training and spiritual discipline. Aikido (officially named in 1941) is often translated as the way (Do) of harmonizing (Ai) energy (Ki).
Aikido is Budo, the way of the warrior. Not just a warrior that confronts external enemies, defeats them, but also the internal enemy of ignorance, and finds victory in self-development.

The first part is the Aikido is a martial art. It is rooted in a long tradition of Aiki-jujutsu (especially Daito-ryu) as a fighting art. It is meant to be an effective and efficient means of defending one's self and others. The strategy behind Aikido's physical tactical techniques use relaxed circular motions to enter and blend with an attack rather than resist it with opposing force, connecting with the attacker, taking their balance, and ultimately ending the conflict by either harmlessly throwing the attacker or immobilizing him. Understanding the physics and psychology of Aikido is often the easiest undertaking. Putting them into daily disciplined practice is much harder.

As a way (do) of self-development, Aikido is an opportunity for intense training in which the physical principles are practices with the purpose to defining and refining a sense of self as a personally and socially responsible participant in contact and contributing connection with humanity, nature, and the universe. Understanding the higher philosophical, meta-physical, religious, and spiritual truths of O'Sensei's Aikido (with its Shinto and Omoto influence) may be beyond what most of us will ever fully intellectually and experientially pursue. Yet, it is a direction and perspective worth pondering.

What is my understanding of Aikido?
my: relating to a separate individual self or me as a possessor or agent of an action, holder of a belief, or owner of an object.
The concept of my understanding of anything brings into scrutiny and question the concept of a personal self beyond the learned ego identity. Let us just say the real or imagined, good or bad, constructive or destructive, permanent or temporary conceptualization of a personal self (identity or ego) is useful in daily discipline and discussion.

When people find out I study Aikido, I am often asked what it is. People have some ideas about Karate, but most have never even heard of Aikido. Because it is often their only frame of reference, I sometimes ask if they have seen a Steven Segal movie. If they have, I point out the throwing and pinning he demonstrates. It is something like that. And let it go at that. It is not something I can explain.

Aikido is not a spectator sport. People see it and think it is one thing. People show up, dress out, and bow in and they find that it is something completely different. That is how it was for me. I had seen Aikido in books and demonstrations. I like what I understood from that position. When I finally found a place to study, I also found out I did not have a clue what Aikido was. In those days, even when I saw it, felt it, and did it, I still had no understanding of what Aikido is. I know my understanding of what Aikido is today, and that understanding changes on an almost daily basis.

One of the things I do not like about being a writer and author is that I am often confronted with what I said so long ago that I have totally forgotten what it was I wrote or what my thinking behind it was. I hope that as I have continued my training and studies, my understanding has changed.

It is said that Aikido follows the laws of nature and the universe giving it a very metaphysical or spiritual perspective. However, it is my understanding that nature and the universe just are and do not necessarily comply or obey any imposed laws. Rather, we create laws to describe what we perceive in nature and the universe. Therefore, we never actually know nature or the universe but rather we know our own mental mind maps and believe they are reality.

Perhaps I understand Aikido best as a tool and an opportunity. As a tool, Aikido is a set of physical techniques and psycho-philosophical attitudes. When Aikido is spoken of as body-mind unification that means the body and mind are congruent in their task. The body is relaxed and the mind is calm, both focused on a singular intent.

As an opportunity, Aikido is a context in which to practice. Aikido is what we make it to be. Aikido is a set of techniques and principles that when applied to circumstances of conflict, chaos, and confusion can lead to peaceful resolution.

Understand Aikido? Why would I want to understand the unfolding of a mystery? Do I read the last page of a novel first? With each level of understanding, I only uncover another level of ignorance and misunderstanding. I begin yet another journey of introspection, exploration, and discovery. It is enjoyable and exciting that way. Perhaps it is how I maintain forward momentum and look forward to each training session.

Admittedly, I do not understand Aikido and perhaps I do not really want to. Perhaps like a Zen koan, the answer is only truly understood in dropping the question (the search for intellectual answers and understanding) and just enjoying, and appreciating the experience of the moment.

Breathe in, not understanding
Breathe out, not understanding
Aikido

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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Old 05-20-2011, 03:28 AM   #2
carina reinhardt
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Thank you Lynn for a clear explanation of aikido.
Many times when I read this forum I wondered why we think, write and talk so much about it, it really doesn't matter what Aikido is, just practicing it changed my life and makes me feel much better and that is enough for me.
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Old 05-20-2011, 05:40 AM   #3
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Many times when I read this forum I wondered why we think, write and talk so much about it, it really doesn't matter what Aikido is, just practicing it changed my life and makes me feel much better and that is enough for me.
IMHO, O'Sensei was a mystic and often didn't give clear definitions and instruction to possibly stimulate a personal internal search within each of his students.

I personally enjoy the think, write, and talk of AIkido as a form of mental practice. I have heard/read so many things that I never would have thought of myself.

IMHO, Aikido don't change us, we change us in the practice of Aikido.

Thanks for reading and responding.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-20-2011, 05:48 AM   #4
Dazzler
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
I personally enjoy the think, write, and talk of AIkido as a form of mental practice. I have heard/read so many things that I never would have thought of myself.

.
Exactly why I'm here...but I'm 100% with Carina too in that I'm not going to embrace the negativity that so often comes to those whose understanding is different...we are all changing and for the open and growing Aikidoka, well you cant be too fixed on todays viewpoint as tomorrow you'll be better for the things you learned today.

Words are strong ..but also just words. And nothing beats hands on...Action truly is louder than words.

Regards

D
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Old 05-20-2011, 05:50 AM   #5
crbateman
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Good stuff there, Lynn. I also do not understand Aikido. But for me, the statement "I don't know..." is what drives my continued study.
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Old 05-20-2011, 03:44 PM   #6
aikishihan
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Wow, another awesome post on a most daring subject matter. Kudos to you Lynn, for sharing glimpses of your fertile mind and spirit.

People will undoubtedly debate the first two parts of your illustration indefinitely, and probably without resolution or consensus of any kind.

It is the third part of your theory that I find most interesting, as it appears to reveal the product of your many years of study, of martial arts in general, and of Aikido. I look forward to more of the same, my friend. Keep the faith!
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Old 05-20-2011, 04:15 PM   #7
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Daren Sims wrote: View Post
I'm not going to embrace the negativity
IMHO, some of our best training comes from embracing (entering and blending) with resistance and opposition (negativity).

If we all agree, there is nothing new to learn.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading and responding.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-20-2011, 04:17 PM   #8
SeiserL
 
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
But for me, the statement "I don't know..." is what drives my continued study.
Yes agreed.

For some "I don't know" is where there journey ends.

For others "I don't know" is where the journey begins.

Forward.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading and responding.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-20-2011, 04:21 PM   #9
SeiserL
 
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Kudos to you Lynn, for sharing glimpses of your fertile mind and spirit.
Thank you for your kind words. You have always been a source of support and inspiration since we first met on the Westminster mat.

And we all know what I use the fertilize that fertile mind. ;-)

Thanks for reading, responding, and encouraging my continued journey.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-22-2011, 09:17 PM   #10
jurasketu
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Re: Understanding Aikido

My mantra as someone deeply schooled in science and math is very simple and sincere.

"Everything we know is either wrong or incomplete."

For the eternal optimist, this means that understanding and knowing are always open to improvement.

All paths lead to death. I strongly recommend taking one of the scenic routes.
AWA - Shodan - Started Aikido training in 2008
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Old 05-23-2011, 07:18 AM   #11
SeiserL
 
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Robin Johnson wrote: View Post
"Everything we know is either wrong or incomplete."
Well said Kohai.

And so true.

Thanks for reading, responding and sharing space and time on the mat.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-24-2011, 05:00 AM   #12
Dazzler
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
IMHO, some of our best training comes from embracing (entering and blending) with resistance and opposition (negativity).

If we all agree, there is nothing new to learn.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading and responding.
Thoughts...

Training is one thing...its easy to learn from negativity on the mat...off it there is a constant barrage of sniping, what ifs, comparisons and criticism.

So sometimes in Aikido a teflon gi is needed

Deal with negativity - yes...be swayed by negativity ...no.

In the words of Sir Harry Lauder...

Keep right on to the end of the road....Keep right on to the end..

Stiff upper lip and all that....

Regards

D
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Old 05-24-2011, 05:10 AM   #13
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Robin Johnson wrote: View Post
"Everything we know is either wrong or incomplete."
Including this statement?

Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile
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Old 05-24-2011, 04:53 PM   #14
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Daren Sims wrote: View Post
Keep right on to the end of the road....Keep right on to the end..
And then, keep going.

Thanks for reading and responding

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-24-2011, 04:55 PM   #15
SeiserL
 
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Rich Hobbs wrote: View Post
Including this statement?
Life is filled with paradoxes, contradictions, and double binds.

That's part of the training.

How do we understand (accept, enter, and blend) with them?

Thoughts?

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-24-2011, 07:05 PM   #16
graham christian
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Life is filled with paradoxes, contradictions, and double binds.

That's part of the training.

How do we understand (accept, enter, and blend) with them?

Thoughts?
Hi Lynn.
Nicely presented column as usual.

In response to the just get on and train philosophy I would say that's missing an important point. Communication.

In training the word connection is used but that is merely learning to be in communication with. Writing for discussion is also learning how to be in communication with. One big correlation right there I would say.

Add to that that without communication there can be no understanding you can see how I'm tying it in with your column.

In response to the question above I would personally say this: All the paradoxes and contradictions we come across are apparent. They may be viewable and called real but still I say they are apparent. Why?

Because as some wise man said 'The truth will set you free.'

By this I mean there is always a truth, a principle, beyond that apparent contradiction which when discovered releases you from the conflict. It now makes sense, is understandable and usually then obvious.

I don't like being caught in two minds so to speak but I enter with the faith that if I carry on learning, staying in communication without fighting the apparent contradiction then I will eventually hit the underlying truth and realize where I was going wrong.

Respectfully.G.
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Old 05-24-2011, 07:44 PM   #17
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
In response to the just get on and train philosophy I would say that's missing an important point. Communication.
That would imply that I think of training and communication as two separate things. I don't.

IMHO, we must connect and communicate in all we do.

I often ask people what do they want my body to do or where do they want it to go and then remind them that they have to communicate that to me.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading and responding.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-24-2011, 07:45 PM   #18
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
'The truth will set you free.'
But first it will piss you off!

Lynn Seiser PhD
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We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-24-2011, 08:44 PM   #19
graham christian
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
That would imply that I think of training and communication as two separate things. I don't.

IMHO, we must connect and communicate in all we do.

I often ask people what do they want my body to do or where do they want it to go and then remind them that they have to communicate that to me.

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading and responding.
Hi Lynn.
I didn't mean you personally thought of them as two separate things I was referring to others comments.(unless I've taken them too literally)

I too get people to feel where the body wants to go or I want to go and thus find the path of non-resistance. Feeling is also communication wouldn't you say?

Knowing there is a truth I'm not getting pisses me off yes but once found and accepted.....ahhh, bliss.

Regards.G.
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Old 05-25-2011, 05:35 AM   #20
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
I too get people to feel where the body wants to go or I want to go and thus find the path of non-resistance. Feeling is also communication wouldn't you say?
I often conceptualize/visualize that my structural alignment (foot to center) are like the rear and front sights on a riffle and plot the trajectory through my training partner's center to the point on the ground I want them to (safely) land. Aiming where they are not supported by structure (kuzushi points). Intent is like pulling the trigger.

Yes I agree that the kinesthetic/energetic sense (feelings) is a great form of communication. Though I am not that good at it. Especially the the subtleties of Aikido where if either of us feeling it (too much) I am not doing Aiki.

Thanks for continuing the conversation.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-25-2011, 05:40 AM   #21
SeiserL
 
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Re: Understanding Aikido

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Knowing there is a truth I'm not getting pisses me off yes but once found and accepted.....ahhh, bliss.
IMHO, I am not so sure there is any external universal truths.

But there are some internal subjective beliefs that are useful.

And if there is some external universal truths, I am sure I will not understand it this time around with my limited consciousness.

But its a nice thought (and direction).

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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