Breathe in, awareness
Breathe out, action
I have always been a fan of the OODA
model. It's a useful conceptualization. It basically says we Observe
, then we Orient
, then we Decide
, and finally we Act
. The sequence is very important. It doesn't really tell us what to observe, what to orient to, what decisions we should make, or what specific actions we should finally take. It leaves that up to us. It's a useful sequential process.
Awareness: (1) consciousness, mindfulness, alertness, and attentiveness, (2) knowledge, understanding, perception, discernment
We cannot bring our awareness and pay attention to everything in our environment; we would be on sensory overload. Adding to the overwhelming possibilities is that we spend most of our time being internally focused on our own thoughts and feelings. Being aware of this internal absorption allows us to begin to let it go and become more aware of what is going on externally around us. Since fear and paranoia is more an internal fantasy/delusion/obsession, the more time we can spend looking outside ourselves may help us do a reality check.
In the dojo, when we first study, we may find the whole environment different from our everyday lives. We may find it sensory overly stimulating with its novelty or tranquil with its sensory simplicity. It will feel new to some and strangely familiar and comfortable to others. Many instructors talk about situational awareness and zanshin
(lingering awareness/spirit). Some will talk about the use of the periphery vision to detect motion and mushin
(empty/clear mind). What they want us to learn is to pay close attention/awareness to who is right in front is us (you know, the person who is going to or is already starting to attack you?). This can also be thought of as being present in what we are doing. We are not only aware of how our training partners are approaching and attacking us, but we are also aware of how we are reacting to them. Before we can decide how to act, we have to observe and be aware of all the past programming we bring to the context and situation.
In life, we are often so tied up with regrets/depression of the past and fears/anxiety of the future that we have totally filled the present moment with our internal process and patterns. There is no cognitive or emotional room for whatever or whoever is right in front of us. This has become so epidemic that we are all being encouraged to live in the moment, in the here and now, to counter act it. Awareness of where we are and who we are with is very important. First we have to know ourselves and then we have to know the other, before we can know who we are together. Yet seldom are we aware of our realities. We are seldom even aware of the fantasies and expectations we are projecting onto others and then wonder why they are not living up to them.
Once we become more aware and observant, we have to orient and decide what we want to do about the information we have just gathered. We will get into that later.
Action: (1) act, achieve, accomplish, (2) encounter, engage, battle, (3) charge, to proceed
In the dojo, many students have not gathered the external or internal awareness enough to act decisively. They are just doing what the instructor demonstrated. I remember that my Sensei often looked like he was doing the technique slightly different with each person he demonstrated with. When questioned, he would say that the other person was giving him different energy. I was not even paying attention to what the other person was doing. The action must be appropriately responsive to the situation and context. When visiting other schools and attending seminars I would often hear the feedback that I was moving before the attacker got close to me. I had decided to act and did so without any reference to the other person. When startled, we tend to react by fight or flight, and action towards or an action away from whatever has startled us. Honestly, the majority of people do not act at all; they freeze (which is in-action or no-action). We have to overcome all three re-actions to act decisively and assertively by flowing with an approach and attack. For every action there is a re-action. The question is if the re-action is a decisively appropriate response to the initial trigger stimulus will our actions protect us and resolve/neutralize the attack?
In life, we have become a passive spectator society and tend not to act at all. Perhaps we all are suspended in a fear-base frozen response. At best, we have become actors in our own fantasy narrative and not connected with our environment or others. I see this in couples counseling. The couple comes in because the other person does not act according to the internal script they have project onto them and never shared with them, but still expect them to act accordingly to it even if it has nothing to do with any way the person has ever acted in their life. We often expect others to act while we do not. After all, they are one with the problem and need to change. Yet, to be successful in life and in love, we must take decisive intelligent goal-directed action and accept total responsibility for the consequence (good or bad) of those actions. This goes very counter to the current social norm of entitlement. We cannot achieve or accomplish anything without taking charge of our actions. It is deciding which action to take that leave most people in the freeze reaction of non-action.
So, how do we decide what to act on?
Contemplation: (1) consider, envision, intend, think about, (2) imagine, study, reflect, ponder, mull over, (3) watch, examine, observe, scrutinize
Contemplation is not something we do after we observe and act. Contemplation is what we do before, during, and after observation and action. Contemplation is not sequential (it is wiser to observe before we act, like aiming before we fire), but a simultaneous ongoing process of orienting, evaluating/assessing, and intelligent problem-solving, decision-making, and conflict-management/resolution. It is important to think before we act and have it thought out long before we have to actually act.
Contemplation is different than concentration in that rather than just holding/focusing our awareness/attention, we attempt to penetrate the essence/nature/source of what we are studying until our perception/interpretation is transformative and generative.
In the dojo, we may have the more traditional training paradigm where we simply observe and then act. There is little or no information about what to observe or how to orient and decide how to act. Ultimately, it is hoped that our observations will be directly associated and habituated into our reactive response. In Aikido, we often hear that energy follows the focus of the mind and that through our discipline we will unite body, mind, and spirit. Yet very little, if any, time is spent on the mental training as if it will magically happen by itself in a compliment that implies we are intelligent enough to figure it all out ourselves without instruction. Many of us have turned to reading books (and AikiWeb columns) looking for more direction. We must deeply contemplate what we are doing and why we are doing it. We must contemplate to the depth of seeing through our initial fear-based reactions until we see responding will calm minds and decisiveness bodies.
In life, we often say we do not know what to do. We ask a lot of "why" questions to look for reasons to justify, rationalize, and excuse our current state of ineffective passivity. We want to understand what we cannot even bring ourselves to look at. In counseling, I often ask people to stay with a thought or feeling until they begin to see through its current manifestation to the core experience that initially created it. When we finally see through its illusion, we can begin to let it go and replace it with new programming that may just give us some means of effectively and efficiently finding the life and love we want. When we see through what we believe we do not know, we can realize that we have always known the truth and the right thing to do. Now we can cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate the clarity, compassion, and have the courage to act on it in our everyday discipline.
Breathe in, situational awareness
Breathe out, decisive action
Intelligent mindful contemplation
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 over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and 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, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.