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Pull, Push, Place
Pull, Push, Place
by Lynn Seiser
Pull, Push, Place

Breathe in, don't pull
Breathe out, don't push
Simply place

I heard that there are no straight lines in aikido, only circles, rotations, and spirals (besides that square and triangle thing). I also heard there is no pulling or pushing in Aikido. There is only the placement of the body in space and time.
Pull: (1) to drag, draw, haul, tow, or cart, (2) to tug, jerk, yank, wrench, pluck, or twitch, (3) attraction, appeal, force, influence, draw
In the dojo, we try to move from physical wrestling with our training partners to a more refined set of movements that apply a different set of strategies and tactics than those used in many other martial arts. At first we do a lot of pulling (muscle force) of the other person to get them into the position we want them to be. Of course the more we pull/force, the more they resist/force and the more we pull/force. Force on force does not seem to work very well in an Aikido sense. It does work, but not the way we are trying to move and evolve. Perhaps we are pulling because we did not connect to the other person first. Perhaps we are pulling because we are moving faster and further than our training partner. Perhaps we are pulling because that's what it looks like our instructor is doing.

In life, there are two motivational directions. We may feel pulled towards something or pushed away from something else (more on that later). Sometimes we may feel pulled towards and pushed away by the same thing or person. It is an approach-avoidance response. What is it that pulls us towards something or someone? What is that irresistible force that is hard to resist? Perhaps what we are pulled towards is something or someone that matches some internal representation we already have for what we desire. The external is a match for the internal object of our attraction, desire, and love. We feel an unexplained pulling, yet we seldom question if this emotional pull is actually something in our best interest. Many times a flame is pulled towards the fumes just before there is an explosion. Just because we feel pulled, doesn't mean we need to go that way.
Push: (1) to shove, thrust, drive, ram, set into motion, or move forward, (2) to impel, urge, goad, force, persuade, or press, (3) to advocate, promote, endorse, boost, get behind, back, or oppose, (4) to strain, sprain, damage, injure, or tear, (5) to remove, extract or, withdraw
In the dojo, we begin by pulling people toward us or pushing them away. Like pulling, pushing implies the use of muscle force. We want the other person to move a certain way and rather than blend with they are doing we will impose our will and desire over them and push them. This often works very well. Is pushing consistent with the philosophy and strategies of Aikido? Is pushing people around how we want to learn to be in the world? When I look at some of the old tapes and current masters of Aikido, I do not see a lot of pushing. I see connection and movement. Perhaps I need to stop thinking about pushing my training partners where I want them to be and start practicing entering and blending with where they are and how they are naturally moving.

In life, we begin by pulling people towards us or pushing them away (or as I cited before, both simultaneously or even sequentially). Like in the dojo, to push someone implies they don't really want to go that way. That's why we use force, to impose our will over someone else, to get our way. There are many things in life that we really can make the way we want them. But others, perhaps the more important things, we cannot. We have to let them happen. We cannot make ourselves fall asleep at night (the pulling and pushing of the mind and heart is usually what keeps us awake), but we can let ourselves fall asleep. We cannot make someone love us (though many attempt to manipulate the other person) but we can let them love us. We cannot make ourselves love someone.

Pulling and pushing only seems to create resistance and stops us from getting what we really want.
Place: (1) to put, rest, lay, leave, position, set, or situate, (2) consign, identify, file, locate, arrange, or categorize, (3) a location, space, spot, area, point, site, or situation, (4) a home, house, residence, or dwelling, (5) a status, rank, position, or station, (6) to cause to be in
A friend told me that in solo practice I should train as if someone was there, but in actual application, I should train as if they were not.

In the dojo, rather than pulling or pushing, we learn to enter, connect, and place our bodies in a position that allows (lets) the other person gently fall. We establish a connection in which they use us for their balance and then we remove that support. I was told that if I was in the right posture, in the right position, at the right time, the other person will have already lost their balance and begin to fall. If we make contact with our hands but connect and affect with our centers, how can it be any other way? Rather than pull or push, I need to extend as if the technique had already happened. Learning to move in such a relaxed gentle way in a martial situation is the goal. For most of us, this high destination just makes a direction for our training. We have to let it come to us by placing our bodies, minds, and hearts on the training mat on a regular basis over a long period of time.

In life, the most important thing is love. It is not always that too loud over the top type of impulsive emotions of neediness and dependency that appears to be the social norm. It is not driven by hormones or adrenaline. Love can neither be pulled nor pushed. Love can only be allowed to take its own course. We have to place ourselves in love's way and enjoy the ride. We have to let go of our fear-based thoughts and emotions and learn to let love in and let love out.

Breathe in, don't pull
Breathe out, don't push
Simply place

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.
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