Breathe in, structure and alignment
Breathe out, connection and extension
How do we let the outside in and let the inside out?
Structure: (1) something built or erected, (2) system of parts, (3) the way that parts link or function, (4) part of an organism, (5) arrangement, organization, construction, formation, or composition
Alignment: (1) linear or orderly arrangement, (2) correct positioning of something for proper performance, (3) support or alliance, (4) ground plan
In the dojo, I often start class with a simple standing breathing exercise. A lot like these articles, I remind people to breathe in and to breathe out. I ask people to align their structure by making sure their heads are over their shoulders, their shoulders over their hips, and their hips over the center of their feet. This way the aligned skeletal system holds up the body without muscle tension fighting the effects of gravity. From our center we pull down the inside of both legs into the earth and from the center we pull the spin into the heavens (creating an inverted "Y"). This helps that completely relaxed and weight on the underside thing we talk about. Once we align the body we have the make the mind congruent by extending our thoughts in all directions like guide wires keeping a tower in place. We think about the horizontal line across both shoulders and across both hips that intersect the vertical line of our spine. As we breathe in we close the creases in our shoulders and hips and as we breathe out we open those creases. We think of a beach-ball cradled within our hips joints extending up to our diaphragm, down into our pelvis, and groin. To turn any part we turn every part by turning this ball at our center. Before we can move, we must find our own internal structure and alignment.
In life, as a counselor I often suggest that people try to get their own issues in order before they try to relate to others. While love may heal, it brings up all the wounds that need healing and the individual can only heal those wounds themselves. It is often one's own self perception and judgment that prevents relationships from working. While we tend to blame others, the ability to change and control ourselves is not external, but internally empowered. We may want love, but our belief system (identified and internalized from our family and social norms) may not allow it to happen. If we want health, happiness, and success perhaps we need to align our internal structure with a congruent belief system that permits them.
Connection: (1) linking of people or things, (2) physical link, (3) logical link, (4) transportation link, (5) scheduled to permit transfer, (6) communication link, (7) context, (8) influential contact. (9) relation, (10) supplier
Extension: (1) extending or being extended, (2) additional period of time, (3) range, (4) additional telephone line, (5) telephone number of extension, (6) additional piece, (7) addition to a building, (8) off-campus college program, (9) same as extension cord, (10) straightening of limb, (11) broader sense of expression
In the dojo, once we know how to stand and move, we learn to extend and connect with others. Without extension and connection, we are only pulling and pushing people requiring muscle strength as force and power. With extension and connection, when we move our center, we move the center of the other person. O'Sensei often referred to aikido as coming from the swords arts. In sword arts, we learn to control the tip of the sword by controlling the grip and by extending that control into and through our opponent's structure and alignment by aiming that tip. Likewise, by aiming our center through any point of contact (as the sword grip) through the center (as the sword tip) towards a balance point, breaking their structure and taking their balance, a simple movement will throw our training partner.
In life, we have become a society of spectators and do not always actively participate as contributing members. Many believe that what they do does not matter and they are victims of fate. We prevent ourselves from being present and making honest and genuine contact with others. We lack real connection and feel the existential angst believing we are isolated and all alone. This leads to depression and anxiety. We often forget the real inter-connectedness and inter-dependency of life. We forfeit the joy of losing ourselves and finding ourselves in our relationship with others. Much of counseling is just learning to say "hello" or re-connecting (or perhaps connecting for the first time) with the other side of the relationship. In honest and genuine relationships, we learn to support the other person's structure and balance in life without losing our own.
Inclusion: (1) presence in group, (2) somebody or something included, (3) substance inside mineral, (4) foreign body in cell, (5) relation between sets
In the dojo, I often suggest that students think about the line that crosses their shoulders extending out their arms in a circle that includes the other person's shoulder in a single circle. We do the same imagining a circle connecting and including both individual's hips. In other words, we include the other person into our frame of reference and our circle of influence. We are no longer two separate individual at such a distance that we cannot affect each other, but one system that includes each other at a distant that we are effective and efficient.
In life, we talk about keeping people at arms distance and avoid being in the range of any possible human contact or touch. After all, someone may hit us or hug us if they venture into our personal space. Therefore to protect ourselves we must keep our distance. Unfortunately, this only provides a false illusion of safety. While we are outside their circle of influence, they are also outside ours. If we do not include each other in our thoughts and feelings we will only reinforce the fear based beliefs that keep us a part. Perhaps this illusion of exclusion keeps us as separate individual egos and prevents the deep genuine acceptance and appreciation of becoming a "we" which includes both "I" and "you". This is the realm of couples and family therapy, establishing an inclusive self-regulating system that cultivates, facilitates, and perpetuates the mutual best interest of all involved.
What happens if with take the principles of aikido that we practice on the mats within the safe environment of the dojo and extend them to our inter-connectedness and inter-dependency with all things at all times? Perhaps we will find personal and inter-personal health and happiness. Our life includes the dojo and the dojo includes life. We are not separate individuals but an ongoing evolving system. The only question is in which direction is our training and living taking us? How do we have the clarity, compassion, and courage to let the outside in and the inside out?
Breathe in, structure and alignment
Breathe out, connection and extension
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.