Breathe in, cause
Breathe out, effect
It is one of those chicken or the egg type questions: Which comes first, the cause or the effect? Logically, if we think sequentially, we can assume the cause comes first. However, if we open our perspective, we could ask what caused the cause. (Yes, it is more like a Zen koan.)
We look for the stimulus that causes us to be a certain way.
Cause: (1) what makes something happen, bring about, or produce, (2) reason, source, root, or origin (3) principle, (4) interest, (5) legal cause, (6) discussion topic
Stimulus: (1) incentive, spur, or motivate (2) something arousing interest, (3) cause of physical response
In the dojo, we often wait until our training partner initiates an approach or attack. Our goal is to train a response to their action. Many would suggest that their actions cause or dictate our reaction to them. If they approach or attack differently they give us a different energy, and we have to respond differently. We often look at training as the responsive part when a large part of our training is to give the other person the approach, attack, and energy that they need so they can train. People, newer students, often ask what I would do if someone attacked a different way. I usually respond that I would do something different as well. In Aikido, the lines of momentum/inertia of the attack will be accepted, continued and extended.
In life, especially in the cycles of violence, we look at who is in control, who caused the problem. We often define the locus/location of control. Are we controlled by external people, places, and things or are we internally control by our own cognitive thoughts and emotional feelings. The social norm today is to avoid accepting any personal responsibility and always blame other people for what we think, feel, and do. In other words, they cause us to be a certain way. It is popular to blame our parents and our childhood for what we do throughout our adulthood. If we do not know who caused the problem, we cannot assign responsibility and accountability to who is the only person who can change or fix it. Who created the problem must be the one to solve it.
Next, we look for the effect of the cause and the response to the stimulus.
Effect: (1) result, consequence, or outcome, (2) power to influence, (3) being in force or operation, (4) impression, appearance, look, or air, (5) cause, achieve, or produce, (6) special sound or lighting, (7) scientific phenomenon
Response: (1) replay, answer, or comeback, (2) reaction, (3) bid
In the dojo, our first response to an approach or an attack is the one we have had the most practice with. We have a habitual response pattern, actually more of an action-reaction response that goes along with the cause-effect and stimulus-response model. Watch people when they are startled. Some people move towards it, some away from it, and the majority of people will just look at you like a deer in headlights. We call this the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Many people believe we are hard-wired in our startle reaction. Yet that is why we are in the dojo -- to change. Most martial arts just want to move the flight and freeze reaction to the fight reaction. There is a logical sense to that. When attacked we probably have a better survival chance by fighting back. Since these are startle reactions, we slow down the training and attempt to condition/habituate a new response pattern.
In life, we often need to stop reacting from our unconscious habitual emotional patterns (which often started in childhood) to a more conscious intelligent response appropriate to the current content and content. In counseling, we often ask people if they are responding from their parent, adult, or child part. Each has their appropriate context. We may also break down the pattern and ask what belief one has about the cause/stimulus that cultivates, facilitates, and perpetuates the initial reaction. We often say that very few people actually react to the external realities of life but to their internal beliefs and fantasies about them. Our reactions and responses do not come from what people do, but what we believe about what they do. It is that belief which causes our reaction or our response. Without changing this internal representation, interpretation, and orientation, we will always see/feel the same thing and react the same way. The important question may be how do you want to see, feel, and respond to a situation and what internal belief and perception would support that. Practice seeing the world from that place and through that lens.
It is not over until it is over and it is not over until you quit.
Sequence: (1) series, succession, chain, or progression (2) order, arrangement, or system, (3) section, (4) consecutive, (5) repeated
Cycles: (1) repeated series or sequence of events, (2) time between repeated events, (3) complete process, or succession, (4) one complete oscillation or phase, (5) linked, (6) long time, (7) orbit, or rotation, (8) set of operations
In the dojo, we initially train in one-step techniques. This means our training partner approaches and attacks and we react and respond. The process stops with this one cycle. In kumite, randori, and the streets, this is not the case. The approach and attack elicits a reaction and response. That reaction and response becomes the approach and attack that the other person reacts and responds to. This cycle continues until one person's reaction and response fails and the other person's approach and attack wins. At first, the reciprocal exchange may take some conscious awareness and mindfulness. After a while, we begin to let go and trust the training. The process flows by itself without our conscious awareness or assistance. Perhaps this is the goal of training, to get out of our own way and protect each other and ourselves.
In life, we first learn to talk in single words and single sentences. Many people have perfected the art of the monologue and soliloquy. They can go on and on giving speeches whether anyone is in the room or not. I see this alot in counseling where everyone is speaking but no one is listening. There is no conversation, there is no back and forth exchange, there is no responsive dance. On the other hand, there may be a rather destructive nonverbal reciprocal dance. The more one speaks, the more the other goes silent. The more one attacks/demands, the more the other withdraws into passive aggressive defeat and nonparticipation. The more lenient one parent is, the stricter the other parent becomes until one is neglectful and the other is abusive. The more one saves, the more the other one spends. We wonder how we created the space between us by not being aware of the communication cycle of cause and effect or stimulus and response. By becoming aware of our reaction/response patterns, we can cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate this fear and pain or change directions and find clarity, compassion, and courage in our conversations. The choice is ours when we realize that we are both the cause and effect in the world.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Breathe in, causes and stimulus
Breathe out, effects and responses
Sequences and cycles
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.