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Finishing Touches
Finishing Touches
by Lynn Seiser
Finishing Touches

Breathe in, completely
Breathe out, completely
Finishing touches

How we breathe is how we live. Breathing in and out is what keeps us alive. Breathing has an unconscious automatic rhythm (like a heartbeat) that is self-regulating and self-protecting. It is one of the few systems that we can exert conscious control over. Take a complete deep breath in -- all the way in, now let it completely out -- all the way out.

One of the greatest disciplines in life is to do whatever you are doing completely. If you are training, train completely -- do nothing else. When loving, love completely -- do nothing else. When sitting, sit completely -- do nothing else.
Completely: (1) all the way, (2) totally, wholly, (3) fully, entirely, (4) every, (5) to the full extent, (6) without reservation or restrictions, (7) committed to the end, (8) absolutely
When under stress or when startled, one of the first things many people do is hold their breath. This cuts off the life force from anything they are doing causing the body to believe it is suffocating (because it is) and goes into panic mode. The other thing that people tend to do is hyper-ventilate, which by definition over oxygenates the body and the body goes into panic state. Either way, we panic.

In the Aikido dojo, we learn how to relax completely while training. In fact, if the body is tense, Aikido techniques will not work. I often have people grab my wrist while I tense up my arm -- they tense too. I then relax my arm -- and they relax too. It is easier for me to move and to move them if we are both in a relaxed state. It would seem that our natural startle response would be to tense up and resist (fight, flight, or freeze). We have to relearn how to breath, relax, and just flow with it. They say that one of the rules for making/letting Aikido be effective and efficient is to relax completely.

When you start, start completely -- do nothing else.

In martial arts, it is important to have shoshin -- beginner's mind. We often talk about leaving prior learning and knowledge at the door and to enter empty -- ready to learn. Too often, we want to show what we already know. There is an old Zen story of a scholar interviewing a master who keeps pouring the tea until it overflows onto the floor. The point was to be open (like the empty teacup) to learn. If we always try to learn something new in reference to something old, we still never learn anything new. The best teachers are usually the perpetual students, who know that whatever they already have, it is not complete without further instruction, investigation, and training. When you start, start completely at the beginning.

When we start something, anything, we have to learn to start completely. We tend to hesitate and want to make sure everything will be okay before we start. Many times, we just do not know how things are going to turn out, so we wait. We wait so long that the window of opportunity has not only closed but it has been boarded up completely. Something will happen completely. Sometimes we actually have to open that window ourselves. We have to do something that makes the window want to open up and invite us in. When we see that window open, we have to get up off the chair, walk (or run) across the room, and take the leap. In Aikido, it may be I have to enter deeply and completely into the attack to blend with it. Any hesitation in timing and I miss the opening. Any hesitation in my body and my center leans away and not into the direction, I am going. In life, starting completely may be taking the initiative and being the first to say hello. We may need to be the first to make a mistake or be rejected. If we do not completely start, we will never know what is possible.

When in the middle, be completely in the middle -- nothing else.

In martial arts training, we often see the beginning of a technique and the end of it. Yet, one of the most important lessons is how we get from point A to point B. We learn to throw a punch, but lose our balance in the middle. In Aikido, we connect and as soon as we move, we lose our connection. Since energy is directed by thought/focus/ intent, it may be wise to learn to visualize the course of action and movement. If the strategy is to move in a circular pattern, the mind must see that circular pattern to direction the energy to direct the body movement. If the strategy is to stay connected with our partner/uke/opponent, perhaps we need to see/think/feel them included in our movement. Often the path determines the destination. If we are in the middle of a technique, be completely in the middle -- nowhere else.

As a counselor, I have seen many people who are good at starting relationships, but not good at maintaining them. This means they often have a lot of experiencing ending relationships too. There was an old book on transactional analysis called "what do you say after you say hello". Funny how many people cannot carry on a conversation. I often tell people that if we keep doing what we did to get a relationship we just might have a better chance of keeping it. This is the daily discipline of taking nothing for granted and appreciating what you have. The little day-to-day things tend to bring down a relationship. Usually there is some dramatic event, but the buildup is there. I often heard that the grass is not really greener on the other side of the fence, its greenest where we water it. These are maintenance skills. When in a relationship, be completely in it -- nowhere else.

When it is over, be completely over -- take nothing with you.

When we bow into training, we empty ourselves and train completely. We leave the outside world and its confusion, chaos, and conflict at the door and bow in. When we are completely done, we bow out. We train to leave it all on the mat. There is nothing unfinished. We have come together and trained. Now we go our own ways until (with any luck) we will come together and train again.

Life is a temporary opportunity to come together and share a portion of the journey with each other. Very few things in life are permanent, so we need to value the time we have and not waste it on superficialities that are destructive. While each of us is complete within ourselves, we are not complete without each other. It is how we share the journey with each other that matters. When sharing, share completely -- hold nothing back. When we are present with each other, be completely present. When it is time to let go, let go completely.

There are those subtle finishing touches to the beginning, middle, and end of everything we do. By finishing each stage completely before moving on, we learn to make the most of love and life.

Breathe in, completely
Breathe out, completely
Finishing touches

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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