Breathe in, apples
Breathe out, oranges
What grows from a seed into a tree only to be born onto a tree that produces seeds? What is round? What is good to both eat and drink?
Most people who have read my columns/articles know that I tend to think and advocate that we find the common denominator or similarities in life. When we find that shared inter/inner-connectedness, we can cultivate and facilitate empathy and compassion. Differences usually create distances and distrust.
Recently I was reading a discussion about why so many other martial arts seem to have a real dislike and distrust for Aikido. After reading the contrasts and comparisons, justifications and rationalizations, explanations and excuses, I could only write "apples and oranges
Apple: (1) a firm round fruit with red, green or yellow skin, with white or yellow flesh, and a central core, (2) a visual term of affection/favor, (3) Newtonian inspiration, (4) a gift for a teacher in hopes of a better grade, (5) the brand name of a computer company, (6) the Beatle's recording label
In the dojo, there are many different martial arts to study. They are not all the same. Even within a style, there are many interpretations. We do not know the difference in the beginning. We look at the larger term of martial art and think they are all the same. We do not usually consider that martial arts are not fighting and that fighting is not combat. These are very different in their intent and intensity. Any specific martial art may focus or emphasize striking, grappling, or throwing. They may primary use physical muscular force and power or internal structure and alignment. Some have an adversarial mindset of enemy or competitive opponent, while other talk about cooperation, connectedness, and blending. Each one has an advantage and each one has a weakness. Some are considered external and some are considered internal. Some are designed only for fighting while others are designed for personal development. When we actually look at the numbers of different martial arts we could study, its overwhelming. It is a lot to take in.
In life, it is not so different. There are a lot of options, opportunities, and decisions to make. Do you want a job that simply pays the bills or do you want a career that has some personal identity and expression involved? Do we want to live in the city or the county, in which state or city? What type of person do you want to be with? What type of relationship do you want? What type of person do you want to be? What do you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? What religious or political affiliation do you want? So many choices.
There are many types of apples on many types of apple trees.
Orange: (1) a citrus fruit, (2) tree yielding juicy fruit, (3) a color/pigment by mixing red and yellow, (4) the color of the second chakra governing emotions located just below the navel approximately the same region as the hara, Tien ten, and center
If we breathe in, we must breathe out.
In the dojo, once we take in what the instructor is showing us, we must attempt to express that understanding through our physical movement. If you are good at mimicking/imitating movement, what they show you is what you do. For most of us, something happens in translation so that what we do is not what was shown. In the beginning of the learning/training process, this is very frustrating. We are told to first learn the forms, the variations of the form, and then (and only then) to find our own form. If we are training for self-defense reasons, the expression of our form may be fear-based in too passive (victim role) or too aggressive (offender/perpetrator role). If in our past, we experienced the flight or freeze response we might hope that on the next opportunity we will fight back. What we want out of training and what we express is a personal statement. I have done a lot of cross training and am constantly being reminded that when I do Aikido, I should do Aikido (mine usually stinks of FMA/JKD). Yet, I have taken in many different styles of martial arts and many different styles of Aikido. Which is mine? Or is the one I am expressing right here and right now, my current expression of what I know and who I am?
In life, as in the dojo, it is not so different. The world has a lot to offer and take in. They say there are no filters on our sensory input channels, so everything actually does get in. Yet, an overload of sensory information would overwhelm the cognitive processing system and we would just shut down. Perhaps that is the freeze response to being startled. We do not have time or orient and organize all the information, so we look for one that matches what already exists and attempt to ignore and deny the rest. I will choose people in life that match what I believe and see me the way I see myself. It is a match. This works okay if the initial internal cognitive mapping of earlier experience is positive and worth repeating. If we had great parents who had a great relationship that made us feel great about ourselves. We may look for life experiences that express that greatness. If not, we have some work to do.
Different: (1) unlike something else, (2) distinct or separate, (3) unusual or contrary
In the dojo, we train looking for something that matches what we think we are there for. Some martial arts styles and instructors will match that and some will not. If we are lucky, we will find a style or teacher who will show us something that is way beyond what we ever thought was possible or imaginable. There are no better or worse martial arts. They each have their place in the overall holistic/holographic system. Drop the judgement (better/worse, good/bad) and we can choose the art that matches for us and let go of those that are just different from our intended purpose and direction. We may find that a specific art or instructor matches for us right now, but as we grow, we may outgrow the limits of that system and choose to cross-train or just train elsewhere. Different people want different styles for different reasons and learn best under different styles and contexts.
In life, like in the dojo, we are alike and we are all different. That is not good/bad right/wrong, it is just different. We are attracted to people because they match the attraction pattern we have installed from earlier experiences. We are not attracted to other people simply because they do not match. No other reason. We can say the same thing about careers, jobs, locations, and what we like to eat.
Sometimes in the morning, I want a big glass of apple juice, other days I want orange juice. For lunch, I enjoy apples or orange slices. After dinner, I love apple pie or orange sherbet.
Breathe in, apples
Breathe out, oranges
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.