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Solid as a Sword, Flexible as a Whip
Solid as a Sword, Flexible as a Whip
by Lynn Seiser
Solid as a Sword, Flexible as a Whip

Breathe in, solid as a sword
Breathe out, flexible as a whip
Solid: (1) not soft or yielding, (2) not hollow, (3) unadulterated or unmixed, (4) of strong and secure construction, (5) uninterrupted, (6) nourishing, (7) unanimous, (8) reliable, (9) three-dimensional, (10) retaining its shape, (11) without spaces

Sword: (1) long-bladed weapon, (2) use of force, violence, or power
In the dojo, when I first started Aikido, I was told that Aikido came from the sword. Though most people I know who do sword arts do not practice them the way Aikido does. What did stick (excuse the pun) with me was that in sword arts we extend the grip through the sword to control the tip as the cutting section. The proper stance would extend from the ground, through the solid structure/alignment of the body, out the grip, and extended/projected through the sword. A turning and dropping of the center would guide the edge through the target. As in the breaking arts, I was not to focus on the target but the path through it. I was to trust the blade because it was made to cut. No physical force or power was needed, just the proper stance, grip, position, and path/momentum. That applies in principle to Aikido practice and technique. I need a solid structural aligned posture, a relaxed body, a clear calm mind, a breath, and the extension of my intention through the other person along the pathway of the technique. Next time you are at the dojo, make every move as if you are swinging/aiming/cutting with a sword.

In life, we often hear that everything can be seen as a double-edged sword. The sword can take life and the sword can give/protect life. Like everything, the sword (literal or metaphorical) is not a weapon but a tool in the mind, heart, and hands of the person using it. What is clear is that life is better from a solid (but relaxed) stance. They say if we do not know what we stand for, we will fall for anything. Posture and positioning is knowing what we stand for and where to take that stance. As a counselor, I have seen people hurt each other with a look, a word, a gesture, a touch, or even silence. We cannot not connect and communicate with each other. Verbal and non-verbal communication is the tool/weapon/sword we use in our everyday lives. Yet few hone their skills, but take it all for unconscious granted. (I just noticed that the only difference between spelling of sword and words is where we place the "s".) Perhaps we need to stay mindful of how we connect and communicate with others. There is an inter-connectedness and inter-dependency of all things.
Flexible: (1) able to bend without breaking, supple, malleable, (2) able to adapt to new situations, open, accommodating, (3) subject to influence

Whip: (1) lash somebody or something, (2) strike against something sharply, (3) criticize somebody severely, (4) move rapidly, (5) do something with rapid action, (6) bind end of rope, (7) defeat somebody, (8) beat liquid until stiff, (9) lift or hoist something by rope and pulley, (10) instrument for inflicting pain, (11) lashing stroke of blow, (12) somebody in charge of discipline and solidarity, (13) flexible percussion instrument, (14) a long flexible branch
In the dojo, I remember being told to pay attention to the ki/energy flow in how we connect and move with each other. I also remember watching a rhythmic gymnastics competition and they were performing with the ribbon. The ribbon was kept flowing (yet taunt) by how the gymnast moved. If the gymnast stopped the flow/momentum of movement/motion, the ribbon would fall limply to the ground. I watched the same thing happen in learning to crack a whip. Energy/attention/intention was transferred/transmitted through the body into the grip and down to the tip is the whip. A skillful wave of body movement forward sends the whip out and a subtle shift backward would bring the ship back, often with crack. In aikido, I first learned to project/extend like a sword (a solid weapon) and later learned to send it out and whip/crack it back like the flexible weapons. I recall one Sensei first moving like a sword (in-up-turn-down) and then directed his whip-like action into my center and then selectively out any body part he choose taking my balance as the whip-action went through me. He smiled as if to say that I still had a lot to learn. Next time you are at the dojo, make every move as if you are swinging/aiming/cracking with a whip.

In life, we often value the strength in taking a solid immovable stance. If people agree with you, they will think you are strong. If they don't agree, they will think you stupid and stubborn. Yet, the metaphor states that the rigid oak falls in the wind, it's the flexible bamboo that endures and last. The fluidity/flexibility of the water overcomes the rocks by blending with and around it. Perhaps we need to learn to be flexible in life too. Often miscommunication happens when the way one person expresses themselves according to their family of origin doesn't match the way the other person expresses themselves according to theirs. Because we usually unconsciously choose people who balance us, we have the opportunity to change within this communication context and conflict. Perhaps this gives us the unique chance to mindfully and intelligently (more than emotionally) pay very close attention to the other person. (Yes, not everything is about you personally or how you feel -- sorry to burst your bubble.) We can accept that things just do not match and go our own way or we can learn to be flexible in what is important to us. (Yes, not everything is important -- another bubble burst.)

Perhaps learning to let love in and let love out takes both the strength of a sword and the flexibility of the whip (and a great deal of clarity, compassion, and courage).

Breathe in, solid as a sword
Breathe out, flexible as a whip

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 lives with his wife and trains on the Florida Gulf Coast (chasing grandchildren).
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Old 03-02-2016, 10:08 PM   #2
Dojo: Roswell Budokan
Location: Roswell GA
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 145
Re: Solid as a Sword, Flexible as a Whip


All paths lead to death. I strongly recommend taking one of the scenic routes.
AWA - Nidan - Started Aikido training in 2008
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Old 03-03-2016, 06:52 AM   #3
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: Solid as a Sword, Flexible as a Whip

Yes agreed.
If we are born we will someday day.
Life is what we do with the temporary opportunity in between.
I agree and enjoy the suggest to "take a scenic route".
Perhaps that's the "road" that "makes all the difference".
Thanks for reading and responding.
Miss my Roswell family, please say "HI" to everyone.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:24 AM   #4
Dojo: Roswell Budokan
Location: Roswell GA
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 145
Re: Solid as a Sword, Flexible as a Whip

I will tell everyone you said "HI" Sensei! We definitely miss you!

All paths lead to death. I strongly recommend taking one of the scenic routes.
AWA - Nidan - Started Aikido training in 2008
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