Aiki

I’ve been taking Aikido this term. I have been looking forward to this class forever and ever and ever. There are a lot of holes to fill on thought and Aikido is one path that I am taking to try and fill those holes.

Case in point. I remember the advice my dad gave me as a kid. Whenver you are in a fight and there is no way to talk your way out of it, hit first, hit hard, and hit between the eyes. I was told to use a stick if I had to, a brick, a rock, whatever. If confronted by more than one person, pick the loudest, mouthiest one and hit him first.

This is pretty violent. I’m not really a violent person. I have a temper and it flares. I’ve worked to learn to let it go over the years. Thich Naht Hahn’s writing has been extremely influential, as well as the philosophy of some yoga (though I do not practice the forms). In traffic I’ve followed people for a few miles, yelling at them all the way. In Mississippi I sped ahead very fast so that I could pull over on the side of the road. I waited for the offender to near me where I was pointing to the side of the road, attempting to get them to pull over. I’ve started to pull over after a guy once, anger flaring and ready to fight, when Eliza simply said “don’t” and all the anger left me in an instant. Sunday I narrowly missed being totalled in my truck by a guy speeding in his large truck and showing no concern for my safety, going out of his way to make a point of “how dare you pull in front of me”. I still want to meet this guy. I seriously considered u-turning and chasing him. Assholes in the world should be put in their place, I believe.

But I am ill-equipped to deal with the middle ground. My approach has always been that should I have to fight, to strike hard and hurt them. I try to talk my way out and many times I am successful. Yet as the situation escelates I feel more pressure, more need of an out. It is like having a situation in another country and my diplomat failed and all I have left is a nuclear weapon. I need some middle ground.

This is but one reason why I am taking Aikido, for Budo. Another part might be the spiritual aspect, but then again I am a pretty spiritual guy and generally find the spiritual in the non-spiritual and the mundane in the spiritual. Something as altering as Aikido seems natural to me to have a spiritual element to it.

While cruising on Aikiweb I saw this small post:

Eric Tilles wrote:
I am going to weigh in on the anti-emotion side of this discussion. To do Aikido, you need to be relaxed and be able to follow uke’s attack. Any of the big time emotions (rage, anger, etc.) is going to un-relax you. You also have to be able to deal with the situation without any preconceptions: don’t anticipate and don’t guess; deal with what is. If you are emotional, at the very least you will have an unnecessary filter through which you are experiencing the situation. At the worst, you will have a preconceived notion of hoe to deal with uke. If you are angry, your anger may cause you to miss an attempt by uke to disengage. If you are sympathetic, you may forgo an appropriate “hard” technique and leave yourself open to attack. To me, it’s better to leave the emotional baggage off the mat.

Mike and Joshua among others, have also made contributions to this theme which I feel are close but I would like to add the following thoughts.

One day I asked a student how he was doing. He replied, “Not so well, I still get angry”. I responded that getting angry wasn’t the problem – anger is a natural reaction – it is holding onto the anger that is the problem. Many folks not only get angry or experience fear but choose to hold onto that emotion to the detriment of effective response. Our training in relaxation and calmness should help us to shed the negative elements of these emotions and get on with business. I word it this way because this applies to daily living as well as MA. Some where there may be a state of perfection toward what every you see as the end point of life, but until then we learn what we can, train how we can and do the best we can at any particular time, and then review what we did, train to do better, and grow. We are a “work in process” until we die. Let us make the best of it, what ever our training approach..

George Simcox

AI Harmony
KI Spirit, Mind, Universal Energy
DO The Way

Aiki, harmony with circumstances.

Boy, could I make this my daily mantra! What daily circumstance arise that might entail AIKI? Everything from prioritizing the many demands on my time, attention, and energy with work and school, to the various demands for attention placed on my by co-workers, students, guests, friends. In class today we entered into what to do when more than one person attacks you. Sensei said that when the number of attackers (Uke) increases, the person (nage) needs to employ a bit of strategy. He illustrated this by using the energy of one uke and directing it into another uke.

All the demands that are placed on me with homework, distrubutors, schedule for girls at work, work hours, time to spend with Eliza, workouts, classes, studying homework, bank runs for the club, inventory actions, church services, facilities committee at church, all seem like many ukes coming at me. Stephen Covey writes in his book that we can’t simply make a to-do list and go down it every day. There will come a point when some things, important and urgent, will begin to take over our lives and rid us of the oppotunity to invest in important things that might not be urgent. Studying homework, spending time with Eliza, church, are all important to me, but rarely urgent. They often times get sidetracked by important, urgent things, like cramming for a test the next day, writing a paper at the last minute, doing inventory for work, making the schedule and calling people to fill spots, etc.

If I miss one of uke’s punches (a test) I get hit pretty hard. Yet I could react to that punch in many ways. I could run, hit back, duck, kick, bite, yell, slap, spit, jump, sidestep… all from one punch. What happens next is a result of my action to that punch.

This is where Aikido gets really interesting. It seems to me, beginner that I am, that from one action by Uke, Nage has several different moves to make, some making better sense than others. With whatever move Uke responds with, Nage has another large set of moves to make. I watched in wonder as Sensei and two teaching assistants moved around and around the room, until finally both Ukes were thrown. Until then it had been a dance.

A dance.

This morning while walking to class I thought of next term’s schedule of classes that I’ve already signed up for. I felt a rise in tension within me.

Tension? From taking classes? This seemed odd to me and I realized that I was not centered and wasn’t in harmony.

Truth be told, I’ve not been in harmony for several weeks. It is hard to pinpoint when I left exactly, but I am not there. I am reacting every minute. My moods come and go like weather on the open plain. I was irritable all morning until I went home and took a nap before Aikido.

I am now out of Aikido class for the day. As always, after class, I feel better, with a different perspective. The perspective is the thing. Perspective has view within it, but not necessarily focus and attention. We don’t necessarily see what we do not focus on. A psychology test was done with a video tape of people playing basketball and the subjects were asked to count the number of times the players in the white shirts passed the ball to each other. Nobody noticed the black gorilla moving through the middle of the group.

Focus on the wrong things and I might miss a large, hairy gorilla.

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