Competition. Get a point. Make the other guy fall. Punch him in the face. Block his punch. Sweep the knee! Whuh? If a fight is the end all, be all, have at it. Keep your focus right where it is. Good luck getting real world results with that mindset outside the ring, mat, gym, club, office, school, dinner table, or wherever you may be duking it out. In above situation, the obstacle is the focus. We’re fighting the competitor. We’re locked into dealing with the problem. Wrestling it. But then what? What happens when we do that? Usually, if this is our mindset, we just move on to the next problem and rinse, repeat. I propose we do something else. With Aikido, I’ve learned that we need to realize said obstacle is essentially unimportant and to focus on the positive outcome, whatever that may be. If you can do like O’Sensei, and do it while someone’s shooting at you or coming at you with a live blade, please, email me, and you’re guaranteed a guest post. Something to work for, though.
Every once in a while, I’ll write a post about certain businesses, some local, some non-local, that strike me as being ‘aiki’ in nature. These will be businesses that not only work (at the time), but add that extra bit of ‘aiki’ to make their customers and crew feel welcome while delivering a great product/experience. Aiki is the quality, I believe, that makes or breaks a business. After all, serving the consumer and keeping a good team of people happy is what keeps a fair company in business. In order to serve the consumer, the business must be receptive to the demands of the time and always be improving and adapting to the market. They must stand fast in the face of fierce competition and stay true to their mission. Business is all about relationships, especially as open as communication is these days. Thanks to the internet, I believe small town rules are back. If a business shafts a customer, that customer will spread the word as far and wide as they can. On the flip side, if a business plays with our heartstrings the right way, this can also spread to the masses. If they don’t do this, they’ll go away. Sure, they may strike a big profit for a while, but sooner or later, they’ll be replaced by a more aiki business. These aiki biz’s will be creative and innovative. They’ll also be non-destructive in nature. So, in a nutshell, they’ll be aiki. I’ll be writing these when a great one really stands out to me. I wouldn’t write about them if I didn’t think you’d be interested in them.
So, to kick this segment of Aiki Living off will be an establishment I mentioned in a recent post. This establishment is Comma Coffee located in Carson City, NV right across from the state capitol. Okay, I will say, I lived in Carson for quite some time, and although you can keep most of it, that older part of downtown Carson has a special place with me. I really love the architecture from that era along with the big cottonwoods, and it’s a refreshing contrast to the subdivisions that are so predominant in this area. So, the location is great. I know a few of my readers are coffee connoisseurs, so hold on guys, I know, the coffee here isn’t some crazy awesome blend or anything. It’s good though, don’t get me wrong. I think they brew Alpen Sierra, which is a local brewer, but whatever it is, I like it. That’s not the point though. The point is the vibe. You walk in and you’re immediately looking around at the crazy unique furniture, catchy poetry, and quotes written in random places. It’s a mix of old, saloon style, wild west Carson City (There’s a piano hanging on the wall as well as one ready to be played on the floor) mixed in with a bit of spooky (they have kind of spooky, weird, slightly disturbing artwork and poetry speckled throughout the joint). Not only do they sell coffee, sandwiches, and the like, but they also sell booze. Yep, you can go in there and have a glass of wine with friends and be hanging out with the coffee drinking crowd at the same time which balances the place out. Another thing I like about it is that the random, super-comfy furniture is arranged conversationally. There’s different areas of three or four big ass cushiony chairs thrown in with a sofa arranged in a circle where you and your friends (or enemies) can chat it up without feeling like the creeper sitting next to you is butting in on your conversation. It’s also set up for live music, and they have a lot of shows from local talent.
Now that we’re past the details, what really impressed me is the owner, June Joplin (you can check out her story here, along with the idea behind Comma Coffee), and the idea of Comma Coffee. Comma Coffee is truly a labor of love for her, and it’s great to see someone create a place like this to share with others and make a living at it. Seeing someone take a risk on their dream and also seeing it pay out is a beautiful thing. Although I’ve never met her personally, I have seen her in there on several occasions, and can tell she’s in love with the place and the staff seems to enjoy her being there (at least they’re really good at acting like it). What’s really cool is the reason June named it Comma Coffee. Her definition of ‘comma’ is a slight pause in the sentence or a breath, a pause, the break between two thoughts. This is exactly what coffee is to me, personally. Having a cup of coffee signifies introspection and a slight pause in life. She has created the environment for this concept to thrive. I’ve gotten lost in my work there. I’ll go in, take a seat, get engulfed in a book, writing, people watching, or whatever, and the next thing I know, it’s been three hours. So next time you’re in Carson City, put a pause to the run-on sentence of life and step into the comma for a break.
We Aikidoists fall a lot. Some say it’s 50% of the art. If we don’t do it right, it hurts. So we learn to go along with things so it doesn’t… As much. At one level, ukemi (falling) can be seen as just that, falling. Learning how to fall. As we progress, we learn that it’s much more than that. It’s receiving. Receiving energy, receiving intention, receiving force, and receiving it differently from everybody. Ron’s probably going to have different technique than Chris, so I have to adapt.
When we really look into it, Ukemi is also in applying the technique. We’re still receiving. Ron’s going to attack differently than Chris. This can’t be textbook. We have to feel it and be present with the energy, whatever that may be. Carried off the mat, we see the principles of ukemi everywhere. In a conversation, I need to be receptive to many different things on many different levels. I need to be receptive to the person(s) I’m conversing with. I need to be receptive if they come up with something out of left field that I wasn’t expecting. I need to be receptive if they take something I say differently than I may have thought they would. I need to be receptive to my intention and possibly changing direction as we go along. I need to be receptive to my emotions throughout the conversation and aware of how to handle them (the other person can feel them even if I don’t verbally express exactly what they are). I need to be receptive to any others that may possibly be joining the conversation. Okay, I’ll stop now. I could go on. Bottom line is ukemi is everything. Now we see ukemi going from 50% of the situation to 100%. Learning to take good ukemi is time not wasted.
Look at how much information is out there today. Start to type in a Google search, and the answer is there in front of us before we even finish typing it. I heard the other day that more content on the internet is created daily than was created between the year 1300 AD and 2000 (Something like that, excuse me if I’m off by a few years, Google isn’t finding it now.). More video is uploaded to Youtube in 60 days than all of the television networks broadcasted in 60 years (http://mashable.com/2011/02/19/youtube-facts/). Everyone has directions. Following directions is easy now. There’s plenty of them out there and we all have access to really good directions. Hence, following directions has lost it’s value. Most everyone’s doing it.
Making new ones is where the value is now. Sure, there’s a lot of other people out there doing it (see above statistics) but if you can write your own directions, it’s more powerful now than it ever has been due to the vast audience waiting for them. Following directions may be how we learn. At some point we have to step out into the unknown and just start doing something different. Figure out a new way to do something. Chart your own course.
We’ll never be done. There’s always unlimited opportunity for positive change and growth no matter how much information is out there. It just takes some metal to step out of the textbook and make new steps.
We have the three levels in Aikido that my teacher talks about. We start with static (textbook), then go into flowing (application), and then finally to unlimited creative techniques (creation). Takemusu, baby! Onegaishimasu.
Chase Jarvis is a world renown photographer from the great city of Seattle, and I stumbled onto his blog a few weeks ago. He’s really big into social media and has a live show where he interviews other artists, mostly photographers, but different kinds as well. He’s an incredible artist who lives and breathes his art with absolute authenticity and sincerity, and you can tell he loves what he’s doing by watching his shows. People in the industry know he’s one of the best out there, but he remains very humble (without being annoyingly so) and lets his guests have the spotlight. You can tell that he really is interested in what they have to say, and seeing the inspiration going back and forth between host and guest is really a powerful thing to watch.
I don’t know much at all about photography, but I’ve gotten so much out of watching his show just because of the creative discussion going on. Creative people speak the same language no matter what their medium of creativity may be. So, not only is his blog and show awesome, but what really inspired me was that Chase Jarvis ignored the doomsdayers who were saying the digital photography industry was coming to an end at the hands of digitally produced images, managed digital workflow, and electronic distribution. On the contrary, Chase argues that for the savvy individual who understands the evolving photography profession, the times are full of wonderful change and boundless opportunity. He’s totally embraced the change, worked like crazy, and you can witness what he’s done with his career and his art from his website and looking at his work all over the web.
Photography has endured a lot of changes over the years and a lot of photographers, from what I’ve read, have thrown in the towel and gave it up. As is typical with things that are changing and evolving at a rapid pace, this makes things a lot harder for the people who are used to the old way of doing things. If you’re innovative and willing to put in the work to stay up with the change and ride that new wave, chances are you’ll end up doing fine. I just want to give props to the guy for giving the finger to the critics and embracing the change of the industry instead of resisting it and giving up.