Cutting the Fat

The busy culture.  “Hey, how’s it going, ya staying busy?”  “Sorry I couldn’t get back to you, I’ve been crazy busy lately.”  Busy this.  Busy that.  It’s almost like a rite of passage in society.  If you’re not busy, you’re probably not living a productive life.   What are we really doing, though, in all our busyness?  The hamster in the wheel is busy as well, but is it really productive?

Sometimes I feel like that.  But what am I really getting done that matters?  Am I just going through the motions because it’s what I ‘should’ be doing?  The rat race is exhausting.  When getting caught up in it, we need to stop and reflect inward.  The question we must ask ourselves during these ‘busy’ times is:

“Is this necessary?”

Is what I am  thinking right now necessary?  Is what I am doing right now necessary?  If not, what is necessary?  Why is it so hard to do that which is necessary, but so easy to do the other stuff that is mainly just bullshit?

Imagine what you could get done if you only did the stuff that was necessary.  I’m not saying we should just work, work, work.  Spending time with your friends or loved ones may be necessary.  Reading a book that helps our situation may be necessary.  More sleep may be necessary.  Leisure may be necessary.     Just be sure it’s necessary.

It reminds me of sword training.  In Samurai sword duels, there was no room for any moves, thoughts, emotions, twitches, or anything that wasn’t absolutely essential to the task at hand (preserving your life… which usually meant taking the one facing you).  Any wasted movement or wayward thought was an opening for your adversary to cut you down.

Meditation for them was for cutting the fat of their minds and, in turn, physical movements, and, in turn, way of life, in order to survive and lead the best life they could.  It had nothing to do with ‘manifestation’ or ‘the law of attraction’ or materializing that brand new red car, concepts which the charlatans of our day have made a lot of money on (and bought their own red cars).   I digress… anyways…  the best Aikidoists I’ve trained with barely seem like they’re moving at all.  Every movement is concise and necessary.

Life is short.  Do the stuff that matters.  Cut the fat of everything else.  Do great work.  Reflect inward often to constantly re-evaluate, rinse, repeat.


Thanks to  dcafe for the image!



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ya know what you should do….

I hate that. “You know what you should do…”. Always uttered by  busy bodies trying to make it seem like they’re helping with the problem. This usually happens in meetings or social groups when more than two people gather in order to plan to accomplish something. This certain someone usually comes to the meeting with four or five ‘great ideas’.

“You know what you should do,” they say with excitement, “It’d be soooo easy to do this and do that and go back and do that again, because it’s so ugly right now, and it wouldn’t really take that long or that much money to…” Wow. It took you all of 2 seconds to knee-jerkishly dream up that idea before spewing it out on the table for us to clean up. Thanks.

Here’s an idea. How bout’, instead of puking out these half-baked ideas, which are apparently so great, how bout’ you fucking DO THEM. Sure, tell us about them. Make sure they’re good ideas. But execute. Not so easy, right? Oh, that’s right, you never sat down and rationally thought through just how much money, time, and effort that would take. You never thought if it was worth expending all of that money, time and effort to achieve whatever result they you were suggesting.

I think this comes from school. The teacher liked you a lot more when you raised your hand and spouted off the most answers. The more bullshit you could verbalize in front of the group, the more brownie points you got. Way to go.

Don’t tell, do. Don’t suggest, do. Shut your mouth and take action. If you really need to collaborate with the group in order to do it better, please, go ahead. Other than that, tell us what you’re going to do, and do it. Suggesting is one thing but actually doing is another.  Do the aiki thing.  Get it done.

P.S. This post isn’t directly pointed at anyone I currently know. I have experienced these people before in my days and was just talking to my wife about them the other day. Ghosts from the past is who inspired this one.

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testing 1-2

Three of my good friends just tested for their respected levels of black belt (dan) rank and I was fortunate enough to be able to see the test as well as partake in some of it.  My next test will be for 2nd degree black-belt (nidan), so this post is mainly about that particular test (no offense, Austin, you crushed it).  Although I haven’t been able to train, that hasn’t stopped me from stressing about taking my next test, even though I have no idea when that will be.  It’s been about four years since I’ve been able to attend a nidan test, and since a lot of my stresses are from the unknown about what the test is like,  it really helped seeing the test.  What was really great, though, was seeing two people that I came up through the ranks with take that next step forward.  I’ll explain.

The shodan (first degree black belt) test is performed in a very static, step-by-step fashion.  We perform and demonstrate the techniques in this way to show we understand the very basics of the movement.  In the nidan test, we’re expected to take those techniques into fluid, continuous motion (ki-no-nagare, as we call it).  As easy as it sounds, this is not an easy step to make.  The shodan test is such a big milestone, and we work for years on stop-start power positions and grounding after each step that, transitioning to fluid movement can be a challenge.  It’s easier to break the techniques down into steps because our brain has a second to think about the next part of the technique when we do.  With the nidan test, the whole movement needs to be fully together and integrated into a fluid motion.

Not seeing my friends train in six months, I haven’t seen the progression they’ve taken through the work they’ve put in to their test preparation to get to this point.  What I saw was incredible and inspiring to say the least.  There was a huge transformation from what I saw before.  The movements were so incredibly effortless and smooth, yet still technically sound.  The expressions on their faces were those of calm and control, as opposed to the ones seen on a shodan test which are more straining, naturally.  Seeing them go up there and test made me very excited to be at this place in my training.

I see the shodan test as being the test where the steel is forged through variance of heat and cold, hammering your spirit through the technique constantly to get to a place of optimum strength and balance.  Taken in comparison, the nidan test is one of smoothing out and sharpening the edges, filing and refining to make the sword accustomed to your use and aesthetic taste.  You’re still fashioning the sword, but it’s a softer, more skillful touch.  That was demonstrated masterfully on the tests and it was inspiring to be there and see it.

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get your rock and roll on

I follow Hugh MacLeod’s blog,, daily.  This is his post for today along with the sweet cartoon above.

“One of the great tragedies of life, and you’ll find it deeply imbedded in every major world religion and mythology is to know that the power, the life spirit, is within you, and yet you choose to ignore it.

Call it rock n’ roll. Call it the voice of God. Call anything else.

Only you as an individual can decide to awaken it. It’s a decision only you can make.

And thank goodness for that….”

What a simple, yet profound, statement.  That decision, that choice, to awaken the (insert name here).  In Aikido, we call it ki.  Rock on.


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paradigm shift

Garbage in, garbage out.  Putting positive thoughts in your memory bank, leads to mental richness.  You didn’t hear O’Sensei talk about how life was hell and we need Aikido to fight our way through it taking no prisoners.  Although, come to think of it, he probably could have made a fortune developing an internet marketing campaign around that concept looking around at some of the shit they’re selling right now in internetland.  Can you imagine the ad of him in a warehouse that’s been transformed into a gym wearing board shorts with a couple muscle cars in the background wearing a muscle shirt with his arms crossed saying, “If you follow my 7 steps, you too can be a fighting machine, bro”

There are martial arts out there whose underlying philosophy draws  on these garbage mental and spiritual bank balances:

As much as I want to try Ameridote right now, Aikido is different.  I won’t quote them here, but O’Sensei went about things a little bit differently… Okay, I’ll quote just one:
“There are no contests in the Art of Peace. A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.” Morihei Ueshiba
See!  Different paradigm completely.  Tough to market that to the masses, though.  Okay, fine, one more:
“Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the great ocean, and the highest peak, empty of all thoughts. Always keep your body filled with light and heat. Fill yourself with the power of wisdom and enlightenment.”  Morihei Ueshiba
Okay, I’m done with the O’Sensei quotes for now.  Bottom line is to, well, listen to the guy!  Garbage in garbage out.  Aiki in, aiki out!
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