a guest post by jeff black – part 1 “thoughts along the aikido road”

“In Aikido 1 + 1 = 1”
Paolo Corallini Sensei

“You should train as if your uke is an extension of yourself.”
Morihiro Saito Sensei

“Gather your partner. Simply move together.”
Sakeda Yoshinobu Sensei

“It’s never about the throw, it’s about connection.”
Mary Heiny Sensei

Each act, each memory, each like, each dislike creates our story. We use this story to define who we are. It shapes our interaction with others. The stronger we hold to the story the more we force it on others. In aikido when we force the throw we fail to listen to our partner and our response comes from our story and not from what is appropriate. In zen it is said, eat when you are hungry, rest when tired. This is how we break free from the story. In the tea ceremony each movement, each action, each thought is not part of the story, it is not from habit. You grasp the tea kettle and feel it. It is shaped and made to pour the tea. You pour the tea. The cup is filled, it needs to be shared, the cup is passed to another. Acceptance, reverence for the gift. It is made to be felt, it offers its self to you. You accept again, this time from the cup. There is no separation, everything, everyone is included. You vanish.

kokoro = “heart, mind, spirit”

Japanese word for person is ‘hito’ = to hold the spirit.

“The body made subtle, we call the mind. The mind made visible, we call the body.”

Mary Heiny Sensei talks of the heart melting as uke attacks, it gives a whole different perspective if we look at the heart as mind. I am thinking that O’Sensei had this definition in his thought as he kept referring to opening the heart. Open the mind, let the big mind, the mind of the universe enter into you. There is no merging with uke (attacker), there is only one, there has always been only one. We with our limited perception separate from the one, from unity.

O’Sensei said, ” All I have to do is keep standing this way.” Perhaps on the ‘bridge between heaven and earth’.

Jacob Atabet by Michael Murphy, “I think we can enter the place where matter is rising from mind.” “”What is there to fear? Life and death are simultaneous. 2,500,000 red cells are being born and consumed every second! We are living flames, burning at the edge of this incredible joy.”

Again to hold the perceived opposites at the same moment is to experience unity. kokoro = “heart, mind, spirit”

This is where my aikido is taking me. I find so much more than just a throw… Sort of another view of the saying that in Aikido 1+1=1

Jeff Black currently holds the rank of Shodan and trains regularly at Aikido of Reno.  Having trained in the art, off and on, for the last forty years or so, Jeff is a wealth of insight about the art of Aikido.  This will be the first of three weekly installments of his post.  

 

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above defense

“Oh, so Aikido is purely a self-defense martial art.” people usually say when explaining Aikido to them. They then move on from it during the conversation to their childhood story of training Kempo for two years when they were ten years old, dismissing Aikido as a mamby-pamby martial art. Happens all the time. Thing is, I often agree with them that Aikido is, in fact, a purely defensive martial art. I was thinking of this the other day and realized how much this discounts the art. “Aikido as self-defense” is misleading. In Aikido, we don’t look at the world as something to defend ourselves from. We look at the world as something to change, wherein the first, if not the only, place to change it is with ourselves. We meet the energy and change it into something else, hopefully more positive and creative. No true Aikidoists play the victim card that I’ve ever met, and I guarantee you that O’Sensei didn’t. To be able to look at violence with soft eyes and transcend it is not for the weak. Merely looking for self-defense against a big, bad bully can be achieved by a weekend class at the YMCA. To be able to smile at the man coming in to take your life and protect him as he falls rendering his attack laughable takes a warrior.

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obstacles

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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.

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the truth about lies

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We’re told our whole lives to not lie.  Don’t lie to your teacher.  Don’t lie to your parents.  Don’t lie to your friends, or your boss, or your attorney, or your auto mechanic, or your brother’s friend’s sister’s husband.  We hear it all the time, and then we get that rebellious moment when we do it.  We lie.  We lie to our teacher and say we didn’t do it.  Hmmmm, it works.  So we do it again.  Later in life we might lie to our boss and call in sick when we’re not.  Some people, if faced with a life or death situation, may have to lie to save their life or their families.  Unless you’re in the CIA or something, most of us usually won’t stumble into this extreme of a situation, but who knows, right?
What I’m saying is that no matter how noble we may think we are, lying happens.  The most self-proclaimed honest person you know has lied and is lying to you as soon as they tell you they’ve never lied.  Here’s the catch, though.  Lying may ‘work’ with others.  It may even be practical at times.  Lying to yourself, however, is never permissible.  We get away with lying to others and we think that it works with ourselves.  When we lie to ourselves, we close off and lock away crazy amounts of garbage.  Being brutally honest with yourself is huge and leads to ridiculous growth and ousting of bad mojo.  It takes courage, though.  It’s scary to face certain issues we may be trying to hide from ourselves, so it’s easier to lie to ourselves and say that it’s not a problem.  As long as we continue with this mindset, we’re just fooling ourselves.  Being brutally honest with ourselves brings whatever it is to light and we deal with it, either letting it go, changing it, whatever it is that suits us best, and we can move on.  More often than not, we suffocate it with the proverbial pillow of our ego until it goes into dormant mode, popping up when we least expect it.
In aiki, we meet the energy no matter how bad it may be.  Usually, when brought to light, the dragon isn’t as bad as it seems and just wants to pass through, but we don’t allow it to.  I think that the more honest we are with ourselves, the more honest we’ll be with others.  Then again, I might be lying.  Only way to find out is to try it and see.

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why fear the slowness

We’re a fast people here in America.  Always racing to get from here to there.  Lining up at the Mac store for the new iPad.  Talking to our family or friends while we’re usually emailing or texting someone else.  How can we be engaged with life when we have this kind of scattered attention?  How often are we actually in the moment?

It’s super refreshing to take some time to just settle a bit.  I have a friend from Argentina who’s told me about their four-hour long dinners over there.  Sure, here in America, we may have the occasional four-hour-plus dinner with family or friends, but it’s definitely a rare occasion.  How often do we eat dinner while checking emails, facebook, or talking on the phone while on the run.  Even if we’re not doing that, how often are we actually enjoying it?  If we’re with family or friends, do we really slow down our mental chaos enough to purely enjoy the time with them?

In our meeting at the dojo last night, we discussed the Japanese term ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ which is commonly used in tea ceremonies.  This concept is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.”  Our teacher was saying how in the days of O’Sensei, he and his peers lived in a whole different era.  War was constantly looming and they lived with the reality that they may not see each other a week from now, a day from now, or an hour from now.  In the event of a life-or-death struggle, there is no opportunity to “try again.”

In the dojo, we do techniques over and over again.  What I took our teacher as saying was that each time we do a technique, we should see it as a singular event and realize that it’s possible that we may not have the opportunity to see this person again.  These days here in current America, it’s tough for us to get in that mindset.  A lot of us just don’t live with that being a real highly probable possibility.  Some of us do, but for those of us who don’t, it can be difficult to foster this intention.

As always in Aikido, this can be taken off the mat and carried into the comfort of our own homes.  Enjoy your friends and family.  Don’t be afraid to slow down a bit.  A lot of us fear our own mental chatter which seems to speak up when we slow down urging us to jump back into the rat race.  This is something that needs to be dealt with.  I recommend Aikido as a perfect tool to help deal with this, but meditation, yoga, tai chi, or whatever can be applied to quiet that is very useful.  If you’re not enjoying the stillness of life, you’re missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of life you can partake in.  Have more of those four-hour dinners.

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