ukemi, a conversation

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.

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attention

Time is very valuable. From the time we’re born and the clock starts, we have an average of about 30,000 days to go. As finite as that is, it’s still quite a bit of time. Watching most of us race around like we do, you’d think we had about a week. Crazy thing is, while we’re going crazy, frantically moving on from one extraneous thing to another, we don’t seem to get much done. We don’t have enough time to do anything, it seems. Look how fast time flies, it’s already the end of October! Can this sad state be attributed to time restraints or to lack of focus? I’ve written before how we actually have ample time to do a lot of what we want and need to do, it’s just that we waste most of it worrying about running out of time.

I want to focus here on something else, but it goes along the same lines. I want to talk about attention. I’m of the belief that attention is more valuable than time. Of all the time we have available to us, where do we put our attention? As I stated above, I’d argue that most of our time is wasted on extraneous b.s. that does us no good. What if we were to just focus 100% of our attention on whatever task we may be doing at the time. What if we were to focus 100% on the conversation we’re having right now, or on the book we’re reading, or on the hike we’re taking, or on the customer we have in front of us right now? That’s the best gift you could give somebody, is your attention. Just because you may give someone a lot of time doesn’t mean they’re getting your attention. How much time goes by in the typical conversation before one of the two people involved pull out their cell phone and start texting or checking emails? Some people spend years and years together (time) but end up feeling like they don’t know each other anymore. All that time has gone for nothing.

How much of your attention is actually directed on what you’re doing right now? Are you directing your focus only on those things you want to do or only on the people you actually want to be around? If you have a job, is it something you can fully be present in, or are you just going through the motions hoping for a change? We who train in Aikido run into the same issues. Is our practice going towards improving ourselves, or are we just going through the motions? Is every ounce of our being into it when we train? If not, we’re robbing ourselves.

These are important questions and ones that I believe are worth asking ourselves. Life boils down not to how much time we have here but to where we direct our attention while we’re here. Not to get too dark here, but death teaches us this. When someone we love passes, how often do we regret those conversations that were rushed or spent on negative, wasteful subject matter? I know I do with those who have passed in my life. Attention is the most valuable currency we have. Lets Spend it wisely.

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What Does it Mean?

So, I was doing some research on Aikido the other day, and I discovered something that totally changed my perspective on the art. I hate getting too caught up in terms, but this was really eye-opening for me, so please bear with me. Most definitions of Aikido out there claim that the “Ai” in Aikido means “Harmony”. This is what I’ve read and heard for a while. However, after checking out the wikipedia definition, I learned that it actually means “joining, unifying, combining, or fit”. This is different than “harmony” in some ways. Harmony implies duality. Being in harmony with something, we have that thing, and then we have us, who is in harmony with that. This is a powerful concept, but at a certain point, limited. When we start looking at the meaning of “ai” being “joining, unifying, or fitting”, we see how this implies a “unifying with” as opposed to a “going along with”. Now, please understand, I realize my search for the meaning of this term will probably take a lifetime. I’m not claiming to have figured it out, and really, I’m not quite sure if there is a solid ‘meaning’ or ‘definition’ of it. Constantly striving to define things can be futile, but when we experience awakenings of certain conceptual things like this, I believe they should be reflected on and used as tools for growth.

In clarifying the definition (I understand that a lot gets lost in the translation from Japanese to English and vice-versa), we move from a relative or dualistic perspective to a oneness or absolute perspective. This is, from what I’ve read and heard, where O’Sensei was. He was dealing with the absolute when working on Aikido.

Now the concept of Irimi (entering), which is a huge concept in Aikido, makes way more sense to me. To fully meet, join with, combine with, and unify with the energy is a much more powerful intention than merely going along with it (although going along with things is an important principle). It implies much more power as well.

Going within, we can take it to another level of meeting the energy of our higher selves, or best ability, rather than just going along with the whims of our ego. This can be done via meditation, contemplation, or perhaps while doing an activity where we can really focus on what we’re doing. Some people can achieve this through playing a musical instrument, others by writing, playing a sport, hiking, whatever. I do, however, think meditation is the best route to take in order to achieve this because you’re forced to sit with…yourself. No activity to get distracted by (our wandering thoughts are enough distraction). But that’s just it, in meditation, we’re forced to let go of those distractions and push through in order to achieve this inner unity. Way easier said than done, but well worth it. Anyways, I’m definitely looking forward to applying this new perspective both on and off the mat. Trying to go into things and achieve unity with them as opposed to just going with them, I believe, opens up the door to many opportunities.

 

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declaration (revised)

This started as my ‘Mission’ page and has been an evolving idea. Now, you can see, I have changed the name of that page to ‘Declaration’ (I like the sound of it better). What started off as a personal Aikido journal has morphed into more than just that, and I thought it was important to take some time to update my intention with AikiLiving for whatever it’s worth.

In today’s world we all need to be artists at what we do, whether it’s bussing tables, driving a cab, being a parent, being a friend, doing road work, or running a business of our own. When I talk about art, I mean the act of affecting others in a positive way, in our own authentic way, if even a little bit.

Merely doing what we’re told and being replaceable parts in a machine isn’t enough these days, nor is it rewarding or fulfilling in any way. There is no safety in mediocrity anymore. We have to put ourselves into what we do, as well as in our daily lives, meeting each challenge in our very own, unique way. Doing this takes courage and insight. It’s definitely not the easy path. There is no instruction manual for art. If there was, it wouldn’t really be art.

We’re living through the death of the factory. Not just the blue collar factory, but the white collar factory as well. As useful as it may have been at one time in our history, we seem to be growing out of that stage of our unfoldment. Paradigm shifts such as these are usually not transitioned to easily and these times can seem downright scary and unpredictable if viewed from the old paradigm. As always in history, there is much opportunity among the chaos if we can keep our center and adapt.

What does this have to do with AikiLiving? ‘Aiki’ is a Japanese term which, loosely translated, means ‘engaging the energy (without clashing)’. This is a very powerful and practical concept and Aiki can be effectively utilised anywhere, really. I do study Aikido, and have for several years, and Aikido is where I draw a lot of my inspiration from. I will say that this is not, per se, an Aikido site. One doesn’t have to know Aikido to apply Aiki principles (although it can help). I am inspired every day by these artists who do this on a daily basis (whether they know they’re artists or not). I’m not necessarily just talking about the painter or writer, but anyone who connects with others in an authentic, meaningful way. People who act on things, start things, and engage life. I don’t claim to be an expert on this. I have my moments, like anybody, but mostly I’m just an observer and am happy to have an outlet to express this inspiration to others and at times hear their stories as well.

AikiLiving is a place where I, and others who may want to join the conversation, can express observations, experiences and stories about all things Aiki. This is pretty vague and open-ended for a reason. Common posts are typically general musings about art, conscious business, relationships, entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, personal growth, Aikido / martial arts training, books, movies, lifestyle, culture, etc. Some posts are just random thoughts about this general subject matter. Negativity is being mass-marketed and my intention is to create a space that highlights growth, improvement, art, and positive interactions and insights.

People are more intimately connected now than they ever have been before. Connecting with others in a positive way is what matters most now. No one is going to give us permission to do this. We need to take initiative now and start changing our world(s) – careers, businesses, environment, families, relationships, etc. – for the better, and we can’t wait for anyone else to tell us it’s okay to do so. Through the experiences expressed here, I hope AikiLiving can help others find their own true potential and enable them to spread their art in their own world.

-Jonas Ellison

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Culture

I believe we have a world class dojo where I train in Reno, NV, hands down. It’s the reason I’ve been training as long as I have and compared to a lot of my training friends, I’ve only been training a fraction of the time that a lot of them have. Some people may train for a while, leave for some time, and then come back (I’m one of those). Not all dojo’s are like this. I’ve been in a few that didn’t have the same kind of draw to them. I’ve also been in some that did.

What makes a big part of the difference is culture. The owner and chief instructor at our dojo has worked very hard along with our senior students to create a great, growth-focused culture. Our senior students are encouraged to help bring the newer students up to the next level. Doing this brings the level of the whole dojo up and makes it a much better place to train. Giving the senior students freedom to teach the newer students sparks improvement for both of them. Ego contests between students are at least attempted to be squelched as soon as possible and not encouraged. A healthy challenge of improvement is the overall mindset and most students are on board with this. Another great part of this culture is the balance between hard, serious training and light, creative, and fun training.

Point here is that we hear so much about culture today and I’m glad. Having an awesome culture is what makes wherever we are worth going to, but more importantly, it’s what keeps us coming back. Sure, people can get away with not having a good culture for a little while, but bottom line is, who wants to come back to a place on a regular basis that doesn’t make you feel comfortable? If it’s a workplace, they may have to come back, but the people in the company who are truly valuable and know it will be looking elsewhere.

It’s not just businesses that need to think about culture. How bout creating a great culture at home? I know it’s our family and we feel like they’re stuck with us and have to take our b.s., but a lot of people who stubbornly think this find out they are sadly wrong after a certain point.

Creating a great culture for others also makes wherever it is we are a better place for ourselves. At the higher level of selfishness, we realize that enchanting others (thanks Guy Kawasaki) is also better for us. I’m of the belief that the most stern dictators who seems to be very secure with their iron-fisted rule over their subjects are truly not very comfortable or truly happy. We should strive to carry this culture wherever we go. Carrying a certain energy with us exudes into the space we’re in and is the starting point of this culture. There are some who, wherever they go, seem to cast a positive light on their surrounding area. Since the culture is only as good as the people, this is an individual task that takes on a collective power when around others who believe in creating a great culture. Everyone has to be on board for an outstanding culture to exist, and I believe it’s worth striving towards.

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