happy birthday O’Sensei

I’d like to extend a happy birthday to the founder of the art of Aikido, O’Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba. What he created from years of strife and hardship, I believe, truly does have the power to change the world. Lofty goal for a martial art, for sure, but after training in the art for some time, I can see how it’s possible. It’s transformed my life and I’ve seen that transformation take place in many others’ as well. So here’s to O’Sensei.

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blind spots

In Aikido, we’re always moving in a circular way where we can see multiple attackers. Blind spots are bad. We don’t want to be exchanging blows with one person because there may be two or three others coming up behind us. If that’s the case, we need to handle that person as soon as possible before either getting out of there or moving on to the next one. We need to bring our blind spots into our awareness as soon as possible.

Life is not the octagon. In a real life ‘situation’, survival is the goal, not ‘winning’. To do this, we have to open our peripheral and not fear multiple attackers.

Mentally and spiritually, we can take this same principle and apply it just as well. We all have beliefs that work against us. Just like in the randori (multiple attacker situation), we need to open our peripheral and bring to awareness those beliefs and emotions that may be holding us back. If not, they will lurk in the darkness and hamper our every move.

Having tunnel vision usually doesn’t work in our favor and comes from the part of our consciousness that has been programmed during a time where we had to run from saber-toothed tigers on a regular basis. There are a few instances where that automatic response may save our lives, but the disadvantages of it far outweigh the advantages in this day and age. Eliminate the blind spots.

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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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Routine.  The word tends to bring to mind negative connotations.  It resembles the boring grind.  It exemplifies complacency and monotony.  I agree that being stuck in a routine can be a bad thing.  There are some aspects of having a routine that can serve us well though.  I think ‘routine’ may be the wrong word for what I’m getting at.  What I’m thinking of is more of a ‘ritual’ than a ‘routine’.

Through time rituals have been developed and passed down from generation to generation to keep a certain idea or way of doing something going.  Mindfully used, rituals can be a good thing.  When rituals become dogma, that’s when it turns into a mindless ritual and loses its purpose.  Having mindful rituals can be great and setting the right ones up can really help us.  In Aikido, we have many routines.  They all have purpose though.  In our dojo, we bow and clap twice at the beginning and end of every class to shoe away the bad mojo and bring in the good mojo and awareness.  We mindfully bow to each other before and after training to make the short time we have to train with that particular person that much more meaningful.  Rituals can be a good thing.  Set some up.  Try it out.  Stay away from ritual sacrifices, though.  Leave the farm animals alone.   Other than that, go nuts on the rituals and use them to improve your life.

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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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