A lot of people focus on things they need to get done. They make a to do list and check things off as they are accomplished. So much to do, so little time. Life becomes very task oriented and they move from task to task stressing out about the next one that needs to be done. Just bite the bullet and do it.
I read a great post recently from the great Tom Peters and he suggests starting a ‘to be’ list. With this ‘to be’ list, we think about how we are going to project ourselves onto the scene of the task. I see this as the intention or the juice we put into our actions which adds life to the to do list. Here we focus on the all-important ‘why’ instead of the ‘what’ which is focused upon in the above to do list. As important as having a to do list is, merely accomplishing tasks is not how we really advance in what we do. It’s who we are while we do them that can set us apart. In training, it’s not so much the physical application of the techniques, but our quality and direction of ki as we do them where we gain the most growth.
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In Aikido, we’re especially practicing the undercurrent. I’ll explain what I mean by this in a bit, but it’s the reason why, when people see Aikido practice, they sometimes discount it for an unrealistic martial art not practical “on the street”. They may not realize that when we practice the physical techniques, we use these techniques as guidelines for more important principles, and the martial functionality of the physical manifestation of the techniques pale in relation to the non-physical work we’re doing. I just read a great article from Jay Lindholm Sensei from South Austin Aikido that helped me with this. I’ve been pondering this concept for a while, but he put it very well.
Everything we do is about the undercurrent. It’s not what we say, it’s the state of our undercurrent at the time which we’re actually communicating to others. If we have an undercurrent of fear or greed, no matter what we say, we are communicating fear or greed. Even when we’re merely in the same room as someone else and no words are spoken, our undercurrents are communicating. If we don’t like that person, we (and others in the same room) can feel the state of that undercurrent, even if we fake nice. If we’re upset with ourselves or not confident, this comes through in our undercurrent as well. On the flip side of that coin, if we have awareness, confidence, calmness, control, and we carry ourselves well, this also is communicated through our undercurrent. This, I believe, is why O’Sensei didn’t seem to focus his instruction too much on physical technique. This undercurrent is where we’re all united and are constantly communicating with eachother whether we know it or not.
The techniques of Aikido are vessels carrying the principles of Aiki which help us refine our spirit (undercurrent). In Aikido training, I see a big purpose of our training being to purify this undercurrent with Aiki. When we do this, and we keep in mind why we’re doing this, we’ll see just how ‘practical’ this art really is to so many aspects of our lives.
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