why go with the flow, when you can be the flow?

Looking back over my posts, I notice that I’m guilty of putting Aikido in somewhat of an overly-righteous place and framing Aikido in a bit too much of a new-agey light.  Not that I’m discounting what I’ve written so far, but in this post, I’d like to change the contrast a little.  My teacher once said, and it’s stuck with me since, “These principles we’re learning from O’Sensei are not some fluffy, new-agey hype.  They’re very real, practical, martial principles branching back to the Samurai.”(Not exact quotes, but something like that).  We really begin to understand this when we train with someone who is martially sound (which our teacher happens to be) and when he gets moving, it’s friggin’ scary being the attacker.  The movements of Aikido, when done correctly, are super efficient, sharp, and very difficult to counter.  Practicing finding openings in our technique is a common theme in our dojo, and with a lot of people who train in the art in general, and it shows in application.  We’re taught to be able to strike vital parts of the body at any point of the technique if needed, but also keep the option open of taking the attacker down safely to the ground.  Because Aikido is called the art of peace by the founder, and it is non-competitive, it’s often displayed as more of a dance than a practical martial art.  Don’t get me wrong, a nice thing about Aikido, and one of the aspects about the art that I love, is that it can be practiced as a dance-like right-brained creative practice.  I love moving in this way, and it does break up the practice a lot and allows us to expand our movements and find different ways of doing the basic techniques.  Just like anything though, it’s easy to over-indulge in this practice and get away from the fact that it is a martial art with very powerful gifts available to us if we choose to accept them and work at it in that way.

“Go with the flow” is a common term used in America and probably all over the world.  It’s advised to us by friends and elders when dealing with problems and we’re told to just “Go with the flow”.  There’s a certain virtue in this, I guess, and there’s a place where it does apply and can assist us.  My view is that going with the flow might be good at a certain stage of a conflict, but shouldn’t be the end goal.  If it does become the end goal, it’s easy to be manipulated.  I’ve always been apt to going with the flow, thinking it was a good idea, and it may have been, but I’ve noticed, when looking back, that it’s made me complacent in a lot of aspects of my life.  There were times I could have put myself forth and caused an outcome that might have been more favorable on my part and others if I wouldn’t have been so docile and compromising.

I read a quote a while back by an unknown Japanese author that said, “Don’t go with the flow, be the flow.”  This struck me as being a very profound statement and I think about it all the time now.   Hmmm.  What a great way to put it.  We see this in nature all the time.  Does a tidal wave go with the flow?  Kind of, maybe.  But I see it more as being the flow, and I think I’d be proven correct if I was in its way.  Looking at electricity we see the same thing.  With this ideal, we’re not exactly bucking the flow of things and being pugilistic.  I see it as being the flow of all things in our consciousness (which is…everything).  Being one with the universe, which O’Sensei said on many occasions, is pretty much saying this.  Being “one with” means being “it”.  If you look at Aikido technique, this is exactly what we’re practicing.  Initially, we may go with the flow, but then we become the flow and take the attack in a new direction.  This is so profound to me.  When you get right down to it, our consciousness is all we have, and all we really can control, if we consciously recognize it and accept it.  How often do we give that gift up to others?  It’s amazing how easy we surrender control to others and end up sabotaging ourselves.  Mostly it’s done out of ignorance or fear.  I’ve done it several times in just the last week, mostly in small ways that I wasn’t even cognizant of when it happened, and I’m sure by the time the sun goes down, it’ll happen again.  Anytime we compromise our situation, even in the slightest way, and lose something for others out of fear or inferiority, we’re doing this.  This is not to say we need to be greedy and selfish in a thievish kind of way, stealing from others and being offensive.  Sure, there’s only so much we can do, and others may be offended by certain things we do or say, but sometimes it’s for the better if we’re coming from the right place.  If your boss at work asks you to work an extra 10 hours this week for no pay, offending him may be the way to go.  If you have the aiki-ability to do this in a way that benefits you both.  Maybe you do it in a way that gets the point across to him that he can’t get away with treating people like that, especially you.   Just “going with the flow” would be doing both of you an injustice in this situation because not only are you proving yourself to be an easily manipulated slave, but you’re letting him know that he can get away with this.  Peace will be established by being the flow and taking the conflict in a new direction.  You’re not initiating force over anyone or trying to control anyone else, just yourself.  Initiated aggression is a sign of losing control.

Going to Aikido techniques, at one level, the attack is initiated, and secondly, the Aikido practitioner reacts to this and applies the technique.  Taking this to a higher level, there are those who, even before the attack takes place, have complete control of the attacker.  I believe that they achieve this by having complete dominion of their consciousness which happens to include the attacker who has surrendered control to them by even intending to attack.  This can be practiced in the dojo or outside of it in our day to day lives.  Having dominion over our thoughts and our being is something I think we all should strive for, and it seems obvious, but we give it away way too often.  I know I do.

Being the 4th of July holiday, let this be the theme for Aiki-Living and declare your independence by fully controlling yourself and your life.  Only you can do this, and it really does make a huge difference when realizing this and applying it.  As usual with most things concerning growth, it may not be the most comfortable thing, but once applied, I think you’ll see and feel a big difference in the way you relate to others and yourself.  We make the decision to chart our own course in life, or we make the decision to hand it over to others.  Both ways, the decision is ours.  Which one do we pick?  Be the flow.


  1. Well introspected, Jonas. Pondered this many times myself. I guess we won’t be investing in those tie-dye hakamas any time soon, eh? Who knows. Maybe our dojo will have a casual Friday of sorts… heheheh.

    • Jonas Ellison on

      Thanks, Kyle. I’m all about the tie-dye Fridays!

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