Category Archives: The Art of Peace

Aikido Is

As much as i understand – the technique appears or forms out of the the harmony with the universal. O sensei left us technique as a path to trace our way back to the universal energy. i fear most people only see the techniques in the physical dimension and miss the the ‘essence’ of blending with the ‘neural energy’ into a universal harmony. So they repeat technique hoping the finer dimension will appear. yet, when it does, we have to be listening in a finer dimension. Perhaps the term ‘martial art’ is misleading when speaking about aikido though it can be either self development or self -defense or both depending on the interests of the practitioner.

I see it as a way to reconcile people to harmonious relationship so we can focus more on what we want and less on fighting, with ourselves and each other.

Of course the ‘tao’ that can be spoken is not the true ‘tao’.

At the same time:

“All these things are difficult to form into words. If a person gives a name to something and then holds fast to that name, he will miss the real meaning. Yet if no name is given, then he floats about in empty space and does not attain awareness.” Chozan Shissai – Master Swordsman, Japan 1728

Out-telligence: Who’s right? What’s best? Who is going to hell?

I have studied half a dozen martial arts, though mainly Aikido, for over four decades. In my primary discipline, music, I’ve studied multiple approaches, from classical to rock, jazz to folk, Indian and western music. Is one of them right? Is one of them wrong? Would we argue over whether, opera, musicals, drama, tragedy, comedy, stage, screen is the best form of theater? If you watch TV are you going to hell? (Is that a joke?) Would, should we kill each other over which cuisine is right, French, Chinese et al.? Should we outlaw American food? Ok, that is a joke, but as my friend Wavy Gravy says, “If you lose your sense of humor, it’s not funny!”

So, let’s take the question to absurdity. If I like vanilla better and you prefer strawberry, should I say to you, “you don’t know anything about ice cream, or food, or eating.” Then to press the point, consider a potter saying pottery is better than painting. Well, you are right, if you want to make a bowl that you can eat from, or an urn to carry water. If, however, you want to translate or transform emotion or explore new synaptic connections, maybe not, maybe it is the opposite. So before we jump on the ‘better’ thing, we probably should explore the purpose for which someone engages in an art.

Generally in cuisine, music and the performing arts, we appreciate, learn from and build on each other’s disciplines and knowledge, to create something new or ‘more original’. Somehow when we get to beliefs about religion, race, and lines on a map, there seems to be insanity. People denigrate each other up to and including murder on an immeasurable scale, often, over trivial issues. Sane? I don’t see it that way.

Maybe the award goes to football fans. They riot and kill each other over a game, the outcome of which matters almost not at all, to the conditions of their lives. But here is what is of value. It is not the issue. That is just the excuse. People are victim to their reactivity, which if it remains unconscious, ends up expressed as fear and aggression. Welcome to the human condition. That’s why I study.

What we think is thinking is mostly reactivity. As my friend David Brown said, “This life-or-death, black-and-white approach is just fight-or-flight on a different level.  We become ‘identified’ … not just with a body and physical existence … but with a point of view, with a set of beliefs, values, and customs, etc.”

We are indoctrinated into belief systems long before we have a chance to understand the implications. Problematically, our mindset, confused with emotionally charged affect, has usually solidified long before the ability to reason develops. Then, without the power to see how fixed we are in these beliefs, we have even less power to question our assumptions. What we think is thinking is mostly reactivity. That’s why I study.

As I look at the religious and ideological wars, going on since time immemorial, haven’t we, ‘been there, done that’? Yet, in the face of increasing population, diminishing resources, and a world moving towards greater proliferation of thermo-nuclear weapons in the hands of ever less responsible entities, we find ourselves following a zero-sum mentality to its illogical, out-telligent end. Does something seem out of balance to you here? That’s why I study.

In the world of martial arts, some practitioners endlessly argue, often with unbelievable hostility, about which is the ‘best’? People totally lose it over this conversation, maligning other arts and anyone who studies them. If we are training to survive a life-threating situation, shouldn’t we be looking for what has value in each and any system rather than closed mindedly defending one as being better?

Can someone in that ‘who’s better’ mindset, really understand Aikido, which, in its modern essence, is much more about making everybody better. What they think is thinking is mostly reactivity. That’s why I study.

My bestowed mission is music and harmony, which is probably why in the world of martial arts, and I’ve practiced many, Aikido was my great love. I would rather create a spirit of listening, a world where people are friendly, and cultures understanding. My prayer would be a world where we support each other’s explorations, learn together and work together to make all of our lives and the society we live in better.

I’ve spent decades studying various fighting arts, with world champion teachers. I’ve never been in a fight. Have I wasted my time? I’ve studied Aikido for 45 years. I’ve never been in a fight. Have I wasted my time? I don’t feel that way. Not fighting was what interested me. Really, I don’t even get into arguments. And I loved every minute of training, well almost.

People do understand and train Aikido as a fighting art. Yet, O Sensei said so poetically, “Winning means winning over the discord in your own mind. The enemies we have to defeat are the devils in our own heart. Aikido is medicine for a sick world.” That is why I study.

Think about the world we might live in, if all the time, energy, resources, and creativity that had gone into all the wars, throughout history, had gone into art, education and commerce. That is why I study.

Whatever art you train, you have my best wishes. And of course you’re welcome to your attitudes, including the snotty and hostile ones. Still, if you were willing, may I invite you to consider, how healthy they are, how much they enrich your life, and whether or not they help ‘create a beautiful world’ for all of us.

Aikido: what is ‘ki’? a martial art or spiritual study?

koichi tohei, once chief instructor at the aikikai (school of aikido), said, ” where the mind goes the body follows”. at the same time i’ve heard, even aikido instructors, saying, “i don’t believe in ‘ki”

my reaction is to want to understand how differently people use that word and what they mean by it.

i don’t see anyone’s approach as right or wrong. i see everyone exploring what interests them. in my present meaning/understanding of the word (and it grows and changes) the study of ‘ki’ allows us to know ourselves in finer dimensions – does it apply martially – it can be developed as a fighting art – as it explores the finer dimension of aiki-ju-jitsu. it comes from that lineage.

later as o sensei developed his art and had his ‘enlightenment experience’ he developed it as, and called it, the ‘art of peace’  so – it can be trained as a martial art and / or seen as an exploration into “harmonizing with the universe”.

i like to muse that those at one end of the continuum, seem to have ‘snotty’ things to say about people on the other.

o sensei said, ” aikido doesn’t call relative affairs good or bad, but keeps all beings in a constant state of growth and development.

he also said “create a beautiful world.”

It’s not only not what you say, or even not how you say it. It’s where you’re coming from!

After i posted , “No, really, let’s talk about it”, our friend Aimee from FL author of, Stress Less Achieve More sent me this. “I really liked your blog. Perhaps in the next installment you can talk about how you get from being afraid to speak up, to telling your truth. Just a thought (as you would say).” So here’s a thought.

One of the major sources of stress in our lives is incomplete communication. Very often, we have something on our minds that we’d like to say, but we don’t. We lock it up inside and withhold it. The result is, any time we do interact with a person from whom we’re withholding information, there’s always a holding mirrored in the body. Sometimes it is subtle, and we don’t notice it. Sometimes it’s intense and we can’t wait to get away, we think, from them. There are people that it is better to distance yourself from. More often, it’s not the distance that needs to change. It’s our attitude. It’s our communication, internal as well as external.

When you are in harmony with yourself, in a safe environment, you naturally express your being. When you are ‘out of sorts’, that expression colored by your inner tension, can be blocked or comes out under pressure making it hard to hear.

Think about anything that you have to say that hasn’t been said. First, check out, ‘where you’re coming from’. Once, or if, you notice your tension is adding to the problem, change your state. This is an invitation to take a minute, and however slightly, slow and deepen your breathing, finding a posture you like better, relax your muscles. If you do decide to finish an incomplete communication, do this first!

Then look again. In a better state, is there some way you could communicate what you have to say, finding a positive and encouraging and supportive way of transmitting this information? Is there a non-violent way to make this request, which means without making the other person “wrong”? Simply sharing what you see, and would like to see.

Dealing with ‘Unusual Attitudes’ Part III

In earlier posts, we used the word ‘temper’ as a window. Recently, we explored through the word ‘attitude’, drawing on the aeronautic usage for richness of meaning. Attitude affects our effectiveness in achieving our goals. More significantly, it designs how we choose, which goals we choose.

Pilots have gauges and indicators that monitor ‘pitch & yaw’, and they practice dealing with ‘unusual attitudes’. Practicing a greater sensitivity to our ‘life indicators’, empowers monitoring and adjusting, our attitude, our approach to life. Developing sensitivity and skills to be responsible with our attitude, also empowers us in dealing with the attitudes of others. Dealing with people with unusual attitudes becomes a lot easier if you are familiar enough with the indicators and ‘listening’.

When you’re dealing with people with unusual attitudes, ‘first put on your own oxygen mask’. Explore monitoring your openness and willingness to listen, your sense of energy ‘flow’, staying connected to the source that activates the breath. Use your indicators to create an attitude that is appropriate to your goal, regardless of the difficult or unusual attitude of another.

Your indicators provide information that enhances your choices, IF, you’re paying attention. Without recognizing tensing in the body, shallower breathing, and even subtler, resistance in the mind, we are ‘flying blind’. If you lose your ground, and are easily drawn into their off-balance, out of control, mentality. Then, you’re not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.

The power to choose comes from awareness, from listening. Were we conscious of the effect attitude plays in creating our lives, we would pay a lot more attention individually, and as a society. And if we did, the return on investment would be incredibly high.

“Create a beautiful world.”

 

attitude

[at-i-tood, -tyood]                 noun

1.manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind:

a negative attitude; group attitudes.

2.position or posture of the body appropriate to or expressive of an action, emotion, etc.:

a threatening attitude; a relaxed attitude.

3.Aeronautics. the inclination of the three principal axes of an aircraft relative to the wind, to the ground, etc.

Dealing with ‘Unusual Attitudes’ Part II

In the last post, I mentioned that aeronautics uses the term ‘attitudes’ to describe a plane’s orientation to flight. The study and practice of dealing with ‘unusual attitudes’ is part of training as a pilot.

Planes have attitude indicators. (see 1. below) Yet, pilots, in the midst of tests of unusual attitudes, often don’t believe their instruments. Surprisingly many end up flying the plane upside down.

In navigating life, so much of learning to function in a social world, interferes with our listening to our inner guidance, it is not uncommon to lose touch. Sensing unusual attitudes should activate, ‘listening to our indicators’, but instead, how often we resist. We ‘fly upside down’, adding to the problem.

Maybe we need some practice in listening to our indicators. Since, not unlike the aforementioned pilots, how much are we able to see our own attitudes, in relation to a larger, more precise or accurate view of the world?

Through the study of seeing in others an unwillingness to consider alternate ideas, we may begin seeing our own ‘unusual attitudes’. That would truly be power. Seeing the speck in our neighbor’s eye is infinitely easier, than to see in one’s self, our unwillingness to change our acquired orientation, often in the face of overwhelming, contradictory information. That may be the most usual attitude towards unusual attitudes that exists.

O sensei said, “Aikido is not for correcting others. It is for correcting the discord in your own mind.”

Now, there is a path with heart, which is why it takes courage.

 

1.) An attitude indicator (AI), also known as gyro horizon or artificial horizon or attitude director indicator (ADI, when it has a Flight Director), is an instrument used in an aircraft to inform the pilot of the orientation of the aircraft relative to Earth’s horizon.

Pitch attitude is the angle formed by the longitudinal axis, and bank attitude is the angle formed by the lateral axis.