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

Finding Your Temper

I was looking for my temper the other day. The shock of watching a friend in conversation severely locked into their belief system startled me, causing me to release my grasp on my temper. Anyway the experience left me wondering. Are we looking to shout what we believe louder, or explore, independently or together, expanding the limits of perception?

Slipping into a mode of ‘defending’ instead of ‘listening’ happens in a flash. Of course the real gap is from the time you’ve lost your temper, till the time that you know that you have, if you even get that far. Because we’re not talking about raging storms, just a ‘hardening of the categories’* enough to where, the conversation’s chance of enhancing understanding, fades like the winter sun. What’s the gap in time, once and if, you’ve recovered from that conversation enough to just start looking for your temper?

When I thought why is the message so poignant to me? Is it because we all do that, because it’s easier to see the speck in your neighbor’s eye than the moat in your own? Seeing how extreme, a self-created blindness, it was, I accepted how much I was doing it, how inevitable that we all do it. It is how the understandings we build our lives on, are built.

Mathew 6:14, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

It is a poem that couples so nicely with words of the founder of Aikido.

“Aikido is not for correcting others. It is for correcting the discord in your own mind. The enemies to defeat are the devils in our own hearts.”

Seeing the potential for correcting my own mind, I began, to use the phrase my teacher uses, ‘easy the I’. I started to let go of how rigidly I was holding my beliefs and opening into an increasingly more creative space. I did so, struggling with the frustration that I might’ve been the only one doing it. Everyone else was, more than likely, busy re-telling themselves and anyone who would listen, how what they thought, was right. That is a much easier path to follow, than ever wondering whether or not our beliefs were true and whether or not they were, how one would know it. The realm of wonder scares some people. It attracts others.

As my spirit started to relax a bit  more, my vistas opened on an empowered dialogue, at least in my own thinking, if not with those who failed to exercise their right to do the same. My sense of being opened on an ever-refining perception.  My compassionate understanding of how limited  each of our abstractions of reality is, took on another realm of possibility. It is through re-linking our experience with the totality, and through that eternal study alone, that will take us beyond trying to ‘solve the problems we face with the thinking that created them’.

Create a Beautiful World!

  • ‘hardening of the categories’ is a phrase i gleeped from Tom Crumb, “The Magic of Conflict”, a brilliant translation of aikido into practical life application.

Belief Hinders True Understanding – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

Belief Hinders True Understanding

If we had no belief, what would happen to us? Shouldn’t we be very frightened of what might happen? If we had no pattern of action, based on a belief -either in God, or in communism, or in socialism, or in imperialism, or in some kind of religious formula, some dogma in which we are conditioned -we should feel utterly lost, shouldn’t we? And is not this acceptance of a belief the covering up of that fear- the fear of being really nothing, of being empty? After all, a cup is useful only when it is empty; and a mind that is filled with beliefs, with dogmas, with assertions, with quotations, is really an uncreative mind; it is merely a repetitive mind. To escape from that fear – that fear of emptiness, that fear of loneliness, that fear of stagnation, of not arriving, not succeeding, not achieving, not being something, not becoming something – is surely one of the reasons, is it not, why we accept beliefs so eagerly and greedily? And, through acceptance of belief, do we understand ourselves? On the contrary. A belief, religious or political, obviously hinders the understanding of ourselves. It acts as a screen through which we look at ourselves. And can we look at ourselves without beliefs? If we remove these beliefs, the many beliefs that one has, is there anything left to look at? If we have no beliefs with which the mind has identified itself, then the mind, without identification, is capable of looking at itself as it is& – and then, surely there is the beginning of the understand of oneself. – Krishnamurti, J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

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.”

The Thalamic Pause: Whole Brain Awareness

You are always invited, while you listen/read/watch, any time really, to slow and deepen your breathing. Improve your posture transferring support from the muscular system to the skeletal structure. Allow the weight of the body to pour downward into the support of the earth, making this a time of rejuvenation as well as learning.*

When someone speaks, the brain activates, creating ‘meaning’ . The synapses in the brain connect to form our understanding of an experience, or of what we ‘think’ was said. Thought, creating meaning, takes time. Pathways previously connected, connect faster than new connections, which form relatively slowly and require more energy / effort and time. All of us, the species, as a survival mechanism, tend to be victim to our reactivity. We ‘shoot first and ask questions afterwards’. Maybe sometimes, but not usually, the best policy.

When water flows down a soft hillside it carves gullies into the hillside. From then on whenever water flows down that hillside, it tends to flow down the same gullies. The Mississippi River is a huge gully, where water flow follows an established path. The energy of thought also follows established patterns. The ‘meaning we make’ becomes by default our understanding of the world, out of which all our decisions and strategies are designed. Our understandings, our beliefs, can be as fixed as a river’s path and seemingly impossible to change. Then we no longer actually ‘think’ creatively. Instead, we become prisoners of our own thoughts, and our past understandings.       (see earlier post, Create Your Own Star Map.)

A man named Alfred Korzybski, put forward the concept of the ‘Semantic Pause’, also called the ‘Thalamic Pause’. The Thalamic Pause teaches, that, as you give thought time, understanding begins to take on different or deeper meaning.

The Thalamic Pause implies a shift in thinking. Thinking, which eventually includes feeling, produces an increasingly holistic picture that we draw of the world. Given time, understanding goes from  first impressions about something, to a deeper, a more implicate level of meaning, value or significance to our lives.

Paying attention to how we ascertain value, how we make meaning, empowers creativity, Creativity in turn, makes us more effective in decision-making, and life in general. So, although a bit abstract, I’m hoping this knowledge will help increase your self-reflectivity. The past  then, rather than a limitation, becomes an aid in being able to change and correct course, to creatively and intelligently design your life.


{Interested in a deeper understanding of the possibilities implied? Harmony in Creativity, Energy and Human Brain Function: The Thalamic Discourses      is available as a free download

Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski ([kɔˈʐɨpski]; July 3, 1879 – March 1, 1950) was a Polish-American independent scholar who developed a field called general semantics, which he viewed as both distinct from, and more encompassing than, the field of semantics. He argued that human knowledge of the world is limited both by the human nervous system and the languages humans have developed, and thus no one can have direct access to reality, given that the most we can know is that which is filtered through the brain’s responses to reality. His best known dictum is “The map is not the territory“.

In the nervous system, a synapse[1] is a structure that permits a neuron (or nerve cell) to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron. Some authors generalize this concept to include the communication from a neuron to any other cell type,[2] such as to a motor cell, although such non-neuronal contacts may be referred to as junctions (a historically older term).