Aikido – Way of Discovery
"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt."
William Shakespeare, “Measure for Measure”, Act 1 scene 4
Aikido is a way of discovery. If you fear failure in training you cannot discover, since each “failure” so-called, is a steppingstone to greater discovery. If there is a most salient attribute of the “human-condition,” it is that we learn best from mistakes. This is the singlemost feature in the dissent between parents and their children. Parents fear that children will make the same mistakes they did to learn the basic but painful lessons of life. Children most often regard their parents as backwards and dated in their thinking and go on to re-learn the same lessons by making the same mistakes. In a new way. Even if they have to sneak out at night. Indeed this feature was foremost in Buddha’s emergence.
The responsibility of the sensei is to apply the wisdom of teaching Budo as would a wiser parent by providing an example, basic tenets, being supportive, connected and appropriately not interfering in another individual’s personal discovery. But also, knowing when to intervene to prevent real harm. And understanding the right time to leave well enough alone so the student can travel and progress.
With regard serious efficaciousness, mastery requires we discover the efficient way to perform any action. When forcing, you lose clear perception. When relinquishing attachment to result-getting in training, you learn to “read between the lines” of the template the Kihon provide, and only then can you begin to notice aspects of which you were previously blinding yourself as a result of excessive striving.
Stop trying so hard to “get it right” the first time. Training is not an exam but a discovery. Getting all anal about appearances is meaningless. We train to infuse and express the Ki of the Universe, not to expand false ego. The only time an action MUST be perfect is in a real life and death situation. This relies on training correctly.
In visual arts you see beginners trying too hard to control the art rather than allowing it to emerge as divinely inspired by the creative processes of the universe using the techniques offered. They rub out a line only to retrace it again and again. Instead of allowing it, they get frustrated and fight the processes and their own true creative impulse. Where is the battle of futility but within themselves? Expression is a pressing outwards. Allow it.
The Zen artist allows the “error” knowing full well that by the end, it will form the very best part of the tapestry. No erasers in Zen art! The Universe does not communicate in our idea of what we imagine to be the correct sequence. What our small minds may adjudge as “chaos” or “wrong” is often a greater harmony at work.
Perhaps the error is no error at all, but an essential and necessary LEARNING CURVE having a purpose at the time! A steppingstone to real progress. Learn to ALLOW and to OBSERVE instead.
Over time, process and regular application, the inner essence begins to emerge freely and with due context because you no longer resist it, but instead trust the process. The eye of the soul begins to open. Regular training as lifestyle is such a process. In due season things fall into place.
When we walk we simply walk. We do not try to walk since overt trying would impede the act itself. It’s the same with everything else in life, driving, working etc. Budo is no different. If you are still striving you have not trained enough or gone through sufficient barriers. The barriers are in the mind and nowhere else. Our doubts make us strive overtly and this gets in the way of seamless and effortless harmonious action. Letting go can be a fearful proposition. The mental barriers of habit and prejudice can jail more rigidly than metal bars.
On the Way, the valid variables that unlock and emerge are not “wrong” but different. Expressions of the infinite Universe’s endless quest for exploration and variety based on a few simple principles. Note the changes and differences. Let them emerge and let them go, then return to the basic key foundational Kihon. Repeat. Allow the variables. Indeed, embrace them. Then let them go. Return to basics. Refine the basics. Each moment is new.
As they emerge, these “internal” aspects unleash immense potential. In and Yo must be both active. Ai without Ki cannot function. Ki without Ai becomes mere brute force. Ai and Ki melded in immediate action, with clear mind, become Aikido.
If nothing else, the body-mind is permitted to calculate instantly the point of fulcrum at the precise moment it juxtaposes.
The rest happens by itself. If at that viable point, the technique should lose form, please do not worry. Simply keep breathing, let go and allow it to become Takemusu Aiki.
TAKEMUSU AIKI describes AIKI which gives birth to martial techniques. An expression coined by Morihei UESHIBA to refer to the highest level of aikido where one is capable of spontaneously executing perfect techniques. These characters appear frequently in Ueshiba’s calligraphic pieces.