“Aikido – A Pattern Language” by Nev Sagiba

Exposure teaches. This is the way of nature. To go from the known to the unknown and make it known, is initiation. Just like happens in nature, you are pushed through barriers which will begin a process of transformation. The suddenness of experience then gestates over time and comprehension comes later. Much later.

Practice is editing. Continually refining and improving.

Explanations can often confuse and make the process of learning longer than it needs to be. Especially long winded soliloquies. Silly compassion, by attempting to “make it better” tries to remove the pain of change, natural transformation, thereby not only prolonging true experiential learning, but also causing unnecessary clutter in the intellect, the wrong part of the brain. Intellect is for processing, not understanding. Understanding can only come from related action and clear, immediate noticing or direct perception. Such as the reflection on a perfectly still lake or mirror. The Zen masters understood this well; as did their natural predecessors.

This requires regular exposure as found in the natural practice of mitori geiko, kazu geiko and only then kufu geiko. Kinesthetic wisdom channels potentials already extant and well worn, which inherently reside in the universe. But these can only be expressed when the body-mind vehicle, the hito jinja is duly prepared.

There is a time to act and a time to talk. Classes are for training; and training in silence, (aside from kiais,) is best.

By causing ripples in the mind, unnecessary words, instead of articulating, which is a rare skill, as rare as the ability to truly listen, excess verbosity distorts the true picture. Instant right action requires instant right perception. This is not acquired with long winded code getting in the way of function. Identical to computer programs which slow everything down, true skill resides in one word or sentence that fulfills the same process in the shortest time waste possible.

The pain of change cannot be minimised. You want to learn, you must pay the price of experience and the attrition of clarification which removes the unnecessary dross, clutter and excrescence that obfuscates a clear view to what is, as it is. The price nature exacts is the discomfort of rearranging of neuronal pathways throughout the body, the gut and the brain.

A good budoka, just like a good programmer, knows how to get to the point using the best essentials in the shortest processing time possible. As little as needed and no more. And this includes the security aspect as well. To be able to achieve this requires a lucid and clear overview.

Animals, lacking a confused forebrain to clutter direct perception and experience with confused conceptuality, immediately “get it.” Animals are as enlightened as they can be for their form. The humans of now are as confused as a living entity can be and waste the immense potentials of the forebrain because they seldom understand its best use potentials. And if, when and how to leave it alone and notice the immediate moment, instead of processing meaningless clutter posing as important “information.”

We fail in that we want “to understand” everything before we are capable of comprehending anything. Experience, regular experience, doing, makes you ready to understand valid explanations. Nature teaches through experience, so we have to gain experience until so called “understanding” arises of its own accord. Only then may we be able to perhaps articulate somewhat and this best when there is a commonality of experience.

The fruit of our confusion as a species is reflected in the dying biosphere and oceans polluted beyond belief, pointing to a mass extinction to rival that of the dinosaurs. Revealing that despite all the babel, through all the noise, we collectively and individually understand very little indeed. Not even the primary of maintaining our life support systems.

Learning by immersion is shu. This cannot happen if the instructor is not competent and experienced, but a mere academic hydroponic hothouse plant with no experience or spiritual nutrients to offer. To know Budo you must have served society as a protector, facing real danger in the line of duty and understand the real predispositions of emergency events.

We best learn by doing. And by copying the example of the truly competent.

If you try to “make it better” for a student experiencing psychological discomforts, it kills the Zen effect. The irritation and discomfort in a pearl shell produces the pearl. The internal dilemma is essential. Comfortable pearl oysters die young and rot. The intelligence of direct and lucid perception on the Way is much the same.

Whether that dilemma is made into a wall or a steppingstone is entirely up to the student and there is absolutely nothing an instructor can do about dojo participants choosing to drop out. People inevitably choose their own path.

In the matter of languages, bilingual people can learn further languages with relative ease. Exposure teaches better than explanation as revealed by children. They learn to speak by copying parents and family, not by being taught the alphabet which comes much later.

Language and life is best learnt by immersion and exposure. The same with Budo and indeed Aikido. Unnecessary talk mostly gets in the way of personal discovery. Aikido is a language; a pattern language in motion. When re-patterning the body-mind to become Aikido, it can shatter old, non-functional, but clung to points of reference, that often defined our identity, before choosing kami no michi. That is the price we pay to approach kami, transforming through the paths of hikari.

For an instructor, pointing out key points, is not only sufficient but essential. To be able to do this, you must know what these are. They can only be known by experience.

Learning for life is different than learning for academia. Life is real, nuanced and complete. Not stepping outside of school because of institutionalization is dangerous. Particularly when the institutionalized try to dictate and influence real life. Street experience, as with forest, desert, oceanic and mountain life, is different to mere opinions. Just as TV does not produce cold, heat, smell, altitude and unique environmental peculiarities; only vocal and audio which are a limitation of the spectrum of experience; likewise, academia often loses context, lost in specializing, and so we slowly die, whilst killing the planet we fail to understand. And ourselves along with it.

The brain is a pattern identifier more than it is computer. Indeed it is not a separate entity, but functions synchronously with the whole body, interlaced with neural pathways throughout. There are as many neurons firing in the gut as the brain. The body-mind is a unit for experience, receiving and expressing the universe and its infinite potentials. We are not separate from our environments, not even those we mess up.

The body-mind not exposed to experience, atrophies. Use it or lose it is nature’s law. Balance between cerebrality and active kinesthetic skill, activates other dimensions which remain dormant, or die in the unbalanced.

My early experience spearing fish was just like kendo. I froze there trying it “understand” something and the fish would swim away. Deemed unproductive, I was given kitchen duties, which, I may add, I got good at. So good, that when years later, I met Japanese, who surprisingly could not cook rice, I was able to teach them their own traditional method. Eventually I appealed and was permitted to swim again. Lest I be relegated more months of cooking, I simply thrust, win, lose or draw; and persisting, soon developed real skill. So much so I began to catch too many fish and had to curb my work day.

Try standing there with a shinai in hand trying to “understand” while your opponents inflicts bruises. YOU WILL MOVE! At first clumsily, but in due proportion to the bruises, some measure of finesse soon comes. And the appreciation of THE MOMENT! Something modern man, and woman, decidedly lack.

Capturing the moment, kime, is everything. There is nothing to “understand.” Simply keep trying in practice and you will unlock real potential.

To understand ourselves we must first MOVE. Then move again and again and again, without end. Mushin should be welcomed, not feared when it comes.

We must persist with sincerity to be noticed by the forces of creation. When the universe, as a result, begins to notice us, it will begin to hear us and understand us, absorbing us back into its flow, kanagara no michi. When it begins to notice us, there is an exchange of ki. At first gradually, it increases with sincere persistence. Over time, the eye of the soul begins to open and we can then begin to understand the universe and ourselves.

We don’t stand out to be noticed by the forces of transformation, until we try and try again. And keep on trying, peeling away the layers of illusion. Then, at the proper time and in due season, often unexpectedly, something magical happens. Change, adaptation, direct perception in a new realm and dimension of understanding and active ability, starts to emerge. Skill grows like this. At first it is an act of faith and experimentation. This takes internal courage, humility, self-honesty and the warrior spirit.

Regular Aikido training has far reaching implications beyond simply that of training for its own sake, or combat, but affects all learning and healing of coordination by rendering us more complete.

Aikido and all the implicit human uplift and other potentials it can bring, already resides in the universe as a pattern language that magnetizes towards harmony instead of conflict. Anyone prepared to do the work can access this paradigm.

Once downloaded there is no turning back to the older, cruder and wastefully clumsy way of doing things. By so transforming yourself, you change the world without having to do anything else. Perhaps this is the only thing that will touch sufficient others sufficiently, and without infringing, to alter the self-destruct trajectory towards which we as a species, are currently heading.

On the Way, traversing the pattern language of universal harmony, there will be shifts of consciousness. Don’t bog down trying to understand them all with your mind. Feel, absorb, let go and walk on. Keep training. The Do is a journey. Answers will come with time and clarity.

”Ask, and it shall be given you; Seek and ye shall find; Knock, and it shall be opened unto you: ”

Jesus – Matthew 7:7

Nev Sagiba


  1. bruce baker says:

    I will hold my opponent down with only ONE FINGER!

    I am sure you have heard that one, right?

    Wow, One finger?

    Uh, person who said that breaks your concentration with a strike or some other pain inducing technique, then bends or twists your finger in a way it enhances whatever painful position you have taken and There-ya-go … you are immobilized by ONE FINGER!

    Not his … yours!

    Ah … the lessons of mind and body and perception … they just never end … do they?

    Which reminds me of the old drunken man challenged to a fight by the giant young man, simply put … the old man pokes the young man in the eye and goes back to drinking his beer as the young man falls to the floor in pain …

    Talk about transformation ….

  2. My son’s math teacher has a poster: the rule of 10000 – it takes 10000 hours to get really good at anything.

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