“You Have To Understand With Your Whole Body,” by Nev Sagiba


“To produce true mastery and not dead clones that mimic and paraphrase rote blindly like parrots, it is necessary to create an environment conducive to learning…”

ablogicon_nevTo “get” Aikido you have to understand with your whole body. This means DOing. Aikido is a DO so we must do before we can understand. The attrition of regular doing wears away the dust and blockages in the body-mind connection, the psyche.

Ideas are good, but ideas not based on experience are usually in error, or at best mere guesses.

Opinions, the Buddha cautioned against as being pitfalls of error.

There is some pain associated with real ACTIVITY because it requires OVERCOMING INERTIA.

Intellectual comprehension comes later. Indeed, it may never come, but so long as your training makes you a better person and enables you to survive the next physical attack, does it really matter?

Indeed, you will not “understand” much at all, or be able to articulate it until you start teaching and have been teaching for a long time. Only then will that part of the brain activate in a way that is in BALANCE with FUNCTIONAL INTENTION THAT DRIVES ACTION. Budo is action. Aikido is action.

The doing part is entirely different from the analyzing aspect.

Some people have immense skill but it’s intuitive and they can not easily explain anything. Is that a reason to discount them? Not at all.

My Aikido sensei was one of the best teachers I ever had, and as much as I also respected my verbal teachers, he and one or two other seldom spoke. He exemplified and this communicated in silence SO MUCH BETTER THAN MERE WORDS!

Teaching and Learning

There is no such thing as teaching, only learning, the student has to pull the information in willingly. School is 99.99% mitori geiko.

To produce true mastery and not dead clones that mimic and paraphrase rote blindly like parrots, it is necessary to create an environment conducive to learning and then facilitate and leave people alone to get on with the business of following their path and learn. Only interfering when they are at risk.

That’s why the apprentice method works so well.

Immature teachers want to inflict learning akin to a rape of the mind. In this case natural resistance arises in the would-be learners mind and gives rise to bad habits; and so the process becomes slow, stunted, stultified and unnecessarily difficult.

Learning is instant. You do or see something once and it is locked into the body memory which never forgets ANY experience. Whilst memory is perfect, recall in most humans over three years old is usually damaged by societal norms, parental dysfunction and the lack of understanding how to activate reliable markers at each season of growth.

A good teacher will push you through barriers before you can think to obstruct yourself with self-doubt. By the end of any dojo class, despite yourself, you should be moving well and seen to be moving well by others. If not, the teacher is no good.

And by the way a soliloquizing parrot is no teacher. The real teacher LEADS THE WAY and can DO and EXEMPLIFY everything he purports to be able to impart.

A case in question. Some years ago we conducted a seminar at a camp near the source of the Cox’s River. A pure spring. One of the last remaining unpolluted natural water sources in the region. We did all the traditional stuff including cutting a hole in the ice for misogi, etc.

At about 2 am we did a spot training session without notice and went straight into multiple attacks. Because the students had not had time enough to wake up and engage the clutter cortex of the brain they all moved like masters. Even the guy whose only reason was the green monster. It was his first Aikido ever and the only reason he attended to check on his girlfriend, who was a regular student.

The clutter cortex of the brain had not kicked in so people simply moved naturally. I had experienced this regularly in the professional fire brigades on night shifts when we literally turned out in our sleep, often arriving at the scene before waking. Even as a the driver! Scary thought.

Not only this but I witnessed and experienced some remarkable feats of strength, ability and heroism under such conditions, which, had we had time to think about it, we would have most likely declined (and probably got sacked thereby!) or not performed as well. Oh, the fate of the professional protector. Feats which were I to repeat here, some would argue to be “physically impossible.” So I won’t. Explanations? I don’t have any. Who needs them anyhow? The result, successful mission, was achieved.

How much of the national budget goes into education for optimal relationship skills, a true understanding of the sexual urge beyond the mere biological or superstitious beliefs about it, how to breed optimally, does anyone know what this is? Optimal birthing, optimal and caring child rearing and continued understanding?

Animals usually do a better job. Most humans are too busy chasing their delusions to bother with their children which they deem an inconvenience, thereby already leaving a damaging mark.

“Quality of life” is all too often deemed to be the owning two cars and three TVs and a mortgage for big square box to live in, so you can work three jobs and had have no real, meaningful or lasting QUALITY OF LIFE! In its truest sense. FOR PITY’S SAKE! That’s not “quality” but clutter and time waste! Life is too short for such stupidity.

What about quality of respect, morality, health, hygiene, spirituality, fitness, diet, respect and good manners; quality of social skills, quality of caring for the aged, the poor, the “others” who are inconvenient to think about and better out of sight, quality of mental states, quality of creating harmony in circumstance and environment and so on?

For the brain damaged and morally stunted this will sound “politically incorrect.”

There is a great lot of work to be done on planet earth. A great deal.

But let me say this. You have more potential than you can ever imagine. In fact, the mind is so powerful that because you continual self-dialogue negative self-doubt, it makes you as limited as you choose to be.

This “power” of the mind can also be used positively, constructively creatively, compassionately and usefully, in the true meaning of the word useful, instead of wasted in a life going downhill in fear, doubt, greed and delusion chasing the inane.

What you take with you after death are core values, not shiny duco and toys.

Through regular manageable installments, you can transform into whatever you want to be and consciously get the clutter of fear and doubt out of the way to develop remarkable skill.

Simply persist.

I don’t advocate “sudden” methods, and these should only be used occasionally and with judicious care, and never without the supervision of a skilled teacher who’s been through it and can supervise absolute safety. Learn to crawl before walking, walk before running and if you learn to fly or walk on water please let me know and I will apply to become your student.

In the meantime the answer is very simple: Keep training.

Nev Sagiba


  1. bruce baker says:

    In short … we program the mind to get the most out of the body without cluttering the transmission of movement with unnecessary thoughts.

    As I have always said, the mind thinks on many levels and when we can unclutter the transmission process, thoughts into action, we ingrain movements that now happen faster than the speed of thought … We are finally beginning to do .. Aikido.

    (Of course it applies the board for all Martial arts, but this is an Aikido forum, so the relevance goes to this forum, right?)

  2. …the mind is always going to have ideas. That’s what it does. Training provides lots of fodder for ideas. But ideas can’t DO much. Acting on them can, of course, but we can all point to people who try to reason themselves through techniques; a bit the opposite of forcing through and even less effective. So, ‘the way is in training’. Let the ideas come and go as they will. Sometimes they will actually have a constructive insight. Donald Trump says of wealth that it improves the class of your enemies. Perhaps more training improves the class of your ideas… (or not 😉 )

  3. Adam Alexander says:

    I think it’s a mistake to believe that the number of comments in response to an article is a measure of quality (as Sagina asserts elsewhere). Commentary requires ego combined with confidence or arrogance… The latter always being the perceived impetus.

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read and I feel that any comment of mine takes away from its quality in reporting the Truth. (However, since an arbitrary measure has been erected, this is my vote that this is exceptional in reporting Aikido.)

  4. bruce baker says:

    Let me clarify .. the ideas I speak of are not the ideas you can verbalize. Verbalized ideas, such as the ones you are thinking as you read this, are far far too slow and cumbersome to transmit at the speed of light. I am speaking of the other levels of thought that are far beyond the conscious mind that more often than not are tapped into when you dream or have another thought process take over for moving your body faster than your waking, thinking, talking, and right now .. reading this typed word mind … ever could.

    Until you learn to let the connection of multi- level thought inter-connect .. you will never understand the duality of processes that you use for thinking and movement.

    What in the blue-eyed world, yeah that is a gentle curse with out cursing, do you think all this mystical eastern philosophy and training is aimed at teaching you? Supposedly all this meditation, indoctrination, and practices is teaching you to operate on more than one level of thinking as the 2 to 3 levels of thought going on in your brain need to interconnect without interfering with each other causing a slowdown or a clumsy transmission of either thought or action.

    Physical and psychological training is happening with a specific purpose or goal in mind to which .. most people don’t ever become aware of because like a small child their attention is upon the shiny bouncing toy instead of the purpose the toy is supposed to ingrain in the person for training their thoughts and actions.

    At some point, our natural inclination is to pass on some of our wisdom and insight because our perception is .. we see a possibility of our own death in the future, on some level of thought that our brain is thinking in one of it’s levels of thought. So, we speak. We write. We try to pass on our thoughts so they can evolve for the next generation of people as they think upon our words and process those thoughts derived from those words, deeds, or actions.

    I think … NEV SAGIBA is giving us all a common man’s insight … and more often than not makes some wonderful points of thought that clear up many dark areas of questions in all of our minds.

    For my money, the human body is a bio-mechanical machine controlled by the brain and it’s thought processes. There are many ways to improve those thought processes and improve the performance level of that body.

    The words I write might not be totally accurate or correct in your thought processes, but if we talk long enough, communicate long enough, we will come to some understanding of what our brains are thinking so we understand what the parameters of physical practice of Aikido is expected, or what a point a mastery of aikido is achieved.


    Try to think of it from completely different positions each time you read it other than your normal point of view.

    Was it your physical actions or your brain that made you able to consider different positions? I guess some experiences count as influencing your thinking, but bottom line is .. it is all in your head!

    As NEV SAGIBA writes … the answer is very simple, keep training.

    Eventually the mind will become comfortable, stop trying to control every little detail, and you will be thinking at the speed of light. Actions will happen naturally before the thought can occur in your head … KEEP TRAINING .. it will happen.

Speak Your Mind