Jul
15

“Metsuke,” by Nev Sagiba

Don’t look at the opponent’s eyes, or your mind will be drawn into his eyes. Don’t look at his sword, or you will be slain with his sword. Don’t look at him, or your spirit will be distracted. True budo is the cultivation of attraction with which to draw the whole opponent to you. All I have to do is keep standing this way. Morihei Ueshiba

I don’t think this can be in any way made any clearer.

A lot of good things are lost because of words. Words can reveal but they can equally conceal the intended meaning and communication.

Experience is vital but unconscious experience can also blind because of the element of fear.

Without experience, however, and real need, real emergency, the full measure of a skill cannot emerge. That’s why some try to eke it out by testing in the ring. Still, this is not really the real deal, not fully, so here too, it may or it may not evoke any measure of depth in understanding.

And the rest of transmission, if any is left after that, is destroyed by the mutual admiration society, who, in playing to an audience hoping to tell them what they think they want to hear, because they “once heard it” it “read it in a book,” or trained “under” someone for a brief period, instead of exploring, researching and testing, merely quote like parrots or galahs hoping for approbation of those they deem lesser.

Enough of games.

Read Gavin De Becker on PINS or Pre Incident Indicators, the simple English language zanshin/Metsuke equivalents. These can often begin to signal at the time of the attack being planned even if it is a week before the encounter. Are you noticing?

Zanshin is NOTICING. No more no less. Noticing things exactly as they are at any given moment, leaving nothing out.

Some kids are accused of having ADHD so that the drug trade can make money out of misfortune instead of the real work required to alleviate suffering. Such as a parentectomy. No such thing as ADD or ADHD in fact exists. Misunderstanding of natural functions do. Combined with profiteering, it drags the world down.

Immediately noticing and moving on to notice the new means your mind is not dragging in the mud of stale thoughts. The ADD kids, only a few hundred years ago sustained the tribe. They were the hunters. Now the bead threaders, sadly, rule the world. And those children with high speed Metsuke who respond badly to being overdosed with artificial sugar, are then being “treated” with toxic chemicals to make them into complaint zombies.

Metsuke is the epitome of the highly functional detachment Zen proponents seek, not realizing they already have it, as does everyone else.

It is immediately available by simply altering the axis of perspective, one’s attitude, and start noticing instead of analyzing everything to death which is a waste of time.

In Budo as with anything requiring immediacy of action, Metsuke is an imperative.

Try this exercise – (Enzan no Metsuke.) Relax your vision and look as if gazing at a far away mountain. Even better. Go to where there is a real far away mountain and sit and practice.

You will start to see everything in proper perspective, not focusing on a particular detail to the point of not seeing something else.

Both visual focus and unfocus form the spectrum of Metsuke. Not all of Metsuke is visual focus or unfocus. Metsuke is paying attention. It is best to gaze beyond the opponent noticing the whole person.
Metsuke can be expressed as piercing or penetrating gaze. As well the term may refer to perception, pre-perception, intuition, the powers of observation and feeling developed through training. Never look into the opponent’s eyes because this distracts clarity of mind. Rather take in the whole opponent thus reading any intention or movement immediately.

Metsuke enables you to control the opponent because it enables you to control maai and therefore deai to intercept.

There are many ways to use the eyes. Lack of use means the atrophy of these faculties. In the “civilised” world we are taught to only focus, and thereby we become blind. Thinking we see we cease to notice.

There are ways to look through water. There are ways to see into fire. There is more in the air than city people would want to know exists. And everything on the planet contains dimensions not readily available to most. This is no ”ninja trick” or “mystical ability” to be gotten only after years in a monastery. Not at all. You already have and contain these abilities, but you killed them through lack of use!

They can be revived but it takes humility and a genuine desire to awaken the ability to see and notice. And – paying attention! Everything, not merely selectively.

Some natives can run full speed through a forest, reading it, and out of hundreds and thousands of species, stop at the herb they seek. That’s natural Metsuke. Aboriginals can track equally in the blackest night, as by day. That’s Metsuke.

A weak city dweller, far removed from the complete spectrum raw nature provides, has to start small and build from there.

Real necessity will awaken a broad spectrum Metsuke, but the shock may distort your clarity because of the element of placing your life at risk. A profession in jobs requiring the addressing of emergencies may help. It may also get you a good dose of PTSD.

A simple exercise is to relax you eyes and start noticing with peripheral vision. Gaze instead of look. Practice.

The worst thing you can do in a violent situation is to make eye contact. If you don’t believe me test it. Go visit an MMA stable or boxing gym and tell them you want to test your skill. Don’t tell them you “do aikido” unless you want to drop them with laughter. Maybe that’s a strategy too. But most will refuse to fight you out of compassion, as they would not want to hurt you. Most are decent guys who quietly feel sorry for the “aikido” set and get on with real and hard training, to the best of their ability.

Try this method – Make eyes. YOU WILL BE DROPPED OR PUNCHED UP.

Then try this method. Observe maai and intercept their entry. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE A MEASURE OF SUCCESS. And then if you “do aikido” they will drop you, punch you up, etc. Please, don’t “do aikido.” Wake up to yourself instead and get real.

This is a good starting point. A spiritual one. Then take your experience back to the dojo. Take your thinking processes too. Question. Practice critically with someone else who can also think. Don’t be afraid of innovation. Also don’t get lost in the byways of bashfest and wrestling. In other words, don’t depart researching Aikido.

Simply find the way that makes it work. You are on the way to discovering AIKIDO.

One of the sad thing about the pompous prats of “the aikido world” is that they try to shrink Aikido into something limited. Something that never existed. And something which it’s not, thereby departing the Aikido of Morihei, to the aikido of their own strictured opinions.

I don’t know whether it’s laziness, stupidity, complacency, some kind of self-righteousness, ulterior motives or what it is. Maybe they are attempting to revamp religious history and reinvent a myth to make money out of it. Who knows?

Morihei’s Aikido was not limited. It was alive, natural and all embracing.

Metsuke is not my invention, or something from “another style.” Rather, it’s simply a fact of life for those who are alive.

If you want your Aikido to be functional Aikido, you need to discover and multiply your Metsuke.

There’s no mystery about Metsuke.

Metsuke is the attraction MU speaks of in his doka.

Paying attention, noticing, meditating the action in training and waking up, is up the road, as everything else, not focusing, but taking everything in as a passing screen. In the moment.

Metsuke and vipassana or zazen are the same thing, NOTICING. Mindfulness in action. Sitting is merely “practice.” Put that meditation practice into action as soon as possible for it to be of any use.

In civil and silly society, people have the tendency to “make eyes.” In criminal society people take offence if you “eyeball them.”

Either way you’ll find nothing in people’s eyes other than deceit. And your own myopia. Closely followed by a kick in the groin you failed to notice.

The indicators are not in the opponent’s eyes, their words or the faces they pull, but in their actions. Even the smallest.

Learn to notice early. Preemptive noticing is Metsuke.

The great Morihiro Saito Sensei was forever giving away secrets, but for our ability to listen and to notice, they were mostly hidden in plain sight. He would say, “If you want to learn, don’t read my lips, WATCH MY FEET!”

In other words the indicators reside in the action. NOTICE IT. That’s Metsuke, pure and simple.

Metsuke is the eye of the hunter. The hungry one. The competent one. He misses nothing.

It takes more than practice to attain clear Metsuke, but also exposure to real situations.

Nev Sagiba
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Comments

  1. Drew Gardner says:

    “It is immediately available by simply altering the axis of perspective, one’s attitude, and start noticing instead of analyzing everything to death which is a waste of time.”

    “Real necessity will awaken a broad spectrum Metsuke, but the shock may distort your clarity because of the element of placing your life at risk.”

    “Simply” from your earlier sentence and “placing your life at risk” from your later sentence to achieve the same ideal seem to contradict each other.

    Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder do exist in Western medicine. That doesn’t mean someone is born with one of these mental ailments, but they certainly present themselves in many people. Since the proper word is not, “simply,” often treating the ailment chemically with medication is more logical than the extremely long term Scientology cult initiation or psychodynamic therapy. A good therapist may complement the use of a doctor’s minor toxin to better an individual’s state of mind.

    I agree, O’Sensei’s quote and its translation by Stevens form one of my favorites.

  2. Nick lowry says:

    I am knocked over once again …rare that i get writerly envy…the ole damn, thats so good i wish i had written it….this is an Outstanding piece…..have you considered compiling your essays for a book length publication? You have an important and vital voice in the larger aiki conversation in my opinion. You deserve a wider audience I think

  3. Marc Abrams says:

    Nev,

    I like a lot of your writings. HOWEVER, your contention regarding ADHD is simply wrong. Do you have any professional training to back up your wrong assertion, or any professional journal articles. As a licensed psychologist with an additional post-doctoral fellowship completed in child, clinical psychology, I can provide a wealth of data to show that you are completely wrong. That includes PET scans on down. I am not saying that this disorder is not misdiagnosed on a regular basis by people doing what I consider sloppy evaluations, what I am saying is that this is a legitimate disorder which is a person is born with, is life-long and has many negative consequences on healthy, psychological development.

    A wise man recognizes his areas of utter ignorance and should respect them accordingly.

    Marc Abrams

  4. Nev says:

    Drew, Facing a death situation IS simplicity itself. There can be only two outcomes. Life or death. At the time you are not sure which it will be. If you feed the clutter and try to “work it out,” (which is silly if not fatal in a high speed emergency) you increase the chances of succumbing to the latter. The problem is that the insufficiently trained or inexperienced, fear the Mushin that appears, as it appears to be “empty.” Fearing the appearance of no point of reference to “define one’s imaginary identity;” made by beliefs, the mind will try to cling again, as fear tries to fill the perceived gap with previous junk that was a safety blanket, thereby closing the door to the real Self which freely made itself available to save your life at the time. Zen monks spend a life chasing after this condition. Base jumpers get it with each jump. When they survive, it clarifies their life and mind with true perspective and are often considered “mad” by the cling-ons,” (each clinging to their pet theories and illusions.)

    Real ADHD as a genuine disorder is rare, if it exists at all. No hunter gather society has ADHD sufferers or parents who are not in fact proud of their superior and precocious hunter-gatherers. As I said, they feed the tribe. Lazy, irresponsible, negligent, abusive and complacent parenting, on the other hand, is too common. A strong contributing factor in ADHD are passive aggressive parents or carers who are abusive whilst bunging on a false act of “nice.” The bulk of ADD & ADHD is in fact Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome combined with enforced toxic dietary habits. The result of base ignorance. In the not so far future, this will be thoroughly investigated and criminal action taken against the offending parents. Whilst many children comply and play the game (Stockholm Syndrome) some find that their conscience and soul integrity will not allow them, hence the cumbersome attempts at sedating them instead of making the simple effort, yes hard work, of providing intense creative outlets such as even swimming, jogging, soccer, judo or any sport, which may help find a natural balance.

    Understand that for millions of years, intense activity and fast ongoing action against intones odds inform our genetic and memetic pools. Suddenly, about 10,000 years ago, we as a species had to slow down and become farmers which we did not do so well judging by the feudal wars that then accompanied serfdom. About 250 years ago more stricture was imposed in the form of the industrial revolution, to which very few have entirely adapted. To compound this about 40 years ago we were even more and everyone has forgotten how to wipe their.. nose or pick something up, or DO simple tasks, in reliance of button pushing. Alien nerds without a suntan seems to be our new destination. Or something. Even fewer are adapting well or at all. Adaptation in the evolutionary processes takes millions of years.

    That some children simply want to MOVE instead of compliantly sitting in a corner, should hardly come as a surprise! That some parents are abrogating their responsibility as parents is disgusting. and should be reviled. And corrected with legal obligations enforced.

    Drugs cannot ever replace the responsibility of parenting, nor the required WORK and dedicated application by both parents, for best result. Or the absolute simplicity of regular exercise. That children rebel when they have substandard idiots for parents who gang up on them with parasitical, money hungry “professional” leeches, should come as no surprise.

    Superstition posing as logic is not either logical or beneficial. Drugs do permanent and irreversible damage to young minds. These are no “minor” toxins. This has been proven by the caring side of the research and scientific community who are not prostituting their careers for greed. The allure of lucre is all well and good, but becomes criminal activity when young minds and bodies are destroyed thereby.

    Returning soldiers were, and for all I know, probably still are told to “get over it” and given brain numbing drugs so they can “fit in” to a dysfunctional society which is mostly smitten with chasing with things that can never be caught.

    IMMEDIATE PERCEPTION IS A GIFT. Often emergency will trigger it. It does not need “treatment” on the one hand, whilst those chasing after the illusion of “enlightenment” crave for the very same clarity, seek it and desire it, usually by sitting and navel gazing but fearing to bungy-jump, parachute, base jump or simply serve society in high risk careers.

    I don’t know what scientologists do and I don’t know what “psychodynamic” means, if anything at all. And I doubt that theorists purporting to, have much of a clue either.

    This much I do know and it is immutable: Nature, the universe and their processes are exactly as they are, and will not change one atom to suit either you or me.

    It behooves us to learn to NOTICE them instead of manufacturing and bending theories to collect money, not one cent which will follow anyone to the inevitable grave.
    Awakening has more real and lasting value.

  5. Nev says:

    Nick, Many thanks. That you “get it” means you could have just as well written it, and I would now be carrying on. It sits there in the essence of the universe waiting to be noticed. Words are poor tools, but where a commonality of noticing exists, so can a measure of attunement.

    As for a book, you are not the first to ask. I sometimes wonder if anyone would read my long winded verbiage which could probably be said better in half the words by someone more skilled. I should probably make an effort and get around to it. I’ll probably sell five copies, but sharing will be fun. No promises. I’ll consider it when I’m freed up from current projects.

  6. Taisho says:

    I will buy it….one of the five.

  7. nev says:

    Marc, Thanks for correcting me and acknowledging that most things are too often misdiagnosed in favour of rent money. When ALL the factors will be taken into account, we will find that, despite all the specialists each relying on their income sources, we have created so many imbalances in nature and our environments, with so vast an array of manufactured environmental toxins, faster than we can adapt, toxic food, toxic air, toxic attitudes, toxic exhaust fumes, and other either “unknowns” or known but ignored, that IS IT ANY WONDER THAT ADHD AND NUMEROUS OTHER DISORDERS ARE NOW RIFE?

    Biased specialists, who specialise out of context, do not interest me. I notice what is all around me. Does the Pacific Ocean have ADHD because the PLASTIC GARBAGE DUMP THE SIZE OF TEXAS IS KILLING OFF PLANKTON WE RELY ON? Do labels really matter in the face of the fact that the planet is sick and faltering, that we are sick, unhappy, destructive, angry or delusional?

    Does the proven statistics that reveal one in four people currently suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, mean anything? (not the least being denial) Mental disorders are also the No. 1 cause of other disabilities.

    Could this perhaps not be canary in the mine of sorts and indicative that we, as a species, may have strayed a little off course?

    I have no idea and don’t purport any answers or “solutions.” My suggestion to everyone is: Look around you. Get informed. Draw your own conclusions. Think for yourself and when it comes to “experts,” get a second, third, fourth and as many further opinions as necessary, or do your own research. Better, investigate the expert’s track record and motives. The irrefutable facts, the consequences of our actions and outcomes all around us stand as silent witnesses that put a stop to my words or yours.

    Of course, everyone is free to bury their heads if they choose. We now have “freedom.” To pollute and harm. If we individually and collectively choose to wake up and use that freedom to undo harm, to protect life and to care and nurture both ourselves and others in this symbiotically interdependent life supporting system that still remains relatively undamaged, then there may be a chance we will still be here as a species in 300 years time. Otherwise we are looking at another mass extinction. With us as the dinosaurs. There is a lot of work to be done and hot air will only add to the global warming that either exists, or doesn’t depending on who you ask. In the end it may well be our opinions that wipe us out, while we discuss them instead of doing that which needs to be done right now. The problem of “healthy psychological development” as you call it, is that it is falsely presumed that this condition can somehow exist separate from one’s surroundings and the condition of others. Friend, if you deem yourself well adjusted and psychologically healthy, may I suggest that you spend at least six months in a war zone, see what happens to children there, AND LOOK BEYOND YOURSELF, YOUR PET THEORIES AND your “post-doctoral fellowships.” If you can.

    With respect, I know I’m ignorant. Experts usually don’t. And that, my friend, is the beginning of the end.

    As for any measure of worth: The daughter of one of my associates, a bright, highly educated 25 year old ahead of her years, as a choice, instead of wanking on sidewalks with café-lattes and the arty farty set, or the quasi intellectuals from her university, chooses to spend her time in war zones, alleviating suffering in refugee camps (something nice people don’t talk about at cocktail parties.) She has survived numerous situations including live battle, having to be airlifted out of full blown rebel raids, and other war atrocities too long to list here. She was set to marry a de-mining expert. One day he had his face and eyes blown off, requiring continuous reconstructive surgery. He lives on pain killers. She stayed with him and spends her R&R with her husband then goes back to alleviate suffering. I’ve watcher her family become increasingly enlightened and it is evident that it is her living example that is the catalyst.

    You may ask what is her cause? She us driven from within and has no cause. She comes from a well-to-do family and could have just as easily bludged her way in life with her degrees on a stupendous salary.

    As for being well adjusted, she’s the only well adjusted person I know, and more of a warrior that either you or I will ever be.

    No theories for this lass. Just work doing what a real human does, Alleviate suffering. I think it shames the rest of us who want to hide in easy street where it can all be done for us in exchange for a reluctant servitude in “a job,” long hours of overwrought slavery and underpaid for it. Conversely overpaid but not deserving of it.

  8. nev says:

    Taisho, Thanks for the vote of confidence. It looks like I have some work ahead of me:)

  9. Rick Berry says:

    Musashi said: In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they are close and to take a distanced view of close things and not be distracted by insignificant movements of his sword. The gaze is the same for single combat and for large scale strategy. This thing of his works!

  10. Hi Nev,
    About the issue of “not looking” at the opponent. My take on this is a bit different than what is conventional wisdom. When the Founder told his students not to look at the opponent because the opponent would steal their spirit, so to speak, he was addressing a bunch of young men as students. They were relatively junior. What did O-Sensei do? By all accounts, he looked at his opponent and stole his spirit.

    I don’t think you can learn to steal the opponent’s spirit by not looking at your partner. Interestingly, one of the first five principles we learned in our Daito Ryu Study Group was to make eye contact. I have decided that this makes a lot of sense and now teach my students to do so.

    If Aikido is an art which is essentially a kind of “conversation” between the partners, eye contact is an important part of the connection. How do we normally feel about someone who won’t look us in the eye?

    Martially, there are reasons why one might choose not to look ones opponent in the eyes. One can always choose not to do so, if that seems appropriate. But as a practice that is fundamentally about the study of connection, I believe that eye contact is an important part of this connection. Just a thought…

  11. nev says:

    Rick, You (with Musashi) said it in less words. Nothing new under the sun. Knew somebody could. That lends perspective and a copy is going on my wall. Thanks!

  12. Rick Berry says:

    In my excitement I forgot to thank you for a great article. TRUE and to the POINT.

  13. Marc Abrams says:

    Nev:

    You are simply mixing in too many factors in a convenient way to justify your thinking.

    1) A psychiatric disorder is simply what it is and is taken into context based upon many different factors. Vision keepers/mystics/medicine people were people who were typically delusional and psychotic. However, that condition is something important within a community, while in others it is a stigma that people try to hide.

    2) We certainly live in a toxic society which does increase the occurrence of many types of diseases, that were most likely not occurring as frequently as 100 years ago. That being said, other deadly conditions did exist 100 years ago that are not threats today.

    3) I am not one who spends his time hanging onto “pet theories.” I explore what is and look at the conditions that precede the event and sequels to that. I then form conclusions that are always open to change based upon new data. My post-doc simply indicated that I have a far greater knowledge base in this area than I assume that you do.

    4) How do you know that I have not been in a war zone before? How do you know that I have not evaluated and treated people of all age groups who have been exposed to severe traumas.

    5) Suffering exists, regardless of whether we have a diagnosable name for it. Among professionals, the diagnosis is a short-hand means of helping to guide us in better directions in how we evaluate and help. We typically leave it up to others to engage in the nonsense of pigeon-holing and misunderstanding what we really do and how we do it.

    6) Your initial posturing to mental health professionals as being driven by paying rent is beyond demeaning and beyond a big, stinking pile of BS. I guess no other profession is worried about rent. The amount of time and training that goes into being a mental health professional is substantial and stands directly in contradiction to how low the pay is. Our societies place a strange interest on work and value (how much are professional sports players typically paid?). Misdiagnosis has many different reasons and sources. In my opinion, the least having to do with paying for one’s rent. We, in this field, do so because we are sincere in our dedication to help the suffering of others. Earning a living by doing so, in no way, takes away from our primary drive. In that instance, the woman you mention is no better or worse than us, no better adjusted or worse than us, an no more or less a warrior than us.

    You like to speak from lofty, philosophical heights of idealizing. Working and living in reality has a horrible way of ruining that.

    Marc Abrams

  14. nev says:

    George, Interesting perspective. I think both methods are variables ways of looking at the same “ki.” Over the years I’ve noticed the variance in different schools to this conundrum of looking/not looking, if it is indeed one. Opposing views are always valuable and I hope we can one day get together to exchange notes.

    To get to the nitty gritty of metsuke without compromising safety, one good method is high speed kendo, (using shinai and full bogu). Not as sport but as research in maai, deai and it soon sorts out when, if, how, when and where to look. Then when tired, mount, escalate and increase the output. Good cardio, some safe bruises, immeasurably valuable learning experience. Keep a graph or record of what you were doing with your eyes during “wins” and “deaths.” It answers itself. Then, for perspective, consider that the ancients had only one chance at death to a live blade. I feel that the key thing in the aiki of perception is to keep noticing, out of dire necessity, whether you can see or not. Which often happens when the sweat gets into your eyes and you are fighting blind and have no choice than to continue or be cut down. If you catch my drift. In any event, the men often precludes eye contact, much as did battle armour.

  15. nev says:

    Another way of looking at it is: In an inevitably all-inclusive existence, hardening of the categories ossifies Metsuke until it kills it. The litmus test is found in how flexibly we deal with adversity. Harmonising conflict, as in Aikido, gradually rehabilitates by restoring dormant functions. We then begin to notice things which were there all along, and become able to respond without the need to destroy. Or something like that.

  16. Matt says:

    I really enjoyed what you said about ADD/ADHD. I’ve spent a fair bit of time with kids diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, of which ADHD is one part of the equation. The last time I was at a Tourette conference, someone said to me “ADHD isn’t a lack of focus, it’s focusing on many things”, and this really resonated with me.

    I think you’re right about the sugar, but I also think that those kids need what ancient hunters had – training by elders to exploit this ability to focus on many things at once.

  17. Drew Gardner says:

    I agree with Ledyard Sensei, unless the opponent is wearing silver contact lenses. I saw an adult wearing them once when I was in my early teens, and it freaked me out. With not all that much practice, it becomes possible to be focused on anything in peripheral vision with eyes directly aimed at another’s.

  18. Drew Gardner says:

    About these ancient peoples, how can we speak of their flawless, balanced minds because we read in books about how they lived? It is easy to make wild guesses that glamorize peoples of unknown ancient history. This is because it’s much less painful than saying, “I don’t know.”

  19. Brett Jackson says:

    I’m in there for the book. too. Awareness, mindfullness, pre-alertness, noticing (however we describe it) can’t be emphasized enough in all of its dimensions. One of my senseis once said that w/o awareness, even a 10th-dan can get hurt. Don’t even need an enemy for that (like walking into a door).

    As for seeing, the usual concept we use is that of soft eyes. One could also add soft-ears, soft body-sensation, and soft holistic-sense-of-one’s-environment to the list. I think that’s what O’sensei was saying – have soft eyes.

    That’s not to say that there is not a place for hard eyes, e.g., dentistry. I don’t want my dentist practicing soft eyes when he or she is doing my root canal surgery!

    Rick (citing Mushashi) and Nev stress the importance of soft eyes for proper practice. (So does Yagyu Munenori in the “Life giving Sword”). Nev illustrates the point with high speed kendo. We practice something comparable in aikido as well.

    Not having tried the high-speed kendo (which I would like to try), I have tried ken-tai-jo #4 (Iwama form) which amounts to the same. Holding your jo in shomen kamae (right stance), just as uke enters while raising the bokken to strike shomenuchi, (you) enter sliding with your right foot to the left and counter-strike (with a whip-like motion of the last six inches of your jo) at uke’s left wrist energetically smacking it when it is still above uke’s head. To catch that timing in awase practice you have to have soft eyes. If you fixate on anything, you’ll be too slow. Soft eyes promotes the relaxation necessary to act, as it were, at the speed of light (which is how it feels to me when I do it well).

    This response is “after” but the timing between stimulus and response is so short (quick) that it can look and even feel like they are happening at the same time.

    With George, I think it’s ok (even proper) to make eye contact. Of course it matters how and when (the devil in the details). Obviously you wouldn’t want to stare or glare (when walking into the MMA zone) or strut or stick your nose up in the air, etc.

    Eye contact be done to get information about the other (could be accompanied with a nod of the head or wave or friendly look of some form). Again, it’s how you do it. I don’t think you would want to avoid eye contact if it were offered (as it were), or else look like you were fearful. As George indicated, it will help to give you information about the other (but it may not work in all cases, e.g. with sociopaths who may look entirely honest and open but are anything but).

    Imagine shaking someone’s hand and they don’t look you in the eye. Come to think of it, I also like soft hands (but not dead-fish hands) during a hand-shake, not the kind of hand-shake that strangles the chicken. It’s not arm-wrestling. I think this is consistent with what O-Sensei is quoted as having said (which to me amounts to the recommendation to keep soft eyes when push comes to shove).

  20. Taisho says:

    In MMA we always have the pre-match stare down for intimidation or is it Aiki?

  21. Drew Gardner says:

    Nev,

    I know we disagree on some things, but I want you to know that I appreciate your blogs. Your writings here certainly stimulate thought and discussion, which I thoroughly enjoy. The words in all-caps can come across at least to me as mildly condescending, but I know there is no bold or italic font option here. I hope you don’t get discouraged even when many disagree with some of your bold statements. I hope you keep posting here. Drew

  22. nev says:

    Thanks Matt, Now we’re travelling.

  23. nev says:

    Drew, Combat is not making love. It is raw survival. And as for “ancient” people, they are still with us and I’ve lived with them. Whilst they don’t have “degrees” and other paper “qualifications” to show off with, the more powerful among them don’t need them. They daily do things academics deem impossible, and which indeed are impossible for soft, fat, decadent city species who don’t need to survive the ravages of nature in the wild. There’s no “glamour,” simply survival in the face of reality as it is.

  24. nev says:

    Brett, The best preparation for high speed Kendo is Aikiken a Jo. When I first started Kendo, I was still doing Aiki and the sensei kept calling out “fore” as his students went flying. I had to learn to play more softly. I’ve know other properly trained Aikido individuals fly through the ranks of sword schools because all the basics are there in solid Aikido but are mostly lost in much of the more sporty Kendo.

  25. nev says:

    Taisho, Stare downs are good stuff. Watch the Sumotori. There’s a time for staring and a time for gazing and knowing the difference. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” etc.

  26. nev says:

    Mark and Drew, No ill will is ever intended. We are sparring verbally and unless our buttons are occasionally pushed, how can we find out about ourselves or each other?

  27. nev says:

    Regarding Kendo as Auxiliary training for Aikido

    I wrote this previously but it disappeared when submitted.. Probably ‘cos I included Japanese text characters. This is from memory, so it may not be as complete. I apologise in advance.

    Ebogu.com sometimes has great deals during clearance sales of bogu and shinai.

    Kendo sparring training provides an invaluable insight into metsuke, maai and deai, ki no musubi; and totally improves Aikido because it reveals insights into many attributes of combat that require speed and attrition to understand.

    Some people have called Aikido the swordsman’s jujitsu as a result.

    If you do decide to try kendo, be sure to begin slowly and softly and to escalate the intensity safely as you build up tolerances progressively. Otherwise people won’t come back. The black and blue bruises are not as bad as they look and soon go away. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked in.

    NEVER use tsuki in the beginning as it poses a very serious risk of grave injury and even death. (the shinai can shatter and penetrate the faceguard of the men with grave consequences) Use only proper shomenuchi and yokomenuchi cuts with men, kote and do frontal cuts as targets. (no wild sideswipes-they can be dangerous and leave you wide open to brutal counters)

    Leave tsuki out of this training until you’ve been practicing for at least two years and have developed sensitivity, skill and clear understanding at high speed. Also leave out leg strike for as long and if you intend to at some stage add them to the repertoire, get some suneatte, or knee and shin guard as used in Naginata.

    This is not true armor combat where you look to penetrate the chinks. Rather, the armor in this case, in conjunction with the skilful Japanese design of the split bamboo shinai, is designed to minimize impact and the harm that would result if equivalent speed and power were used with a solid weapon and no armor. Bogu and shinai are training tools. Care for them well and yourself and all training partners. As with all armored training it can give you a false sense of security if approached with a wrong attitude. Conversely it can also provide an appreciation of the dangers of such combat if it were real.

    An experienced instructor is recommended, so you can get the basics in order first. If you’ve been practicing properly taught Aikiken and Jo, your Kendo will be strong. Sometimes too strong for practice. You will need to learn to tone it down accordingly.

    It is a good practice to use a heavy suburito to warm up solo, and to tire the shoulders first. Also to build up a correct action. Also when you are physically tired your ki will flow better. Breathe. Suburito practice alone will correct and improve posture and stability and augment Aikido taijutsu exponentially. The Suburito self explanatory, for practicing suburi.

    Kendo training can also have high cardio value and is lots of fun. It can become addictive. Do not neglect your basic Aikido, aikiken and jo training as a resault. Forget about “winning and losing” and train to learn and to improve, self correcting as you go. Then take it to the mat and do “jujutsu like a swordsman,” practicing Aikido basics.

    It is also helpful to read the Book of Five Rings or Go Rin No by Miyamoto Musashi when engaging this practice. At first it will seem cryptic, but particularly with sword work of any kind it, will soon begin to reveal and unlock its “secrets” and you will gain remarkable insights.

    When returning to aikiken be sure to slow down again, practice in a controlled manner and of course not make human contact, as bokken and jo can be deadly and injurious weapons as shown by the aforementioned Mr. Musashi in his experiences in duels.

    I should have saved this for a blog. It’s bit long

  28. nev says:

    To conclude my penny’s worth, and get back to the point of Metsuke, I’ll refer back to a key part of the Morihei Ueshiba quote at the beginning of the article.

    “Don’t look at his sword, or you will be slain with his sword..”

    There’s nothing more that words can do.

    Full speed sword practice will reveal the rest, hence my suggestion to incorporate Kendo in training, at least for a year or two and it will illustrate and impart Metsuke better than any book or verbal persiflage.

    It will also augment skill in Aikido. Try it and see.

  29. Brett Jackson says:

    Thanks, Nev, for the great post on Kendo above! It has left me with a strong appetite for some Kendo. Will look for a club in the vicinity and let you know how it goes. Not enough hours in the day, alas. At least I still have days (the bright side).

  30. Taisho says:

    Most important point for me… “The worst thing you can do in a violent situation is to make eye contact. If you don’t believe me test it. Go visit an MMA stable or boxing gym and tell them you want to test your skill. Don’t tell them you “do aikido” unless you want to drop them with laughter. Maybe that’s a strategy too. But most will refuse to fight you out of compassion, as they would not want to hurt you. Most are decent guys who quietly feel sorry for the “aikido” set and get on with real and hard training, to the best of their ability.

    Try this method – Make eyes. YOU WILL BE DROPPED OR PUNCHED UP.

    Then try this method. Observe maai and intercept their entry. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE A MEASURE OF SUCCESS. And then if you “do aikido” they will drop you, punch you up, etc. Please, don’t “do aikido.” Wake up to yourself instead and get real”…Every has a plan..until they get HIT…George Foreman.

  31. Taisho says:

    Should read “Everybody has a plan..until they get HIT”…most Aikidoka have never been hit by a good Boxer who knows how.

  32. Nev says:

    Taisho, CORRECT!

  33. Taisho says:
  34. Lynn Fabia says:

    Hello Sagiba Sensei,

    I enjoy your articles, in particular about soft gaze. I teach my students this concept, because it works. It is symbolic of being centered. It brings you into the present moment, takes you out of the fear state and connects you to your spirit.

    My new publication “The Martial Art of Life, The Art of Intentional Living is available on my website and at Amazon.com.

    Thank you,
    Lynn Fabia Sensei

  35. nev says:

    Two more things:

    1. For proponents of “making eyes.” If your opponent will not meet your gaze you will steal nothing and he will defeat you. Survival is not a contest of egos but doing business.

    2. We who now live and breath come only from the surviving ancestral gene pools who won. The other gene pools are extinct. “Primitive” people GOT YOU HERE! Have some measure of self respect and honour this fact and the fact their skills and beliefs had sufficient merit to make YOU possible. Then flush the self important, opinionated “professional” arrogance down the toilet where it belongs. In a few years, most “professional” opinions will be relegated their true status, that of superstitious ignorance dressed up for purposes of profiteering and the small measure which is true and useful will survive to go on to build clearer paradigms. And you can hold me to this as I will not forget that I said it or try to politic or spin my way around it.

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