For the instructor the same.
You are going into unexpected territory. Each time unique as if into battle. Indeed the battle is with your self, the unconsciousness.
Each moment is entirely new. As in the ocean, nothing appears predictable other than those predispositions which are. The rest is to be found in the principles of navigation. Skill in action. The ability to notice and to respond.
Nothing in existence is exempt. The wise choose to address such skill in advance by way of training methodologies or Do that better animate those attributes of consciousness, the body-mind connection, that in awakening and refining, enables far better navigation and strategic skills than in those who choose to remain unconscious and blunderbuss through existence. Blind unconsciousness merely adds harm in the world. Mastery of life and self is found in the developing of skills that bring one closer to impeccable than the day before.
This refinement and harmonising of energies and possibilities constitutes the relationship with all things that Aikido awakens to. Instead of smashing and fighting our way through life, or cowering and cow-towing, we thereby learn to respond, and accommodate whilst retaining and fortifying integrity.
Indeed all life is so and navigability is the skill of the warrior who also trains to navigate intense energy variables to extract wisdom in all spheres. When gathering pearls, the best are to be found in the deepest, darkest and most dangerous parts of the ocean at great risk. The Universe is an ocean of many currents, depths, nuances and variable conditions.
Even within our very thin biosphere of planet earth, reflecting the universe, the variable are endless. So are the predictable elements. We balance these to navigate.
Budo effected with Aiki teaches much in its replaying of myriad possibilities.
Japanese word mushin, from the term mushin no shin – mind without thoughts. In other words: clarity, is a condition in which lucid noticing is pre-eminent. It is not a mere “mental state” but a return to the original clarity of our true nature whether in action or relative stillness. In such a condition you are open to everything that is, in each moment, just as it is.
This is the start. Its clarity enables navigation.
Sometimes people strive for such a state in the belief that it is something different and separate and thereby further cloud their mind. The natural state cannot be forced or chased after by striving, rather it is attained by letting go over regular installments of skilful activity until such equipoise becomes daily life.
Like swimming. If you stand at the edge chattering, thinking, trying too hard instead of simply doing, you are kidding yourself, the water keeps on getting colder and wetter and you end up taking yourself out of it.
What you practice you get good at. This includes shirking.
Simply dive in the deep end, do your laps and go home. Before too long you will begin to notice that you are transforming.
Everything in life is like that. Do or do not do. But don’t waste time thinking so much it becomes an exercise in excuse making.
In other words, maintenance never ends. A good flow allows creative process. Clarity is not blindly reactive, but consciously responsive therefore deeply intuitive.
Theoretically, you are supposed to have “trained for many years to achieve a constant mushin.” But perhaps it does not exist as a constant. Rather, just like walking, is a recapturing of equilibrium in motion. This would make more sense. In which case, this teaching has been with us since we first learned to walk. Freedom to move freely as a living being and navigator of time and space is with us already. But only if we activate it.
As Morihei Ueshiba said, “We all lose our centre but are not aware of it. Each time you notice yourself losing centre you should recapture it. I lose mine too, but I notice it and recapture it sooner.”
If you find your mind blank at the start of a class, don’t fight it. That’s a good thing. Perhaps mushin has found you. Satori will follow, but you must move. Not stand around thinking or talking.
Noticing all around, you can bounce off a student’s actions to derive the technique of the day.
A good way to access the, “technique of the day,” or the universal predisposition of that instant, is to get your uke to attack with anything unpredictable and then extract what comes from that in your response, giving it back the class with understanding.
Whether spontaneous like this, or contrived and pre-planned, one good method is to start with a principle, a technique or a combination and explore it’s variables, Then try to find your way back to the basic kihon and its relevance before the end of the class. You can then finish the class using that basic as a stretch/cool down exercise, thus imprinting it.
Of course, each instructor has their own way to unfold a teaching methodology and even this will change over time. The only caution is: beware of rote unless it is a purposeful intent. Rote should never be allowed to fall into lazy habit. Budo has no place for complacency and warrior strategy takes responsibility to intentionally deploy each part and particle of a chain of events set into motion.
By analogy, as in public speaking, the amateur must rely on notes, but the masterful orator can deliver freely and spontaneously. Try it sometime. All the biological responses of battle will arise. For the learner instructor, somewhere in-between will have to do until some degree of mastery arrives. How does it arrive? Lots and lots of caring and attentive service over time.
If the dojo does not constantly challenge you, if it is boring and predictable, if you know what’s coming next and if you always feel that you are on top of things, the teacher is failing in his job. Even ballet classes are unpredictable and challenging. How much more Budo?
As a student, you attend to learn to meet the attrition of challenge and sudden change, to make discomfort your friend, to come to terms with unpredictability and to discover your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
As an instructor, you should be capable of modulating, communicating at many levels, adaptation, adjusting to accommodate and meet the variables of the day, just as a captain of a ship, or a general in the front line of a battlefield.
If you are practicing rote, out of a book or a fixed plan without variables and adaptability, you are planning to fail and teaching others to fail.
What happens when your favourite uke is suddenly off sick? Or only beginners turn up? Or nobody shows? Or a motley mix of beginners and semi advanced dynamos run the risk of a clash? Or a dojo buster or two shows up and all the other students are too new to reveal the full potential of raw Aiki? How do you handle these contingencies and numerous others? How do you maintain safety and serve the best interests of those you teach?
Budo practice should be an intense adventure of attrition meeting the unexpected. Sure, you could have some kind of plan, but contingency ought to be the master plan. Each class is a contingency.
In war, the best made plans get laid waste in the first few hours. In just a fight, two seconds and the whole world has changed. It is the contingency thinkers that make the best strategists and who go on to win in the protection of that which must be protected.
The unconscious and the aggressive breed each other and then spiral hand in hand into extinction. They have missed the universal predisposition.
In Budo training, a fixed class is a dead class. Stagnant concretion and fixation does not usually win. Flexible mind, clear mind, determination, focus, attention to detail yet talking in the whole stands better change of success.
Can an Aikido class be prepared for?
Only up to a point and then flexible fluidity, adjustive adaptation just as the Universe, Kannagarra-no-michi, must preside.
The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing. Everything becomes possible after that because the Universe contains every possibility that a clear mind can attune to receive.
Each moment is new and unique. The goal posts are never quite the same. The game plan slightly different at each moment. To catch that wave that is the Great Now, you must be able to notice and be prepared to forever refine this faculty of noticing and responding into greater clarity.
Each moment is new!
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
- Robert A. Heinlein
“You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event – it is a habit.”
“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.”
- Max Plank
Strategy employs four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the
circumstance, you should be: hard as a diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing
like water, or as empty as space.
- Morihei Ueshiba
Move like a beam of light;
Fly like lightning,
Strike like thunder,
Whirl in circles around
a stable center.
- Morihei Ueshiba
Diamond, Willow, Flowing, and Ki. Bright and hard as diamond. Flexible as a willow. Smooth-flowing like water. Empty as space. Indomitable as Fire . Furin Kazan
It was the successful daimyo Takeda Shingen who adopted the phrase Fü-Rin-Ka-Zan as his war slogan. The phrase is fully rendered as follows:
Kaya ki koto kaze no gotoku.
Shizu kanaru koto hayashi no gotoku.
Shin ryakusuru koto hi no gotoku.
Ugokazaru koto yama no gotuku.
Fast like the wind. Silent like the forest. Intrusive like fire. Immovabile like a mountain.
- Takeda Shingen
Originally from the Chinese work by Sun Tsu, ‘The Art of War,’ it occurs in the 13th verse of the seventh chapter dealing with manoeuvres. In the translation by Samual B. Griffith the complete verse is translated as follows:
When campaigning, be swift as the wind;
in leisurely march, majestic as the forest;
in raiding and plundering, like fire;
in standing, firm as the mountains.
As unfathomable as the clouds,
move like a thunderbolt.
- Sun Tsu The Art of War
“Now an e-book:
by Nev Sagiba
The ability to adjust seamlessly between techniques defines mastery. In most cases, this essential attribute of Aikido has been either ignored or guessed at. This book not only reveals the innate simplicity behind the apparent complexity of Aikido Transitions and Counters, but it provides a full spectrum of possibilities for practicing. Here it is, simplified in drills of two techniques. When you can do these drills easily, you will be able to effect spontaneous responses to any attack. If you know your basic techniques this book is recommended and will enrich your Aikido. FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, provides complete sets of exercise drill guidelines to enable exploration of the available range of basic transitions and counters and unlock their potentials.
* You asked. We heard you. Here are some of the previously unanswered questions not written in the original publication. If you’ve already purchased the book, please complete it here for free. Download Addendum 2 of FOUR DIAMONDS 1024.