“Challenges Are Steppingstones,” by Nev Sagiba

“To convert aggression, violence, attack, indeed any challenge into a steppingstone is the prize..”

What makes Aikido different? How did it come about? Yes, yes, we all think we know because we’ve read something, but let’s assume for a moment that all writings and the opinions and biases that come with them suddenly did not exist and you stepped into a time machine and got sent back in time.

How would you arrive at something like this? And why? How would Aikido emerge naturally from attrition.

Did Aikido come about because of an opinion or because of real die hard necessity?

Opinions are not worth much. In the final analysis, what works, works because it does, not because someone’s ego thinks it should. That is why governments, hyper cerebral academics and anyone disconnected from the actual, without on-the-ground hard experience generally make so many faux pas.

I’ll give an example. Ever watched a movie and in a few minutes an apprentice to a master becomes a master himself and wins the battle and having identified with the protagonist hero you walk out thinking you are too. Until you trip or walk into something. Then you wake up from the dream.

The movie was trying to portray the passing of many years of grueling, regular, hard discipline. Instant gratification generally leads to decay. Work, regular work is the price demanded by existence, innate in the nature of the universe to achieve a goal.

Aikido, began in the killing fields. I venture a guess that some tired, older, more experienced dudes were set upon by younger, fitter, fresher men and yet they still survived using the principles of efficiency to win with economy of motion, pivotal leverage and doing less to achieve more. Necessarily, even if surprised at the outcome, the clearer thinkers would have sought to study and refine this. Over time it was researched, reworked, refined and so jujitsu, or aiki evolved.

Interestingly for the hundredth monkey, at about the same time that the jujutsus were unfurling in the East, in the West such notables as Newton were unlocking the scientific principles of physics, efficiency, gravity and all the other attributes which comprise and compose quality jujutsu.

An attitude of mind arose around this that can and does lead to personal mastery. And it is this. Whilst many whine and acrimoniously excuse themselves as victims of those who steal resources to hold power over others, this natural principle of aiki, innate in the very nature of the Universe totally steps outside the all-lose bully-victim pathology by simply tapping the energy generated by the attack to one’s own advantage. And it can devolve into all areas of life, inner and outer, social and physical, mental and spiritual. Why struggle? You risk losing. Resistance is futile. So is surrender. Where is the advantage hidden in the situation? Challenges can be made into steppingstones by a shift of attitude, which opens the mind to myriad other possibilities and potentials missed by the fixated, stuck, entangled mind.

Nature does not yield her secrets too easily. To say this is easy and while the principle is simple, it has to be consciously addressed to be earned and a lot of letting go of erroneous opinions are required to step outside of the matrix. We are species that tend to cling to older methods with a, “better-the-devil-I-know..” attitude. Once freed from our own entrenched self-hypnotism, biases, prejudices, opinions and fixations that we make into self-fulfilling prophecies, the freedom of ki flow, we give rise to the Takemusu that makes anything possible. The authentic freedom can control appearances without force, fakery or manipulation. They have to be worked and we needs-be surrender our prejudices of mind, body, attitude and spirit.

To convert aggression, violence, attack, indeed any challenge into a steppingstone is the prize that Aikido, the universal Kannagara no Michi yields to the serious practitioner. It cannot be faked. Aikido, to be real requires a measurably really challenge, for in a challenge resides stored energy that can then be tapped.

Let the attacker go for it. Let the attacker wear himself out. Let him spend the money. Learn to get out of the way with skill and if necessary, at the proper moment, you can capture the moment to lead the energy to resolution. The attack will dissipate.

Challenges are steppingstones. It is possible to develop the skills to see how and to better navigate life.

Aikido is the physical art that teaches the mind to embrace, understand and deploy this principle of aiki in all things. A worthy way of life.

Without this principle at the core of our intentions, if we still want to do things the hard way, if we still seek struggle, clumsiness and loss of integrity, ulterior motives or any other sideline that’s not in accord with the Great Harmony of the Universe, Aikido would be a futile pursuit which will fail to yield its secrets.

Aikido is not yet another calcified, casehardened set of opinions about “style”, but rather the most refined way to do anything and everything. Indeed the best research is to be found in the worst attrition under life and death pressure. (Many more discoveries are made during war than peacetime.)

And it’s a perennial work in progress. As the Founder said, “Aikido is the discovery of the universe and its possibilities. It is a vast path without end..”

The challenge principle is at the foundation of the weaving of the universe itself. Challenges are designed to be steppingstones. Find out how and everything changes.

Nev Sagiba

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