The Harmony of Energy Way. The Power of Being With the Universe without resistance.
The entity/process that comprises Aikido in the holistic sense grows and adapts eliciting beneficial change and modifying conduct consistent with this change. This has implications directed to the individual, to Aikido as a collective, and the behavior of humankind as a whole. It is spiritual art with a life of its own, evolving as the individuals that it touches evolve.
One truth, many ways
The noble qualities mentioned are not singular to Aikido, there are many belief structures that speak a similar language. This is an occasion to extend great respect and appreciation to all those spiritual arts that contribute to the evolution of human consciousness. Aikido has many unique qualities but one of the most important is movement. Therefore, to speak of it is to move with it. It represents ceaseless variation on the themes of conflict, reappraisal and renewal within an arena that does not diminish but enhances all that engage. This same notion could be said a thousand different ways, but it would lack veracity if one does not step onto the mat. The presumption, also, is that one can make a pedagogical system somewhat outside the Japanese or oriental model.
The knowledge and judgment to discern which side lies within the greatest pale of truth is often difficult. When asked, "why do countries go to war"? Because both sides think their right, if both sides knew they were wrong, or acknowledge their complicity in the escalation of crisis, they would negotiate with sincerity. Or even more significantly, take measures to ameliorate the conditions that gradually precipitate conflict on the scale of war.
Aikido respects the sovereignty of the individual, and acknowledges that the universe has an investment in each single person, and in all expressions of life. There are no high priests or priestesses of Aikido. Aikido is simply a process that lays above all such mundane artifice of human beings and stokes the process of change to refine the nature of those who practice within its confines.
Power is not wisdom
Power is not wisdom, and although these can be seen together the need for and expression of power often contradicts wisdom. Further, wisdom usually avoids the display of power. Generally need for power is as much a character flaw as is the abuse of power, and the one often leads to the other. The magnitude of adverse consequences lies along a spectrum associated with the egregious and frequency of negative acts from small to large as the ego becomes accustomed to using power.
Those that seek power in the martial arts, as in any niche, do so for many reasons. Here some individuals may have assets or proclivities such as physical ability, some are driven by psychological factors, such as self doubt, fear, anger or hate, some are by chance or fortune born to position that portends power as an extension of the will, clearly there can be a long and complicated list. To conjoin power with a distorted psyche can create more problems than solutions.
The values associated with Aikido are universal and encompassing and should contribute to personal belief structures and not infringe on them.
Listening to God
Meditation is often considered listening to God, meditation need not be passive or non-mobile. Meditation is a tool to attain certain altered states of consciousness other than the one through which most interpret their reality. In virtually all spiritual traditions it is said that the very rocks, wind and elements speak of the divine. How could they speak? For one thing if a person believes in and seeks the divine in themselves they must acknowledge the existence of something greater. In the process they discover in the faces about them the same aspiration, he or she, then, is beginning to listen to God.
Talking to God:
Every expression undertaken by man is in a sense talking to god. Often when we pray, we plead for relief, escape, or reward. When we communicate with others it is usually because we want something from them. Even if we employ the external trappings of courtesy, respect and love there is a point at which we must inquire, "are my actions motivated by true regard or simply artifice to attain an objective." Every persons relationship with the divine begins with aspiration. Aspiration never ceases, it only becomes greater. Aspiration is conjoined with the world, it must be expressed to grow, and it must be refined to be expressed.
Ueshiba often referred to an old Japanese saying based on a traditional concept that translated means victory over self through spiritual harmony, Agatsu Masakatsu / Katsu Hayabi.
Aikido is not religion but it encompasses the principles of truth that form foundations of religious belief. Aikido by all definitions is broad and encompassing, one can, and should, retain their individual beliefs and still pursue the process. Aiki can be expressed in many ways both within and outside religious contexts, such as in art. Those that abstain from belief in God can also train because the product arrives regardless. Aikido might also be considered an enhancement to other investigations, such as science or exploration. Aikido is not exclusive. Each individual has ultimate choice with respect to their internal world and the manor in which they express their acquired knowledge. Aikido is not mind control it is control of mind.
Aikido practice requires adults to tumble; this is an activity that is often abandoned as a person ages. Falling is an act of confidence. Overcoming the fear of falling is to deal with fundamental fear, and is psychologically related to risk taking and the inner ability to press one's limits.
Practitioners learn to move with power and regain their balance with elegance. In order to perfect Aikido movement the practitioner must be very observant and carefully culture their actions to increase the effectiveness of the techniques.
An ancient esoteric phrase says "the fire that burns slowly cleanses, the fire that burns hot destroys." It is necessary to be patient within the process to allow change to integrate. Honest self-examination is the most difficult examination because it requires the individual to look into himself or herself with clarity. Then with a view to consequences, they must make decisions with respect to what they desire to change inside and execute external change to reflect new perspective and goals. Ideally, Aikido feeds the fire of the spirit cleansing it. It is a very personal experience. Aikido forms a bridge to the energy of the universe. It is motivated by our desire and can only be achieved by further purifying that desire. To aspire to this connection is to reflect all that the connection implies love, will, nurturing, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, understanding, humility, joy, and all the other reflections of the divine. Aikido requires years to master. Aikido is designed to lend life to years and years to life.
Aikido is intended to spread, its underling concepts and practical method can reach everyone. Almost anyone, not just professionals, can teach and contribute. Ideally, it will impact behavior throughout the world.
For its spirituality, Aikido is still a formidable martial art. It is unique in that it holds the importance of nonaggression and harmonious relationships with each other as the most prominent aspect of its teaching.
By assuming and constantly alternating in the practice of the roles of Shite and Uke, the Shadow becomes more and more assimilated. The result is increased tolerance of individual differences and the ability to see the greater self in each other. In advanced practice, it is the authentic self that is expressed more so than the ego. The highest expression of the art is paradoxically not to use physical technique.
Its founder, Uyeshiba Sensei, was described as the most religious and greatest martial artist of his era, and out of this duality he created modern Aikido in his mature years. While Aikido is not a religion, it is comparable with the major religions. Modern society can benefit from Aikido since Aikido can best be understood by “doing” the practice of Aikido. It is a way to kinesthetically assimilate the abstract concepts of Budo and other eastern metaphysical systems. Even Christianity (“turn the other cheek”) is represented in the Aikido system, except that the cheek is turned before it is struck.
One of the
meanings of Aikido is “mutual accord.”
Aikido is never
practiced for mere self-defense or individual spiritual development.
Aikido is a social activity.
There is no separation in Aikido training between people of different
sexes, different colors, different sizes, and different ages.
Everyone trains together, and you learn how to deal with all manner of
human beings—big and small, young and old, hard and soft, flexible and stiff,
athletic and clumsy, bold and tentative.
There are no matches pitting one human being against another, and no
contests consisting of flashy routines artificially constructed to garner a high
score from a panel of judges.
Everyone in the dojo takes turns being a “winner” and a “loser.”
Aikido and Learning
So, what is learning?
Learning is a process of active engagement with experience. It is what people do when they want to make sense of the world. It may involve an increase in skills, knowledge, understanding, values and the capacity to reflect. Effective learning leads to change, development and a desire to learn more.
Learning is the process, or result, of change in behavior through practice, instruction, or experience.
There are two components to learning. On the one hand, we function as scientists, discovering what our world is about. We develop theories and hypotheses about how the world works. On the other hand, we are born to function as artists, giving expression and voice to meanings that we create as we engage with life.
Finding patterns and making maps. The human brain/mind is not a formal logic machine. It is much better at making sense of life by finding patterns and order - something that science and art have in common. At the heart of patterning is categorization - finding similarities and differences and comparing and isolating features.
Emotions are critical to patterning.
Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. The brain is immersed all the time in a field of sensations, images, and input, and continuously has to select what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes. Psychologists have also known for a long time that understanding is largely a consequence of deep processing.
We understand best when facts are embedded in natural, spatial memory.
The brain shows tremendous fluidity and capacity for change. This fluidity is one reason why "windows of opportunity," or key times for learning, are so important.
Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.
Aikido as Spiritual Practice in the United States
This thesis will address the practice of one particular martial art, Aikido, in the United States. Aikido is one of the most overtly spiritual of the martial arts, emphasizing that its teachings are not just a set of techniques for dealing with violent attacks, but, more importantly, they are for improving oneself and drawing closer to the divine.
Of all the Japanese martial arts, Aikido is far and away the art most clearly and overtly focused upon the higher levels of development. Within the techniques of Aikido is a philosophy of true love and protection for the whole world. This is often difficult to connect with the practice and techniques of Aikido because Aikido's techniques are effective fighting techniques which involve the extremely painful manipulation of joints, and throwing your partner around quite forcefully, as well as occasionally just hitting people outright. Aikido teaches that all things are connected, and that by working in harmony with the energy of the universe and all things within it, one can accomplish whatever needs to be done without conflict.
Body Awareness Training Methods and their Applications in Daily Life
1. Body alignment (posture) and body use (movement style) are the concrete manifestations of a person’s philosophy of self/world/action.
2. Emotions and perception are physical actions done in the body.
3. Intentionality is what shapes posture and movement.
4. The attack/defense interaction is an excellent model for all problematic situations. The common response to a challenge is to constrict, twist and harden the breathing, posture, and movement. This hardening is the somatic action of separateness, isolation, fear, anger, and effort.
5. It is possible to replace the action of hardening the body with the intention/action of opening the body.
6. Speaking in terms of intentionality (or ki), this would be an expansive, radiant, symmetrical state of intention. Speaking in terms of posture, this would be a vertical state of alignment, with the spinal column and head supported effectively on the pelvis and legs. Speaking in terms of psychology or spirituality, this would be an integration of awareness, power, love, and freedom.
7. This state of open integrity is the basis for effective thinking and acting in any area of life.
When people confront a difficulty or a challenge, typically their breathing stops. Constricting the breath is a key element in the experience of not being good enough, and breathing more openly is the foundation for efficacy.
Breathing easily is the beginning of the experience of postural stability, which is crucial in developing the feeling of efficacy and ease. The goal and the result of the exercises in breathing, posture, and movement mechanics is to help people experience the nature of true power in the body. True power is soft, fluid, focused, and loving.
Another element of the process of developing empowerment and wholeness has to do with intentionality. Intention is the process that shapes posture, movement, and action.
The work with breathing, posture, movement, and intentionality combine to create the mindbody state of fullness. Even a very simple physical problem may have elements of emotional and spiritual difficulties hidden within it. Very often what looks like a simple postural problem can involve significant layers of hidden meaning, It is often the case that without resolving an emotional element, a physical task that the student wants to improve cannot be changed. By the same token, if a student wants to resolve some emotional or spiritual difficulty, the body posture which is the physical expression of that difficulty must first be loosened and changed to allow psychospiritual change to begin. The body state of freedom and balance is the concrete extension of the emotional and spiritual state of wholeness and peace.
The principles of Aikido have a great deal to offer the fields of both psychotherapy and conflict resolution.
One of the exciting things about Aikido is that it allows us to study our responses to conflict. Some of the principles of Aikido that I find helpful to focus on include: (1) relaxation and openness; (2) grounding; (3) being centered; (4) extension; and (5) blending.
Relaxation and Openness - Aikido very much emphasizes the ability to be open and receptive in the face of an attack.
Grounding - In Aikido, grounding is identified as a way of being in touch with the earth, connected to the earth, and drawing energy from the earth.
Being Centered - In the West, with our strong emphasis on cognition, the center of the person is frequently identified as being in the middle of our forehead. In the East, the center of the person is located at a point approximately two inches below the belly button. This area, called hara in Japan, and seika tanden in Chinese, is the area from which the life force (ki in Japanese, chi in Chinese) emanates. Moving from a centered place allows me to make decisions and interact with others from the core of my being, which then allows me to be more authentic.
Extension - In Aikido, people often talk about "extending ki", which means something along the lines of sending positive energy out into the world through our techniques.
Blending - The concept of blending enters into Aikido in the sense that one should not oppose force with force. If we do that, then whichever force is stronger wins. Blending allows Aikido practitioners to join with the energy of the attack, move with it in a similar direction, and then lead the attack to a peaceful resolution.
They came in and sat across from each other without speaking. The tension in the air was obvious. I introduced myself as a marriage, family, and child counselor. I reminded them they had called me because they were having troubles in their relationship.
Aikido never meets force with force. In fact, there are no direct attacks, no striking, or kicking. I pointed out that in their demonstration they each attacked each other. The more one attacked the more the other equally reacted. They each played their part in escalating the conflict. Therefore, they both were responsible for what had happened. They each wanted to blame the other one. In their minds, the other had attacked first. They felt totally justified in reacting with a defensive counter attack. It never occurred to them not to attack back. (I had not either, before studying Aikido.
A Martial Artist's Survival of Spouse Abuse
This is one of the bravest, most humble women that I have had the honor to know. At her request I have withheld her name, but read the story and gain courage from it. I enclosed her letter to me as part of the article as I thought that also was important.
There are studies that show a strong correlation between the way people walk or stand and the likelihood of their being physically attacked.
New Paradigm Healing: Somatic Education
THE PARADIGM OF
“Body affects mind.”
Participants in somatic education use voluntary movement to create sensation; they change actively, rather than receive changes passively; at first guided by a teacher, they then proceed guided by their own awareness of themselves and the effects of their actions. The effects are indeed far-reaching.
Each healing paradigm has its area of superiority. The superiority of somatic education is its ability to alleviate conditions that arise from the individual’s habitual way of functioning, something that only the individual can correct -- often attributed to aging, injury, mysterious causes, or even to genetics. Somatic education operates from a new paradigm that makes it possible to control certain conditions that persist despite medical or manipulative treatment.
In Aikido we practice what I guess could be called a "physical" discipline to accomplish this. We PRACTICE appreciation, empathy, and respect, in regard to our partner, with the hope that some day in the future our practice will transform into an embodied reality. We practice breathing exercises and meditation, and in the course of these experiences we have a sense of being one with the universe.
Somatics is a re-emerging field of study in the Western world and a path that has been followed in Oriental and traditional cultures worldwide for thousands of years. Most, if not all somatic practitioners follow an integrated approach to learning and change that often includes some form of a martial art, hypnosis, meditation and trance, prayer, intuitive arts, various flavors of psychology, and various forms of bodywork. Somatic practitioners believe that the body is highly intelligent and that we will do well to encourage our somatic intelligence to organize a significant portion of our life's activities.
What is Aikido?
Aikido is a way to develop greater inner peace, unify your mind and body, help you to be more calm and relaxed, realize your full potential, and enjoy life to the fullest. It just happens to be disguised as a martial art.
Adults may practice Aikido for inner peace, relaxation, or self-defense. But these are concepts that most children don't even think about. So why is Aikido a good idea for kids? What can it contribute to their lives?
1) Aikido is a non-aggressive martial art.
2) Aikido teaches kids to be calm.
3) Aikido teaches kids practical self-defense.
4) Aikido gives kids a positive world view.
5) Aikido teaches kids a lighter approach to life.
6) Aikido helps kids at school.
7) Aikido helps kids in sports.
8) Anyone can be good at Aikido.
9) Aikido works for little people.
10) Aikido makes your kids tired.
Bullying Prevention Is Crime Prevention
Of children in sixth through tenth grade, more than 3.2 million–nearly one in six–are victims ofbullying each year, while 3.7 million bully other children.
Preventing kids from becoming bullies and intervening to get bullies back on track can not onlyprotect children from the pain that bullying inflicts immediately, but can protect all of us from crime later on. Fortunately, programs have been developed that can cut bullying by as much as 50 percent. They just need to be implemented in America’s schools.
Bullying is an early warning that bullies may be headed toward more serious antisocialbehavior. Moreover, victims of repeated bullying can explode in ways that threaten not just the bullies but many others as well. For example, a Secret Service study of school shootings found that "almost three-quarters of the attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident."
A Call for Action From Law Enforcement
In the aftermath of Columbine and other school shootings, America can no longer view bullying as simply one of the rites of passage kids must endure. If any doubt remained, this report shows that bullying spawns loneliness, depression and suicidal tendencies among its victims and crime and violence by perpetrators. Still, little has been done to put in place proven prevention programs in America’s schools.
"The survey showed that3.2 million youths were victims of bullying nationwide, and 3.7 million were bullies"
The science shows that bullying programswork, and are not only affordable but also likely save money. Inaction now guarantees that more students and ordinary citizens will become victims of bullying and violence. It is time to ensure that every school in America has an effective anti-bullying program.
A Whole-Person/Systemic Approach to Organization Change Management
The application of Aikido principles in workplace training is becoming increasinglyrecognized as a potentially powerful, new form of organizational learning. Recent books such as An Unused Intelligence and Leadership Aikido explicitly prescribe Aikido- based exercises for dealing with difficult work and leadership issues. Non-strenuous exercises such as these bring participants to the experience of merging with another's energy through physically moving in connection with the other as an alternative to resisting or giving in. Within the past year the Dialogue Project and the Society for Organizational Learning, both at MIT, have recognized the value of through-the-body learning, based on Aikido principles, and are working to integrate this mode of learning into their various approaches.
Learning and Healing in Addictive Workplaces
The essential process for any organization attempting to survive in today's chaotic environment is learning.
Learning does not happen with ease in adults, and it is usually even more difficult in organizations. We have much to unlearn, and we resist the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that result from unlearning.
Addictions are one form of psychological defense against fear, grief and anger. Addiction is a pattern of behavior, thought and feeling which alleviates or anesthetizes pain and suffering without affecting their causes. The addiction absorbs mental, physical, emotional and economic resources which are then unavailable to the individual for altering the circumstances which cause the pain. Much of the behavior currently rewarded in organizations and in our culture is addictive to a significant degree.
We think the connection with nature works together with dialogue to open us to learning by moving us out of compulsive thought patterns, and into our physical and emotional bodies. We believe new learning does not take place in our heads alone, in the absence of a connection with body and feeling. We are coming to rely upon the natural world to make that shift for us, and everything is easier after that.
The Effects of A Therapeutic Martial Arts Program on Youth
The efficacy of traditional martial arts programs applied toward mental health issues is well documented. Over the course of the last twenty years, proliferating research into therapeutic martial arts programs has allowed an academic and professional exploration of alternatives to traditional psychotherapy. Therapeutic martial arts programs benefit difficult to reach, oppositional, seriously emotionally disturbed and delayed children and adolescents. Evidence exists for effective adjunctive and alternative therapeutic martial arts programs as treatment modalities.Characteristics of a ‘transforming violence’ approach
Transformative strategies work with the energy or passion of violence, rather than opposing it or trying to eradicate it. For example, in the martial art form Aikido, people are taught to redirect the energy of the attacker to avoid harm to all parties — as opposed to other forms of self-defence that teach how to repel the energy or to counter-attack.
With a transformative approach, surprising things happen.
A ‘transformative’ approach will:
There are three basic types of exercise:
Harmonious or life-related.
Whoever does this type of exercise returns to balance. Walking is the most universal, harmonious exercise.
This type of exercise develops your Ki energy. It is mentally and spiritually refining and creates greater sensitivity and awareness.
Physically, emotionally related exercise.
This type exercise stimulates blood circulation and muscles.
The martial arts and mental health: the challenge of managing energy
The effective management of energy is an important dimension in the martial arts as well as the mental health professions. Ki and the transfer of energy is studied through the martial encounter. In examining the disciplines of Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, and Karate, it becomes clear that more is involved than kicking, punching, and throwing bodies on the floor. These martial arts have some important statements to make in the area of mental health, particularly in terms of energy--within our bodies, psyches, interpersonal relationships, and the universe.
Recipes For Stress
Stress is a particular emotional state. Emotion consists of language AND body. Emotion is a system that is coherent at a deeper level than language or body taken separately. When your emotional state changes there is a concurrent change in your body, and in your use of language (including your internal thought processes). When your emotions truly change, you will notice a change in the way you use your body AND a change in the way you think about and describe your experience. When your emotions truly change you will feel better about who you are and what you are capable of. Greater self awareness leads to a more relaxed and creative use of your entire system. When you feel better, you think better, and new solutions begin to become apparent. All of which leads to a greater likelihood that you will meet the challenges you face with great success.
"We have met the enemy and he is us."
The term "shadow" was first used by Carl G. Jung to describe the repressed or denied parts of the Self:
"The shadow is the negative side of the personality, the sum of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide, together with the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious..
Conflict is actually neither positive nor negative - it is natural: it simply "is." Conflict can be thought of as an interference pattern of energies. The reality is that nature uses conflict as its primary method of creating change and development - forming beautiful mountains, beaches, canyons, etc. Notice that conflict appears at various times in every facet and dimension of life.
Authenticity and Growth
If, as students of the transformative process, we aspire to become catalysts in a world aching for wholeness, we are obligated to, as Gandhi suggested, "become the change we want to see." Nothing less will do. Only our wholeness and integration can create a climate in which others feel safe to let their own yearning for this state of being find expression.
It would seem then, that, in terms of catalyzing genuine transformation "walking our talk" is essential. If we are to support the process of self-organization in individuals, groups, families, organizations, etc. we ourselves first need to gain access to our humanity in its fullness. Hiding parts of ourselves will not accomplish this.
It would seem that the forces of health, wholeness, and growth can be kindled by an encounter with energies of a corresponding resonance. It is much like one candle simply lighting another. Gandhi often called this energy - soul-force. Gradual and painstaking as this process may be - the active cultivation within ourselves of empathy, genuineness, openness, passionate dedication to inner truth, and a willingness to respond compassionately to others - may in fact be the quickest, most effective means to becoming vessels for transformation in a world yearning for a better way.
The "credentials" of Aikido as a great tool for personal and social growth is mounting. For further references: ADDENDUM .
How I started
When Aikido practioners get together, one of the most interesting and recurring topics is how each person got started with Aikido in the first place.