Sharing the Perspective of Aikido
One main aspect that makes Aikido unique and attractive to such a variety of people are the profound perspectives that helped create the art. This is the reason, for example I turned to Aikido after a childhood of growing up with different martial arts. As I matured, I began wanting to explore what I found as more mature perspectives of Life, even in martial arts.
Put simply, the essential perspectives of Aikido for me are based on Oneness and Unity. This seems simple, but truly understanding and realizing the depth of this perspective is not always so obvious….especially in teaching this as a Sensei. Relating the perspectives of Aikido to others is one of the greatest challenges in the practice because it’s misunderstood and even seems counter to our habits and conditioning.
One of the greatest challenges is not always learning a solid, effective Kotegaeshi, but rather why we practice Kotegaeshi with connection and possibly compassion, for example. Compassion in a martial defense seems very juxtaposed to our conditioned level of reaction. Even understanding what makes compassion effective often meets internal resistances in our automatic, tension-evoked manipulation of the technique. So how do we bridge this gap between a mental explanation of the founding perspectives of Oneness and an actual, realized expression?
One basic way I have found to be helpful is the act of sharing. Many of our groups already form a quick sharing circle at the end of a training to answer questions and receive feedback, which is fundamental for helping to digest and clarify what one practices in a training. There actually may be more opportunities in moments of sharing to develop a deeper sense of the perspectives. Often I’ve noticed in sharing circles is after someone has the courage to ask a question or even share a particular difficulty, many of the other students find they have similar questions or feelings. Sometimes these questions and comments are withheld because of personal judgement or fear of judgement from others, so the result is a student feeling alone with his or her personal problem. When a question or comment is shared, the group will often be relieved, so the conversation starts to flow. The personal sentiment becomes shared and impersonal, relating to the whole group. The flowing conversation then leads to more understanding, clarity and confidence for the individuals…especially in a vulnerable space of sharing.
As humans, we often feel we have very separate lives from others. We are stuck alone in our difficulties. The judgements and painful emotions that arise from this sense of feeling alone can imprison us in our own personal thinking, like a personal Uke. The interesting fact is, we ALL have problems with difficult emotions, so we are not alone in that experience. When we can take time to create a sharing space that is non-judgmental (or suspended judgment) with open listening, then an atmosphere of security is established for us to become vulnerable enough to share some very real, hidden difficulties we are facing. Just being able to express a personal difficulty to others often releases tension and opens a sense of being together (Unity), which provides a huge emotional support to anyone feeling alone in the world. It’s the difference between avoiding a difficult attack and being able to impersonally and clearly see an Uke before he/she attacks. There is even the possibility to collectively create solutions. This Unity and « being together » can be one of the most powerful experiences in Aikido….plus, it’s very martially effective!
There are many guidelines for creating a sharing circle, but here are a few simple strategies I’ve used for creating a safe environment:
- Ask everyone in a circle to suspend judgements (personal and of others).
- Make a rule to listen without interruption until someone is finished talking, expressing.
- State/acknowledge the fact that emotions will be included in the sharing.
- Ask participants to not repeat what is shared in the circle to others outside of the group afterwards.
- Noting to the group to be conscious of the fact that many people may want to share. This may affect timing.
Providing moments in our training, or as training itself, to be able to connect to others in a « space » of vulnerable sharing helps us realize and experience the fact that we are truly not alone. This deep sharing not only helps build a stronger community, but also helps relate some of the subtle and powerful founding perspectives of Aikido.