合気道に向いている人 (people for whom aikido is a good match)

  1. We may not notice, i.e., consciously experience, being influenced
  2. We may have some experience like, “This guy is making me uncomfortable” or “That statement makes me angry”
  3. We may feel we are being strategically and purposefully “moved”, that is, likely our sense of “being manipulated”.

It’s important to be careful not to over-generalize that people who are very rational and verbal will never “get” aikido. With that said, rationalization is one of the common defense mechanisms we have and use. People use it to make sense of something, enabling them to keep a certain distance from it and view it as not worth getting closer to or not possible to get closer to. Accordingly, rationalization also functions to make whatever or whoever pushes you closer to that undesirable thing/person/experience fit your rationale e.g. that instructor is trying to force me to do something that does not and will not fit me, and therefore he/she does not understand at all. And of course the rub is that it is possible in some cases your rationalization is valid.

My thought here is on ukemi and the experience of being manipulated, and also about attachment to one’s defenses, or more to the point, to one’s defensiveness. Specifically, as in #3 above: I am attached to this view that 1) I am under obligation to let down my boundaries and defenses as uke, 2) I am giving up control to another person, and 3) when I give over control to them they must simultaneously take on responsibility for my safety, my behavior, and my experience i.e., since I’m giving over my balance, etc. I should be allowed to experience an “escape” while they are in the driver’s seat.

When we start aikido, we all face the task of reforming our boundaries. This is probably true with any endeavor, particularly those that involve working with other people. The thing is, while we may successfully reform our boundaries, we may not work so much with our sense of boundaries. So even if I’ve been doing aikido for a while and am comfortable with touching and being thrown, when someone throws me especially hard, I may feel that they went beyond what was proper. Likewise if my uke unexpectedly does a kaeshi waza.

I think the issue is not what or where the boundaries are, but how flexible and resilient they are. Once you settle down in an environment, you will have a certain reaction to further changes or pressures. When the character of that reaction is brittle and rigid, it is not conducive to growth, and mindful and willful adaptation. It is also not conducive to survival because in principle there will be a breaking point for anything, and what is brittle will break more easily.

Ukemi is the opportunity to become soft and flexible. I think a common understanding is instead for uke to become tough/hard, immovable, and durable. For one thing I think it’s unfortunate that tough is equated with hard, and soft is equated with compliant and pretentious. (And resilient is equated with resisting and contentious.) For another thing I think it’s unfortunate and oddly conspicuous that, while “tough” and experienced ukes will move in specific ways for specific people, they often do not exhibit flexibility (ie an ability and willingness to go into the unexpected) and adaptability, but a rigid, pretentious, patronizing, you-fall-into-a-pattern/category-I-acknowledge-or else-*yawn* attitude. That is, if you don’t fit their rationale than you are rationalized away as wrong, ignorant, and narrow-minded. Another big rub here is you can have two of these people thinking the exact same thing about each other at the same time.

If I am currently and obdurately remain one of those people, I may not be suited to aikido. If I continue to do aikido anyway, I’ve probably found my niche, socially and intrapersonally, all safe and sound – in which case I may be suited to aikido to grow to a certain point but not infinitely, as in to self-actualize and realize my potential. Speaking for myself, one indication that I am walking on such a path is my attachment to viewing/holding certain people in my view as lacking.

#1 and #2 are likely less problematic than #3. #1, because it is less justifiable in aikido to remain unaware. It’s more likely to be an issue “on the table” and therefore addressed. #2 , because, at least in this culture, we like the idea of taking control of our own experience and not being subject to how others are “making” us feel. #3 is the most dangerous because it is likely to be the most enduring, as the rationalization is always at times valid, and as human beings we have the ability to attribute validity to it even when it isn’t appropriate or realistic, and it is the most harmful to others in that we would be looking down upon and objectifying others.

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