David M. Valadez
It is so telling how current practitioners tend to gravitate toward photographs of past masters smiling or laughing, looking for any departure away from the terror that they were known for and had generated on the mat. It is a pitiful attempt to remove the tool of fear from training, to be able to say or think, "See, Budo does not need to be scary. I can stay fragile and delicate and still be considered a martial artist!"
Look to position your fingers, metacarpals, and wrists correctly, and your arm movement will follow suit.
You should give up interest in rank and credentials altogether and let skill or the lack of skill speak for itself.
The body/mind is the great mystery. There is no place greater or more wonderful, and you will not find one secret in all of the Universe that is not already there.
It is popularly well-known that the use of trial as a technology of the self generates a chain reaction of transformation and improvement in multiple and different aspects of the individual. For example, the trial of lifting heavy objects can both lead to the cultivation of a strong body and of an anti-fragile, less breakable, emotional self. Today, many fitness programs assist their clients by this very means, and even we do it in our Aiki I children's program, where many emotional, psychological, and/or behavioral issues, are easily reconciled in a new child member, children who have been kicked out of multiple schools for such issues even, simply by helping them gain the strong body nature they need to have. Yes, Budo uses this technology in this mundane way but it also uses it in a different way and ultimately for different reasons. Budo belongs to an even older tradition, which is actually the source for the above-mentioned utilization of trial. In this more ancient tradition, trial is firmly a part of the daily and overall praxis of the anchorite. However, the religious recluse utilizes trial for one simple reason, here echoing Thomas Merton: Because God does not wrestle with the weak.
Your true practice rests outside of motivation and the need for finding motivation. Motivation speaks of alternatives existing, and of an "I" to choose between them. The need for motivation means you're still not convinced, still not committed, still not operating at the level of being. We do not need motivation to breathe, and that is how our practice should be.
Budo is like living amongst a pack of wolves, the dojo is a land of wolves. And, the worst thing you can do amongst wolves in the land of wolves, worse than anything else, the thing you must avoid the most, is to be a sheep.
Odds are, your best deshi are not just going to walk by your dojo. Such people came to your dojo more likely for the wrong reasons: proximity to where they live or work, the convenience of scheduled classes, the feeling that none of the other dojo in town meet their needs, etc. More likely, your best student is going to be the one that lives nowhere near the dojo, the one that sought you out as a teacher, the one that travels miles and overcomes obstacles everyday just to show up on time. Of my own three main teachers, the closest was an hour to two hours from my house, traffic depending, and the others were respectively four hours and twelve hours away. I always considered their schools close and myself lucky for being so near.
For Budo, like all spiritual traditions, to function as a process for self-transformation and the cultivation of virtue, the deshi has to invest the totality of their being in the training. You cannot just go through the motions, and you must ever be cautious of simply remaining at an exterior and/or superficial level.
That said, no deshi ever comes to a dojo with a fully conscious and overt resistance, a will to remain superficial, a closing off of self. No deshi ever openly and with full awareness seeks to gain a hollow exercise in place of what is truly Budo. Yet, this happens all the time, most of the time. It happens by very subtle means, just under the level of the conscious self, at the level of habit.
There are four forms of such resistance or four ways by which is generated a degeneration of the Sensei/Deshi dynamic. In short, they are: The deshi has a heart/mind plagued by competition; The deshi has a heart/mind plagued by surety; The deshi has a heart/mind plagued by introversion; the deshi has a heart/mind plagued by a performance orientation.
Elaborating, the heart/mind of competition sees one's teacher as an adversary; the heart/mind of surety sees one's teacher as either an equal or even as an inferior; the heart/mind of introversion holds back and never extends toward the teacher; and the heart/mind of performance finds satisfaction in only mimicking the teacher.
In my experience, these are the primary means by which the natural order at work in the transmission of wisdom and being is violated and made impotent within the Sensei/Deshi dynamic. In its place, one finds only self-attachment, a deshi that is at odds with the Way, making the only conclusion to such relationships nothing more than a total waste of time.
God is not where we are. God is found only in our absence. God is the great potential, the source prior to all manifestation, including the manifestation of us. We must un-manifest ourselves, lose ourselves, returning to what we were before we became ourselves. There, we will find God.
The point is to serve. The point of serving is to suffer. The point of suffering is to do so in silence.
Be neither this nor that.
Your daily practice should include a set of simple exercises or austerities that you can do almost anywhere, repeatedly throughout the day, all the way until bed time. An easy one to do is shomen suburi using a heavy suburito or a steel sword. While this exercise conditions your body for kokyu-ryoku, which is a must, done in this way, this exercise can also condition your spirit, which is also a must.
Where there is convenience there is no Budo.
Convenience leads to quitting. Continue to bathe in the river of convenience and the current of quitting will flush you away.
The best way to prepare for Budo training is to start Budo training. This is so because there is no other practice like Budo and because procrastination and hesitation are not part of the Warrior's Path.
The senpai who does not follow your teacher's teaching is not your senpai.
Today, no one can afford to live a life entirely free of asceticism. To do so is to risk insanity.
The integrity of dedication and devotion charges us and generates an energy with which all obstacles and enemies fade away into nothingness.
You often hear that zazen, what is poorly translated as "meditation," is "the center of Zen practice." This is true, but not in the way that most people believe, especially non-Zen practitioners, people that never actually trained inside of a Japanese system of Zen practice. When the non-initiate hears this statement, he or she believes that all a Zen initiate does is zazen, or that the monk or nun spends most of his/her time doing zazen. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of Zen practice in terms of number of hours or dedicated time out of a given day (not counting the special practices of sesshin and rohatsu) is spent working. Labor is very important in Zen practice. Along with working, the initiate's day is oriented by a temple etiquette and a master/disciple relationship that is never to leave their body/mind. Thus, when it is said that zazen is at the center of Zen practice, this "center" is not a durational one. Rather, this center refers to a kind of technological primacy, one where the expectation is that all of the other self-cultivation gained by all of the other practices should and needs to show up on the zafu, in zazen.
The same can be said for Aikido. The center of Aikido is kihon waza, but if this is the actual majority of our total practice, we will be missing the point by a huge margin. More important, because they are more viable technologies of the self, and for example, is the following of dojo etiquette, the ever increasingly penetrating nature of the sensei/deshi dynamic, and the maintenance of and commitment to a daily training schedule. The cultivating effects of these things should and need to show up in our kihon waza. This is what it means when we say kihon waza is the center of our Aikido practice.
Ironically, we moderns, we materialists, hold that virtue is a thing of the mind and not of matter. The ancients were different. Being experts at observation, they saw that virtue is in the flesh, in the body, or it is not at all. To be sure, this does not mean that virtue was not also held to be in our hearts or our minds or in our spirits. It is only to say that if it is not in our bodies, then it cannot be in these other places either. This understanding is not beyond our comprehension or even outside of our daily experience. It should not be so strange a concept. For example, if we observe a body with erratic breathing patterns, a red complexion, and shoulders hunched up to one's ears, fists clenched, we are not going to believe they are practicing the virtue of patience simply because they verbally repeat over and over again, "I am patient." Instead, we separate ourselves from our usual logocentric paradigms of understanding and instead believe the person's body. We surmise, siding with our eyes, and rightly so, respond, "You are not patient."
Like the virtuous heart/mind/spirit, the virtuous body, is known by a kind of absence, an incapacity to be pulled or pushed off center, an absence of reactivity. As such it is marked by a certain type of physiological organization, one that leads to and maintains an integrity of posture and a relaxed groundedness or heaviness. The virtuous body like the virtuous mind is a disciplined thing. It does not sway to the winds of changing conditions, and so it does not uncontrollably react to them. It is not a slave to them. Instead, it remains organized and simply responds appropriately by doing what must be done and nothing more or nothing less.
In addition to this prioritization of the body, the ancients also held that Man cannot think his/her way into virtue. So, for example, Man cannot think him/herself into being brave, that he/she cannot intellectualize or will him/herself into not physically and mentally reducing all of one's infinite response options into the three unconscious reactions of fight, flight, or freeze. They held that while the mind can be virtuous, virtue cannot enter into our being through the mind. Alternately, the ancients saw that the body can be cultivated with virtue, the the body was the gateway, that since virtue itself has a material component the body can have virtue weaved into its sinews and fused to its cells.
There is a long history responsible for why Man today holds that his/her self and wellness can be cultivated simply by sitting in a pew or a chair, or reclining on a couch, not moving, taking his/her body out of the equation, and simply listen and speak. However, that history has nothing to do with what is observed in Nature, or the effectiveness or viability of merely using our intellect to address the totality of our being.
This history has come to affect Budo today, even changing it outright and forcing it to break with its ancient wisdom. Today, in most dojo, the virtues are also thought up as immaterial things, ideas, and the body components of training are at best considered only metaphors or analogies for those ideas. It is no wonder then why we see a majority of disorganized bodies in Aikido today more than we see organized bodies, why the art is plagued by bodies that push and pull, that over extended, that are filled with tension and made light, bodies that require the environment in which it is training to be made less trying, less stressful, less challenging to its structure and organization. With this, with the absence of cultivating virtue through the body gone, with the understanding that the body is the only means of cultivating virtue gone, with the understanding that this is the point of training gone, the reasons for dedication and commitment are also gone. Today, the mats are filled with dabblers, people that train only in their comfort zones, and people who seek to do as little as possible so as not to disrupt their material lives. Today, any Budo sensei that wants his/her mat empty of these people must become more of a proselytizer than anything else, for few will be those that come ready to train and that will meet every requirement as if it is a tied off piece of rope to a rope-bridge suspended over a great chasm that they are using to get across to their greater self.
You can be on very friendly terms with your bokken. However, you should be married to your suburito.
The Warrior's Path is in part a matter of becoming skilled in resilience. And, when we are not resilient enough for the environment we may find ourselves in we will have surrounded ourselves with others that are, and they will lift us up onto their shoulders until we can find our feet again.
Aikido is not an exercise. Neither is it a philosophy. Aikido is the skill, the act of evenness, of centeredness.
Truth be told, personally, I am not a fan of the ponytail - in Aikido or in any warrior art. However, it is not because it hearkens back to "Above the Law," or because it is often an element in some sort of exercise in the exotic Other fetish, in this case the samurai. No, for me, it goes back to when I was able to control a person's height and mobility by controlling their head by holding onto their ponytail, and using it to my advantage and being able to strike and check counters at will and repeatedly. For me, warriors do not give up such an advantage by adopting such a disadvantage.
That said, this is not what irks me about ponytails in Aikido. What I find irksome is how many aikidoka grant authority and skill to someone just for having a ponytail. It is the associated superficiality that I find distasteful and hard to swallow.
The point of reflection is self-critique. Self-critique is an integral part of The Way. It is a process of continually measuring oneself against known and adopted ideals. In the end, the goal is greater proximity to those ideals or an even further refinement of the ideals themselves. Subjectively, for the person practicing reflection, the act manifests itself in the cultivation of the virtues or skill set of integrity, consistency, and authenticity. With these skills, the aikidoka is able to project his or her practice into the undiscovered and yet keep it whole. To those following, to the kohai, or even to peers, the reflections of others can act as light posts or as anchor points, devices that can be used to determine directions and orientations that may be worth our time and further exploration. These reflections are offered here in that spirit.
If your teacher does not know your name, if he/she cannot remember it, that is not a fault of his/hers. That is a fault of yours.
The two ultimate darknesses: Yin that wants to be Yang, and Yang that pretends to be Yin.
My charge is to inform, not to inspire. Do as you will.
Awakening, Enlightenment, Mystical Union, Spiritual Maturity, call it what you will, is a skill, a craft, very akin to all other crafts, such as cabinet making, metal working, pottery, etc. That is to say, spiritual maturity can be learned, as it is a science of the heart/body-mind, and its practice must be kept up because all skills are perishable skills.
What is one learning when everything is allowed to escape or disappear amidst a sea of compromise?
It is likely the fearless were born fearless. It is also possible they were raised that way. What is unlikely, what is less possible, regardless of what the Health and Wellness Industry is selling, is that the fear-filled can muster up the courage necessary to practice a fear-reconciling technology to the degree it must be practiced.
Budo is not for everyone, and I am for even fewer.
True power does not feel itself.
There's a huge difference between theory and "gknowing," as one of my Religious Studies professors used to say (think "gnosis"). In today's world, everyone claims to be an expert, claims to know, and everyone has the "credentials" to back the claims up. Credentials abound, and sometimes in a few years, even down to a matter of hours, "masters" are born, sometimes everyday. However, I call bullshit.
"Expert" and "experience" share a root word and so the meaning of one should be found in the other. That said, then, any knowledge or expertise outside of experience should only be thought of as theory, even when a claimed "expert" is saying it and even when credentials claim to give him/her the right to speak and the authority to be heard.
Theory, or knowledge claims made outside of experience, can at most only be understood as "possible but unproven." That said, the following should be understood as theory and seen only as a lessor knowledge, as something only possibly true, and something still unproven. Meaning, you should not give the following much weight:
Weight loss instruction from anyone under 35 years old.
Long-term fitness instructions from anyone having under 30 years of training.
Martial instruction from anyone whose arena of application is the dojo or the sport arena or weapon-free zones.
Instruction on commitment and dedication to training from anyone who is doing said training as their primary job, and/or who has no kids, and/or has no spouse.
Advice on blending, harmony, and Aiki from anyone that is single, divorced, and/or is alienated from their parents, their siblings, and/or any of their children.
Instruction on centeredness from anyone that self-medicates, uses medications to affect mood or sleep, is addicted to sugar, and/or to self-destructive or excessive behaviors.
Instruction on power development from the largest person on the mat.
Instruction on meditation from anyone that never had a meditation mentor in a monastic or a semi-monastic system, and/or that meditates to relax, and/or whose practice centers around meditation sessions under 30 minutes at a time.
Instruction on emptiness, self-detachment, or on reconciling fear from anyone with food preferences or sexual hang-ups, and/or counter culture tendencies.
Instruction on compassion or love from anyone who doesn't listen to music, does not dance, does not laugh and play with children, and/or avoids animals.
Instruction on inner strength from anyone that is physically weak.
Instruction on living a fulfilling life who has not had a death in the family.
Get the idea? The list can go on and on. Yes, some theorists can stumble upon the truth, but these people are rare, so rare that it is more likely that you are not one of them than you are, and more likely that you will never meet them in person than you will.
To gain wisdom is to accumulate experience. To gain knowledge is to formulate that experience for the inexperienced to consider as they gain their own experience.
Budo is a spiritual path. The Budo sensei thus takes on the huge responsibility of mentoring another person in the cultivation of the spirit. Most "sensei" today avoid this, following the way of the world instead and thus opt for the easier path of coach or trainer, opt for self-concern over the concern of others, and choose convenience over commitment. Let them be the farce they choose to be - I say. However, for those that practice the courage and sacrifice necessary to adopt this responsibility as their own, know this: Be mindful of not holding your deshi accountable for consistency between thought, word, and deed. Without this consistency, without requiring it of them, without helping them to achieve it, you slot them for the worst spiritual trap possible: hypocrisy. Like this, there is a special Hell waiting for you then.
For shomen suburi to be a conditioning exercise wherein the hara is made more powerful, no energy can be released through the grip, wrists, or elbows, and the shoulders and the biceps cannot be isolated from the whole of the body in the movement. Additionally, you must not make it a quad and glute workout by bending your knees too much and dropping your weight too far. This breaks connection with the pelvis, and it prevents the spine from dropping straight down and acting as a point of leverage for the entire movement. For the hara to be conditioned it must be used to maintain structure and the center of this structure is the vertical axis of the spine. The sword movement challenges this structure and so it strengthens the hara or conditions the body to be more able to maintain this organization or structure under higher and higher degrees of stress.
You are an idiot. You are an idiot not because you do idiotic things, but because you prioritize not feeling like an idiot over the stopping of doing idiotic things.
Indecision is a sign of spiritual immaturity.
To be able to do what others cannot, to be able to do unusual things, you must first believe in unusual things.
A technique does not just consist of spatial elements only. It also consists of timing elements. Techniques have a flow, a fluidity, a rhythm. If your technique is staccato, filled with moments where you stop and wait, this is likely because your technique consists of clashing angles or because you have poor weight distribution, etc. In other words, your body or mind is being stressed by one thing or another and the need to stop and wait is the need to stop and wait for that stress to relieve itself. Starting and stopping, waiting, reveals a lack of harmony, an absence of musubi, in your technique.
Keep your feet on the ground. Stop taking five steps or more for what can be done with one step. If you're needing to use balance-adjustment steps over and over again, that's a clue: You're in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong way.
As the mind should be stable so should the body.
The solution of kokyu power solves a question of efficiency. It does not solve all questions of combat. Efficiency, or how to achieve more with less, is not the answer to all questions. It is merely something that increases in importance when weapons are involved. There are still the elements that are unknown and the ones that cannot be known, the fogs of war. For that, efficiency can never be the sole answer. For that, raw strength and a mind that accepts death over quitting ia also going to count.
There's a point of no return to the spiritual path. If you are able to keep one foot out of its waters or if you are able to turn around and walk away, then you know you did not reach it and that your path was not all that spiritual.
There is some truth to the position that a spiritual practice lends itself to self-improvement and to increased states of wellness. However, part of a viable spiritual practice demands that you drop all concern with these things. Go figure.
If two hours of dedicated practice every day for the cultivation of your being is beyond you, you're doing it wrong. Your Budo is wrong; your life is wrong.
When a beginner, you should always do more of the following than you are: lower your center, turn your hips, and breathe deeper.
When training toward or with stress inoculation, pain experienced outside of the training context, pain that cannot be positively reinforced via the pedagogical paradigm, is counter productive. Rather than cultivating resiliency in the deshi, you produce timidity. You increase frailty and you lose the cultivation of grit.
Premature exhaustion, the physiological inability to perform as needed due to a felt fatigue, is caused by both poor physical conditioning and by low psychological stress tolerance. Of the two, the latter is more conducive to premature exhaustion. This is why after a certain point of physical conditioning is achieved, training should primarily look to address the tactical issue of premature exhaustion primarily through increasing psychological stress tolerance.
Either way, because you couldn't properly commit, couldn't learn the art's modes of gaining efficiency, and you are simply aging, or because you could properly commit, you are learning the art's modes of gaining efficiency, and you have primed yourself for greater states of tactical maturity, training is only going to get harder. Whether you are challenged by having to do less or you are challenged by being ready for more, it is best to show up for training fully ready to perform and to be pushed to failure.
Trying to turn Aikido into a practice that has nothing to do with combat is not going to make the presence of weakness acceptable. All forms by which integrity disappears, or is made absent, as happens when weakness appears, must remain nevertheless totally unsatisfying and undesirable. A coward is always a matter of unreconciled fear. A frail body is always a broken heart/mind. An immature spirit can never be one with God.
In a perfect world, it is always best to clear the line and atemi. Only the world is not perfect, so hit the fucker. Hit him hard.
Ukemi training as a whole, beyond the mere falling, and outside of the dressage/choreography that dominates Aikido today, cultivates the martial attributes of sensitivity, responsiveness, functional fitness, an intuitive sense of timing, and spatial awareness. Without these things, your chances of gaining victory under combat conditions is next to nothing. Ukemi cultivates a whole set of serious offense-oriented skill sets.
As the world becomes populated more by the self-serving and the power-hungry, the more need there is for a person of honor. However, the more the world so turns, the more the need, the greater the difficulty to become such a person.
There is a relationship between a lack of strength, cowardice with one's body and with one's emotions, a lack of discipline and self-control, an absence of awareness, both in oneself and of others, no concern with honor or integrity, and a incapacity for wisdom, an incapacity for compassion, a lack of inner strength and centeredness, and the absence of a meaningful and fulfilling life. Child psychology is only beginning to stumble upon this truth, but Budo has known it for centuries now.
Budo, like all warrior codes, was first developed as a system of wellness for men and women that regularly entered into the toxic and highly corrosive environment of combat. All of its symbolism, its mythologies, its rituals, all of its conditioning exercises, its stress inoculations, its philosophy on space, time, and impermanence, its social structures, its moral and ethical prescriptions, etc., all of this was designed and organized to be able to have a human being repeatedly enter into the most psycho-physiological destructive realm there is for the human organism, that of human-vs-human violence, and have that person be able to function there in that realm and then have him/her return as if he/she had never entered it. Budo still functions like this for the professional warrior today, those in law enforcement and in the military. But, today, for the civilian, Budo has taken on a new role, a role it fully meets. Today, Budo can, does, and should function to address the toxicity that is addressing us all, the psycho-physiological corrosive environments that are modernity and materiality.
Your ego is going to want a "rest day," a "moment to catch your breath" in the training, a time to "rest on your laurels." However, that is only because your ego is still in control. Pride, fear, and ignorance still push and pull upon you. For the person that has reconciled the ego, work is not dichotomous to rest, and training simply continues day after day, minute after minute, and the passage of time has no meaning one way or the other.
Always be respectful. Always be humble. Always keep learning. The first will keep your relationships healthy, prospering, and nurturing. The second will keep you brave, open-minded, and one with the Infinite. The third will fill your life with meaning and with wellness.
In combat, you look for what needs to be done, where the work lays that will gain your side victory, the work that makes the enemy's side cease to exist. In combat, one is always looking for this work. In life, it is the same, there is work to be done, and you need to always look for it. In life though, almost the opposite of combat, the work is done so that you yourself cease to exist. This is the work of self-sacrifice and the life of service, the life of the saint, the life of the man or woman on the spirit path.
I have learned to love in the only place where it can be learned: Amidst those that hate you and among those that should love you but do not or cannot.
Somewhere, behind all the numbing agents, away from all the distractions of an overly busy life, past the immobilizing fears we've come to call "normal," is an unquenchable desire to solve the mystery of true love. You will ignore this mystery at your own risk, but you will only solve it by taking greater risks. Nothing you now are or now have can assist you. You must be willing to break with everything you've come to rely upon. You must be willing to break your self.
The Saint is an idealist. For as long as he can remember, he was never anything else. Whatever he did, whatever he believed, he did and believed at the extremes. As an extremist, he is outcasted more than he is accepted. It is this outcasting, when it is combined with his idealism, that drives him from the world and to God. By the time of his death, only God will have him. The Saint is made alone so that he may find this particular divine togetherness.
When nothing else is working, silence yourself and keep going, let the sacred geometry of the art shape you into the vessel of God.
As the mind cannot be separated from the body in Aikido cultivation, so too Aikido cultivation works to organize both the inside and the outside of the body simultaneously and interdependently.
Before you can be an artist of the art, you must first be an engineer of the art.
So much of what I do and think is unknown and unstated. You will never know me, never understand me, just by what you see and hear.
I do not know this peace the New Age movement and the Post-New Age movement speaks about. I have never known it. I only know that there is suffering and that we can increase our tolerance of that suffering, so that we are not ruined by it and so that we do not ruin others for it. The cross is very real for me, as is the toxicity of human-v-human violence. They cannot disappear but you may place me upon it and I can forgive you for having done so, and you can slay me within it and I will not hate you for it. This is the only peace I know.
It is the sensei's role to to train the deshi. It is the parent's role to make their child trainable. It is the adult deshi's role to make themselves trainable. It is not the sensei's role to make deshi trainable.
Looking at something and seeing what you're looking at is a kind of intelligence you cannot do without. Make sure you have it. Make sure your children have it.
Even at the personal level, the level of the individual, spiritual immaturity is a systemic problem. It is best then not to seek spiritual maturity until you are ready to change everything about yourself.
You can't be positively reinforced into tough.
Be useful. Do not confuse doing nothing, Wu Wei , or doing no more than is needed, with being useless. For there is a whole set of negative consequences and results that follow each moment of uselessness of which you will want no part. Be useful, always.
Wisdom and self reflection are primary to the path of spiritual maturity. This is because the first thing the Darkness, the Great Deceiver, the Satan, Spiritual Immaturity, the trickster deity, etc., I don't care what you call it, works through is self-deception. It is the ability to hide oneself from oneself, to say one is fine when he is not, to say one is doing good when he is not, to say one is well and healthy when he is not, to say one has intimacy with others when he is alone, alienating, and lonely, to say one is acting rightly when he is not, that is the foothold for all things ruinous and evil. Before Awakening is anything else, it is the ability to see oneself under all conditions and at all times.
There's no destination. There is no end. In fact, more importantly, there isn't even an "almost there."
In many ways, the point is to get lost.
Yes, God is Love. So, yes, God will love you no matter what. Yes, his prophets too. However, at least philosophically, this does not make void the subjective question of, "Do you make yourself lovable?" Moreover, again subjectively, it does not negate the lack of virtue present in the act of expecting love where one should be hated or despised instead.
More and more, every moment not in prayer seems like a waste of time.
You may want me to, but I would not be helping you at all if I were to lower my standards.
You cannot be a weak warrior. There's no such thing. If you're weak, you're just weak. You're no warrior.
False sentiment is a disease of the immature spirit. It is a mask laid over an incapacity, which is itself a mask laid over a desire not to work. False sentiment is much more than mere superficiality.
On the spiritual role of food, one's nutrition affects directly one's mood, which in turn affects one's subjective energy level, which in turn affects training commitment. It is like this with all things: another example, one's nutrition affects one's mood, which affects one's descent into depression and anxiety, which requires a given level of needed discipline, which affects one's capacity to maintain the way.
Budo is the teaching and transmitting of tools designed and proven to aid one in the practice of self-detachment and the orchestration and utilization of environments and situations wherein those tools are meant to be used for the purpose of making the budoka skilled at reconciling self-attachment.
Many deshi, sensei too, feel they can advance with the same level of commitment and investment the whole way through their training. This makes no sense. Training is and should be watered down for beginners, and so whatever you were doing, whatever made up your practice at the start, has to automatically at some point, hopefully the sooner the better, fall short. Training then should get harder as you advance, requiring more and more of you, calling upon greater sacrifices to be made, letting less of you remain the same. And, things go on like this until you die, when you have nothing left to give up for your practice. If you started out training X amount of days and that is still your schedule, if you started out training only at the dojo and are not now training at home as well, if your art is still gentle and slow, if you are ever restricted to kihon waza only, if you're still throwing yourself as Uke, etc., you're doing it wrong.
Humility without a capacity for austerity and reverence is not humility. We know humility by said capacity alone. Without it, it is more likely that one is seeing a coincidence and a convenience of conditions and environment than anything else.
Here's the thing with positive thinking aimed at oneself, aside from it going against traditional wisdom and all studies showing it having either a negative or a negligent effect, if, for example, you continually train yourself to never feel like an idiot, because you are always telling yourself how great you are, you will become numb to idiocy within yourself. You will become the one thing worse than an idiot: The person who does not know he is acting idiotically when he is acting idiotically.
The greatest weapon against the huge gravitational pull toward mediocrity in Budo is combat survival, the drive to not die from human violence, the aim of gaining victory over another who is intent upon killing you. The budoka that accepts reducing his/her art to a mere philosophy, to some kind of analogy to bourgeois ethics and morality, or to a matter of tradition for tradition's sake, has primed him/herself for keeping excellence beyond them. For everywhere that you see poor half-baked Budo, no matter what the ultimate aim may be, should it even be enlightenment itself, you will see a person who can easily have their ass kicked. Don't be that guy.
If you truly want to honor your teacher, do not seek to bow lower or respond with "Hai" louder. Instead, be strong, be brave, perfect your craft, develop yourself. Until you do this, you have honored no one.
My first mentor, one of the world's foremost experts on Japanese religious culture and a practitioner of Zen, said in response to a hippy-type that was describing Zen as some sort of hippy-type philosophy, "You're wrong. Zen is vinegar through the nose."
Zen, even worse than Aikido, has seen its truth warped by half-baked understandings, understandings derived from half-baked practices practiced by half-baked practitioners. This book is the best book I have ever read on Zen philosophy and practice. If you're still looking for a place to start, a launching point from which to take that first step, this is one such place. If you're wondering how Aikido is practiced at Senshin Center, this book is also a pretty good window - as long as you remember you're still on the outside and only looking in.
*referencing the book “Hardcore Zen” by Brad Warner
A huge part of training in Budo involves seeing through the Modern lies that you can pay to become a warrior, that skill is contained within a technique, and that you can practice the warrior arts in your spare time and among multiple other activities.
If you are supposed to do A and B, if that is doing what needs to be done, then doing A is wrong. It is doing what should not be done. The same would apply if you did B instead. You are still doing what should not be done. This is because in doing A or B you missed the "and," and "and" here is very much a part of what needs to be done. The same holds true if doing the right thing has you doing A and B at Y. If you do A and B at X, you are not doing what should be done. You are doing what should not be done. Equally, the same applies for doing A and B at Z. All this is doing what should not be done. In all this you failed to recognize the importance of "at." Furthermore, neither effort nor intention matters here. Such things cannot make what should not be done into something that should be done. Meaning, if your intention was to do A and B at Y, but you only accomplished B at Z, your intention neither adds nor takes away from the fact that you are doing what should not be done. It is like this with effort as well. 110% effort toward B at Z is as much doing what should not be done as 1% effort toward B at Z.
You are not after an accumulation of Aikido techniques. You're after Aikido's body/mind.
One reason to emphasize the little finger over the index finger in gripping is that the index finger being used will tend to fatigue the grip and the forearm.
In the horse stance, gravity presses on the front outside of one's feet. You should feel nothing in the quadriceps. The pelvis floats in space and the body is at rest.
There is a training downside to leaning. True, a forward cant is necessary for most combat situations. True, standing straight up, as is so popular in some Aikido circles today, places where no one has or expects to fight with the art, is wrong. But any leaning that subverts the ground path, especially the ground path down the front-center of the body to the part of the foot between the ball and the arch, is a leaning in which the body is NOT being conditioned and trained for more power.
I am so repelled by deshi that bow and say, "Hai Sensei!" so loudly while they cannot hold their arm where instructed to do so, cannot step with the foot as demonstrated, do their own incorrect martially ignorant thing on the mat over and over again. I tell them, "Stop bowing." They should just call me "Dave."
Until you have something or someone by which you will alter your behavior via the mere consideration of your person, you have nothing. It is like this with a sensei, a code, a Way, a God, etc.. Meaning, for example, it is not until your teacher's impression of you is enough to alter you at the level of action that you finally have a teacher.Again, iIt is the same with a code, or a Way, or a God. Until then, until you stop doing your own thing simply because it is your own thing, you have nothing.
In Kihon Waza, the loss of connection is both the fault of Nage and Uke. In Jiyu Waza, the loss of connection is Nage's fault.
If we cannot recognize greatness in others, we cannot see the lack of greatness in ourselves. If we cannot see the lack of greatness in ourselves, we have no reason and no direction by which to make ourselves greater. This is the practical application of gaining the awareness of humility and dropping the blindness of pride.
Fear is not to be avoided in Budo training. Fear is both a tool and the outcome of training, both the forge's fire and the blade made in that fire. The warrior is not free of fear. Neither is he/she one with fear. Fear is an energy, and like with all energies the warrior looks to harness fear, to use it, and to shape him/herself with it. It is not that fear is absent from the warrior in combat but rather that it is being harnessed differently, tied to different things than in the coward. Yes, the warrior feels fear, but that fear is not tied to self-preservation. It is tied toward a fear of acting cowardly, of being unable to do what must be done, of failing his/her partners, of being unable to save someone on his/her watch because a skill was not great enough or a body was not strong enough or a mind was not centered enough or a spirit was not mature enough. This is how the warrior embraces fear, by using it to make him/her greater.
If you want to feel loved, which for all intents and purposes means to be loved, you must work for and serve others. This is an ancient truth. Your ego, what is darkest in you, that part of you that refuses the Light, that part that wants you to be hated and despised, on the other hand, works continuously, tirelessly, to convince you otherwise, to deceive you into adopting the falsehood that you will feel loved, and that you are thus loved, by having others serve you. Be mindful and stay true.
Straighten the back line of your silhouette, keep your rear arch up, and lower your center.
When you take a job away from a lazy person or an incompetent person, you'd like to think, as happens in the movies, that they'd realize their inefficiency and become motivated to step up their game. However, in reality, they just think: "Cool! Now I don't have to do that." It is like this with all virtues and the virtue-less. The truth is there is no motivation. There is only self-motivation. Applying this to the self then, stop waiting for others to push you. Push yourself.
You must become sensitive enough to feel your opponent’s entire body from a single point of contact, being able to manipulate it from there.
God and Aikido are alike in many ways. Like with God, the question is not a matter of whether Aikido is real or fake. The question is, "Is your Aikido real?" This is a totally different question from, "Is Aikido real?," and it is also totally different from the question, "Is Aikido real for you?" Again, it is like this also with God. Let those that can understand, understand.
The wise develop the skill of waiting, the practice of utilizing the impermanent nature of Time.
Mindfulness is not as much a presence of mind as it is a skill at not losing one's mind. Mindfulness is not being able to concentrate really really hard; It is not losing everything else while concentrating really really hard.
When deviating, go around Uke. Don't go by Uke.
The commodification of the world takes place via an institutionally supported culture of distraction and a false truth that posits things will make you happy. Your wellness then rests in large part in a skill at detaching yourself from things and in the cultivation of a heart/mind capable of attentiveness.
The immature spirit feels pressed by the ego to claim reality for oneself, to use words and statements to denounce what appears different. However, one's practice should mature to a point where the drive and need to utter such statements is purified out of oneself. Equally, so also should the need to address such statements be practiced away. The wise has always known that he cannot truly tell whether he is a man dreaming he is a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he is a man. There is only the dream. There is no reality that can ever satisfy the ego.
The truly effective art will appear effortless, but only if you are looking at Nage.
The Natural World seeks a harmony of Yin and Yang. It finds its ideal state, its overall wellness, in such a balance. The dojo dominated by men, attended mostly by men, is an unwell dojo - a sick thing.
In truth, a few hours a week is never going to turn a lamb into a lion. You're never going to warrior-up in your spare time, not in a culture like our modern one. You're working against tides with drops in a bucket. And, let's not even talk about those that confuse fitness, mindset, and/or nutrition with training. That's a dead issue, too far in left field - so to speak.
All these words, they are so not a part of training - especially in a world where the discourse of Budo and Zen has been usurped and bastardized by the self-help industry and the quick-fix materially-oriented success cult. These words, they are bread crumbs, a marking of the trail I have walked, signs saying "I went this way," to be used by others after I am gone.
When you start training in Kihon Waza, when you suck and you don't know and can't do crap, your biggest obstacle to overcome as Nage is the strong Uke that offers continuous and penetrating power and pressure. When you are skilled, your biggest obstacle to overcome as Nage is finding such an Uke. Most of your training time in Kihon will be a matter of wading through a sea of Uke too self-concerned with their own fear of injury to offer a continuous and penetrating power or pressure.
There are learning curves that must be allowed for, for reasons of safety, for reasons of working within efficient teaching environments, etc. However, all Nage and Uke should aim toward and eventually meet in the Truth, that place where no lying is allowed and death hovers on the horizon.
He or she that takes seriously, truly seriously, the ideals of one's art will in the end come to practice what can no longer represent the art. For example, in Aikido, we are taught from day one, "Do not clash," and "Use your center." The practitioner who truly learns how to have zero clash in their art and who truly knows how to use his or her center will come to practice something no one else is doing. As such, because the majority, those who have accomplished no such skills or understandings, will never come to see itself as "wrong" or "inferior," and will instead see a superior truth in themselves, one consisting of numbers alone. Thus, the one that has actually achieved the art's ideals can only ever be understood as Other and so too what they are doing.
There is an Aiki to Shomen-suburi but it is not the obvious one of pulling the tip of the sword backward and stacking the weapon vertically over the grip. This would generate a yin vacuum and create an unintended opening in your movement. Rather, the sword is made subjectively light by giving the radius integrity and running the sword along the diameter of the movement. One then does not so much lift the sword as one both matches and follows its movement.
Today, there is a social pressure to be all inclusive, to accept even total crap in the name of tolerance. However, there was a time when the religious hermit, the person that saw through the crap and wanted not to be a part of it anymore, abandoned the temple system, the view of the masses, not because of a failing on his or her part. What drove the anchorite up the mountain was no character flaw but rather its exact opposite. It was the virtue of integrity. Then, if you wanted to know the truths he or she discovered, you too had to leave the temple behind, abandoned the social institution and purify yourself of its deadening soul-stealing and self-feeding inertia. You had to climb the mountain yourself and you had to find the hermitage yourself, that space where he or she has left everything you value behind. You couldn't expect the anchorite to show up at your conference or your camp or your friendship seminar. He or she didn't come to you. You went to him or her. If you were lucky, you found him/her. If the hermit was lucky, you didn't.
Ever seen that deshi that gives 110% at the things he/she thinks he/she excels at, but drags their feet, holding back, only giving a half-ass effort at everything else? Don't be that deshi.
How did we go from a Founder that was powerful enough to pull tree trunks from the ground to the weak and frail bodies that now dominate the Aikido mat? I imagine it is the same way BJJ went from a master who was slight of build but capable of overcoming opponents much heavier and stronger than him to weight categories and counters dominated by muscling: Dabblers.
I am the parent. I'm not the bank, nor another friend, etc., for my children. I am the parent. It is my responsibility to make life decisions for my children. I do not expect a child to make a life decision for themselves. As such, I do not avoid my responsibility to make life decisions for my children based upon whether they like something or do not like something. I use my wisdom, my life experience, to pick and choose what my children do and do not do. Thus, whether my children like or do not like Aikido has nothing to do with why they are doing Aikido nor with why they cannot quit Aikido.
It is a disease of the heart-mind to always be looking for exceptions, an incapacity to accept reality "as is" and a need to live amidst delusion or "reality" as our ego deceives us into needing.
It is not a good habit to fight with your chin up. Moreover, most Kokyu applications require a slight forward cant of the spine. So, standing straight up and down is never desired at the application level. However, at the training level, until you have learned how to organize your pelvic architecture to establish a ground path, dropping your chin and canting forward may have you adopting a bracing angle in your base of support - something you want to always avoid because of its limited work capacity and its negative affect on mobility.
Man's spirit is not captured in this societal status quo and institutional inertia via some sort of stupidity or idiocy. Rather, it is trapped and kept uncultivated and unwell through such things via what Foucault called a truth-game or what the Buddha called delusion. Meaning, one can say, it is not through ignorance that we enslave ourselves to self-sabatoging and meaningless things but rather through what an age calls "knowledge," "truth," "real," and "wise."
Think about it: Translators are not practitioners. Translators are academics - in many ways, the exact opposite of a practitioner. As such, the translation of key terms in our practice likely happened exactly like this:
Academic: Tell me one of your main ideas.
Practitioner: Ideas? Not practices?
Academic: No. I'm only interested in ideas. I'm writing a book. I'm not writing a manual.
Practitioner: An idea, not a practice?
Academic: That's right. A concept, an idea. Tell me one.
Academic: Sure. What's that?
Practitioner: Well, it's hard to explain.
Practitioner: Because it only makes sense via a practice, and you only want an idea.
Academic: Whatever. Well, what do the kanji mean at least? I know each character has a meaning. What does each one mean?
Practitioner: Hmmmm. I'm not sure that's going to help you. In fact, it may be very misleading.
Academic: Okay, forget the concept. Forget "mushin." Just tell me what each character means.
Practitioner: Okay, but kanji all have multiple meanings, and the meanings make sense via a context.
Academic: Well what is the context here then?
Practitioner: The practice.
Academic: Whatever. Just throw out some of the possible meanings for each kanji then.
Practitioner: The first one is a kind of negative, or the absence of something. The second one is your inner most sense of self.
Academic: Hmmmm. I do not think that's that hard. A negative in a compound word is like using "un" or "non" or in a phrase like using the word "no." Inner sense of self? Like our mind or or heart, or our spirit? No, like our mind. So like "un-mind," or "non-mind"? No! Wait! Like "No Mind"?
So, with what are future generations left? Well, fast forward a bit, add a few more academics to the mix, throw in some debates, keep a sense of truth with a capital "T," make a value system out of a certification system, continue the process of devaluing practice, experience, and action, continue propagating the myth that words and concepts have meaning outside of context, hold onto the superstition that Man's intellect can solve all matters he/she would ever face, etc., and in time you not only have every non-practitioner understanding mushin as "No Mind," you even have practitioners understanding it as such. At that point, it won't matter that one could point to concrete examples from masters of the past saying in essence, "Whatever you do, do NOT understand mushin as 'No Mind.'" No way is that going to matter because all you want to do at that point is sell out the lecture hall, fill it with academics and any other non-practitioner you can sell a ticket to, so you can then do the book tour and the podcast tour, by just utilizing the language everyone with money in the pot is already using. Yay!
In time, then you have this ideal in Zen or Budo: Spock the Vulcan. All practitioners should seek to be Vulcan, without emotion. And, you have this belief that Man can and should have a mind empty of all thought capable of producing emotion. Sure, there are then many variations on this theme, but they all share the IDEA that Man can stop being Man, stop being human, and become alien, become Other. An example of this is the idea of "not being attached to your thoughts." This is better than the former but it's all idea-based and does not take into account that no human ever has ever been able to have thoughts without an attachment to them simultaneously arising. So, instead, let's understand mushin from the point of a practice, as an action, from what I call a "You-Do" and in contrast to what is an "I-Think": "Mushin," then, at a basic level, is the skilled practice of reconciling the self-attachment that arises with thought-attachment. The next question of course is: "How do I do that?"
One of the greatest ironies of life is that as we live through the reality of impermanence, as we age, as we see love fade, children leave, parents die, material things become meaningless, and as we come to face our own death, rather than becoming less sure of ourselves, more humble, we in fact become more sure, more rigid, being more in denial of the reality in which we live.
In many ways, the goal of training is a matter of developing ourselves to stop practicing cruelty toward others. We do this in part by developing ourselves so as not to be vulnerable to the cruelty of others. We then become interruptions in the cycle of Samsara. We become peace on Earth.
When I was younger, I entered into the kingdom of words, the endless debates and truth games wherein cultural capital is competed for and transferred into material capital. This was not so much due to youth as it was to that lack of experience that accompanies youth. With experience, in time, you realize two things: Such participation is a mere enactment of one's own will to power; and that one's own will to power is but a disease of the ego. With experience then, with the passage of time, the more you hear the talk of others, the more you just want to shut up and not say anything ever again.
It takes a while to figure out there is no place to run to - be patient.
With real violence, what you must avoid most is the duel. Before you measure your fighting skill via the duel know that you got yourself into a duel because your fighting tactics suck.
Task yourself with the form. Do this and you will go far. Prioritize throwing over the form, and you will not go far.
I was talking to a seven-year-old past student. On his own, he brought up that he quit the dojo because it was hard to be so disciplined.
At least he was honest.
Our greatest challenge is to detox ourselves from the moments in our life when we felt unloved, to then rewire our minds, to heal our hearts, and to purify our spirits, to rid ourselves of the ensuing ontological scar tissues of fear and of hatred and of feeling unworthy. He or she that can do this is the true warrior, he or she alone.
Of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, the first truth is "The Truth of Dukkha." Dukkha is often translated as "suffering" but its accurate meaning is much more subtle and complex. Its etymological origins reach back to describing a wagon wheel axle hole being out of alignment and that then goes on to cause an inefficient and uncomfortable ride for the people on the wagon. Dukkha not only refers to the misalignment and the ensuing uncomfortable and inefficient ride but it also refers to the emptiness of the axle hole. Therefore, "The Truth of Dukkha" is not so much just a stating of the obvious, "There is suffering," but more a describing of a complex theory of reality, one simultaneously objective and subjective: "We live amidst an emptiness with which we constantly misalign ourselves."
The Way is a way of sorrow, a way of tears. Suffering is vital to treading upon it. Even the Buddha could not start his path until he felt the sorrow of death, disease, aging, and the betrayal of his parents. His origin story reveals a great truth, how we must partake of the exact opposite of the numbing and distracting of ourselves so popular today, on how we must risk the negative, how we do ourselves great harm by trying to always stay with the positive. The truth is we are not called to God. We are chased there, chased their by our loved ones and through their betrayal.
If you want to truly realize, truly understand, you must avoid the priests and align yourself with the hermits.
This week, I had two new deshi tell me how they loved "hard" when I told them the training was going to intensify and have them operating on the horizon of always wanting to quit. I know what they meant, what they are meaning to say, the enthusiasm behind it, etc. There is some good in that. However, a huge part of me, the part that remembers how many other new students have said that same thing to me, people that have quit because of the challenges training presents, that part in me immediately reflects and thinks, "It ain't hard if you love it. It's only hard when you hate it." In that way, I return to my own training and look to do more, more until I hate the training.
In Ne-Waza, if you're using the ground to keep yourself up, you are not using your weight to keep the other guy down.
We tend to believe that we are better served by serving ourselves but this is only true if we measure ourselves by material perspectives, not taking into account the maturity of our spirit or the anti-fragility of our emotions, ignoring our growing levels of anxiety, depression, and/or deep-seated loneliness. If we instead measure by these latter perspectives, we see that we best serve ourselves by serving others.
When you open your doors to people walking by, when you do that in a culture that believes in quick fixes, one that looks for "hacks" or "leg-ups" for its children, so-called advantages over others, in a culture that romanticizes violence for adults in equal proportion that it makes people ignorant to the realities of violence, you're going to be pressed to compromise. You have a choice, to compromise or to press back and make your standards even higher. If you choose the latter, you're going to lose people every time you make that choice. Expect it. That's a good thing. Think of it as a purification of sorts, as it is precisely that - a good thing.
Martial strength is best cultivated through the catalyst of a moving weight challenging a whole-body structural organization.
The fighting folder or the tactical folder does not really exist. This is because a true fighting knife is always a fixed blade. The folder is a weapon of portability and availability. It is a "better than nothing" where "nothing" is being unarmed.
Budo in the end is many things, but this is only true from the point of view of the infinite amounts of varying commitment we see in reality. So, then, Budo is fitness, and it is also socializing, friendship, self-defense, weight management, stress detox and relief, fun, cool, exotic, etc. From the point of view of its masters, however, Budo is one thing: The practice of reconciling fear under all conditions, in all places, and for all times.
As soon as we realize how far away we are, we should realize how it was that we led ourselves astray.
In our dojo, we have a member board and a "quitter wall." Both have wood tiles, one having the names of those that are still training and one having the names of those that have quit their training, respectively. One, an outsider, might think that the "quitter wall" is some sort "slam" on past members, or some act of bravado meant to boast the egos of current members, etc., but nothing could be further from the truth. The "quitter wall" is actually a shrine of sorts, one honoring the natural forces of Pride and Fragility. These are the great dark gods of Budo, great spiritual plagues that always hover on the horizon, scavengers waiting for us to falter, to stand still long enough, to rest, energies that stop us from being the best versions of ourselves. They are the servants of the Mara that doubted the Buddha at the time of his Awakening. They were micro-vibrations in the voice of that devil, asking, "How dare you have the audacity to resist us?!" The "quitter wall" is a shrine, where we honor Pride and Fragility with the names of their victims, to note to these dark forces that we see them, that they are not invisible to us, to let them know that they will not so easily take us unaware. Additionally, we honor Pride and Fragility with the names of their victims to remember that despite all our intentions, despite everything that was just said, that we may always join the fallen, and Warrior traditions have always memorialized their fallen.
"We are nowhere near where we could be." - this is the Master's mantra.
Motivation is a beginner's problem. It is a problem for those who think training is fun or entertaining, or that it should be, people who believe hating to train is abnormal, out of the ordinary. It is for people who ignorantly believe training should and can be obstacle-free. Only beginners think like that, only beginners are concerned with motivation.
The skilled do not use discipline to get them on the mat. The skilled use discipline to rid their lives of alternatives to the mat.
There's nothing wrong with where uke is going until you want her to go some place else. It is we that cause the conflict, which we do via our rejection of the here and now and via our attachment to the idea that our wellness rests in power over others.
Kung Tzu said, "The wise man says he knows when he knows and says he does not know when he does not know." By default then, the ignorant man says he knows when he does not know.
Two children, both relatively very young. One gets tired physically, becomes tired, starts to panic, begins feeling sorry for himself, and starts to cry. One gets tired physically, becomes tired, digs deep, keeps the panic at bay, never feels sorry for himself, and forges onward. Who do you want your child to be? Decide, and then make it so.
Combat strength is developed over decades, through slow deliberate paths of action moving resistance through space in a very prescribed way. There is no quick way of developing this kind of strength.
Strength can be developed quickly, yes. But strength that is developed quickly relies on tissue adhesion for performance output. Tissue adhesion leads to a reduction in mobility. Reductions in mobility get you killed in armed combat, and all combat is armed. This is why quickly developed strength is not combat strength.
Strength is but one component of power.
For most people "training" consists of just doing techniques over and over again. But this can only suffice in the beginning, when gaining familiarity is a must, when familiarity does a lot of the needed groundwork for you. However, after a while, doing techniques over and over stops being training and transitions into mere exercise. Training, instead, is problem-oriented, directed toward a specified goal, and consists of specific practices meant to achieve these things. At that point, training looks nothing like exercise and even less like doing techniques over and over again.
Every day, you have to choose if you're going to be weaker or stronger than you are, lesser or greater. There's no "once and for all" moment, and past actions don't count worth shit. There's only what and who you decide to be in each moment. When you choose not to train, you choose to be a lesser being than you can be.
The immature Nage has to wait for Uke to stop moving before he moves. This is because the immature Nage favors a bracing relationship with the ground and Uke over a grounding relationship. A bracing relationship pins Nage and as such he must wait for Uke to stop applying pressure to his posture and body organization before he regains mobility. This happens when Uke stops moving. This is why the immature Nage needs to wait, because he is waiting to be unpinned. This is very low level Aikido.
Inward and outward te-sabaki must always simultaneously rotate, spin, and spiral.
Knowing a move, or knowing a technique, does not mean you have the skill to do that move or technique under combat conditions. Ancient Man knew this, the obvious difference between tactical architecture and martial skill. This is why Ancient Man's training paradigm was skilled-based, why it prioritized the acquisition of skill over the accumulation of techniques, why techniques were not techniques per se but mere vessels designed to transfer one from the unskilled to the skilled. Modern Man looks at this, sees no way of selling skill, sees how much longer it takes to acquire skill and how much more commitment it takes to become skilled and is immediately turned off. Modern Man then places all of his energy into the propaganda campaign of confusing the accumulation of technique with the cultivation of skill. This is the state in which we now find ourselves.
I never know who is going to see the training through or who will quit. This is why we offer the Trial Period to all at the dojo. I have seen military personnel, cops, weightlifters, ranked athletes, Crossfit coaches, Life coaches, motivational speakers, music virtuosos, professional dancers, street fighters, black belts, young people with no kids, no spouse, and a part-time job, etc., all have quit. Then I've seen a single mom with no family in town doing shift work able to keep the training going. There's no common ground at the point of origin. The common ground only starts at the first seed planting, where all those who have quit share the common trait of having an excuse and all those who have not quit share the common trait of having no excuse. Outside of this, on who makes it through and who does not, all we can comfortably say is that you probably won't make it through either. We will give you a shot either way.
I've been watch handcuffing videos and everyone rags on other cuffing methods and comes up with these straw man examples and justifications on why the other ways don't work and why their way does, but they all do the same thing: one-man handcuffing. They are all totally trapped in the box, and it's a litter box.
Combat speed comes from less movement, not from faster movement.
I believe children can be excellent at Aikido - not good just for kids. I do not believe that only music or dance should have its protégés or that only sports should have its "naturals." Parents will hear these statements and never protest against them. Yet parents will neither expect nor demand of their children the discipline and commitment necessary to do the work that brings excellence in Aikido. Parents will seldom afford Aikido the same respect they would music, dance, or sport. There is seldom the same "buy-in" for Aikido as for these other activities. The problem then is not an opposition against excellence but rather two simultaneous things: An appreciation for worldly things, such as money or fame, and a lack of appreciation for a mature spirit. This is my take, what you see if you go down the rabbit hole as far as I have.
I suppose we could make colored belts and cartoon dragon patches, trophies made of shiny metals and plastics, fetishes parents and deshi could collect to show the stages of the child's developing spirit.
Oh wait, no we can't.
I do not make you commit to training. I think it is only fair that you do not make me pretend that you have.
Budo, the Way of the Warrior, requires us to keep death, especially our own, on our minds. This is more than the mere noting of the Buddha's insights, the truths of impermanence and of emptiness. Budo done right is the way of preparing ourselves for our own final material transformation. Budo done right skills us in that ultimate ukemi, the surrendering and uniting with the truth that once we existed but now no more.
Aikido only appears to be working with material and visible leverage mechanics. In reality, Aikido utilizes the invisible and intangible but physically determining forces of friction, inertia, gravity, centrifugal energy, etc. An Aikido that only works via material fulcrums and levers is an Aikido that requires your work output capacity to be greater than the resistance you are overcoming. In practical terms, this mostly means you will need to be stronger than your opponent. An Aikido, like any art, that requires you to be stronger than your opponent is not good Aikido. That said, it is ironic that today's benchmark for martial viability is sport-MMA, a discipline that utilizes weight categories, rules that guarantee that if your opponent is stronger than you it will never be by much. Non-sport martial arts always assume your opponent is stronger and heavier than you by far. Hence, non-sport martial arts, whatever they may be, always make use of these invisible and intangible but physically determining forces. Your Aikido should too.
Armed and unarmed tactics must be seamless in nature, not sequential.
Martially, Aikido Kihon Waza is best understood as drill or as conditioning models. Kihon Waza is least understood as self-defense responses. This means then that Aikido Kihon Waza is ill-equipped for imparting combat strategy and tactics in the practitioner. If you do not know these things prior to fully investing in Aikido Kihon Waza, or if you do not have another source for such information as you are training in Aikido Kihon Waza, you are likely not going to acquire these things as a modern Aikidoka. The irony is that without this knowledge, many of the conditioning models or drills in Kihon Waza will go misunderstood and also unrecognized. Weird.
Daily training is the rule. Anything less is not just an exception. It is a departure. That said, the underlying assumption of daily training is that you will not repeat the mistakes of yesterday today. You must enter the dojo every day and not do what you have always done. This is daily training. Everything else is a departure.
The truth is we cannot learn to project until we first learn how to make ourselves projectable.
The hermit does not enter his hermitage to leave people behind. He does not enter it to be alone. On the contrary, the hermit enters his hermitage to be with God, to never be alone again. He is not the ideal loner. He is the ultimate lover.
The Way of Uke is the Way of the Carpenter. It is the Way of service, surrender, and submission - the three most powerful energies we can ever gain access to on this path of self-transformation.
Throughout the years, and undoubtedly into the future, I have been asked to teach a class, or run a seminar, requested to teach private lessons, etc. I always say, "No." I say no because I can only share my art with those I come to care about. And, it is an uncaring thing we do to someone when we suggest that periodic training, an hour here or there, a weekend, a 40-hour course, etc., will ever make up for or equate to daily or even regular (non-daily) training. “Classes,” seminars, etc., are a waste of time, generated through a conspiracy between one who wants to sell something so as to make money and one that lacks commitment and discipline but pays money so as to hide this fact from themselves.
The authentic death requires that you had lived an authentic life.
Often, the shrine in the dojo raises huge questions in people. They want to know what it means, they want to know what it represents, what's inside of it. Obviously, but not so obvious to them, they are asking the wrong person.
There are three demonstrations we should never be impressed by in Budo:
- Demonstrations by larger defenders or with attackers not larger than the defender.
- Demonstrations wherein the attacker's feet have stopped moving.
- Demonstrations that cannot be performed equally in the presence or absence of a weapon.
When Man ceases to know how to use sticks and stones as weapons, he looks to make words his weapon of choice. As a result, words hurt him. He becomes overly sensitive to them. And, when he comes up against those others that have continued to remain skilled in sticks and stones, his emotional frailty transitions into physical uselessness.
Budo requires immersion in both theory and practice, poetically referred to as the brush and the sword. Still, my teacher once warned us about what he called "the paralysis of analysis," the tendency to prioritize and argue over combat-meaningless things, such as nomenclature, "reality," designs for controlled environments, etc. Yes, as he would say, "Know your shit," but as soon as possible, as often as possible, "shut up and train."