David M. Valadez
You have to see through things, to the futility of excess, exaggeration, and flamboyancy, to the weakness for social adoration that rests at the heart of a dopamine addiction cycle that works through these behaviors. Only then, will simplicity, silence, and stillness become powerful and sacred for you.
Your mat cannot be so crowded that you unknowingly start to adjust waza to fit in the limited space. Since this happens unknowingly, tactical viability starts to be reprioritized subconsciously, such that one no longer asks “what works?” and instead asks “what works for this tiny space?” When your mat is crowded, suwari waza osae waza or ne-waza are always going to be a better training options than, for example, a tachi waza Irimi Nage with no kuzushi. Keep this in mind: For beginners, training in too small a space or too crowded a mat, also leads to a stunted spirit and a stunted Kokyu. One sees this a lot in contemporary Japan.
I would not be surprised if every messiah comes to be via his or her love of mankind. Different though from others that love, he/she is an extremist of sorts, a person that pursues purer and purer forms of love, until the only satisfactory love is communion, an absence of self. This absence of self opens the door for a communion with the divine. It then spills forth from there into a communion with his or her fellow man. But, now, this love, so charged and force-filled, because it is none other than the divine itself, and not just a love of the divine, carries with it a sharp edge. It is like a scalpel, like a blade that heals but by cutting things out, by cutting things up, by damaging tissue, so to speak. Meaning, there is a destructive aspect to it, one that is there because it is waged, yes, waged, against a population that for the most part is not in communion with the divine, a population that has an attachment to the self. It is that ancient and universal proximity of the sacred and the profane. Meaning, whenever the sacred comes into contact with the profane, the profane is radically transformed, so much so that while it may become anything there is one thing it cannot be: It cannot be the same, it cannot remain unchanged. For the person that is not ready to let go of their former self, and that includes everyone, this fact is a torturous fact, a painful and fear-filled fact. This fact then enters into conflict with the origin of the messiah’s formation, for he or she began by loving his or her fellow man, and now he or she must always destroy, must always cause pain, torture, to practice that love. As such, he or she must begin to wonder if love can be done without, if pity is enough, if service is enough, if silence is enough. He or she, because he or she is first and foremost a lover, becomes reluctant to love. He or she becomes a reluctant messiah. Bach is right: All messiahs are reluctant messiahs.
The training drills or paradigms required for gaining technical skill and for gaining spontaneous application are most often not the same. For while a highly skilled practitioner in spontaneous application can use both training environments to increase and refine both skill sets, someone less skilled or skilled only in technical training environments cannot. Spontaneous skill has always been the aim and ideal of East Asian martial arts, but it has always been the domain of masters - the relatively few. Here, I am referring to masters of spontaneous application. In fact, historically, there were no masters of technical skill. Mastery always referred to spontaneous application. Technical skill, historically, was always something marking the beginner or the intermediate. This change, the redefining of “master” to include or to substitute “mastery of technical skill,” is a modern phenomena. This is important to note because historically it was only via a master of spontaneity, that is only via a true master, that a deshi could him or herself achieve skill at spontaneous application. A technically skilled practitioner could never bring themselves or another to spontaneous application. Today, it is this combination of masters being rare and this redefining of mastery to pertain to technical skill, more than anything, that has contributed to the ineffectiveness of most traditional arts.
Mindfulness today means the “filled-mind” and does not have the Mahayana connotations associated with Mushin or Honshin that it is supposed to have. The critical historian in me strongly believes that with but a little bit of digging one would uncover in the West, especially the United States, the moment that people were led astray, the given space-time when dabbler Zen practitioners and wily Tibetan monks came together - one confusing concepts out of ignorance and one allowing the confusion for profit. The filled-mind concept has found momentum in the addressing of all the stress-related diseases plaguing modern nation states like the US, where a novice effect goes unrecognized as such and is then used to claim that the filled-mind understanding of Mushin and Honshin is an accurate understanding. Fine, innocent enough (but probably not), and this may even be a better alternative to the usual chemical addiction patterns most moderns use to address their emotional and physical frailty - the sources of all their stress-related diseases. However, this inaccurate understanding of the filled-mind is being brought into work places where stress runs rampant and there it’s being touted as a performance enhancer. An example of this is happening in law enforcement. True, Mushin and Honshin were historically touted as performance enhancers, but we are not dealing with these concepts. In fact, we are dealing with their opposite: a filled mind. Meaning, there is nothing performance enhancing about a filled mind. It can only be detrimental to actual performance applications. This should stop, and its reason for stopping can be found even without doing the history I know is there and even without understanding the traditional concepts. For the original justification for the utility of mind-filling practices was only measuring for stress management and stress reduction - not performance enhancement. There’s no “science” backing this filled-mind concept and performance enhancement. There is only centuries of tradition, countless pages of philosophical introspections, and countless Budo practitioners who know the filled-mind may help with stress at a beginner level but it is detrimental to any field performance.
Handgun skill without a martial arts base comes to almost nothing when the fighting is up close and personal. A martial arts base without a handgun skill is something for sport or for ego only. These things should be considered when one is reflecting upon the concept of “warrior.”
My breath, my mind, my body, and my reality, are all things balanced between the capacities of control and non-control, so to speak. Meaning, for example, I may take conscious control of my breath, but my body may breathe for me. Among these things, like this, there is a dynamism made up of subject and object, inside and outside, will and destiny, environment and imagination. Like this, everything is both one and many, both me and not me, both its own thing and something else. How different is this from the dynamic of Nage and Uke? It is the same! And, how could the dynamic of Nage and Uke happen outside of this larger dynamism anyways?! Ha! Like in the Nage/Uke dynamic, Aiki and musubi, wu-wei, is The Way, is the aim and the solution, the solving of this koan we call consciousness. Ponder this well.
Hip rotation is seldom the source of power being utilized in Aikido. This is true even when the waistline is turned. Often, what is at issue is a weight shifting or a placing of one’s hip so as to have it act as a fulcrum for something else or a desired skeletal alignment. When hip rotation is used as a power source, it is better to think of it as only being a matter of inward turning rotation. Meaning, when I want my lead right foot to generate force inwardly, I think of my right hip turning inwardly; when I want my lead right foot to generate force outwardly, I think of my left hip turning inwardly. I do not think of my right hip turning outwardly. Attempting to turn the lead hip outwardly causes one’s stance to overly narrow, making it unstable, and has one throwing into one’s own shikaku. This is why practitioners that throw with this misunderstanding must always move after they throw in this fashion. They are falling themselves and must step to replace their base of support under their outwardly moving line of gravity.
The fettered mind will cling to things, making you unaware, making your skill and athleticism irrelevant.
A weak person cannot do shomen suburi correctly. They will tend to counterbalance the sword with their torso, causing them to lean backwards slightly. This in turn requires their pelvis to unlock from the Kokyu-Ryoku organization, which in turn cause the stress line to move backwards towards the heel. In this way, there is no static stress being applied to the pelvis and no dynamic stress being aligned so as to condition the rear posterior chain. Like this, the weak remain internally weak regardless of how many sword cuts they do. I suggest, like with barbells, start with a lighter sword or even no sword, and work to keep the pelvis locked, the torso over the pelvis, and the stress line over what we call the mid-foot, no further rearward than just behind the ball of the foot. If a deshi does not do this, he or she will only develop the kind of strength that diminishes with age.
The ultimate form of self control is self transcendence.
There is only self-transformation. The delusion of transforming others is a delusion of the ego. To hope for a positive change in others is to abide in ignorance. Therefore, the concern with and prioritization of self transformation cannot be considered a selfish or self-centered act. For there is no altruistic or utilitarian alternative to addressing the greater good but by addressing it at the personal level.
I find this to be one of the biggest challenges for people on the Path in general, the ability to see the difference between gold and shit, being able to distinguish what is valuable and what is not, what is quality and what is not. It seems to be a human problem, and whether one solves it or not is not at all influenced by what exposure one has had or has not had. Not even the length of exposure seems to be truly influential. So too for the moment of exposure, whether we experience true quality and value from childhood or not - all of these things seem inert.
The solution, its finding, this skill to distinguish accordingly, seems to be something innate, as if one had lived enough lives and has developed enough karma to possess this skill - the assigning of people, ideas, actions, words, thoughts, things, etc., their proper value. This skill seems to be something one has or does not have and that is all there is to it. God seems to call His chosen, but before that, the Chosen were able to choose God.
When you are on The Way, you will do small and large things the same. Meaning, a large thing will draw your full intention, but it will not come to overwhelm you; a small thing will also draw your full attention, and you will perform it as if it is a great and important thing. People not on The Path will think you the fool for seeing and treating small things as if they are large things. They may mock you for being so attentive to detail, for applying maximum effort toward mission success, for giving your all for things they dismiss as trivial and unimportant. Others may even think you an idiot for giving such attention. Those on The Way, however, will understand that you are just being who you are - a walker on The Path. They understand that you can and would never do anything else but this.
To use a sport stress testing environment for determining combat effectiveness is akin to using a pool to determine the seaworthiness of a ship.
Here are some of the major problems with martial arts in law enforcement:
- Law Enforcement has unknowingly borrowed the commercial and sport martial arts' assumptions that learning technique is equivalent or substitutionary with and for cultivating skill. As such, Law Enforcement has ignorantly adopted the economic driven pedagogy of the seminar format - a format by design that prioritizes the transmission of information over the cultivation of skill.
- Law Enforcement looks to commercial and sport martial arts for its technical base, but commercial and sport martial arts are reductions of larger systems and as such are meant only to fully function in specialized or idealized environments - reduced environments. This contradicts the fact that street combat, street self-defense, arresting combative subjects, or addressing street ambushes, etc., is mostly marked by a lack of identifying or limiting principles and conditions.
- Law Enforcement, in looking to commercial and sport reductions, does not fully integrate or make interdependent (i.e. interrelate) empty hand fighting or self-defense with weapon fighting or weapon self-defense.
- Law Enforcement, in looking to commercial and sport martial arts, like them, has no systems or practices in place for developing and cultivating the highly combat effective and victory determining aspects of awareness, strategy, and spiritual maturity.
It is one more historical irony in this art of ours, that the Founder was a deeply religious man, yet the art is abundantly populated by secularist and atheists and by sensei that say nothing and have nothing to say about God, the sacred, the holy, our soul, our mortality, and the struggle we have with our own personal extinction. What a joke to then talk about "the Founder's technique" or Aikido legacy!
The modern aikidoka would so love to be able to jump on the modern discourse of warriorhood, but he finds himself to be a non-believer, void of a code, and weaponless. He is no warrior. He is an exerciser.
Here is your code: Be humble, satisfied that you are dust, serve others to the point at which you disappear, make your life a ritual of sacrifice, lift the burdens of others, light the way through the Darkness for them, raise the dying, heal the sick, and disappear into the Void from which you come and go.
Do not adopt a unique or specialized stance. Above all, do not make an unnatural stance natural by over and over insisting on breaking the aforementioned first rule.
The Beloved is a despiser of limits - because that which has limits cannot be love.
The first gate you must pass through in order to make your Aikido a spiritual practice is to cease being dependent upon the strength of your arms and shoulders. Start there.
How does one know the aspect of Air but by its movement, when it shapes itself as Wind. And, how does one know the wind but by the movement of flowers. It is natural that the aspect of Void feels closest to the movement of flowers, but even more so to their stillness then.
In your Aikido, you must make no sense to either the martial aikidoka or to the spiritual aikidoka. Their inability to reconcile you is your sign that you are truly on The Path.
Your sword must feel as familiar in your hands as the shape of your lover’s lower back, at her small, or as familiar as the shape of your eldest son’s upper back when he has become stronger than you. If it does not, it is because you are not holding any of these things enough. All this then you must remedy.
Because true Aikido can only be practiced by an awakened being, the beginner can only practice it at a level for which they can muster up the faith necessary to believe in something that is totally contrary to who they are currently. This is why we say, “To practice the art, you must have faith.”
Because the modern person lives such a fake existence, fake pressures, fake goals, fake consequences, he feels it inconsequential to be plagued by fear. He does not know of the detriment that fear brings to all levels of performance because he lives in a world of make believe. The warrior however knows how important it is to be able to reconcile fear. This is because everything he or she does is for real.
Movement with purpose.
Presence of mind.
Every breath with meaning.
You must pursue power so earnestly that you realize that this pursuit is itself a weakness.
Ancient man was right to make a mystery out of human will. For there is no one thing as powerful that is equally as weak.
The state of Aikido is not the fault of MMA or BJJ. Aikidoka are soft because they talk too much and do not do enough repetitions. Their skill is lacking because they are not corrected enough and not held accountable for their lack of improvement. Their art is shallow and hollow because they are taught by atheists, secularists, and materialists. One always reaps what one sows.
Most aikidoka will have poor details in their waza, wrong weight-distribution, improper pelvic angle, improper use of one’s skeleton, tension, a fettered mind, etc., only to have that overlooked by the completed throw or the final pin - should they actually make it this far in the given technique. It is as if, for them, all the errors can be wiped away because some outcome, any outcome, happened. This reminds me of how most people live their lives, how they live their relationships in their lives. They go ahead acting cruelly, cold, they stop courting, they stop being reasonable and responsible, they stop smiling and stop laughing, they stop serving, stop seducing, stop caring about their appearance and behavior, then, at death, should they make it that far, all, in the face of death, gets overlooked and a love that never manifested or that disappeared long ago is somehow recognized as not being absent.
To get stronger, tougher, more enduring, you’re going to have to be pressed. Every time you come up for air, every beat you take a rest, every leeway, exception, and act of mercy you rely upon, you lose your opportunity to develop that strength, toughness, and endurance.
As the man of excellence does everything excellently, no matter how large or how small, no matter how much he agrees or disagrees with things, etc., as he demonstrates excellence because he is a man of a excellence, the man of mediocrity is easily convinced that his excellent effort first requires his pleasure, his liking. He ignorantly believes that excellence rests outside of himself, that it instead rests in what pleases him. All his past examples that note him as a mediocre man hold no proof of his incapacity for excellence for him. Instead he only awaits to shine forth in a different light and for the first time as a man of excellence, when he stumbles across some future juncture of pleasure and action, an imagined place whereupon he one day hopes to find himself standing at its center. Fool.
I hold that training, drilling, conditioning, etc., plays a big role in an art’s overall effectiveness and that this role is separate from strategic or conceptual frameworks. Training, drilling, unconscious-competency, artistic spontaneity, etc., cannot be downplayed when it comes to martial practicality. However, most Aikido dojo, as well as martial art schools in general, verses something like boxing gyms or wrestling camps, tend to overemphasize things like tactical architecture, technique, kinesiological concept, and fighting philosophy. In such places, actual skill embodiment, or what I am calling training and drilling, takes a back seat or has no seat at all. This mis-prioritization has much to do with the art’s and the individual’s martial ineffectiveness.
My own historical research is showing that moving a human being from form to non-form (from basic to principle/concept) was always a very difficult thing to do. By default, many were not able to do it and even less were able to teach it. The often unsaid downside of this is that more times that not a principle and a spontaneous application often reflect back on the basic, leading a practitioner to realize that they didn't really understand the basic at all, and providing them with deeper and more advanced insights. Without this gained insight, without this over and over again, for centuries, multiplied by the masses of people now training in the martial arts, one cannot help but to think that this plays a role in basics not only being made the apex of a given art, such as in popular Aikido, but that the basics in said art are going largely misunderstood, such as in popular Aikido.
Once at a seminar where my teacher was going over the fine points of generating power, an attendee pointed to an extraordinarily large fellow participant and rhetorically and mockingly asked my teacher, “What do you do for someone this size?” Like a spark from a stone, my teacher replied, “Some fellows you just have to shoot.” The attendee, feeling his polemical trap avoided, pressed more, “That doesn’t seem fair, not right.” My teacher replied, “A person can’t be deader.”
I would suggest that most of the modifications we see that are aiming to “fix” the art’s Kihon Waza, and the modifications we have seen over the decades that have “broken” the art’s Kihon Waza, are all originating from practitioners not being able to do the bare minimum internal skills said tactical architectures assume to be present.
The myth of the awakening MOMENT is a thing for frail spirits. Weak minds and weak bodies seek them like a sprinter seeks for the 100 meter line tape in a marathon. As a new practitioner, as a beginner, you are by default weak, and by default you seek this moment. Your incapacity at endurance makes you a sprinter and you tend to prefer sprinter-like things. As you do, like with all scams, there's then a person who appears by some sort of accident or coincidence, as is always the case, standing there right in front of you. Lo and Behold! He happens to sell awakening moments! Like with all scams, the con artist, whether he sells awakening or whether he sells bridges in the Everglades, takes advantage of your greed and your frailty, your still innate abhorrence toward discipline and toward doing the work. Stop wanting something for nothing! Stop wanting nothing, and get back to work. When you see the Golden Buddha, tell him to fuck off! Tell him you are busy with more important things, things that count, that mean something - the continuous work.
Aikido is not a set of techniques. It is a manner in which all techniques are executed and the purpose for which they are performed.
An art’s majority population is by default a dabbler culture. As such, they break and fix things like dabblers do. Then, because they represent the majority, because it’s there reality, because it’s their discourse, all the breaking goes unnoticed and blamed on something else or on someone else, and all the fixes appear needed and sound. However, the plain truth is that people didn’t understand the art, do not have the skills to practice the art, and only work to match their own art with their own lack of personal investment and training.
In Tai Chi, this is where you get the misunderstandings of center line and the incorrect ways of practicing sticky hands, for example. As a parallel example, this is where you get the idea of mixing arts with Aikido.
The point: internal skills are very much a part of Aikido, but you’d be way closer to finding that most rare practitioner that that can deal with a double leg takedown or a “real” punch in an Aikido dojo than you will find aikidoka that can do any internal skills. Yet, everyone says they know what Aikido is, whether it is broken or not, and what fixes it needs. Weird. Arts cannot break, but sure as Hell it’s often the case that individual practitioners cannot fox themselves.
The arts are unique unto themselves only for the beginner. For the advanced, the arts merge into one, so that a thing that can be done in one place and at one time can be done in another place and at another time. When your arts are but a mix, keep training. You’re not there yet.
What’s important, what is telling, is not how many years you’ve trained in the art but rather how many hours per day you train in your art.
Yin Ki is not equivalent to going backwards, and so neither is Aiki. Hence, you cannot do Aikido if all you can do is retreat.
Movement and wisdom must be so pursued that you reach a point where silence and stillness is all that comes to matter.
Your power as a deshi is to determine whatever level of practice you want for yourself. My power as sensei is to never recognize an inauthentic practice as an authentic one. I cannot make you train beyond any level at which you want to train, and you cannot make me stop thinking that your half-assing when you are half-assing.
Every manifestation of the art is an interpretation of the art. Every interpretation is a result of a desired-for aim and a set of assumptions held as providing said aim. This is reality, regardless of what we would like. One cannot be against reality and be wise. Thus, this issue or the problem is not desired aims and/or assumptions, not really. The issue is desired aims being adopted unconsciously, such that contradictions manifest themselves amidst our set of assumptions, and/or our set of assumptions being unconsciously adopted, such that our desired aim is replaced by some other unknown and unwanted thing.
How can one know what is wrong or lacking in Aikido before one has reached the limits of Aikido, before one has fulfilled all of its aspects? One cannot. And, how can one ever fulfill all of its aspects? How can one ever find its limits? One cannot. Thus, just fix your own Aikido and all will be fine.
I would not say that Chiba Sensei’s methodology changed. I changed or what I do changed as my Aikido became my own Aikido and no longer his. It is the same with Iseri Sensei or Nomura Sensei and their Aikido. I learned a lot from them too, but I do not do their Aikido either. While this may be a part of my Aikido lineage, it would be incorrect to see me as doing their Aikido or as having my Aikido captured by their Aikido. Certainly then, and especially if one thinks that the best mark of a deshi is to never develop their own Aikido but to instead do everything exactly like their teacher, or to do only what their teacher did, I do not hold that my Aikido lineage and influences authenticate my Aikido. By such standards, I would say I am one of their worst students. For me, I authenticate my Aikido - not my teachers, nor my clothes, nor my hairstyle, nor the design of my dojo, etc. If one holds that the mark of a good deshi is taking what a teacher gives them and making it their own, then I am a halfway decent student to these giants in the art.
Developing internal aspects is a long way from a martial application, in that it does not involve a one-to-one attack and defense paradigm. Internal aspects are a skill or an attribute and the drills for developing them are not necessarily martial. As squatting is a long way from a martial application, a strong posterior chain is certainly going to help a martial application. Internal aspects help too.
In suburi training, I’m trying to get my deshi to use the bokken as a body development tool for internal organization and conditioning. That came from my reading or overhearing many retiring Aikido Shihan answering the question, “What do you recommend current and future Aikidoka should do to keep improving?” Their answer was, “More suburi.” I took that, feeling it important, and combined it with my own experience in developing internal aspects, plus Rippetoe’s position on back squats and Pavel’s aspects on the kettlebell swing, to address the problem that I for a long while, plus my students, and much of the Aikido world, do lots of suburi but show little internal conditioning for it. I surmised that one cannot simply lift the bokken up and down to get the apex benefits of said training, like one cannot simply lift the barbell up and down or swing the bell back and forth. I surmised that the tool must be moved through space in a particular way and by a particular means in order to develop such things. When one moves the resistance (the bokken) through space in this particular way and by this particular means, one should be able to test for particular attributes to see if one is doing so. For example, that is what one can see in the video on Kiri Gaeshi.
The non-practitioner hears or sees something, and he first says to himself, “How do I disagree with this?” Then, very quickly, he says, so as to convince himself, so as to hide himself from himself, “I am better than this!” From there he goes on to criticize what was said or presented with half-baked ideas and an even less developed actual practice. The practitioner, on the other hand, the deshi, always says upon hearing or seeing something, “What can I learn from this?”
I train more in one day than most train in one week, and even more train in one month. Your training should always be like this, a matter of thinking hour-to-hour, not day to day or week to week. “What can I do now,” that is your mantra.
To think of form, or with form, or for form, these are beginner levels. They have always been beginner levels. Since the ancients, to be trapped in form is to abide in ignorance.
Do not kid yourself. The problem with any martial art is your martial art. And, the problem with your martial art is that you do not train enough. Train enough - start there, and you will be surprised how problems disappear.
Do you think you can really ever satisfy the spiritually immature, that you could meet every need or answer every question, satisfy any aspect of them at all? Sometimes, humans are not humans. Sometimes, humans are hungry ghosts.
When you wrestle with a demon, even if you lose, some of the wisdom that he has gained by being an eternal and ageless beast becomes yours. When you win, all of that wisdom is yours. Don’t avoid your demons. Hunt them and engage.
Mushin is a skill, like marksmanship or playing an instrument or driving a race car are skills. Understanding Mushin as a skill has a great impact on how one trains. This is because, like with all body/mind skills, Mushin is a perishable skill. Meaning, like all perishable skills it is hugely affected, even determined by the following:
- The quality of one's training
- The frequency of one's training
- The length of the duration between one's last training and the incident at which the skill is required.
People looking for a state or something akin to a state in Mushin think they reach said state and then they are good to go. People working for a Mushin as a perishable skill know that they have to keep training to keep the skill effective. They also know that there are limits to the skill, and so they train to increase and maintain those limits.
"Meditation Master" - I heard this term the other day. What a joke! Is there a Master Breather? More like a masturbator, I say! Where are these limits of meditation whereby one can think to have reached them or to have gained proximity to them, such that he or she is any closer than others to all that meditation holds, is, and provides? If a person is still working with proximity or with achievement, then he/she has not seen the limitlessness of meditation. Such a person has barely gone anywhere, let alone closer to some ideal by which they can be measured and weighed against others and come out on top! It is the same with "Aikido Master." These are all people still working with limits, arguing over what is Aikido and what is not Aikido. These are all beginners that have not seen or felt or become the limitlessness. It all reminds me of Job: Before Job actually came to know God, he debated endlessly with other "elders" - masters - on what God was and how he acted, what he did and what he did not, how he thought, and on what he did not think, etc. These elders knew all there was to know, or knew more than the next person! Then, Job comes to know God for real, and he comes to another place and another understanding, one wherein he says only, "I am dust." This is the experience of limitlessness! If there is an Aikido Master or a Meditation Master, and you want to truly meet him or her, then look for the one that says, "I don't know shit," "I am nothing," "I am dust" and work one day so that you too can become dust.
Our sense of quality of life, when you ponder most deeply, is best determined by but two things: Our subjective sense of mobility and the intimacy of our relationships. This is because at our innermost core we are moving and social beings and little else. By extension, with even half as much pondering, one can see then how important discipline is to our existence, as one can easily understand why when we see unwell and/or unhappy people, we see undisciplined people. It takes discipline to maintain and improve our mobility, to ensure that though aging, sickness, and injury our flexibility and strength do not equally deteriorate. Is this not true? For our relationships, intimacy is based upon seeing to and meeting the needs of others. Intimacy is a matter of never shying away from affirmation and support. It is a laboring for those we claim to love. Ultimately, structurally, our intimacy and the wellness we receive from our relationships are derived from a work capacity, one we hold according to whether or not we are and remained disciplined to do such work. When we feel lonely, isolated, depressed, when we are of those those souls that feel coldness from our spouses, our children, our parents, and siblings, etc., we feel thusly because ultimately we have become slothful people, undisciplined people. Long before we are unwell, we are lazy.
You cannot just do Live Training environments. You have to be coached through them or form will deteriorate. You have to maintain the integrity of the live environment. Otherwise, there’s no learning and no improvement. Start slow and with simple rules and as form is maintained, speed it up and take away rules.
With a given range or mission, some specialization has to occur by default in comparison to other ranges or other missions. But within that given range or mission, specialization is a weakness waiting to be capitalized upon by your adversary. Within a given range or mission, every aspect of your tactical response must fit with, must support, must supplement, and must unite with all your other aspects. For this, mixing is not enough. Only cohesion will do.
How can one be a martial artist and not be athletic? One cannot. Fix this as you train then.
You cannot have a mixed martial art until you have a tactical specialization of or in Jiu-Jitsu. When you have a tactical specialization in or of Jiu-Jitsu, you don’t really have Jiu-Jitsu. People that say, “Aikido is this and not that,” they have no idea what they are talking about. They have no sense of history or how our time came to be.
- Awareness up and out
- Rapid direction change
- Aimed Aggression
- Angle of Deviation
- Eye-Hand coordination
- Facing fear
- Team Concept
- Battlefield Strategy
- Multi-relational thinking
- Dynamic Adaptation
For kids, a very serious business!
Today, in determining the effectiveness of a martial architecture, it is common to use the most artificial, from the Latin "artificium" or "handcraft," of proving environments to determine what is most authentic. This irony is compounded by another cultural assumption that holds that such a handcrafted proving environment is not actually manifested unless both combatants contest for space. As a result, the very sound tactic of not contesting for space, and the often present hilarity that ensues when one combatant continues to contest for space while one does not, automatically generates a cry for "unrealistic," or at the very best, "realistic on untrained people." Either way, this very reason-based and sound tactic ends up being dismissed as unreasonable and unsound while asking someone to contest for space against a person with a knife or against a person much larger than you goes unquestioned. I say, if you are allowing yourself to be pressed upon, you are not doing Aikido and what you are doing is limited to unarmed attackers of similar size and weight. Yes, have your training partners push and press upon you, but your art becomes less authentic if you press and push back.
When asking something of another context, be it cultural or historical, you gain more by asking where and why your own question arose than by receiving any answer.
One has to understand the problem of life and existence before one understands the depths of Budo. There is undoubtedly a relationship between spiritual maturity and wellness.
When you have gained enough experience and wisdom, you cannot help but to feel sorry for the one who is so sure about everything.
Pain is so central to the Way that I am convinced one can measure spiritual maturity by the relationship one has to his or her pain.
It is the spirit of the ascetic that transforms abuse into trial, and suffering into purification. This truth can be worked backwards and forwards: If you are feeling or sensing that you are being abused, then you lack spirit. Your practice is no asceticism then and it has no capacity for self-transformation. If your practice is trial-free, then you have no need for spirit, your practice is no asceticism, and it has no capacity for self-transformation.
Spontaneity in the art, takemusu aiki, is useless without sound tactical architectures. To be spontaneous with crap is still a matter of being crap. Equally, a spontaneity that separates itself from the cosmology of Yin and Yang, or that separates itself from a moral platform based upon a self-detachment, cannot be Aikido. Likewise, mindfulness practices, whether mindfulness is understood as a hyper-focus capacity or a flow state, that are void of a cosmology, or void of a moral platform, are but a waste of time.
The question of artistic viability in martial settings skirts the fact that a chasm of thought and action exists between technique and the application of technique. The truth is that there are very few practitioners today capable of artistic spontaneity in or with the traditional battlefield arts. This is a fact that has remained true throughout history. Technical spontaneity has always been a rare state of being, one very much akin to the marked numerical difference that exists between practitioners of Buddhism and Buddhas. As a result, the combative "failures" of the traditional or battlefield arts that are often witnessed today should be more attributed to this rarefied skill and the huge unlikelihood that the practitioner under observation actually has it. In line with the Zen caveats of old that warned the seeker to not be fooled by colored robes, titles, or the number of sutra recitations a "teacher" does, and to instead seek the teacher that has seen through to his or her own nature, the Budo seeker that is looking for a combat-effective traditional art or a combat-effective variant of a given art should look past everything else and find the sensei that truly has achieved technical spontaneity.
The “middle ground,” “balance,” and “both,” are still inside the box.
As the Way shines forth in you, it comes to reflect others to themselves. This will both attract and repel others but neither will be for a good reason.
There is as much reason for the crowded mat as there is for the empty mat.
Petals floating on the wind
Beauty here then gone
Please note that while we are often so preoccupied with others excluding us, it is we ourselves that more often keep us apart from others.
On the issue of the superficial taking precedence over substance - a huge problem in the martial arts and on all spiritual paths.
The work is everything. Talent without work is talent uncultivated; work alone, in time, can overcome talent without work. There are two ever-present adversaries to this truth. Or, at least they appear to be two. They also appear to be contrasting. In truth, they are one. They are often thought of an over abundance of confidence and a lack of confidence. We are told the overly confident person tends not to work because they feel themselves prepared and not in need of work, certainly not additional work and not continuous work. The person lacking confidence self-sabatoges themselves, we are told, because they think the goal beyond them. Hence, there is no point to do the work, to doing any work. In fact, these matters are neither issues pertaining to polar aspects of confidence. They are of the singular issue of self attachment, of an absence of ego reconciliation. They are yang and yin versions of the same inability to get out of one’s own way.
The serious deshi knows his fastest way to skill is through efficient training. He's serious because he has this concern - concern over wasting time. He's serious because his concern is sincere enough to have him concerned with training efficiently. Meaning, training inefficiently, wasting his time, doing something in a way that it leads to nothing, is like a poison to him. Just showing up, repeating things haphazardly with no concern on efficient training, or relatedly with no ability to acquire skill quickly, these are abhorrent notions to the serious deshi.
The mystic is primarily concerned with mechanistic utility. He did not reach this concern through a rejection of truth and a corresponding rejection of reason, as he is often accused of by people from the priestly and scholarly classes. To the contrary, by the same held concern with truth and through the same application of reason, the mystic concluded that "truth" must first of all work, and that any "truth" that cannot be used in some way inherently remains false. This perspective holds for the mystic even in fields such as moral philosophy and human psychology. For example, the mystic's concern with humility holds a practical value and does not at all rest upon an argument for moral virtue, nor is it related to herd mentalities or the political cultivation of biases associated with tyrannical governments - though these are often the charges levied against the mystic by priests and scholars. Again, to the contrary, and upon applying his primary investigative tools of observations and assessment, the mystic more correctly understands the practical matter of things, that pride lends itself to the integrity of the outer membranes of our self-consciousness and experience of self, that this integrity generating energy is pride itself, and that it does not allow for the necessary permeability required for self-dissolution and the subjective experience and utilization of self-universalization, or what is often described as the penetration of and communion with the Divine. Under repeated observation wherein this experienced or its absence is being identified, the mystic sees that pride's leading to the absence of self-permeability causes a subjective experience of stress and a sense of increasing pressure under techniques and practices dependent upon permeability and/or even under regular conditions associated with daily life. Without the practical permeability associated with and derived from humility, as observed by the mystic, the external stimuli remains external to the experience of self and the sense of self thereby comes to perceive only more and more pressure and stress - what is colloquially called pain and suffering. The available solutions, and what is most commonly practiced by most at this point, are usually limited to: stopping the external generating force (eg. Trying to control others and the world), seeking to move away from the external force (eg. Fleeing and disengaging, cowardice), or desensitizing ourselves to the effects of the external stimuli (eg. Self-medication and drug addiction). Upon seeing the uselessness or the extremely limited utilization of such so-called solutions, due to his concern with mechanistic utility, the mystic recognizes by default, but quite reasonably, that pride is to be avoided and that humility is to be sought for, cultivated, adopted, and practiced. Additionally, as the mystic’s concern with humility revolves solely around what he can do with it, so too is his working with and for Divine Communion. He is not out to determine the nature of history and/or to locate and identify a genie in the sky, such that if able to do so then what he says and does becomes true. Rather, he skills himself in permeability, the dissolution of self, and the experience of self-universalization to reduce and neutralize systemic pressure and stress and it’s related pain and suffering. And, every time that he is able to do this, he knows he is aligned with Truth and that the priest and the scholar are wrong and have missed the point.
Not all motivations are equal. Take the motivations for working out, for making and addressing body conditioning a part of one's practice. Some will not do it or will not do it to a high degree until they find some motivation for doing so, something external to them and to their practice. It might be a matter of an upcoming competition, or some new job requirement, or even wanting to adopt a body for donning bathing suits. Either way, motivations external to the self, motivations tied to mundane and to temporary things, especially of these kinds, will not suffice for long and as a result are inferior aspects of an inferior practice. Better off one would have been just to seek strength abstractly, to uphold the quality of the dojo, or to simply do what one's teacher says. These are more lasting reasons, more ephemeral, harder to obtain, and thus more lasting and more penetrating in the exercise of self-transformation. If one chases mundane things, things one can catch, then one will catch them, and that catching will be no big deal, will be a small thing. One will thus remain a small thing.
The secret to skill improvement is to find unacceptable what most others find acceptable.
As one prepares to enter the mat at the start of class, her mind should say, “Time to suffer.” The weak and the uncommitted will hear this and think, “Lunacy,” but the committed will know to do otherwise is where the true lunacy rests.
The person that finds and keeps his center amidst suffering feels no pain. He feels only the steady passage of Time.
It is inaccurate to say that Aikido’s globally present martial invalidity is a product of History or of the Founder or some other abstract and unidentifiable group or idea. The truth is, individuals are not forced to do Aikido-Lite today by anything or anyone external to the self. The truth is people choose to do Aikido-Lite. The truth is people want to do Aikido-Lite. Aikido-Lite is consistent with and a product of the homeostatic energy in all of us, that energy the works to maintain the status quo, the energy that allows us to remain the same and un-transformed.
You cannot be a warrior without aggression. However, for the warrior, aggression is not anger. For the warrior, aggression is presence under a yang variant. The warrior then uses calmness and centeredness, but not to have a default setting of passiveness. The warrior, contrarily, uses calmness and centeredness to gain more presence, and thus to have more aggression if or when needed.
You come into the dojo to engage Life, not to escape it.
A prophecy, like a destiny, has many faces, many ways of arriving.
Most of us are unconscious to our self. Rare are those of us that truly see and know ourselves, that live a life of introspection, one on par with Nietzschean heroics. We are a species more likely to feel how we feel for no other reason that we have always felt thusly. So too with Truth, where we know it because of no more a reason than it is us that is doing the knowing. We believe what we believe and need no other ground than it is us that is doing the believing. For most of us, conversing with another does no more for us than not conversing with another. For most of us, all words and all relationships are perfectly equal to silence and aloneness.
Every time your Uke stops moving, especially when they stop moving in an upright position, that’s your technique failing under combative and spiritual requirements.
We can only save ourselves. We serve others, not save others.
A person that has mastered the art is able to expand its boundaries, nay, expose them as fictions. Such a person is also able to take it apart and rebuild it and shape it as needed or as wanted. Such a person is no longer captured by the art. He or she moves at will at both the art’s microscopic and macroscopic levels. He or she is both the art’s greatest proponent and the art’s most subversive energy. Thus, I say, the true master is always an enemy of the art.
The person that progresses to the highest levels of the art does so in large part through repelling energies. He or she finds the yet-unimproved-self or the remaining-unimproved-self disgusting, shameful, vulgar, etc. Such a person finds no satisfaction whatsoever in their current self. Alternately, the person that does not improve hears this truth and hears only of a balancing trick or a paradox: “How does one not defeat oneself when toying with such negativity?” or “Why does one person suffer demoralization and depression by such self-rejection and another not?” To this, the person that improves answers, “It is your concerns with how and why that are stopping you.”
Without internal power or internal organization and utilization, Aikido waza is reduced to isolated external applications of leverage. While some mechanical advantages are gained by such isolated external mechanisms, the relative work capacity of these mechanics is quite low and often totally insufficient for the martial task at hand. Nearly everyone in Aikido would acknowledge this truth, but nearly everyone in Aikido will say that they either have or are working toward this internal organization and utilization, and this is but a great deception.
Every time your Uke is standing upright and balanced, that’s your opponent kicking your ass. Every time your Uke stops moving in the sagittal plane, that’s your opponent kicking your ass. Every time Uke makes you take an adjustment step so you can regain your balance, that’s your opponent kicking your ass. Every time you need to move two or more steps to Uke’s one step in order to complete the technique, that’s your opponent kicking your ass. Every time you need more than 10% of your potential energy to throw or pin Uke, that’s your opponent kicking your ass. Every time your movement needs to stop so your mind can catch up with Uke, that’s your opponent kicking your ass.
Keeping centered in the dojo is one thing, as is keeping centered on the mountain top and as is keeping centered on the zafu. Keeping centered at work, with family, or while fighting for your life, remains something entirely different.
We are being convinced by soft people, the frail majority, that we should seek a life of comfort, free of pain, wherein turmoil and trial is absent. Yet, there is nothing more than hardship that brings us closer together and that fills our life with meaning and with purpose. The wise will never shy away from battle, both internal and external.
Many people, usually those not teachers, or those that are not successful teachers, have many caveats they dish out to those that do not train with a teacher on how to know a good teacher. Most of these caveats come from positions of ignorance or from training scars and the repelling energies they create - damaged views by damaged people. Here is the best way to know if a teacher is good:
1. Are they still in a loving and close relationship with their children?
2. Do their children embody the teachings or not?
If you answer “no” to either of these questions, then you are not with a good teacher. If these questions do not apply to a given teacher or if you do not know the answers to these questions for a given teacher, then you cannot know beforehand if said teacher is good or not. You’re going to have to find out for yourself by being their deshi.
Combat effectiveness, when it comes to mastery, seems to be divided by range limitations. A ten yard specialization is doable at very high levels of simultaneous skill attainment for blades, percussive weapons, empty-hand, and firearms. However, as you branch out past this, especially the further you go, individual skill sets require extra time such that other interrelated skill sets are negatively affected and thus reduced in their level of mastery.
These are the main aspects of combat within 10 yards. They are listed in order of priority. Priority is determined by the amount of negative impact an aspect’s absence has on achieving victory.
- Spiritual Maturity
- Proficiency at Strategy
- Tactical Skill
Often times, what is called spiritual maturity is reduced to “mindset,” but this is a result of a scientistic and materialistic worldview. For mindset as it is commonly used only refers to an acceptance and/or a willingness of violence. Spiritual maturity includes mindset, especially this kind, but it goes deeper and broader. Spiritual maturity also includes that all reality is impermanent and ever in a state of transition and codependency. This of course includes the self, which also includes the extinction of the self and the extinction of another. Spiritual maturity provides the warrior with both the means to function within the combative environment and to survive that environment’s exiting. Without spiritual maturity, existence seems static and solid, and as a result we engage combatively in static and solidified ways, and no thing brings about our own defeat and our own death more than this act of ignorance.
Strategy proficiency refers to skill at playing human chess at the speed of life. It is the gaining of advantages for oneself and the distributing of disadvantages to one’s opponent. It is a matter of gaining victory before any tactical skills need be employed.
Tactical skill is where most pseudo-warriors become preoccupied and ignorantly give too much credence to at the cost of spiritual maturity and strategy proficiency. Tactical skill requires an absence of specialization but the inclusion of tactic integration. Meaning, weapon tactics must supplement and be supplemented by empty-handed tactics. Equally, striking tactics must supplement and be supplemented by throwing tactics; throwing tactics must supplement and be supplemented by pinning tactics; standing tactics must supplement and be supplemented by ground-fighting; ad infinitum and vice versa. The category of Tactical skill envelops physical conditioning, and no contributing factor influences skill proficiency across the board as much as one’s physical conditioning. Tactical skills are by default perishable skills which perish at a rate proportional to one’s frequency of training, one’s quality of training, and the duration between one’s last training and the moment of one’s combative engagement.
Equipment entails accessibility, quality, quantity, suitability, and reliability. For example, weapons that are slow to deploy, or that are unreliable, or that do not fit our person, or that are overly specialized, or that are highly conditional, or that are ill suited, etc., should be rejected or avoided.
Bullet weight and size has largely been proven irrelevant to shot placement but only from the perspective of the mechanical failure of the human organism. From the perspective of combative disruption, the debate hasn’t even really begun, and the greater the weight, mass, and momentum of a bullet may prove to be extremely relevant, if not determinant.
At the commencement of hard training, everyone says they are ready and willing. Such is human nature. In truth, hard training is about severe trial, and trials are never severe if they are not beyond our imagination and beyond our known capacities. Thus, in reality, no one is ever ready and willing for hard training. That’s the point of hard training.
The weaponless ego duel has become the benchmark of martial effectiveness today. But this is only a result of media technology giving voice to the ignorant masses and not at all a true insight into combat viability. The conditions alone should prove this so, as no warrior that has ever faced life and death on a battlefield would ever do so without a weapon or for reasons as petty as stroking the ego.
As the masses do not know this, and as more and more come not to know this, a strange phenomenon has been generated: It is a default credence to any practice that specializes in weaponless ego duels and an outright and prejudicial rejection of any practice that does not. By extension, credence is even given to any practice that but resembles said specialization, and it is afforded to any such practice no matter how short or shallow it is in duration. This is how one can explain the current and growing trend of guard-pulling rule-following ground-fighting specialization beginner practitioners looking a Systema and thinking and calling it idiocy. It is how boys that have never uncontrollably had their son’s face flash before their eyes when they were looking for a sight picture at the speed of life tell men that have killed with Systema that what they do is fake.
You will come to think differently when the Path is open to you. Thinking differently is derived from acting differently. As such, being a matter of thinking and acting, the Path is a way of being differently. Because this difference is a difference in being, it is radical in nature. Meaning, no part of you will subjectively be identifiable as “same.” What then does this mean for the modern caveats against human self cultivation paradigms, warning us “not to lose ourselves,” and what does this mean for those that want to enter the Path but want to keep as much of themselves as possible when doing so? It means what it has always meant, from the beginning of human history: The Way is only for the brave.
When God’s will becomes your will, you are a Man but not a man. You are a caretaker of Man. But, you are also a caretaker of wind, of water, earth, and fire - of Light. Though separate from all, you will never have been closer to anything or anyone as when God’s will becomes your will.
Man can live a religious life and Man can live a secular life. The called have no such choice, even when it appears otherwise.
When one does not understand a thing, that thing appears to such a person as expendable. This is what I see plaguing most modern Aikidoka and multiple aspects of their art.
It may be true that the lack of deserved recognition is an injustice, but it is also true that the need for recognition is the disease. Should you cure the disease, the injustice ceases to exist- this is also true.
Every “Band-Aid” fix you do covers up something else you cannot do but should have done. Such fixes are far from innocent things.
All over the world, a teacher will demonstrate the technique to be practiced, and all over the world deshi will practice the technique differently than it was demonstrated. Many chalk this up to a democracy of movement and post-Enlightenment virtues on the individual. Few will see what is really going on and what it says about attachment, fetteredness, and the blindness, both of ourselves and of the world, when we are plagued by such things.
When we lack true experience and true insight gained from that experience, what is often thought to be the problem is not the problem and what we often think is the solution is not the solution. When we lack experience and the insight gained therein, when we remain ignorant, the “solution” itself gives birth to the problem itself.
Contemporary Aikido has made a fetish of Aikido waza. In large part, this is due to waza being marketable and thus exchangeable amongst the various interrelated capital systems of mainstream Aikido - political, social, cultural, and material. Aspects that actually determine more largely spiritual and/or martial achievement, as well as technical mastery, aspects such as mind training, strategy research, physical conditioning, emotional responsibility, nutrition, sleep hygiene, service and work, etc., are rarely a part of your average dojo’s curriculum. Wrongly, many believe that doing waza is enough and that waza encapsulates the the art. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What is commonly called “connection” in Aikido today is something more often artificially produced by overly orchestrated training environments than a true manifestation of Aiki. In such training environments, Uke fabricates “Aiki” by following, almost always beyond an extreme level, Nage. Such Nage that only understand this simulated “Aiki” then go on to speak of non-Aiki related concepts, such as “leading.” Rather, Aiki is the result of an adhering quality generated from a particular organization of being. There are no followers or leaders in Aiki. There is only two things becoming one.
All fathers die when we need them most.
The ignorant, which is below the beginner, believes all he needs is to “train” his ideas. The beginner thinks training is to address his body. He thus leaves his humanity and his behavior off the mat. Thus training for him is safe. He is thus a seeker of safety. He is what real warriors call not a beginner but rather a coward.
Aikido-lite is so the norm that the word “Aikido” should now assume said semantics. Nowadays, if you are training fully in the art, you’re more accurate in saying, “I do not train in Aikido.”
The subjective experience of Infinity is the experience of variation. Variation can only exist as an expression of Form. Likewise then, Takemusu Aiki is not the antithesis of Kihon Waza, but rather a deeper, fuller, more true expression of it.
Zazen is not a stillness of mind. That is the great fallacy perpetuated by those that do not practice zazen or do so only lightly or infrequently. Rather, zazen is the experiencing of mind free of the movement our very cells make and take. For as our very cells hold our fears, they also hold our desires. This is what the stillness of zazen is being aimed at - a stopping of cellular pushing and pulling. And, it is all done for the sake of experiencing the mind, not in a more natural state per se, as there is nothing unnatural about our cells pushing and pulling or our binding of mind to said pushing pulling, but rather as a potential special to our humanity.
If you center your dojo on the spontaneous application of the art, vs the transmission of a style or of technique, vs some sort of abstractions such as “combat effectiveness” or “spiritual,” you almost immediately expose all the bullshit in Aikido as bullshit.
To remain unattached to the fruits of one’s actions is not an act of humility. It is an act of discipline
Every martial art is fake but for the efforts we make in our individual practice to keep things real.
To live the unexamined life, this is Man’s greatest wrong.
Some tactical lessons, some very important ones, only have their learning environments arise under live conditions. Restricting oneself to Kihon Waza, or over-emphasizing Kihon Waza, can be very detrimental to both one’s understanding and application of the art.
To know that reality is one’s experience of reality, to know that one’s experience of reality is one’s perception, that one’s perception is one’s creation, and that one’s perception created thusly is one amongst countless others, this is the greatest freedom, the truest freedom, the only freedom.
No one starts Budo to quit. Yet, this is by far the most common outcome of training. The truth is, while Budo as a practice carries within the capacity to end the cycles of self-sabotage that plague a person’s daily life, Budo, like anything else, can be usurped and assimilated into said cycles. The Budo instructor then, at least one worth his or her salt, makes learning how not to quit, every bit a part of training as any other waza.
There is an entire universe in the space where one deshi chooses the right course and another deshi chooses the wrong course.
To endure without breaking - a core and essential trait of the warrior.
There is such a difference between the practitioner that only trains when they have time, the deshi that misses a training opportunity for this or that, the deshi that does not plan this or that around training, and (verses) the deshi that makes everything else revolve around training, makes everything else displaceable by training, that makes time for training. This difference is so great, so significant in its truth, that the deshi that can get themselves on the right side of it will have solved 99% of the issues that keep one “beginner” or unskilled.” The deshi that has themselves on the wrong side of this difference only achieves small things in and by the art. Those that deny this or that reject this - you are on the wrong side of this difference. Be quiet.
The modern dilemma is this: Noting it was identified before now, before it hit us so hard, by thinkers like Jung, Becker, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, etc., and advising you to read them as fully as you can, we, we Homo Sapiens, are genetically mandated, mandated by our health and wellness, to be social, to be in a relationship with each other - “each other” individually and abstractly speaking. As our cultures evolved, as we made greater and greater use of this genetic trait, we also primarily addressed its larger needs through two technologies: Stories and Self-Reconciliation Practices. These stories were unique in that they spoke of things beyond our immediate comprehension and beyond our mere intellectual operations, things outside of dichotomy, logic, and reason, things ultimately unknowable by us. Like this, the individuality, or more pointedly our egocentric and ultimately self-destructive tendencies, could be nullified, and people, who are always different from each other and thus to some degree always alone, could move beyond themselves and come to exist in relationship. There in the unknowable, people could meet and become and remain one - remain social, remain in relationship. There, their genetic disposition, their genetic requirements, could be addressed and satisfied, and there they could remain sane and well. In conjunction, we also addressed this genetic trait by utilizing technologies of the self designed to tackle directly that toxic aspect of ourselves, that (perhaps) now defunct genetic bit of code we shared and likely still share with other and differently evolved species, some Neanderthal-like aspect of our animal-ness. These technologies of the self consisted of practices whereby we skilled ourselves at remedying those behaviors that give primacy to the self, that deconstruct our relationships and that ultimately destroy us. Today, in the place of these aforementioned stories, we have placed discourses whereby we deceivingly hold that we know everything. As such, and at every turn, we are surrounding ourselves with others that also know everything, and all that comes to the surface is the reality, a competing reality, that we are different from everyone - always, that we are always alone, always doomed to be alone. Today, this turn in history, one that seems to be leading us toward a similar Neanderthal-like extinction, at least one-by-one, is propelled by the fact that we no longer have masters who still know these ancient practices designed for our genetic predisposition. Moreover, without our stories, we wouldn’t and don’t believe these masters, and couldn’t identify them, even if we were at their door. As it is so trendy to find our nutritional health in an earlier age, we must move beyond our own cultural bias, our own ethnocentrism, to eras prior, so as to move beyond our own egocentrism - move beyond that which makes us sick and destroys us.
Is not reciprocity a natural marker for the status of one’s relationship with another? Meaning, the greater the urge to reciprocate and the greater the reciprocation, then the greater importance of what was first received and for the giver for the one reciprocating. When there is no reciprocation, or only very little, then we know that both what is given and the giver hold little or no significance for the receiver. Is this not what we see in the deshi that takes and takes and never improves or improves only very little? This lack of significant reciprocity toward the teacher? This testament that both what is given, the art, and who is giving, the teacher, hold little value for said deshi?
When you are a warrior, God is a warrior god.
Without the quest to embody Takemusu Aiki, Aikido is reduced to an anachronistic reenactment cosplay.
For the beginner, Aikido has many stances. For the skilled practitioner, Aikido has no stances.
Budo, like all Buddhist derivatives, involves the communion of mind and body. However, Budo seeks this communion through and amidst the fear that is generated via human-vs-human violence, and for that reason Budo cultivates an authenticity not shared amongst other Buddhist derivatives.
The “slow weapon” is but a lack of ownership for starting late. Equally, the short and crowded weapon are lacks of ownership in being too far and in being too close.
Coming to view a class, when so much is online, what a weird practice. What does such a person wish to determine? The “good match”? Some lack of “abuse”? The amount of “bang for one’s buck.” I can tell you up front: You’re going to hate the training. It’s going to be the most uncomfortable thing you have ever done. You will be scared to death. You will fail - over and over again. There will always be more that you do not understand than what you do understand. You will never feel as if “you have what it takes.” At times, you will hate me and you will see me as your “worst enemy.” Then, as you advance, all this only gets worse - until it all stops being relevant for why you practice Budo.
If you want to learn, you will understand this. You will accept this. If you’re looking for the “good match,” I can tell you up front: We are not it.
As deshi age in their practice, the yet unreconciled small self in them begins to whisper, “Rest. Take it easy. You’ve accomplished much.” As the dojocho, you job is to roar back, “Not here.”
You cannot hack the felt darkness and dread of deep meaninglessness, detrimental overburden, and/or the fear of our own personal extinction. You’re going to have to do the work, all the work, without end, the work that addresses these human tendencies that we all share and are all exposed to feeling.
The sciences of physics, biomechanics, kinesiology, and strategy are selective in nature. Meaning, these disciplines, in their concern for truth, measurability, repeatability, predictability, efficiency, and effectiveness, when applied to Aikido technique, come to determine more right techniques from less right techniques. Yet, all over the world, even within the same dojo, you see variation upon variation upon variation for any given technique. This widespread phenomena is just glossed over, and even up-lifted via western slogans of “individuality” and “adaptation.” The truth is, the above mentioned sciences and their applications are going unknown and unutilized and most technical variations are violations of their findings. Most technical variations in Aikido are scientifically unsound and most technical applications are strategically inferior, and this kind of widespread variation is far from benign and innocent.
Once in a radio interview, a reporter asked Osensei, "Is it not true that there are no attacks in Aikido." To this query, Osensei laughed and commented upon Aikido being a universal art and therefore could not consist of only defense. Like all things of the Universe, like all things of the Tao, Yin and Yang must both be present and in harmony with each other for something to be well and right. I am therefore suspicious of dojo that are made up of mostly men, or of dojo that practice too gently, not martially, for gender reasons, or of dojo that feel advantage in excluding men from certain practices or seminars. A mat should be both violent and gentle, and filled with both male and female practitioners. A mat should be a microcosm of the Universe.
The biggest obstacle to learning Aikido, by far, is not the risk of bad or unskilled teachers, nor the cost, nor the availability, nor training schedules, nor distances to dojo, etc. The biggest obstacle to learning and becoming skilled at Aikido is us ourselves. Our sabotage is a self-sabotage.
The master-disciple technology is an ancient one. Though its use is difficult to wield, usually due to either party being too spiritually immature to manifest their corresponding role, this difficulty does not note that its potency is invalid and that the technology can be done without. To the contrary, this difficulty only proves that the technology is needed more than ever.
Every day you walk into the dojo you must release your old self. You must let it drop off and die. You must have 365 deaths every year.
When you talk to recovering addicts about the national problem of addiction, and you ask them what they think will work to slow down or stop this epidemic, they will always say, quite different from the politician, progressive social activist, or social service agent, “A person has to reach their ‘rock-bottom’ before they truly address and resolve their addiction.” With that in mind, when we look more broadly at ourselves and at our culture, or when we look more deeply, at the level of our spirits or even our psychology and emotional wellness, and we contrast this with The Path, are we all not addicts in one way or another? And, when you view this through, for example, an overlay of Christian mysticism, or any other worldview meant to reconcile this level of addiction behavior, this level of self-sabotage and self-destruction, and we hear Masters of old tell us, warn us, “Our proximity to The Path is proportionate to our freedom from (ie. our addiction to) the material world,” what do we see? Combining all this, hearing and granting the wisdom of the recovering addict, the person whose statements and insights are based not upon theory but rather upon experience, is it not the case that we must come to The Path, to truly come to The Path, through a door of tears and sorrow? So it seems to me. Like the addict that hears the politician say this or that will address the addiction epidemic, seeing such people and hearing such statements as foolishness, loaded with doubt and ignorance, like this I am with the Budoka that comes to train through another door different from the one of tears and sorrow.
Is it not the case that simply going through the motions is a greater danger in following The Way than doing no motions at all?
To have a thought or a feeling and to be able to observe our thinking and feeling in the very process of the thought/feeling - this is a vital skill for walkers on The Path. It is a skill that begins with accepting the truth that we are not our thoughts and that we are not our feelings.
On The Path, overall wellness is definitely a part of the practice. At first, it allows you to endure the training. Then, it supports you as you struggle to reach deeper aspects of the training. Then, an unwellness of the body/mind, when it pops up, is used as a guidepost for catching departures from The Path. Through such catching, and the ensuing addressing of why such unwellness popped up, our practice becomes more sophisticated, more refined, more personal, and more mature. Here, however, one should become very mindful, as wellness can easily become a goal unto itself, a kind of attachment and reification of the self. Ultimately, this is now a departure from The Path. This is why, perhaps enigmatically, the ancients did not say that The Path is found in wellness, a prolonging of our life, but rather it is found in death. For those that can understand, let him/her hear. For those not yet there, keep your training going and put this on the back-burner.
Where your opponent is pushing or pressing, there is his mind captured. There is his opening. Attack him from the blindness he has everywhere else, all around him. If you need to generate a particular blindness, get him to press or push so that that blindness appears. Then, attack him from there. All openings originate in this capturing of the mind and in the ensuing blindness. This is why we train the mind, so it will not be captured, and so we are not subject to blindness.
With Aiki, we do not partake in the act of contention. With Aiki, remove ourselves from the struggle, and by removing ourselves, we have reconciled the struggle - we have transformed it into something else. It has disappeared. With Aiki, what was once contesting is now united within our will and intention.
Softness in Aikido is not the result of weakness. Differently, softness in Aikido has an integrity to it. Aikido’s softness has nothing to do with retreating or with requiring our uke not to press upon us. Rather, Aikido’s softness originates in the act of releasing and this releasing reaches its penultimate in the releasing of self. This will sound like hocus-pocus to the non-initiate but so it is with all things worth investigating.
Suffering always leads to the most beautiful things.
In a ground fighting application, advance to a top position, apply pressure, trap and isolate the arms and head, strike along the now established angle of attack, trap and isolate more, draw your weapon now free from retention issues, employ your weapon and neutralize the threat, get back on your feet. In newaza training, yield to find your openings, sweeps, reversals, and escapes, have your partner fall into your locks and chokes - set up nothing. Move yourself and not your partner. Secure positions only with secured and anchored grips - let everything else go. Muscle nothing.
What does Aikido’s current obsession with celebrity status have to do with The Path? And, how can we suggest that our internal and individual betterment rests outside of ourselves and in the admiring of such a celebrity?
The qualities of “true” and “false” are slippery terms to define, but only when they are trying to be held objectively. Subjectively, or when they are held in comparison or through the weighing of at least two things, they become more manageable and even useful. For example, an Aikido is more true when Ukemi Waza is designed in relation to Nage Waza. And, an Aikido is more false when a Nage Waza is designed in relation to an Ukemi Waza. This is why, generally speaking, Aikido prior to the ubiquitous high front breakfall was more true than the Aikido now practiced after said breakfall became ubiquitous.
Courage is best cultivated daily, and best through renunciation, through the practice of doing without pleasure and comfort.
The perfect maai (under pressure) is representative of the perfect mind.
There is a weight to God, to Light. It’s felt heaviness can descend us upon the Earth and press us into the dreams of Man. In these dreams, like a current, we are taken even further down. Movement and rush is what we come to sense most. However, like with all forces that press, we are always half of the equation. We are the resistance that makes the struggle where there need not be one. Then, like with all struggles, release, remain not your fears, and the weight and the fall and the press and the current all fade away.
When we are trapped in the world, we place a veil over reality, one upon which we project our fear. What is on that veil is what we see with our physical eyes. What is behind that veil is what we see with our spirit.
The Hero’s Journey includes the felling of the beast of self-deception. And, so the Warrior’s art of self-defense must include this act of self-offense: A time when the hero wakes him/herself and through great force prevents him/herself from remaining asleep, still, homeostatic, slave to worldly inertia and its currents. His/her salvation is an act of self-saving, a continuing onward upon the Path, a breaking out of the hypnotic spell of the world and its ways. Like Odysseus’s freedom from Calypso, the warrior must repeat this breaking away from the bondage of comfort, social support, and status quo, and he/she must do this over and over again.
One does not take Ukemi. One receives Ukemi. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Deshi: Are we going to be OK?
Sensei: It will depend upon your definition of “OK.”
This world is the dream from which we are to awake.
We humans are creature and creation, animal and divine. When this divine aspect goes unnurtured, it amplifies our tendency toward a predator/prey worldview. It magnifies our fears and we are turned against ourselves. When we nurture the divine aspect, creature and creation become one - fear is gone, freedom and communion surrounds us.
There is no divine communion without faith. And, there is no faith without courage. This is why we always see fear when we see ourselves stuck in this material world and without hope.
Aiki is a spiritual virtue before it is a martial virtue.
The faithless can never release. This is why the faithful are known by their capacity to release.
I can only appear to be what I am not.
There is a lot of bouncing back and forth between the poles of the given spectrum. We will keep doing that until we learn to let go of the spectrum entirely. The opposite of one mistake is equally a mistake.
Before Aikido can be The Art of Communion, it must first be The Art of Releasing.
As Man is to Heaven and Earth, so too is the Mind to Spirit and Body.
What the modern technologist does not understand about the ancient practices is that any tool of self-transformation can be co-opted by the homeostasis inherent in the practitioner - making transformation impossible. Hence, for example, one cannot just do meditation or Aikido Waza and expect results. Rather, one should expect no results beyond the novice effect from such technologies of the self being utilized without the surrounding practices the ancients used to address the aforementioned homeostatic energy.
Generally, only moves that require one less step or at most an equal amount of steps to the attacker can be considered practical. Moves that require you to take one or more steps to the attacker’s number of steps are impractical. Consequently, moves that show your attacker not stepping while you take steps are generally impractical.
All weapons are presented quickly. All weapons return to their pre-presented state slowly.
Speed in applications is more a matter of starting early and of having no unnecessary movements than it is of moving your limbs quickly through space.
Some things that we need to see, or that we are meant to see, we cannot see but through the added focal point of a tear. Tears, a solution of salt and water, are purifying agents. They are our opening, and no new beginning happens without such openings. Tears should be welcomed and accepted as gifts we receive outside ourselves but for our self and through our self.
In a fight, you’re going to need strength. However, to develop higher and higher levels of skill, you’re going to have to learn how to not need to use that strength.
After years of training, and yielding no great results, you would think one would reassess the “validity” of training only two to three hours per week. However, you’d be wrong, and you’d be wrong because you are missing or ignoring some very key and universal truths about the creature called “Man.”
To neither push nor pull, do not kid yourself. This is an enlightened state of being.
And the Lord walked through the garden and pointed the gaze of one of his own, saying, “Look upon. There is beauty, and compassion, and aid there.” And the Lord’s own said, “I see the opposite. And, your words are like knives in my heart. They pain me and make me hate what you point at, and they make me hate you.” “Are you not drawn by my gravity?” said the Lord. “I am, and that force twists in me, and now I hate what you say is beautiful, compassionate, and helpful.” said the Lord’s own. “And, in your twists, do you not know that you will separate yourself for me?” asked the Lord. “What is the line, thought the Lord’s own, ‘Better to reign in Hell’?”. “Yes,” the Lord said, “That is the line,” and then He faded away, leaving the one alone as was so chosen.
Aikido technical architectures, this kind of “grappling” at a distance, this kind of indirect grappling, assume a required level of relative force generation - a required force value. Without this force value being present, the techniques simply cannot function. It is akin to a bridge being engineered. It must be engineered in a way that it maintains its shape as a bridge, but its materials must also meet a required integrity, which is akin to what I am calling a required force value, in order for it to function as a bridge. One can make a bridge out of toothpicks, and it will look like a bridge, and we can all point at it and say it’s a bridge, but none of us will drive our vehicles across this toothpick bridge, looking to cross over the chasm it seeks to span. It lacks the required force value for such a task, and at the moment we would approach it with our vehicle, we will point at it and say, “This is not a bridge.” The reaching for this force value is simply not done by the majority of the Aikido population. They continue to practice Waza as if a bridge is a bridge is a bridge. Meaning, they believe shape alone leads to function and application viability. This majority is wrong. Small portions of the Aikido population, however, specialize in cultivating this force value but they do so from what can be called positive and negative perspectives. That is to say there are small camps of practitioners that, on the one hand, cultivate this force value by cultivating power within themselves. This camp, on the other hand, is contrasted by an equally small group of practitioners the cultivate a capacity to reduce power in their attackers. These camps, in their specialization, look at each other with distrust, and dismiss the techniques and training methodologies of “the other” as “Not getting it.” Like all specialization, both camps abide in ignorance. Then, there is an even smaller group of practitioners. They are working on both ends at the same time, approaching the required force value from its positive and negative aspects, training to become all-powerful and training to make the attacker’s power output function at only insignificant levels. Moreover, this group, made up of perhaps only a handful of people, are working to reconcile these two manifestations of Yang and Yin, and there and then to return with their art to the Tao.
The power of transformation is great indeed. So great it can manifest things and events we would consider miraculous. Yang is its nature, and external to us it acts as the necessary catalyst for change. However, for it to function at all, we must harness an even greater power, a preceding power: The power of opening and receiving (Yin). This power is the true miracle.
Aikido’s non-contentious vectors better allow the practitioner’s capacity to maintain internal organization. This is because contentious vectors, particularly those that reverse energy directly, generate a tension in the body that can only be associated with low-level internal skills.
Every sword has a spirit, a particular balance, its preferred articulation point, its favored timing - that which makes it manifest and unique. Rather than forcing it through space, release the self, unite with the weapon, and, like with favored lover, experience a naturalness you never thought possible. Release, and the sword will feel free and it will come to move on its own!
Not yet decided, but sensing more and more every year, the capacity to open ourselves up, so as to get out of our own way, is entirely an internal matter. It is something we do for ourselves and by ourselves. And, it may very well be something we either can do or cannot do, and not at all something we can cultivate.
The great cosmological myths wherein the void, or the undivided, split itself into two and the two were further divided into the many, these are deep insights, psychological ones, into the nature and the capacity of the human mind, and thus they are statements on the world as it is experienced and lived by such a mind. They point to the human capacity to exist and experience existence as divided and even contesting or as unified and in communion.
There is a moment in hand-to-hand combat, a spiritual microcosm, one wherein the martial artist is faced with the choice to resist or to unite with the energy affronting him/her. While it appears to be a mere matter of fighting, it marks the difference between the awakened and the unawakened. More than that, it is the only true cultural division between human beings, a line that separates those that live in dualism and those that live in communion. At that moment, the instinct, so it seems like one, is to resist, to set up a dichotomy, one polar in nature, and to thereby, faster than the speed of Light, organize reality along a causal chain of preferences and avoidances, and to thereby reify the Self. Or, there in that same blink of Time moment, rests the opportunity to dissolve the Self, to make disappear all dread of defeat, and with it the differences between attacker and defender, attack and defense, the doing and the doer - to unify and to save oneself by surrendering one’s Self.
Training prevents us from becoming easily dominated by our worse instincts: fear, jealousy, pettiness.
Tenchi Nage, Heaven and Earth Throw, is not simply a matter of “one hand up, the other hand down.” Rather, it also follows the Taoist principle of concentric truth, and thus includes, “first up, then down” wherein the entire body of uke is first lifted and then allowed to be lowered. The technique is not at all involving “first forward, then back.”
Two of the worst reasons for training at a given dojo are: distance from your location (ie. The dojo is close to you.), and proximity to the next rank. If this is you, you suck at Aikido and you’ll never be good at it. Just quit. You’re bringing the art down.
You want to throw them more, bring them in more.
One needs to listen to hear the voice of God.
Like when I see practitioners talk about mindfulness, but their awareness does not even extend to the ends of their bodies, or when they talk about warrior mindset, but they lack even the capacity to survive the discomfort of calorie or carbohydrate restriction, or when they speak of love, but feel the servant role beneath them and are unable to sacrifice the self, as doubtful as I am of such things and at such times so too am I when I hear practitioners champion an Aikido doctrine and the centrality and significance of the Founder but have no role for God or the practice of prayer in their art.
There are five degrees of the art, but only four levels to the art in terms of skill. The first degree, which is no level, call it Zero Level, is when technical architectures “function” because uke manufactures sought-after tactical solutions. Zero Level is pure delusion, an abiding in ignorance that will require the practitioner to wait at least another lifetime before they reach Awakening. Level One, the lowest actual level, is delineated by an over reliance and utilization of muscle and having no spontaneous capacity. Level Two is delineated by a utilization of Level One’s brute force but as applied to external fulcrums and levers and whose spontaneous application is depended upon set-ups. Level Three is a matter of reinforcing external fulcrums and levers with internal organization and having a spontaneous application generated from within one’s art. Level Four is internal organization and application and the transcendence of art and non-art, self and non-self.
Here’s the habitual process one needs to bring awareness to: - There is a fear instinct to meet force with force. - This instinct brings with it a blindness that hides the fact that our force makes manifest the opposing force. - This blindness also drives an ignorance that has us holding that there are no other options available to us but to meet force with force and to do so in the way we are doing. All of this is delusion.
There are some poor souls that are kept poor because they have come to prefer praise over truth - having come to feel the truth as painful and to understand it as that which is to be avoided. If this is not the very gate to Hell, it is at least a losing of the key to Heaven.
© David M. Valadez, Senshin Center, Dojocho