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.