Reflections, 2019 Part I: January - June
The mystic is primarily concerned with a kind of mechanistic utility when it comes to her practice. She did not reach this concern through a rejection of truth and a corresponding rejection of reason, as she is often accused of by people from the priestly and scholarly classes of culture. To the contrary, by the same held concern with truth and through the same application of reason, the mystic concludes that a "truth" must first of all work, and that any "truth" that cannot be used in some way is false a priori. 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 her primary investigative tools of observation 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 experience 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 her concern with a 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 she can do with her cultivated virtues, so too is her working with and for Divine Communion. She 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 she says and does becomes true. Her truth is not one of materialism’s proof or of herd mentality consensus! Rather, she skills herself 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. Her truth is a practical end! And, every time that she is able to practice this skillset, she knows she is aligned with Truth, and she knows that the priest and the scholar are wrong and have missed the point. (6/16/18)
Repost: To have a thought or an emotion, 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. Start there, and return there often. For there can be no Way, without this entry-level of metacognition. (11/4/18)
I just try to keep focusing on me - being the best me I can be. “F” the rest, the community that looks to steal your freedom through your own hand. They won’t be there or mean anything when I’m facing the Devil in the middle of a shit storm. There, then, it will only be me and what I am capable of doing. Your frontier is yourself. Your advancement is personal. Your achievements are your own. This is the Way, and The Way is a way of self-reliance, a separating out of oneself from the anti-liberation currents of the herd and the barricades of their fences that hypnotize you with thoughts of safety.
How do we honor our weapon? By bowing low to it and thinking “sacred” thoughts when we handle it? No. We honor our weapons by using them constantly, by bleeding on them, by letting them tear at our flesh, by letting them rip at our muscles, by hardly ever putting them down. When you can do the latter, you can actually skip the former. When you do not do the latter, the former is a waste of time, an exercise in self-delusion. To hand over your tanto so solemnly, like a superstitious idol of some sort, while your body demonstrates how foreign and strange an instrument it is to you, this is what is most sacrilegious.
Jiyu Waza should be the central practice for anyone that holds, as the Founder did, that Takemusu Aiki rests at the apex of the art. A practice that is centered around Kihon Waza or on Kihon Waza is a practice at odds with the Founder, at odds with Budo, and merely an inferior way of exercising.
How much time is spent departed from The Way for the sake of entertainment? As carbohydrates and sugars have become a socially acceptable forms of self-medication, entertainment equally has become a socially acceptable way of lacking discipline, of enslaving oneself, of practicing human fragility, of generating an emotional dependency on a coping mechanism external to oneself. The Warrior says, “Bullshit!” to this social acceptability and to the unconscious need and weakness that holds it up and has it go unquestioned. The Entertainment Complex is made by the mentally ill, for the mentally ill, for the sake of producing more mental illness. You are seeing the choir singing to itself; masses of people made at a loss from having no exposure to the Thunder God and for being provided with no way to survive his needed lessons on human wellness. As one should monitor him/herself for emotional dependency on chemical intoxicants, one should also monitor him/herself regarding dependency on this opiate, entertainment.
Should a Man task herself with the act of honoring God, it is not the belief in such an aspect that she will find difficult. Rather, what is difficult is the verb “to honor,” and what is even more difficult for her will be the implied negative verb phrase, “to never dishonor.” It will be like this in all such matters for her, be it matters of love or be it matters of loyalty. There is no power innately in the object of her actions, and all energy for living according to such actions must come from within. For Man, at some point, can always recognize what is greater than herself and to what she owes everything, but living as such is only possible for the most committed and most brave amongst us - the true Warriors.
These are two of the greatest powers you can cultivate within yourself: The power to reconcile and neutralize the limiting energy of one’s pride; and, the power to truly and fully forgive, such that no mark or discoloration from the scars your heart/mind remains active, so that you can accept the forgiven other as if nothing negative happened at all. One is the power of Humility. The other is the power of Love. These two powers make each other possible, and you are the landscape upon which they work their miracles. You are the place for their cosmic and creative dance: You are the dance floor, you are the music, you are the movement.
Everything is the work - the work YOU did. Your rank, your federation, your style, your teacher, your dojo - all of it is irrelevant. All of it is fiction but for the work. For when you will need your art the most, it can only manifest according to how much work you did or did not do. Everything is the work.
Budo, and thus Aikido, is not about fighting. However, what Budo, and thus Aikido, are about is cultivated through the means of fighting. The former are like the moon, and the latter is like the finger pointing at the moon. If you get stuck on the finger, you will miss all of the Heavenly glory. But, without the finger pointing, our gaze is never oriented upward and we remain in darkness.
Oftentimes, perhaps most times, as we stray from The Path, and things like unwellness manifests itself, we in our ignorance seek and use different means, non-Path means, designed to address the symptoms of unwellness. In the end, however, these means only move us further from The Path and ultimately make us only more unwell.
Consciousness erupts into existence from no-thing-ness. With the eruption, it gives birth to mind and to the preferences of mind. With this, the body, never wholly disconnected from this process, tenses and strains amidst the act of preferring. Ancient Man, as a pragmatic act, sought to undo this system but not by preferring better or by learning how not to prefer. Ancient Man sought to undo this system by neutralizing it at the symptomatological tension: Ancient Man sought first the physical skill of releasing tension from the body and made this the doorway and the central skill of mystical practice.
Only a fool believes his or her wellness can be independent of the wellness of his or her circle of loved ones.
The way out of the Darkness is always in continuous movement, in not stopping, in not quitting, in enduring more darkness.
Little by little, always organizing life accordingly to a proven set of particulars, we mature in ways almost imperceivable but for in hindsight. For this reason, everything we do and everything we do not do becomes equally significant.
Nutrition is one of the Four Ascetic Aspects of Budo: The other three are sleep hygiene, operational fitness, and a world view based on interdependence and impermanence.
Death’s concubine is Clarity. The offspring of Death and Clarity is Perspective.
If you’re not my deshi, you’ll find me very accepting of everything you do and of every aspect of who you are. However, if you are my deshi, you should always keep the following in the forefront of your mind: One cannot get where I have gotten in The Way without being a hard mother-fucker, first, with oneself, and then eventually spilling outward into places like mentorship, our relationship. Know that the latter is a result of the former. Meaning, every place where you are going to want to deviate, delay, or compromise, is going to rub up against me wrong, causing that hard mother-fucker to come out and be felt by you. If you want only kindness from me, no mother-fuckering, then discipline yourself first; discipline yourself before I come to expect it of you. Be a mother-fucker with yourself first, before I am one with you. Then, you will always find me kind and accepting toward you - as one mother-fucker to another mother-fucker.
Every deviation from The Way is a huge deviation. There are no small deviations from The Path of the Warrior.
The Master sees all he or she has done and then looks for where more can be done. Others look at all they have done and then look for a space to rest.
Everything must cultivate, nothing must be allowed to just go through the motions. You must eat, sleep, breathe, think, and act in 100% sincerity.
Combatively, the more you ask from your adversary, the more your victory depends upon what your adversary does or allows, the less your victory is guaranteed.
Deshi: Sensei, I have two questions. The first is regarding the post on the Facebook page. When you said "You must eat, sleep, breathe, and act in sincerity.” What did you mean by “sincerity”? Is it awareness or something more? My second question is just regarding something that I've been hearing a lot from people in general and doesn't sit right with me. They say I need to "love myself" but isn't a certain extent of self-loathing required to want to better yourself? I always thought that if someone is satisfied with how they are, they would never want to be better, whereas if they didn't like how they are, they would have the motivation to improve. Therefore, I don't understand why a better way of being would be to love myself if it means sacrificing growth. I was hoping to get your thoughts on that.
Sensei: On your first question: Sincerity is the combination of two acts: zero deviation plus deep penetration. On your second question: Perhaps the confusion rests over the definition of "love." Here is a counter example to demonstrate my point: I train you and give my all to you because I love you. With this love, I accept who you are but I also see who you can and should be. Thus, by this love, I move you from the former to the latter. This is also how we should be with ourselves. For attaching to our lessor selves at the cost of our greater self is actually a kind self-hatred. It would be the same for any sensei that doesn't really help their deshi become all they can be. That kind of sensei really has no love for their deshi.
Deshi: I understand. Can you please explain “sincerity” more and its applications in eating, sleeping, and breathing?
Sensei: "Zero deviation" means not straying from The Way, making every aspect of one's life a part of one's practice. "Deep penetration" notes that this zero deviation needs to happen internally too. Meaning, it must include our thoughts, our emotions, our overall spiritual maturity. Thus, because eating and sleeping are huge portions of our lives, they of course must also be included within this kind of practice. Meaning, for example: I don't eat a high carb diet because it will not let me be operationally fit. I don't let myself self-medicate with carbs either - as this covers up a frailty that should be worked on instead. Meaning, for example: Sleep is a tool I use to heal myself, and to detox stress effects, so that I'm operationally fit for the practice. Thus, I look to get both high quality and high quantity in sleep hours. I also look at my sleep to tell me where and when I’m straying from my practice. Breathing should be abdominal and use the nasal pathway, especially during sleep, and it should be continuous - meaning no breath-holding, especially during times of stress.
Aikido Kihon Waza does not define the art. Therefore, to ask “Does Aikido work?,” and then set out to see if Aikido Kihon Waza can function within an unarmed duel as a way of answering this question, this can only be considered the epitome of ignorance. Those with but a little combat experience already well know that Nage Waza and Katame Waza, for example, are designed not to function independently but rather are meant to function independently within a larger tactical paradigm - one that includes striking and weapon utilization. Equally, as in “akin,” so too does Tachi Waza function interdependently with Ne-Waza, and so on and so on and so on. The art is not its Kihon Waza, and its Kihon Waza does not hold its practicality, not even its martial practicality.
Those capable of commitment will never tell you how committed they are or how capable of commitment they are or about a time in their past when they were committed. They let their actions speak instead, and by this it is their silence that communicates exactly how much they are capable of commitment. The virtue of endurance is a silent one.
The athleticism of a dojo community is derived directly from what is allowed by the training. If the mat is dominated by out-of-shape people and not by athletes that would be deemed “athletic” wherever they go, it is because said mat allows for such poor physicality. Not even age should be seen as a defining factor, as there is no innate reason that holds that people in their fifties and sixties should by default be weak, overweight, and stiff. Good soil produces good crops. Bad soil produces bad crops. There’s no need to overthink it. If your mat is made up of unfit or only older members, this is indicative of your soil and not your farming technique per se.
Is there something you could have done but didn’t? Did you absolutely do all you could? Did you take full advantage of every opportunity? Or, did you coast? Did you just “SAY” you wanted “it”? Did you delude yourself into believing you just deserved “it”? Did you only train when it was convenient and only at levels that were comfortable? Then, look in the mirror now. That’s all you’re ever going to be. The plain and simple truth is this: If you want to improve, you’re going to have to stop being you.
In the 5th Century, The Roman tactician Flavius Vegetius Renatus contemplated the military dominance of Rome’s Legions. He compared Rome’s might to the might of conquered enemies and he pondered over why even those enemies that had advantages over Rome saw only defeat. He noted the size and strength of the German warrior, the multitudes of the Gauls and the Spaniards, the mastery in deception and stratagem of the Africans, and the superior knowledge of the Greeks. What he deduced as the reason for Rome’s victories was the Legionnaire’s continuous training, his daily training. Nothing has changed: The true warrior trains daily, and the trained warrior has the potential to trump all other advantages.
No doubt, very significant aspects of the art that originally worked to contribute to its martial viability have been wiped away by much of the practicing Aikido population today. Some of these aspects are obvious, such as, for example, training in weapons and the development of internal skills. Some of these aspects are more subtle but play an even more significant role, such as, for example, the spiritual maturity of full ego-reconciliation and the psychological foundation of living by a code. However, there is one very mundane reason that is more at fault for Aikido’s general fall from martial grace and it is the fact that most of us do not train daily. Most of us have bought Modernity’s shell game, the one that holds skill is a commodity, that it is not a never-ending process that must be managed at all times. We all abide in the delusion that skill is accumulative, when in fact at all times it remains perishable. In this manner, by this delusion, we have come to justify our laziness, our lack of discipline and our lack of commitment. The way to counter this trend is simple then: Get on the mat every day. You may think this cannot be enough to reverse this institutional inertia, but you’d be wrong. For all true beginnings, all new starting points, especially the ones that mark our own lives, start small and simple like this.
The body can always do more than the mind believes. This is why the warrior first seeks to never enter into internal dialogues, and, then, second, to never participate in said inner dialogues should they start. When the mind tells you that you’ve had enough, that you’ve done enough, that you're too tired and that you should stop, say back to it, “Bullshit.” Tell that mind, “Kill me if you can!” Then, keep going.
Inside ourselves, there are countless exotic beaches, countless undiscovered countries, countless unexplored deep oceans and dark forests. This is where our escapes should take place, where we should travel when we need to “get away from it all.” It is these places where we should spend our time when we require a “break from the world.” Practice this engagement, and not the escapism offered by the travel industry.
Separation and conflict, or anti-Aiki, is an active action. It is of Yang, and is brought about by doing something. Aiki, total communion, is a passive action. It is of Yin, and is brought about by doing nothing, by Wu-Wei. Anti-Aiki involves making things happen. Aiki involves letting things happen. It is by the “making” that separation is caused. It is in the “letting” that Aiki is made manifest.
Entering into a Sensei-Deshi relationship is not an insignificant act. To be a mentor is to say, “All of me you shall have, so that you can be more than I was ever able to become.”
Tanren; layer by layer, little by little, through the ancient wisdom of repetition, we move from our lesser self to the fulfillment of our greatest potential. There are no shortcuts. There are no work-arounds. “Hacks” are for the ignorant, the easily deceived. The Warrior forges herself slowly and surely in the purifying fires of the slow and eternal burn.
You must train so much, let us say with your weapon, that any other weapon will at first feel odd in your hands. This oddness is telling you that you are on the right track. Keep going, you have finally started!
Most of us see the Light after it’s gone. What a waste! Learn to see the Light amidst the Darkness. That is what it is there for, and that is when you need it most.
We all make excuses. We all want some tragic narrative to explain why we cannot become more than we are, some biography that only works to limit us as it works to justify ourselves to ourselves. The Master is only the master because she has said “bullshit” to all of this. Read the myths that narrate the Hero’s Journey, and apply these lessons in real time and in real life. Read them, and remember, “What one Man can do, another Man can do.”
“Competitions” remind me of “Black Belts” - something every serious martial artist needs to figure out as soon as possible. There are no objective standards for “black belt,” and many are given out for no reason while most are given out for almost any other reason but martial prowess or martial skill. There is a huge ocean of arbitrariness when it comes to all rank, an ocean that makes rank ultimately meaningless for the truly skilled martial artist. Competitions today have this same arbitrariness and ensuing meaninglessness to them, wherein most consist of categories having three or less athletes, and wherein said three or less athletes are anything but skilled. You’d think honesty would kick in and folks would acknowledge that it has always been pretty much meaningless to be the big fish in a very tiny pond, that victory over crap only requires crap, but it doesn’t. The value of competitions go on, like rank, claiming to be or claiming to prove something it often cannot.
“Am I improving? Am I growing? Am I learning?” This is key. I try to keep these questions in my mind all the day, each moment of each day. These are not just “special moment” questions. These are “every moment” questions. I also try to couple these questions with these larger self-investigations, these other questions: “How can I train more today than yesterday? Is there some more training that I could do today before this day ends? What more in my life can I move around or get rid of so that I can train more?” These questions bring the insights gained from the first set of questions out of the mind and into the realm of action.
I have found that answers to Life’s greatest questions are located only in our greatest suffering. This is why Budo, The Path to Awakening, holds that the life of convenience and comfort is but one disease amongst many, one more ailment that we must purify from our daily existence. Embrace the suck, and train harder and more so that you can embrace more suck.
One must train enough so that one’s weapon can maintain all of its martial integrity but requires no more energy than a stone requires to remain a stone.
There’s no such thing as “skill by association.” You cannot just join a school of badasses and then de facto be a badass. Same goes for an art: You joining an effective art does not de facto make you de facto effective. If you’re going to be like the skilled, then you’re going to have to do the work of the skilled. There is no other way.
Victory nor accomplishment mark skill, as the causes of these things are forever nebulous. Consistency, or the capacity of repeatable skill over time and through space, is the true marker of skill’s presence.
Being uncommitted is not truly ever a conscious choice or a conscious application of will. It is more accurate to see a lack of commitment as a lack of skill in commitment or as an incapacity for commitment. The uncommitted budoka is never such because he or she has chosen to be thus but rather because he or she believes that his/her commitment is just on the other side of a change of mind. This is why they toy with so many things in life, why they are so stuck to the Way of the World, etc. They believe that one day, any day, perhaps even tomorrow, that they can and will be committed. The truly committed, those skilled in commitment, on the other hand, build up a life of doing without anything that takes away from their commitment. For them, commitment is a skill in abandonment, sacrifice, poverty, and in distancing oneself from distraction - all distraction. Commitment is a practice.
The person we point to and describe as having drive is internally propelled by a fear of being a fraud or a charlatan. This is different from most others, as most people, should they have any similar propelling energy, hold only a fear of being exposed as the fraud or as the charlatan they are actually .
It becomes very difficult to find the asceticism of daily practice when we surround ourselves with special things and special places, special moments, and special people. “Special” always leads to days off from training. The Budo ascetic is not surrounded by “special.” His life has been simplified and all things of the world have been reduced to “ordinary.”
Even amongst the atheists, but most definitely among the spiritualists, the bias toward a “hippie Jesus” abounds. Forgotten is the man that cursed and killed a tree for producing rotten fruit and so too is the value of the Bodhisattva’s anger. However, the true seeker knows the value of strict and uncompromising teachers. She knows to distrust the “gentle” sensei as she knows to distrust her need and want for such gentleness.
The art must be so penetrated that it’s borders cease to function as barriers. Instead, without borders, the art ceases to be some-thing, never being no-thing, it becomes every-thing. This too is the very process that happens to the artist - a wiping away of all individuality, a movement away from being some-one, a stopping from being no-one, a movement toward becoming every-one. This is the Path: a means of losing for the sake of find.
A teacher never really instructs on the Great Mystery. A teacher only really ever teaches a deshi how to develop a practice that lends itself to self-discovering the Great Mystery.
Pointers and markers of The Way are precisely such because they are not the Great Mystery. As such, they are all both true and not true, both useful and not useful, both assisting and hindering. For example, if a pointer or a marker is achievable, it only says one may have a chance of discovering the Great Mystery. If one cannot achieve the pointer or the marker, one has no chance of discovering the Great Mystery. In the first sense, pointers and markers are not that important. In the second sense, they are all-important. For example, concentration or mindfulness, the conscious aiming of the mind, or, more accurately, the momentary ceasing of the unconscious aiming of the mind, is a good marker of The Way. If one can, for example, only demonstrate mindfulness in a Zazen session five minutes or less, when the body hardly pulls on the mind at all, then this lack of skill is very important - because it means this person has no chance of discovering the Great Mystery. However, being able to demonstrate this skill in long durations of Zazen, when the body is aching and pulling on the mind, is not so important in the end. This is because being able to do hours of Zazen while maintaining some conscious control over the aiming of the mind is not the Great Mystery, and it is not even the point of Zazen. Thus, this skill is both important and not important.
A “sensei” is a technology the deshi uses to accelerate his/her own self-transformation. This is done by limiting durations upon wrong directions and by providing a means for self-reflection, providing a kind of mirror whereby one can measure his/her proximity to The Way. When a teacher can no longer do these things for you, it is time to move on. Some teachers, then, you may be with for only a short time. Some teachers, you will be with them till the end of their days. On the other side, when or if the deshi has no capacity for true self-reflection, and/or no capability for self-transformation, because they are too emotionally frail to measure themselves against anything outside of themselves, for them, there are no sensei. Hence the maxim, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Ego-Attachment is the true obstacle to self-improvement. It would be ideal, as was expected of deshi in that past, human beings not from our sick times, for the deshi to reconcile their own ego attachment. However, today, like for people that suffer from phobias, small steps, neutralizing steps, steps designed to support the deshi through and to ego reconciliation, must now be a part of any training program. It is a shame, but it is what it is, as the alternative, made more and more common today, is to teach lame shit and to let people do said lame shit lamely. This last option is unacceptable to me: We use small steps.
The very process of self-transformation is based upon a letting go. When we are stuck in the mind’s tripartite of identity-attachment/fear/suffering, we make transformation impossible. Stuck in this tripartite, we want everything set in place, everything ideally primed for us, and we want all this before we let go. But, this need to have everything in place first, to have our conditions met first, is already not letting go! We cannot seek God, and say, “First, this has to happen.” We cannot seek God and even say, “First, you must call me.” Instead, we abandon self first. We go forward first, into the darkness of the unknown and the unknowable, or we do not move at all.
As Nage, we should seek to harmonize yang with yin while maintaining the structural integrity of our tanden. Most would accept this essential aspect of Nage’s role. And, most would accept that Uke’s role stands amidst a similar Yin-to-Yang relationship to Nage. However, most modern Ukemi borders itself between, on the one hand, dressage-choreography, where the chance of reconciling yang and yin energies is taken from Uke for the sake of being able to throw oneself, and, on the other hand, manifestations of the fear-cycle, where yang-to-yang conflicts remain intact. Instead, Uke, like Nage does for Uke, should look to neutralize Nage’s yang energies with yin reconciliation. And, this, like for Nage with Uke, must be done internally as much as it is done externally. There is way too much tension, too much yang-to-yang conflict in the Modern Uke, and as a result way too much agency, too much attachment to self.
Zanshin is a tactical necessity due to the precarious nature of endings within real-world combative environments. However, the practice of zanshin is also a technique for generating a mind skill: The capacity to not have one’s mind unconsciously moved. This mind skill is born out of the human tendency to utilize Time via a dualistic construct (eg. beginnings and endings). As such, the practitioner has a tendency to respectively shut the mind on and off in their training, or, more accurately said, to have the mind moved unconsciously. As this is the tendency, it adds a resistance or a stressor to the conscious holding of the mind (zanshin). Thus, through this holding of the mind on in the face of the stressor unconsciously shutting it off, the mind improves, develops, like this, according to the stress/adaptation model we see used in strength development.
If I had to bet, the vogue of mindfulness training now has more to do with unreconciled Daddy Issues than with anything else. It so seems something born of that ilk: Some sort of rejection of Judeo-Christian systems of thought and practice, moving through a lack of commitment to Buddhist thought and practice, and landing squarely inside of a beginner technique posited as something as grand as it thought to be self-contained, scientific, and secular.
One need not go far or over-complicate matters by needing to read foreign languages (eg. see Takuan repeating already centuries old wisdom in the 1600s) to know what is the traditional view of mindfulness. One could just look at the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures or the older Taoist Horse-Taming Pictures - where the latter has mindfulness training as the second picture and the latter has it as the first picture, there being at least ten pictures in both series. Mindfulness, in and of itself, holds no innate spiritual or wellness value. It is merely a tool, a beginner practice, meant to be built upon. As another has said, “Even a torturer can practice mindfulness.”
Today, Nage do not know how to take and keep Uke’s balance, and so Uke are left standing perfectly stable before they take their front-breakfall-spectacular. For what Uke would rather not fall from a perfectly balanced stance? What sensible self-preserving Uke would rather not determine when and how they are to fall rather than to have that decided upon by someone else? Like this, through ego preservation, ignorance feeds ignorance ad infinitum. Nage trades with Uke, the feeling of being all-powerful for the feeling of being resistant to injury. For any con to take place, each party must be equally driven by self-interest.
The Art is weapon-based. For most, this means the Art used to use weapons in the “Old Day’s,” or that the Art has architectural origins in the traditional weapon tactical architectures of Ancient Japan. Others believe other things about what “weapon-based” means. What tends to be common across the board, however, is the martial assumption that today the Art is viable as a purely empty-hand art. This is not true. It is as if the use of words “origin” or “-based” allow modern practitioners to hide the giant leap in tactical assumption underneath the layers of Time’s passing, in the now-leveled dirt of a revisionist history. The truth is the Art remains martially viable only as a weapon-based art. This means the Art’s empty-hand tactical architectures and its strategically held positions find their reason only in supporting weapon use and/or in being supported by weapon use. Today, this is not the weapon-use of sword, staff, halberd, or spear, but of knife, firearms, and contemporary EDC options.
We can understand the Universe as having two energies: one changing, moving, transforming, Water, and one stabilizing, holding, forming, Wood. These two energies are present in our waza and these two energies are contained within us. We must learn to maintain them and to manipulate them toward our sought-after ends.
A healthy dojo is a vigorous place, one where a dance of competition and camaraderie takes place day after day, hour after hour, moment by moment.
Keep Uke’s spine tilted and moving in the sagittal plane. Anytime Uke’s spine is upright and perpendicular to the earth and/or any time it has stopped traversing the sagittal plane, that is an attacker gaining victory over you.
The Nage that allows Uke to throw himself is as wrong as the Uke that seeks to throw himself. Both have a low level understanding of Kihon Waza.
Do not push Uke. Project Uke. Do not pull Uke. Adhere with Uke.
In training, especially in Jiyu Waza training, Uke must strive to hold whatever balance they can - to the utmost last moment. This is a “live” Uke. Live Uke are what keeps the art from dying.
I have trained long-time meditation practitioners, followers of gurus, zen practitioners, even ordained ones, etc. - spiritual adepts of all kinds. Same with Aikidoka from other lineages - they have entered my literal door and my metaphorical “door.” Without fail, the same thing always strikes me: How many folks will note their admiration for the offered training, even making note of how inefficient their own past training had been, even noting how something I said, or did, or had them do, or had them ponder, helped them reach new levels of maturation in their own old practice - yet, they cannot commit fully to the new training. They will, remarkably, even look to return to the practice and the teacher they just noted as lacking and as inferior, attempting to take with them the new insight they just gained outside of that old practice. I, different from them, had always been on the lookout for the best teacher and the best training, and when I found him or her or it, I left everything else I was doing and being before. There was no going back for me.
When throwing, throw to create distance and the advantages of a traversing vector, or throw underneath you in order to immobilize, strike, stab, shoot or to do any combination of these things.
Fear is the enemy, and the battlefield is your mind.
We become heroes by having met heroes. We come to believe in God by having met greater men than we who believe in God.
Before I was to enter my teacher’s Kenshusei Program, a Shidoin senpai called me into his office for a “serious talk.” He was not aware that I had already been in two formal apprenticeships within the Karate system I studied prior to Aikido - one with the Founder of that art and one with the top senior student after the Founder had passed. My Aikido senpai was not aware that those apprenticeships included numerous occasions wherein my bones were broken by these men and by my senpai in this Karate system as part of the learning process. And, so, this Aikido senpai, having the kind of look on his face that tells you he thinks the listener (me) is crazy, deluded, said “You know they are going to break your bones.” He was, apparently, expecting me to say, “Oh, I did not know that. Thanks for telling me. I should withdraw from the program now.” What a joke! Looking back, I can see that this was one of those times when someone doubts you because they themselves cannot muster the dedication, courage, and commitment to do the task themselves. The truth is, a truth I have always known, and one that everyone that trains in Budo must accept: A dojo is a place of violence, and, there, violence will be committed upon your person. Out of all of your training expectations, this is what you should expect the most.
When we reduce God to just aspired versions of ourselves, a jealousy develops within us. Like this, we forever make God silent - because we make ourselves deaf to God’s will. That silence goes on to salve the wounds of that jealousy, or so we think, and so we continue on and on like this until our ego’s need to be below nothing and below no one has us not only deaf, but blind and dumb as well. Like this, we find ourselves in Hell, a place of our own making.
The first generation claimed they were saving the Art by reducing it to its physicality. They held this to be the Art’s most essential aspect. This narrative has been adopted by the second and third generations of practitioners. In truth, the Art’s physicality is actually an obstacle to the Art’s fulfillment, and all that we are really seeing by such action is not the practice of a benevolent foresight but rather the upholding of an inability to understand The Founder clearly.
In a state considered one of the wealthiest places on earth, in an area considered one of the wealthiest places to live in in one the wealthiest nations in the world, in a high school considered to be one of the best educational institutions, is the student body having the highest rate of suicide and suicidal tendencies. How can there be no place for true Budo today?
Yin is not weakness. Yin is the seed of power.
Deshi should always be selected. And, they should be selected according to their capacity to receive criticism and the ease at which they receive instruction.
Only when the heart/mind has been made right, will conflict truly be reconciled.
For Aiki, one must release, completely becoming an empty vessel. Only then will the God Principle enter you, generating through you a gravity and an orbiting pattern, twisting and rotating, with you in its center.
Whatever “Aiki” has become, and whatever it was or is in Daito-ryu, for Osensei, it was the resultant of the mystical experience. If you’re doing Aikido, and you hold O-Sensei as a North Star, and you’re questing for Aiki, then you’re aiming for this same mystical experience.
There is no Aiki without first a great capacity for intimacy.
Around death, and the threat of death, day after day in the crises of others, I notice I long for peace and silence and stillness when they become possible. In contrast, I notice, those that live a life where mole hills are considered mountains, where first-world problems and social dramas are considered real matters, they see peace and silence and stillness as repelling, as things that should be avoided at all costs. I believe this is why Ancient Man always contemplated on Death as part of their wellness systems - to stop this disease of sweating the small shit.
Aikido Nage Waza use forces to generate friction, rotation, topsy-turvy effects, plus fulcrums and levers, and does so in a way that is every bit as concrete, material, and mechanical as is observable in any hip throw.
Kokyu does not originate in a rotation of the hips. In fact, rotating the hips is an obstacle to Kokyu-Ryoku. Instead, one develops Kokyu by torquing across the centerline. For this to happen, the hips must not rotate into the technique.
At the time of entering, your presence must expand to the corners of the world - spears and blows must deflect off of you! Irimi, and penetrate the target! Take its space from it and keep it as your own.
Awareness is a skill. You must cultivate it. You cannot just claim it, nor can you just will it.
Mechanical advantages that are derived from the skeletal manipulation of Uke is an integral step in throwing and pinning training. It may even be an integral aspect of successfully navigating a particular combative engagement. However, if one’s “Aikido” remains functioning only at the level of skeletal manipulation, if it never evolves from that and through that to an energetic manipulation, then one is not doing Aikido. Aikido leverages energies, not bones.
My teacher was a god to me. I do not mean the Hippy Jesus kind of god that moderns in their insecurity need - someone that accepts them for who they are in all their suffering because they believe mommy and daddy did not. No, I’m talking about the gods of premodern Man, the gods that were omniscient and omnipotent and that got angry, and jealous, and that smote the wicked and the righteous at whim, gods that liked drink and sex, the gods that made the skies roar and the ground shake just because they could. I did not adopt this perception for him, however. It was done for me, as this was the surest way of getting out of my own way, the surest way of not self-subverting the transmission of information. This technique is not for everyone, but this has always been the case. Few men have been able to walk where such beings tread, upon holy soil, and then return to mortal lands not only unscathed but made stronger for having walked amongst such titans.
What does it offer us to be skilled or powerful at Aikido? This is the question I see least asked by those attempting to reveal and use the sacred geometries referred to by Osensei? There is a confusion at the heart of such effort and thinking, one where emphasis is misplaced upon the vessel and not upon the shore it attempts to reach, upon the pointing finger and not upon the moon. Skill in Aikido waza is not the aim. It is only the means and the testament of something that rests totally outside of technique. That “outside” is closed to us by such temporal and worldly concerns as martial prowess or even the lesser achievement of Kihon skill. What the master of Aikido seeks is not to know more but through that knowing to know no-thing, not to will something but to will no-thing. I am reminded of something Thomas Merton said to a friend when he was reflecting upon his monastic community, he said something akin to: “The problem with this monastery is that it is filled with people that want to be mystics.”
There were many hallmarks to my teacher’s Aikido, but two stood out for me, and they are the two that must remain incorporated in my own Aikido no matter what direction it follows or what destination it ultimately reaches. These hallmarks are best understood from Uke’s point of view. They are: You (Uke) must feel completely off balance, and you must feel the overwhelming sense of powerlessness that makes you vulnerable to great bodily injury or death. In this way, my teacher’s Aikido, and my own, was and remains completely different from contemporary Aikido and its catering toward the front (soft) breakfall and external (false) yin tactics.
Here’s my sociological theory on why so much attention is placed on the problem of good teachers over the problem of poor students when it comes to the viability of the art: The problem of poor students disseminates up the instructional hierarchy, such that today’s instructors are not that different in their commitment, in their level of sacrifice, or in their total weekly rep count from their students. As such, the problem of poor students becomes less noticeable. As a parallel, think of a driver whose car has a maximum speed of 50 mph. To that driver, vehicles that only have a maximum speed of 25 mph only seem half as slow. However, compare this to a vehicle that has a vehicle maximum speed of 200 mph, of 300 mph, etc. The problem becomes more obvious and responsibility is placed, more accurately, where it has always been placed: On the individual practitioner.
Do not waste time fixing Aikido. Instead, fix your Aikido. Align with the truth that there is not one Aikido, and that not all Aikido are created equal.
The Nage who truly takes Uke’s balance and throws Uke without Uke throwing himself makes a spiritual practice out of the art for Uke, one wherein Ukemi is the cultivation of skill in the reconciliation of fear. The Uke who never unbalances herself and always requires Nage to throw them in order for them to be thrown makes a spiritual practice out of the art for Nage, one wherein Nage Waza is the cultivation of skill in the reconciliation of pride. Like this, both Nage and Uke combine to practice the cultivation of skill in the reconciliation of ignorance.
Why still this fascination with the Japanese Shihan? Why is every demonstration filmed and shared? Could it be for any other reason than but a delusional romanticism, another fetishized expression of the “exotic other,” or even the “noble savage”? Does any serious student of the art still not know that the Aikikai veered from the Founder’s art both spiritually and physically almost immediately? Does anyone still not know that Japanese Aikido, for the most part, consists of Christmas cakes, anime nerds, and of light and weak Nage throwing lighter and weaker Uke - none having either martial nor spiritual necessity for their practice? Who still believes there is only one Aikido? Who does not see how suspect the attempt is to make a singular Aikido, as the Aikikai has done? For who would walk into a painting exhibition and find every painting having the same object portrayed, and portrayed in the same way, and walk out calling it “Art”? Yet, is this not the annual embukai? Embukai, where “martial” has but come to mean “bending knees more” and “push Uke harder and faster,” where this seems to be the only variation or manifestation of personal expression? If you seek valid martial expressions of the art, look to the cops that fight crime and criminals with it, or to the instructors in second and third world countries, or to those from places of poverty and high crime rates, places where the threat of asocial violence is real. Or, look to those that have realized what was said above. If you look for spiritual examples, look to yourself, and to the deserts where faith is challenged and grown. There, listen for the silence that precedes all sounds, seek the Void that exists before the Light, and hold strongly to your own courage when the awe begins to make you quiver.
There are two nearly insurmountable gaps the modern Aikidoka has between his practice and Osensei’s practice. These are gaps that every modern practitioner interested in such things must work to bridge if he is interested in what the Founder was doing and why. The first gap is the mystical experience and the displacing of a materialist worldview. The second gap, relatedly, takes place at the pedagogical level, and is an epistemic gap that exists between premodern and modern systems of thought. These two gaps more than anything else contributed to all those deshi that heard or received Osensei’s teachings but admitted they had no idea what he was saying, or doing, and why. It was not simply the case that Osensei was “like someone else from a different planet,” or that he was “old fashioned.” Rather, he was someone else from a different age, using systems of thought from that age, speaking with that age’s truth-criteria, using it to construct his discourse. Even then, what made this discourse even more foreign to his listeners was that they were a heavily modernized audience - materialists, mechanists, secularists, people closed off from Osensei by their own belief-system, people made foreign by their own faith practices to Osensei’s penultimate experience, mystical communion.
Stage One: The deshi comes into the dojo having an idea about what Aikido is and is not. Stage Two: The deshi comes to realize they have lots of work to do. Stage Three: This is Kihon Waza Training (Shu and Ha). Stage Four: This is Jiyu Waza Training (Ri)
To practice atemi, you must practice more than weapon timing or weapon placement. You must also train in weapon formation, weapon integrity, weapon conditioning, etc. And, you must also train in the cultivation of power. Atemi cannot just be a matter of psychological warfare, unless you also understand that there is no better form of psychological warfare than causing unconscious, in breaking bones, and in pushing faces through to the back of the attacker’s head.
Kihon Waza is not a body of responses or of principles. Rather, it is a collection of codes associated with a specific set of preferred states of mind-body-spirit.
In the practice of Aikido, a principle of concentric truth holds together aesthetic artistry, personal virtue, and the quality of one’s relationships. All mark and show training, or none do.
Make every aspect of the art sacred, then completely humble yourself before it. Disappear, leaving only it.
The quality of a dojo is based upon performance. Performance is based upon group capability and individual character. Therefore, as the Ancients did, make sure training is always understood from a perspective of character development. Take seriously that Budo begins and ends with Rei. Understand Rei in all its forms, and leave by the wayside emotional reactivity and spiritual immaturity. Hold yourself accountable to propriety at all times.
Had Jesus not entered the Marketplace, he would have remained unknown but to his disciples and to those he touched, healed, and loved. His teachings would have stayed with the Believers. When he entered the Marketplace, however, he became controversial, and that is what attracts non-believers most: controversy. Like that, his teachings spread. Like that, his future was both ended and made eternal.
How can small-self people ever not betray those that have united with God? Is not the small-self life already a kind of betrayal against the Divine? How then can this Path ever not bring with it some kind of abandonment and some kind of loneliness, and do so as much as it brings to us an eternal embrace from which we need never be released?
In Ha, one should be able to transfer the coded information of Kihon Waza to non-idealized energy prints, moving, for example, from katate-dori to a Boxer’s three-punch combination. For this though, you’re going to have to train your deshi in the proper execution of such attacks. You cannot just ask them to stick their hands out in a prescribed manner. If you do, you are no further away from Shu than you were with katate-dori. In fact, you are worse off, because you’ve fallen prey to the Modern delusion of if/then training modalities, one’s that are being performed upon a person who has no idea what they are doing. And, a person who has no idea what they are doing, especially uke, will leave you not knowing what you are doing.