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How Does Aikido change us?

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by Lynn Seiser

Published Online

As a professional psychotherapist my business cards have always carried the slogan, “Change is Natural & Inevitable.” I am in the change business. My job is help people learn how to change. It is not an easy task.

I am always impressed how people want something but are not willing to do anything different in order to get it, even if they know that what they are doing does not work. Funny how we hang on to what we know instead of learning something new. I read that on the Internet forums all the time. People ask questions but are more interested in defending their own beliefs that they do not hear what others are offering. An old cliché says if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got. In spite of that, if you try something and it does not work, most of us try the same thing harder instead of trying something else.

If Aikido is the cure for a confused, chaotic, and violent world, how does the practice of Aikido actually change us?

Change comes in many forms and through many different schools of thought. Each school probably works for somebody somewhere, but no school of thought works for everyone everywhere. So goes our human nature. We are all the same, yet different. What schools of change have in common is that they ultimately aim at changing the way we think. The mind tends to be the cause of our suffering. Current research supports that cognitive-behavior psychotherapy is the most effective means to produce change.

The physical practice of Aikido follows different strategies and patterns of movement than most martial arts. Coming from a bashing (FMA/JKD/H2H/CQC) background, it was initially very hard to get my body to move according to the principles and concepts of Aikido. Blend rather than resist? You have to be kidding. Move in a circular motion rather than a linear direction? I did not even do that when I danced. The body did not want to do it and the mind did not understand it. The body and the mind were not fighting each other, they were fighting Aikido.

The whole Aikido model of conflict prevention, management, and resolution is different. Aikido does not deny or avoid conflict or even move away from it. Aikido enters and blends rather than resists. Aikido redirects and unbalances instead of doing damage. Aikido controls the situation or simply throws it away and goes on to something else. All the while, you are supposed to keep the body relaxed and the mind calm. You do not “make” Aikido work; you follow natural patterns and principles and “let” Aikido work. Most of the physical practice take place with predictable practice within the safe context and supervision of the Dojo.

Generalizing the patterns (body) and principles (mind) of Aikido outside the Dojo is the challenge of change. When faced with verbal confrontation and conflict can we verbally enter, blend, and redirect without using force in the form of fear or anger? Do we see and feel compassion and the connection between ourselves and the people who not only think differently but also actually violently oppose all we believe and stand for? Has the physical practice of Aikido in the Dojo changed the way we think about the world and ourselves? If Aikido has changed our hearts and minds, then we have practiced well. If we still stay on the line of attack and take everything said and done personally and seriously, then perhaps we need to practice more, focusing on the intent to change ourselves rather than overcoming our enemy, opponent, or training partner.

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!