010) Week of November 2, 2008: The Paradigm Shift- From Conflict to Harmony
I have spent the last week letting the impact of Ushiro Sensei’s teachings begin to settle into my being. Listening to Ushiro Sensei talk, feeling his kata and techniques is like reading and watching material from and about O’Sensei. I cannot do Shindoryu Ushiro Karate and I feel as though I am just beginning to do Aikido decently. The profound starting point/foundation for each of these arts is in a fundamental transformation away from a paradigm of conflict to one of harmony.
In some respects, conflict is hardwired into the human body. For every muscle group, we have one muscle that extends and the other that contracts. The dynamic equilibrium between these two opposing forces helps us to maintain balance, equilibrium, movement, etc.. It should then come as no surprise that when two opposing bodies meet, there is a language of dynamic and reciprocal tensions between the two bodies. This allows each person to act and react within the same time continuum as the other person.
When a person does not receive the reciprocal tension that the person expects to receive (consciously or unconsciously) the body “searches” for this feedback in order to “know” how to respond in a timely manner. If a person walks into a solid object that his securely anchored, the body reactively tenses certain muscle groups so as to get seriously injured. If this “solid” object is not anchored and simply falls away, the person usually ends up falling down because the necessary reciprocal feedback that the body needed to maintain an upright posture was not there. The body was searching for that information at the expense of remaining balanced. By the time that the body responds to the sensations associated with the loss of balance, the body is reacting too late to effectively maintain the necessary dynamic equilibrium to remain securely balanced.
Learning techniques is not that difficult a task from simply a physical perspective. The task that seems to take a significant time to learn and consistently do, is to harmonize with the attacker. Remaining connected to the energy of the attacker, while remaining soft, energized and centered is a most difficult task. This is the necessary paradigm shift that makes Aikido work! When it does, the technique feels impossibly easy and an outside observer simply does not believe that what happened was not contrived in advance. It is hard enough to stay centered and connected from a static attack or test, that making the same state occur undisturbed in the face of a severe, fast attack is a real sign of “beginning to get it.” When you are in that state, things appear to occur slower than you would expect. You and the attacker are literally operating on different time continuums. This time continuum is kept in place by the continual lack of expected tensions that the attacker’s body needs in order to effectively fight.
There is always communication that exists between the attacker and the person being attacked. The communication paradigm is based on the conflict that exists between the two people. When the person being attacked can harmonize with the attacker, the attacker is left to search for communication within that conflict-based paradigm. In absence of receiving that information in a timely basis, the attacker in placed in a state of being ineffective and too late.
I would like us to focus this week on what is happening inside of us and the other person, both as nage and uke, when we can achieve that state of harmony. Feel what happens when we make that paradigm switch. Listen to the communication and listen to what happens when we cannot maintain ourselves within that paradigm and fall back into a state of conflict. What we hear when we do this tells us what we really need to work on in our sincere practice of Aikido.
Marc Abrams Sensei