109) Aikido- Look Mom It’s Magic! October 2013
I have consistently told my students that there is no magic involved in performing high level Aikido. I am using a definition of magic as an unexplainable occurrence. I admit that I cannot fully explain everything that is going on with my Aikido, but I certainly am trying! There is a lot of overlap in what a magician does and what we do. The magician calls the end result “magic”, while we call it it “Aikido”. These areas deserve some serious exploration. We need an audience (someone who wants to interact with us). We recognize that humans have unique ways of attending to their environment; attending to stimuli, processing sensations, creating perceptions, and moving our bodies. These are discrete areas that we can exploit in order to do what we do well.
We have absolutely no need to execute an Aikido technique if there is no one trying to make a physical connection with us (our audience). The person who is trying to establish a physical connection with us typically responds in relatively predictable ways to the response sets that they receive from us (action-reaction relationship). Humans are beings that seek to ascribe meaning and understanding (consciously or unconsciously) to their experiences. When a person makes physical contact with us, that person has a preconscious set of expectations of what that person will experience (in terms of a sensation, which determines the perception). The last thing that we want to do, is to provide some feedback that is expected.
Just think of what you expect to experience when you go up and push someone hard in the chest with both hands. What if the person was like a hologram? This would be like pushing a door that you think will provide resistance back, and there is no resistance. What if that person was like a wall? This would be like pushing a door that you think is open, and it is shut tight. What if the person was like a revolving door and you did not realize that. As you enter on one side, you have been entered into on the other side. If we learn how to respond to particular sets of stimuli (courtesy of the person trying to connect with us) in a manner that the person is unaccustomed to receiving then we gain a remarkable, tactical advantage. The other person might have had the tactical advantage by initiating contact, but the failure to receive the expected feedback leaves the person now waiting for us to provide that person with meaningful information that can be processed into how to effectively respond to the information.
Learning how to move with a connected body is difficult. Learning how to move that connected body in an integrated/unified manner is difficult. Learning how to effect movement in a manner that people are not use to experiencing is difficult. Learning how to deal with incoming force in a different manner than people are accustom to experiencing is difficult. This takes good teaching, good training, and a lot of time put into this work. Then again, a great magician also spend countless hours learning how to use the body differently as well. A magician exploits this process when they are touching people to get them to react in a particular manner so that they are not able to physically track what the magician is actually doing (eg. taking a wallet from one of your pockets and placing it somewhere else on you without you being aware of this switch).
We have set ways in which we take in, and process visual stimuli. We are pre-programmed to focus in on some shapes more than others; to focus in on certain types of movement; to focus in on visual stimuli in the frontal plane, etc. When we process visual stimuli into meaningful, visual information, we respond do and react to this information in a relatively predictable manner. When we move in a manner that confounds and/or overwhelms our ability to process and track the visual stimuli, the person is unable to track and react in an effective manner. We don’t move to create movement in a manner that a person can visually track well.
If a person is throwing a punch at your face, the person is visually honed in on that target and is set to respond to visual stimuli primarily from that targeted area. If some some part of your body, on the sagittal plane (back side) moves towards the coronal plane (front side) at the same rate as the coronal plane moves to the sagittal plane, then the person honing in on the target in the coronal plane will not accurately track the movement. If a person is targeting one of your sides and the movement from the transverse side enters into the coronal plane, the person will also have a difficult time tracking the movement. If you cannot track movement as efficiently and effectively as the person that you are in a conflict with, you will be at a distinct tactical disadvantage.
We also talk about the center line as the most important line to control. We take in visual information stereotaxically. Information from our left side gets sent to the right side of the back of our brain, while information from the right side gets sent to the left side of the back of our brain. The center line is the meeting of two separate perceptual “screens”. This means that it takes our brains the longest to integrate the information from two “screens” into meaningful, visual perception. Controlling the center line gives us a tactical advantage.
It takes a lot of hard work to learn how to move your body in an unaccustomed manner. Learning to do so can result in the disruption a person’s ability to visually track you accurately and efficiently. The magician utilizes knowledge about visual sensation and perception very effectively. The magician uses this information in order to seem to make things disappear, or appear out of an improbable place.
When the person you are working with (or yourself for that matter), or maybe someone watching says that what you just did was like magic, take that as a compliment. The harder you work at something correctly, the easier it becomes for you to do it. Particularly when you are playing with magic :)!
Marc Abrams Sensei