015) Week of December 8, 2008: The Hard Task To Stay Soft
Aikido is not an easy art to learn. The difficulties do not lie in a complex system of techniques, but lie in in the necessity to “rewire” our bodies in order to make this art highly effective. The “rewiring” involves changing how we respond to tensions and conflicts. Our bodies almost always respond to aggression by tensing our muscles. This results in the restricting of our breathing and our ability to effectively move. Many martial arts emphasize the importance of being “hard” and “strong.” I have serious reservations about how that is done. As a test of what I mean, hold your hands out if front of you and tighten your arm and finger muscles. Keep them tense when someone tosses a football at your hands. You can’t grab it! When you are tense, you first must relax your muscles before you can effectively move.i
Tension in your body creates “noise” that focuses your perceptual capacities on the internal information created by the tension. Tension prevents you from being able to focus your perceptual capacities on the world around you. The ability to be sensitive to what is occurring around you when a potential conflict may occur is a critical factor towards a successful outcome. You become more sensitive to your environment when you are centered, focused and do not have unecessary tensions in your mind and body.
When an attack is occuring, your ability to move quickly and in unison with the attack is predicated upon being focused, centered and relaxed. This ability to “listen” to the attack and attacker enables the person to know when, where, and how to move. Thinking that you will execute “x” technique based upon “y” attack is a danger position to take. The attacker will provide all of the information necessary in order for you to move in a particular manner – a.k.a.-> technique.
The attacker needs to receive “tension” from the potential victim in order to know how to continue the process of attacking another person. If the attacker does not receive this tactile and energic feedback, the attacker falls behind in an ability to respond in-time with the person, because the attacker’s mind and body is literally searching for this information. The attacker has a hard time remaining balanced and capable of continuing an effective attack.
We can experiment with remaining energized and soft is countless ways. Tense your body when there is a static attack and try and execute a given technique. Then soften your body and try that same technique. Listen carefully to your body experience and listen to the body experience of the attacker. When a technique becomes difficult to execute, ask yourself “where in my body am I too tense?” Do not give up and retry that technique. relax the tense part and resume the technique. This is an important part of learning how, when and why your body becomes too tense when trying to execute a technique. This is a helpful way of “rewiring” your body to remain energized, sensitized and soft so that this art can be effectively expressed. This process of “rewiring” your body to remain in this state, regardless of the circumstances, is what truly makes this art a life-long learning process with truly remarkable results!
Marc Abrams Sensei