This excerpt was published in the BAB (British Aikido Board) Newsletter:
“When O Sensei experienced the event, which he later described as being bathed in golden light, and during which he had a realisation that the martial arts had a greater purpose other than the destruction of people and that they are about harmony as in nature, and are for the benefit of all people, he then set about refining his skills to this aim and started to create the art of Aikido, the way of harmony, and travelled and taught throughout Japan. His long-term students became instructors and some of them introduced Aikido to many areas of the world where it flourishes today.
O Sensei drew on his many skills learnt over a 20-year period from the great Takeda Sensei who taught the art of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujitsu. O Sensei was a master of Kenjutsu, the art of the sword and developed and taught a brilliant and sophisticated empty-handed fighting system based on the laws of nature, harmony, balance as well as Budo (fighting spirit) and encouraged people to learn these principles by studying Aikido, a physical metaphor bringing the idea of non-conflict into their lives in many other ways.
In my experience Aikido practitioners do not get into fights. Experiencing doing and receiving Aikido helps us realise that there are other ways to deal with conflict. We learn to train in such a way that we don’t give openings and we look for the openings that an opponent may give and when our balance is taken and a technique is applied correctly we let go and take the fall. Either that or we are in danger of getting injured. You can’t really cut loose in Aikido.
The most conflict you will ever have is going to be within yourself. So accept the gift of feedback and train to deal with yourself.
The aim of Aikido is to blend with the strength, energy and momentum of the attacker, which is called “Awase”, and then, either redirect the force of their attack rather than opposing it head on, enter to their rear, the principle of irimi, or go around their strength. This requires less reliance on physical strength and power comes from Awase, capturing the balance and delivering atemi, strikes to vital points.
Aikido is not a get fit system; when you train consistently you will get fitter but it is a far more sophisticated Budo and self-development system than just for fitness just as Hypnosis is much more than a set of tools for tricks.
An aikidoka (aikido student) blends with and leads the attackers’ momentum as well as using entering and turning movements. All of the techniques also include strikes (atemi) to vital points that can stop someone and are completed with various locks, holds and throws. The aim is to put your partner in a position whereby, as a result of your own body movement, they can’t avoid falling. The ability to do this is contained in awase and correct use of the basics that are the “set up” and facilitate the techniques, all of which require taking the other persons balance in some way.
The Aikido strategy of ‘‘getting off the line of attack’’ creates a safe space within conflict. This feeling of safety allows one to be more completely present in Aikido and by using the same principles of blending the same applies to therapy or coaching or any other human interaction. By blending with the attack and moving off-line at the same time means there is nothing there to fight against and the opponent, training partner or client can be taken off-balance and led forward towards some sort of conclusion.
As O Sensei said:
“I am always victorious as I contend with nothing.”
Realising that ‘‘Getting off the line’’ and experiencing the attacker moving through without hurting the practitioner can be a transformative experience for Aikidoka and NLP Coaches alike and are ways to change yourself rather than the outer world.
Aikido is not a self-defence system. There is no defence and then attack. Your defence is your attack so that the first thing you do must give you the edge and even better is to anticipate the intention of attack and smother it by initiating your own attack or your own intention, and this can be demonstrated in how you present yourself so the other person, seeing and realising this, may think twice about doing anything. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is stand your ground, take stock, move in, withdraw or not be there. If you see a group of drunken football supporters coming towards you, it will be useful to cross the road.
In any encounter, martial or otherwise, we are aiming to connect with the other person and be so engaged that you can respond to the smallest of movement.
Josh Waitzkin, a chess grand master and world Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands Champion talks about when an opponent pushes he withdraws, the opponent pushes again and he withdraws so a pattern is being set up and he has sort of trained his opponent to continue the pattern and the next time he pushes Josh responds differently and takes his balance. Of course this all happens in seconds or less whereby there isn’t time for conscious thought and you depend on all that training, the 10,000 hours, so the physical skills are wired in and you can respond automatically.
“Knowledge is only rumour until it is in the muscle”
– New Guinea Proverb
This is the same as when we are working or talking with someone else, we are in a communication loop, an ongoing feedback system where we are connected. We see, hear and feel what the other person is saying and doing by keeping our selves present and being mindful. As long as we can build and maintain a connection and be in rapport we will have an influence on the other person and of course we will also be open to being influenced as well because we are also in the same loop. When a person is having difficulty with someone in a relationship they often blame the other person and forget about their part in the system and their expectation is for the other side to change in some way. Maybe that might work but usually it causes an impasse.
When you watch film clips of O Sensei they clearly show, despite offering his wrist to be grabbed, how he always took the initiative and delivered almost imperceptible atemi (strikes) either before or during techniques that momentarily surprised and stopped the opponent from delivering a proper full-hearted attack.
“The highest level of swordsmanship is said to be “swordless” technique, evading rather than striking and this is like the art that O Sensei developed whereby in a duel what was accomplished was the transformation of an enemy, via his way of fighting, into a great and loyal friend. This is part of the essential message of aikido and what O Sensei was trying to teach”. – Aikido Journal”
Paddy Bergin has been training in Aikido for 35 years and is a 5th Dan Yudansha and Instructor at The London Aikido Club. He works as a NLP Coach and he can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The book is now available at online retailers.