The Light and the Dark


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Anger, Fear, Aggression
The Dark Side of the Force are They
Easily they Flow
Quick to join you in a Fight
If once you start down the Dark Path
Forever will it Dominate your Destiny
Consume you, it will

– The Empire Strikes Back

patras greace by jason blackeye

Patras in Greace. Photo by Jason Blackeye.

The question about what aikido is, and what it is not, is something which has created discord and conflicts in the aikido community many times over, both on a personal level, on the tatami, and in larger scale between federations and groups. It has split the art into several factions sometimes unwilling to practise together. When people who disagree about this question meet on the tatami we often end up with conflicts where both are certain that they are right and the other must therefore be mistaken. We have met an ENEMY!

There are countless examples of how the conflict could materialise. But in general, I believe that they all start with the disagreement regarding how the keiko should be performed, and what the purpose of the practice is.

There is a lot of ambiguity in our keiko, because it is so open. It is the strength of aikido, because there are no limitations by age, strength, sex, level of experience or size. Everybody can practise together on equal terms. The only obstacle, the single thing which stands in our way is in our own mind. We have to wish to practise with our partner. If we don’t, it will never work.

pixabaydotcom ball of fire

Picture by

Our partner comes with the whole package. The body, and the mind and everything in between. We can’t change any of it. Perhaps we can change our own mind (and that is a challenge right there), but we can’t initially change the mind of the partner. After some time we might affect the partner during the keiko, of course. However, we have to be able to do the keiko in order for that to happen. And keiko is keiko. Fighting is not. And right there is a statement on which some would disagree with me, probably.

I remember some conflicts in myself actually, from the early years, of wether we should regard the bokken as sharp or not when doing throws with the blade on the arms of the partner. The same discussion was raging in me regarding wether an atemi in the form of a physical strike from tori should, by itself, be a reason for uke to move.

In one way it is a very easy answer to both questions: YES, the partner should move, to protect himself/herself from potential damage to his/her body. However, who is the attacker in this situation? And what happens if the partner just makes some counter? And there is a counter to the counter, and a counter to the counter to the counter, and so on. In most cases if I can hit, the partner can also hit, or kick, or head but, or worse.


Picture from

With the sword it is even more to the point, I think. Yes, the edge of the sword is very sharp, and a touch on naked skin would cut directly. Then some would argue that we should consider that uke is wearing armour. And we could argue back and forth, but in any case, we probably know, inside ourselves what we are searching for. We just want our way to be right, because it feels good for our ego.

Of course, in the first stages of learning the movement, I would say that, yes, the uke should move on the symbolic atemi, and consider the blade as dangerous (even if we have a blunt wooden surface on our skin). This way we can understand the basic mechanics of the kata. However, after some time, if we would like to reach the deeper meaning in the movement, I believe that it is more nurturing that the partner is just standing, observing what happens, but not actively doing anything, neither helping nor resisting what happens.

pixabaydotcom birds

Photo by

In this state tori is not attacking with the kata, and uke is not protecting herself/himself from the attack. There is no stress, and we have time to feel the structure of the situation. If we sense that we are starting to push against each other we have to ease up and search for a different solution. If we feel that we are stuck, we can search for the location of our block, inside ourselves.

This atemi/sword situation is just one example of a situation where conflicts could emerge. I believe that the real challenge in aikido is to deal with these conflicts as we meet them, in a good way, so that we can practise with EVERYBODY.

Of course, we should consider safety, and our own health first, but I believe that there are valuable and unique pieces of our puzzle in all the people on the tatami. To enjoy these parts we have to find a way to practise with exactly this person, or we will miss a invaluable part. Very often the most important pieces are hidden in those partners which are most difficult for us to practise with.

jim harper heaven and hell

Photo by Jim Harper.

Sometimes we feel violated by our partner, because the partner is practising in a different way from us. However, I believe that it is important to remember that this brother or sister in aikido is merely doing the keiko, in their way. Our way is only one out of many, and it is not the only way. What is better or worse is not even relevant in this situation, I think. As long as we are not hurt, we can accept almost whatever, just to have a meeting with this new friend. Then later, maybe we can exchange ideas more deeply about how to make keiko more productive.

Still, if we get emotionally affected, we do. And it usually happens when we are unaware. It is difficult to go back to the state of our initial meeting after we already have some mental scars with somebody. So I believe that it is important to try to have an open mind for a different view, every time I meet a new partner on the tatami. I believe that the only enemy in our world is conflict itself.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!



Concerning alignment and stillness


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My old man used to tell me,
before he left this shitty world:
Never chase busses or women.
You’ll always get left behind.

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

When I was a beginner I was taught that we use alignment of the body to build a structure which can withstand the greatest possible force, or produce the greatest possible force. Previously this idea has not been fitting in very well into my chosen path in aikido. It seemed to me as a totally different road, because (the last decade at least) I have been searching for ways to move with the partner without any force, at all, neither in pushing, pulling or twisting actions.

zhou lulu photo by charniga

Zhou Lulu with 192 kg on her chest. The word record in Clean and Jerk. Photo from, picture by Charniga.

This summer two of my dear friends in aikido got me into thinking of this concept of alignment of the anatomical structure of the body in a new way. And since then it has been on my mind almost every class I have participated in. This time I am considering the alignment as a restriction, and not as a construction for getting strong.

The body is slightly asymmetrical. This happens due to the embryological development of the fetus (we are all a little bit naturally twisted). So the alignment might not be 100 % in the reference system of the room outside. The inside reference system, of the body itself, is the one that counts. Still, we have no real way of measuring this, so most of the time we will use the outer system to check if we are straight or not.

Alignment of the body naturally has other functions than to generate and absorb force. If everything moves, the signals to the partner becomes unclear, and the path we are presenting for our partner appears misty. In this situation the partner will either take his/her own path, or most likely, no path at all, because there is really no real need to go anywhere. We are really just pushing ourselves out of position, because we are trying to do something on our partner.


The beauty comes from the combination of the immovable rock wall and the flowing water streaming down. Salto del Angel in Venezuela. Photo by Wikipedia.

Also, even if I am not striving to achieve great force in my interaction with my partner, it is beneficial to make the movements in a economical way of using the body, to prevent strain injury over time. We are, after all, doing this every day, and hope to continue to do it every day for the rest of our lives. Any unnecessary strain on the body during the keiko should of course be avoided, and alignment of the posture is a great way to take care of this.

The thing is, we often think that we are straight, even if we are not, due to a combination of lack of awareness and traumas in the body (and in the mind). So we end up in disadvantageous positions because we are trying to do something, and our mind is on what we are trying to do. As I said, straight outside is not always straight inside, but if our road takes us close to an area where we feel fear, we will naturally try to avoid the area where we are uncomfortable, and we might end up in strange postures.


Our posture is not always as straight as we think it is. Photo by New Line Cinema.

Cameras and mirrors are an invaluable resource when investigating these concepts. They do not lie, and the truth is sometimes painful to see if it has been long since we checked ourselves in this manner. Also, we will have to conquer our own fear when we reach the areas where we feel discomfort.

As an example, I have a tendency to bend my head to the right, when I am uke in tai no tenkan holding my partner with my left hand. Some muscles are slightly tensing, twisting my posture during the movement. So I try to check myself if I am straight, or not, during this movement. Straightening out my spine is scary in a way which is difficult to describe. I feel that I am way to close to the partner, and I might even be at this time, because of all this internal mess in my shoulders I might not fit into the “safe zone” yet. I am “too square” to stay within the martial area outside the partner’s reach. However, with some polishing, I believe these traumas will be healed and I will be able to melt into the shape I need to make a better tai no tenkan both as tori, as well as uke.

When our partner is holding us and we try to do something, our alignment will be broken, because we are pushing against something immovable. Something have to give, and if our partner is strong our own posture will collapse.

Sometimes I feel that when I manage to keep my alignment, and succeed in doing absolutely nothing, except perceiving what is going on inside my own, and my partner’s body, we will start to move together, in a flow. Like if there was some waterfalls inside our bodies feeding the movements. All interference is just standing in our way. Once I have gotten a taste of this it becomes the only way I accept to move with the partner. This is how I would like to make all the kata, always, and with every single partner in the world. Anything else seems like mere, (and uninteresting) mechanical pushing, pulling and twisting.

It seems to me as a big paradox. We are moving, yet we are doing nothing.


Kjelfossen in Norway. Photo by

In karate dori tai no tenkan I believe that there are three main restrictions which seals the two partners into a specific area of study:

  1. The kata: tai no tenkan. It defines the movement which we should do individually as tori, and as uke. It gives a measure of distance and areas of reach for each partner. It makes the practice martial.
  2. The grab: Katate dori. We should hold on completely, without losing contact with any part of our palm. The force distribution in the grab should be balanced so that no points are burdened with more weight than others during any part of the movement. The grab should be constant from beginning to end.
  3. The alignment: By focusing on the center line and the posture of the body we economise the movement and clean away all unneccesary movements. The alignment is protecting our integrity and ensures that we are always in the best position we could possibly be in given the current situation.

We are squeezed between these restrictions, challenging ourselves to find ways to move within this chosen prison cell. I believe that by studying what is contained within, we are gaining freedom which we can use in the world outside the dojo. I believe that this freedom which we find here, will enrich both us and everybody we meet in our daily lives.


Ramnefjellet and Lovatnet in Norway. Photo by

Of course, by keeping our physical alignment, we are keeping ourselves neutral, and in our own field of perception. However, for me, the greatest challenge lies in keeping our mental alignment. We want to do things. We have an intention of doing something. We wish to express something from within ourselves. This is what is causing us to lose our mental alignment of neutral perception of the situation. This is not only true for aikido. It happens all the time, everywhere, in the world outside.

Our expectations and ambitions is setting an image in our mind of how it will be. Sometimes unexpected things happen and we are in a completely different situation than what we expected. How do we deal with it? How does it affect us? Which consequences does this concept have for the world around us, both in a smaller scale, between people; and a in larger scale, between nations?

It could be as simple as expecting to sit relaxed and read during a train journey, and ending up sitting on your suitcase in the hallway because the train is totally overbooked and there are no seats at all. Or the toilet line before class happens to be much longer than you expected. Or we get rejected by someone we really wanted to know better. The list is endless. We have a discrepancy between what exists in our mind, and the real situation we have to deal with.

We have the opportunity to work on this every day on the tatami. We tried something, and it did not go as we expected, or wished, it would. Do we get frustrated and angry, or do we get curious? Do we blame the partner, and say that he/she did something wrong? Do we get angry at ourselves for “failing” in doing what we tried to do? Why did it go the way it did? Why would we define what we expected as a “good result” and what really happened as a “bad result”? It was the truth happening, was it not?


Yumbilla waterfall in Peru. Photo by

I am searching for a stillness where I can sense what is happening in a deeper way, and I believe that this mental alignment is a fundamental part of it. I try to rid myself of any preference and opinions of what is good and what is bad. To be completely non judgemental. To mentally be completely straight mentally, and never be tilted towards any wish to do something.

Of course, if we are doing nothing, and try to do nothing, and try to not try to do anything, including trying to do nothing, then what are we doing? What is the keiko? We have kata. We have forms we are practising with our buddies. This is what keeps it possible for us to not get lost. Still, at least lately, for me, the idea of doing nothing is the most important idea right now both as uke and as tori.

I believe the idea of doing nothing is very powerful, and this stillness we achieve by succeeding is very nurturing. It is an idea beyond the technical world of aikido. We are doing nothing, but only perceiving, from our heart, what is happening. Somehow, streams are flowing anyway, without our meddling, and all we have to do is get out of the way so that the flow can proceed. Then we can ride the tide in there, and surf the waves.


Seminar with Franck Noël sensei in Stockholm in October 2017. Photo by José Maria Sevilleja Lopez.

Our perception can reach so many levels, and we can use infinitely many images. There are no limits. As long as we keep our own alignment, both physically and mentally, we will be able to sense everything. We can feel waves in our partner’s body, streams, movements, emotions and of course, our own fear of failure.

It is very often hard to separate between what is us, and what is the partner. This is why I believe the alignment is so important, mentally as well as physically. Once we are still, we can sense the partner. If we do not have this stillness we can only see ourselves. Our own needs and ambitions. The partner appears as an obstacle instead of our study partner. With the stillness we can see, we can hear, we can feel and sense. We are alive!

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!

Never underestimate the power of the imaginary tennis ball of aiki


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I see my reflection in the window
It looks different, so different than what you see
Projecting judgment on the world
This house is clean baby
This house is clean

Metallica – Dirty Window

Tennis balls, I have heard, are a great tool for self massage. I have actually not tried this myself, but apparently by using a tennis ball, we can massage out a lot of stiff muscles in areas otherwise hard to reach by ourselves. I never tried it (probably should though), but I have heard from many friends that it works really, really well.

However, the idea of a tennis ball has helped me massage out some pretty disgusting knots in my mind, and my body, though. Well, actually the combination of my partner and the idea of a tennis ball that is.

We see everything through our window. Is the dirt inside or outside? It is hard to tell. The image is taken from

When our partner is holding us, we are usually not restricted by our partner. We can always blame the partner for holding us in an incorrect way. Too strongly, too stiffly, resisting too much, fighting us. In reality we could just punch them in the face and kick them in the nuts, right? Where does these strange ideas come from? How can we think that our buddy, our most valued friend, who are holding on to our arm so that we can rid ourselves from our traumas, sickness and other things pushing us down in our lives, is the enemy? When we think about it it becomes really absurd.

The things which restricts us are many things. Most of all our wish to make short cuts. We have habits from the world outside the dojo, which in most cases goes unnoticed there. Like picking up a glass of water. We can do it in many ways being totally unconnected to ourselves, and we will never notice that something is wrong about the way we move our arms. We are allowed to move so in those cases so we make the shortcuts because it is convenient.

We imagine that we are standing on a balancing board. We give our partner our balance and get her/his balance in return. An exchange of balance. The picture is taken from

However, when our partner is holding on to our arm. The shortcuts are unmasked as dishonest intentions. The partner will inevitably, even if they are trying to help us make the movement, reveal the “unclean” spots in our mind and body. The ego wants us to lift our arm, and we are used to move without a partner, most of the time, so we see this unfree nature of ourselves for the first time.

This is very hard for us, because we feel trapped. We have been trapped by this all our lives, and the partner is the one to make this visible, so of course it is easy to blame the partner for the problem. Easy, but not very productive though.

So how do we help our mind get free from this disturbance of the ego? Every time, even if we are aware of our problem, when we try to correct it, we replace the old problem with a new one, because our ego and wish to do something interferes with our interaction with our partners.

If we imagine watching ourselves and our partner, from the sky, like in a strategy game, it takes the ego out of our situation. The picture is taken from Starcraft. The first meeting of Kerrigan and Raynor.

When we try to lift and the partner holds our arm, we are tensing somewhere, and the feeling of being trapped are unconsciously making us tense that area even more. Our unawareness is invisible to us, and the more we search the more invisible it will get. We wish to lift the arm so our intentions goes up, even though we probably should have just as much intention down (which is very hard for us, as it is never needed when we lift the glass of water from the table).

I have previously mentioned some other mind tricks which has helped me take the intention out of the equation, leaving behind only it’s ego free shadow. However the last few months I started with a new one, which I use a lot for the time being. It is not better than the other ones, but different, and it helps me very much in some situations, and are less useful in others, just as the other images.

When my partner grabs my wrist i imagine that she/he holds on to a tennis ball. It is more or less the same size as my wrist, and somehow it appears to me as quite similar to holding a wrist. My arm is free and I stand a short distance away from my partner, and I observe the tennis ball in my friend’s hand. Then I connect my mind to the tennis ball, and I can feel that there are a lot of restrictions in the infinitely many axises around which this ball can rotate. I can now clearly feel that tensions in both my mind and my body are connected to these restrictions.

A tennis ball is a little bit like a wrist, isn’t it? Maybe it is just me. The picture is taken from

I let my partner hold on, and I leave all the weight of my arm in the grab. I am imagining the rotations and feel them all without turning the tennis ball. Without wish or intentions I am trying to make freedom for the tennis ball so that my friend can move her/his arm in the way they naturally would, if they could, if I would let them. First the tension lets go in my mind, and then in the body.

This usually goes through several steps where there are stops part of the way through the movement. Then we should stop and investigate the rotation axises once more, and find out which one is unfree, preventing the partner from living out the natural movement of her/his body and mind.

I use this image almost every time I practice tai no tenkan now. It is intriguing for me that such an easy trick can make a difference in how we think about the situation with our partner. Instead of focusing on the partner as our adversary we are shifting our focus to the conflict itself, without taking parts. I do the same when I am uke. I grab the tennis ball and search for the unfree rotation axises and release where I need to release to be able to follow the ball’s movements.

A chance meeting of friends in Dresden in June 2017. The picture was taken at Aikidojo Dresden by Tim Warkentin.

It is of course wonderful how we are cleaning up our body, and make it more connected and economical in it’s use. However, the most interesting part of aiki for me is the effect it has in cleansing us as a person from dishonest and impure intentions from our mind. I believe it is, over time, changing the way we think about different things, everything.

It is so easy to have an image blurred by our own situation. We see everything from our position. We want, we plan to, we will do, we think like this. And there is the others; the strangers; the idiots; the bad guys; and the enemies, standing in our way, right? Well these guys are probably thinking exactly in the same way about us, standing from their point of view we are the others; the strangers; the idiots; the bad guys; and the enemies, and we are staining in their way for achieving their goals. The brilliant idea of aiki, I think, is to take our selves out of the equation.

There are a lot of dishonest tricks in martial arts, of course, but aiki is not one of them. It is a way to create peace. The only way, maybe.

Picture by

Enjoy your keiko! Aiki makes people happy!

Peace sells, but who is buying?


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The first of May is a national holiday both in Norway and in Sweden, where everybody goes to demonstrations for what they believe in. What I have always believed in is the total annihilation of man kind. I honestly believe that our world would be better off without us. I will not kill anybody, but I will for sure not have any children, and you can consider it my contribution to end the human race. Humans are bad, and that is all there is to it. There never was any demonstration on first of May for my cause, and if there was, I probably would not agree with those marching in it, because it would for sure involve a great number of the reasons why I don’t believe in the human race in the first place.

Where I work we close at 17 on Saturdays. 1645 somebody called. My mental defences were down and I were trying to help, so he got inside. Inside of me his verbal weapons exploded, destroying any hopes for a peaceful weekend. When you are in a service profession and this thing happens, your hands are tied. You are supposed to act professionally, even if the person you are talking to are attacking you, degrading you, and using physiological tricks to manipulate you. You do the things you have to do to help the person, and keeps everything inside. However, when the call ends, you always end up continuing to argue with him/her, and when you realise what has happened you get angry, and keep doing violent acts to him/her in your mind. It is impossible to avoid if the person already got to you.


Photo by Bianca Ågren

This is where the magic of aikido comes in. In about 24 hours, and two sessions of aikido I have been going from ripping his head off with my bare hands, and shitting down his neck, to merely choking him out and stuffing him head first into a garbage dumpster. I need a few more sessions of aikido to totally fix my head, but it is a tremendous step towards peace.

The Founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, called his art “The Art of Peace”. And it is exactly how it works. You have no idea how many action movies it has ruined for me, because I am supposed to hate the bad guy at the end when the horrible death comes to him. However, I do not hate the bad guy any more. I pity him/her. Aikido makes me hate less, love more, and understand more and more people. In fact, I actually are at the limit of actually having some hope for human kind. Maybe not a big one, but a small one at least.

Certainly there are a lot of people doing martial arts for self defence. A very usual point of view is that the only reason for doing martial arts are for the purpose of self defence. In my mind aikido is something much deeper. On the contrary it is actually the opposite of self defence, in my mind. You can look at self defence as the art of war, but aikido is the art of peace.


Fun in Stavanger with Maren and Marius in August 2016. Photo by Jacqueline Von Arb.

Night vision goggles gives you the possibility to shoot and kill somebody at 20 times the distance they can shoot and kill you. It will increase the rate of survival quite a bit in a situation where you need to kill the enemy before he/she kills you. However, where the function lies, so does the problem. It gives you a tactical advantage over your enemy, yes, but why do you have an enemy? How do you know that you are the good guy and the other is the bad guy? Why is it not the other way around? Oh yes, because you are the one to decide, and the enemy does not have a say so in the matter.

Aikido is not a weapon. It is an anti weapon. The enemy is not the other, but the conflict in itself. Our goal is to unite with our partner. To find peace where there is war. It is a balancing factor in the world we live in, which is so much dominated by a search for more and more power.

It is how everything works. International politics, business meetings, even social gathering, and friends hanging out. The more powerful ones are the ones to dominate the others. Nobody really wants it this way, because it is bad for everybody in the end, but nobody dares to change it. It is not about what is right and what is wrong, but it is rather what you can get away with and what you can’t get away with. You do because you can. “The food first, morality later”, as it says in red writing outside the dojo I practice almost every day.


Tai no tenkan with Per-Edvin at Svartsjö Castle in April 2017. Photo by Per Erik Stendahl.

I don’t have any 1st of May parade to attend, but my cause in this world is aikido. But it is not something we should go in demonstrations to promote. We just have to practise it. First in the dojo, and then outside the dojo. When the aggression comes, it is not met with counter aggression, but with stillness. There is nowhere for the aggression to enter, so we are at peace.

O Sensei called tai no tenkan the biggest secret of aikido. I get part of that, I think, because it is a very deep exercise in making peace with the partner. There is no real way to get the upper hand and dominate the partner in a way that is not possible to easily reverse. What one can do, so can the other, so any attempt to use weapons or acts of war is futile. The partner is holding and that is all there is.

One of the reasons for practising is this strong belief that there is a better way, than how the world is working right now, or rather how it is not working… The other reason is the consequence of this idea, but in the emotional dimension. The intellectual idea of aikido is something I can explain in this way, but the emotional effect I can’t really say much about, except that it is a consequence of the intellectual idea. It is a bit like explaining why sunsets are beautiful.


Hanging out after practice in Tekisuikan Aikido Club in Trondheim in October 2011.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!

The Roundabout


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Imagine three huge roads meeting in an intersection. It is rush hour. Everybody is trying to hurry to not be late for work. Nobody wants to give way for anybody else. Everybody is annoyed with anybody who gets in their way.

A thought that might cross the minds of these guys is that they should get a tank and just run over everybody else to get to where they are going without getting slowed down by anything. Sure, it would get them to work in time, and nothing and nobody would be able to stop them, because all the other cars would crumble to pieces under the tanks treads. However, it would kill most of the other people trying to get to work.


Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The picture was taken around 1920, for a post card. I got it from Wikipedia.

The tank solution is maybe good enough a solution for some people. They just have to make sure to get a tank and make sure nobody else does. Still, the problem remains the same once everybody has their tanks going to work, and this time around they will be shooting at each other.

The roundabout separates the problem point where the traffic jams into six intersections (in the specific case where three roads meet at one point), and brings everybody into a circular path around a common center. Each of these six intersections obviously have less load than the one, thus giving flow where there otherwise would have been a standstill.

npcc.30408        Thomas Circle       National Photo Company           1922

The Thomas Circle in Washington DC. The picture was taken in 1922. I got the picture from Wikipedia.

I really do not know much about traffic and flow, but it appeared to me that the roundabout is very similar to the idea of aiki. Of course, in a grab, which is the equivalent of the intersection of roads, there are not six roads but maybe six million roads (three million from each partner). It is always rush hour, and all the cars are the same (there are no tanks). The signals are there, but in the grab there is a conflict. Not a real conflict, but a made up conflict, for us to study the world we live in.

I live for this idea of aiki. The idea of a different way of living in this world that might appear as very violent and dark at times. It is such a natural way to just do like everybody else, and try to get a tank of our own to hide inside. Gear up, upgrade the weapons and the armour, always make sure to be the strongest one, to fight trough whenever there is a conflict.


The Letchworth Roundabout in England. The picture is taken from Wikipedia.

This is the system of our world. It affects all levels of our society. It is not always the stronger “beating up” the weaker, but the threat is there, and things happen as a consequence of this threat. Countries are at war with each other; International companies have their power games; Everybody has their struggles trying to stand out among our peers to get that “decent job”; In big family matters it is the same, the ones with most power have the most influence pushing everybody else back into place whenever they feel it is needed; At social events amongst colleagues or friends it is the same. The stronger the better, and we do because we can. This way of thinking will eventually destroy us all.

When my partner holds me when I want to move it really does feel impossible at times. There is nowhere I can move, and nowhere my partner can move. Still there really is space for both of us, for all our little cars going everywhere. It is just that we are stuck at a traffic jam. We need to construct a roundabout together. Spinning around a common center solves our problems and creates a flow which is beneficial for all. The roundabout becomes rather a mental one rather than a physical one in this case, but it resolves the conflict in the grab.

I believe very strongly in this idea of “The Art of Peace”, “The Art of Non Conflict” “The Art of Aiki“. It is the driving force in my life. It is such a beautiful fantasy world I can visit every day, in the dojo, and I can take little pieces of it with me out into the grey void outside. Outside if somebody does something good it is very often in fear of some severe consequence of their action. I believe we should do what we know is right, because it is right. Not because we want to earn something or avoid negative consequences for ourselves.


The Roundabout below Pearl Tower in Shanghai. The photo is from Wikipedia.

In addition to being a strong and inspiring idea intellectually, the experience we have with our partners as we do aiki brings such nice feelings of joy and happiness. The joy comes from our partners and they receive the same from us. This is the consequence of the same idea, I think.

The idea of creating something beneficial for everybody, something we can never earn something from, something which in its entirety is dedicated to helping others. It is the only way to save the human race from disaster, I think. It just came to me while half sleeping in a fever haze in a back room of a dojo during an aikido seminar, that it is a little bit like the idea of a roundabout. It creates flow where it otherwise would be stagnation, and it does not give advantage to anybody in particular, but it is good for everybody, when we are in a hurry to get to work in time.

Except, of course, if we have that tank standing in our garage, and we feel that egoistic rage and just want to squash everybody else into a red pulp of blood and metal, just so that we can get to where we want to be.

Enjoy your keiko! Aiki makes people happy!

The Shadow


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Think Big, Do Small;
Think All, Do Nothing

Ancient aiki proverb
(Jorma Lyly)

There is a natural balance in the Universe. Every action has a corresponding counter action. Every push or pull has a corresponding counterpart. There is no way of getting around this. Sometimes, for example due to the finite speed of light, or gravitons, the balance might be shifted for a period of time, but the balance always returns as time passes.


Ushiro waza with Marius in Sjøholt, December 2016. Photo by Sigurd Hatlen.

I believe this is also true for our intention. Our intention is an expression of our ego. We want something, and we express it in different ways. If we express our intention to our partner in the keiko, our partner might help us, and go along with whatever we are doing, because that is the way we have agreed on practising. However, by nature, if we experience sensation of force on ourselves, we naturally respond by creating a counterpart to the push, pull or rotation which we are detecting. It is the natural way we keep our posture and balance.

An example could be the way we walk. Under our soles we have different contact points with the ground. Each of our ten toes, the inner and outer front of the foot, the blade of our foot and the heel. These 18 points are constantly measuring the pressure from the ground and respond immediately if they are detecting irregularities.


Ushiro waza with Marius in Sjøholt, December 2016. Photo by Sigurd Hatlen.

In our practise we are agreeing on falling. We are exploring by experiencing the loss of our balance to the point that we are actually doing our falls in a complete balance. Not the normal one of course, but even when we are upside down in the air, there is no loss of control, perfectly balanced in our movement. However, the normal way humans move, are by walking, and we do not normally like to fall. So our system protects us by responding to any outside manipulation with an equal, but opposite force.

I actually will go as far as to say that when this interaction is person to person this rule goes also for our intention. Any intention in one, will be balanced out by a equal, but opposite directed counter intention in the other. Like I said, we usually agree on helping each other, but this is a natural reaction, so if we are caught by surprise, we will do it without thinking, to restore our balance.


Ushiro waza with Marius in Sjøholt, December 2016. Photo by Sigurd Hatlen.

So how can we ever be able to make a movement with our partner? Our intention is what we normally use to make actions. We wish to do something, we want something, and this is our ego speaking. And that is where the problem lies, I think. The moment we make a movement the partner will stop us. The partner’s ego does not like the interference of anybody else’s ego. It feels suppressing to us. Our will is dominated by somebody else’s intentions. This is why we naturally react to cancel the manipulations made by others. This is even sometimes visible when watching the practise from the outside. There is the counter intention, but the partner follows to complete the form the participants have agreed on.

Of course, we can always use technical skills to be able to force the partner anyway. This is maybe sufficient for a situation in itself, not considering the big picture, and what comes after. However, this is no solution for the problem at hand. Our partner is holding and we are expected to move. It is a simplified exercise to learn about things outside the dojo. The goal is not to force our partner to move. The grab by our friend is not the problem, it is the exercise. The world outside is the problem. Not self defence, but the bigger picture. The wars, the violence, the hostility, the hate, the separation of US and THEM. Our partner is holding on to our arm to study the problem.


Ushiro waza with Marius in Sjøholt, December 2016. Photo by Sigurd Hatlen.

I want a deeper solution. So I have been thinking about how to move our partner without pushing our ego tainted intention on to our partner. I have a theory, which seems to give results, in some cases at least. I believe that just as our body is casting a shadow, when we are standing in the Sun, so do our intention. If I move my arms my shadow will also move exactly like my real arms. However, the shadow is free from my ego. We can’t use the shadow of our body to throw our partner, of course. However, I believe that our intention’s shadow can touch the shadow of our partner’s intention. Our shadow is free from our ego, and so is our partner’s shadow.

Of course this is all in our mind. There is no magic. There is only practise. Lots of it. The more we practise, the easier it is to separate our intention from it’s shadow. Imagining making a big movement, but limiting ourselves, actually struggling against our own will, making a very small movement. Then taking the next step, just imagining doing it all, and not moving at all (that is in fact the hardest part). The partner will start to move and make apparently make the movement for us. This feeling is very special when it gets right. At first it feels stupid. Can it be for real? So we do it again, and again and again. Different partners, and they do not know what will happen. Big seminars with lots of jiyu waza are the best laboratory in the world for this.


Ushiro waza with Marius in Sjøholt, December 2016. Photo by Sigurd Hatlen.

Very often I have found that when I am stuck I move other parts, which should not move. My head or my hips usually compensate for what is stationary because the partner is holding me. This is the physical appearance of my intention, my ego. I want to move, but my partner is there. Every intention I express on my partner, he/she will counter. Not because he/she wants to sabotage my keiko, but because it is natural. However, if I keep my head and hips completely still, imagine that the shadow of my intention, which is just as untouchable as the shadow of my body, is touching the partner instead of my intention itself, very often my partner will move.

Sometimes during tai no tenkan I imagine a grid of curved lines shaping the form I know by experience. My intention is constructing the grid where my arm should flow down. Then I rest my arm in my partner’s grab and imagine sliding down the pathway I have constructed. The shadow is the grid. My intention never touches the partner.


Ushiro waza with Marius in Sjøholt, December 2016. Photo by Sigurd Hatlen.

I also imagine watching myself and my partner from above. We are two puppets in a play. I am not identifying myself with either. My intention is with the observer in the sky. The shadow of my intention is what is touching the partner. As there is no intention detectable for the partner, there is no creation of a counter intention. I am not using my intention on my partner, and my partner is not using his intention on me. We are just peacefully coexisting. The movement comes from the natural movements flowing in our body all the time. It feels like nothing, when it works.

I imagine doing all, but struggle with myself to do absolutely nothing.


The mind, the intention, the ego.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!

How about some scrambled eggs?

I love aikido very much, so I am very passionate in the way I think about how to do different things. One of those things I have been pondering about lately is what the best way would be to practice with somebody less experienced than ourselves. I still spend time thinking about how to improve the way we introduce completely new people to aikido. This was a big part of what I was doing, some years ago, but now I am not required to teach any more. That however, does not stop my thinking about how to take care of the beginners in the best way possible.

This is not only important for the teacher of the class. It is a major subject for the training partners of the beginners (and less experienced than ourselves). How should we act to help the new person come in to our society in the most smooth way possible. Even after some time of practice, there is a time of insecurity and infancy in aikido, where we are very open and vulnerable for negative comments and bad experiences. We still do not have the confidence to move on, if we meet a problem and we experience not being able to do what we are asked to do.


Janne, Maria and Peter at the seminar in Järfälla in January 2017. Photo by Jenny Lagerqvist.

It is a little bit like cooking, I think. If we want to cook something, we bring out the ingredients and the tools we need for that particular dish. We do not stable all content of all the lockers on the table,  and drag everything we have in the fridge out of there, if we only want to boil some eggs. We consider what we need for this dish, and leave the rest of our utilities and food where it is.

For a beginner in aikido there are a lot of new things. All of them are confusing, very detailed and subtle. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of new information. So I would think it would be strategically wise to introduce only as little new things as possible at the time. If we are planning to do a certain kata it would be useful to provide some solutions for the problems which we know that the new guys will face during that particular form.


Maria, at the seminar in Järfälla in January 2017. Photo by Jenny Lagerqvist.

We know from experience which problems will occur, and they are mostly the same ones for everyone. If we think through what ingredients we will need for this cooking, it will probably be enough room for what we need. However, the table of the beginner is not big enough for all the rest of the stuff we have in our kitchen. There is only so much space on that table, and it should be reserved for the parts we are going to use that particular day.

Well, that was the part I would consider if I was teaching. Now here comes the important part for all of us who are not teaching, but merely participating in the class. All of us also have our kitchens, with all of our tools and all of our stuff in the fridge, which we are very, very proud of having. If we, as a training partner throw all of our stuff on to the poor beginner’s kitchen table, it will become so full, that all the stuff he/she will need to do the current form starts falling off the edges and becomes difficult to find. And they have to start crawling under the table to search for the stuff they need and so on.


Peter at the seminar in Järfälla in January 2017. Photo by Jenny Lagerqvist.

The table is barely big enough for the stuff needed for that particular form. Later, maybe even a different day, the teacher brings out other tools and other ingredients, to cook something else. So as a partner I feel that it is important to make room for the tools and ingredients the teacher has put on the table, because it does not have room for all of our fancy stuff at that moment. The table of the beginner will grow, and can contain more and more stuff, but in the beginning it is very small, and gets easily very chaotic.

So, I really know nothing about cooking, so I will leave that metaphor for now. But I think it is a very important subject to be able to leave some “mistakes” for later. The teacher has hopefully planned this and focus on one particular theme for now, presenting solutions for half the problem now, and then the other half the following week. I also heard the Gracies talking about painting. You add one layer of paint, and when it dries, you add another layer, and so on. If you splash all the paint on at once, it will run down the wall anyway, because the wall can’t absorb as much in one go. This goes both for the teacher and all the partners running eagerly around with their brushes to put on some of their paint.


Janne at the seminar in Järfälla in January 2017. Photo by Jenny Lagerqvist.

I usually look at the expression of my partners. The eyes often show wether or not they have received too much information for what they can take. They admire us tremendously, of course, we get their respect. However, they feel stupid and worthless, if they can’t do correctly what we describe so precisely and detailed. People who feel stupid usually tries to avoid that experience, and very often by not coming back. “It was very cool, and the teacher and all the people there were very advanced, yes. But it was not for me.”

I strongly believe that too much information is just as bad as nothing at all. Nothing is probably impossible even if we tired. Just by being on the tatami and rolling around there  is a new world for new people in aikido. Very much like child learning how to walk. They will stumble a lot, and fall. But they get back up and take a few more steps, and it gets easier all the time. As long as nobody starts complaining everytime they do something wrong. Then the will to go on will slowly fade, and they will seek their thrills elsewhere. So take care of every partner you have, more advanced, at similar level and less advanced. They are the most precious beings in the Universe. Without our partners we are nothing.


Maria at the seminar in Järfälla in January 2017. Photo by Jenny Lagerqvist.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!

No shi


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Throw your partner by not throwing;
pin him by not pinning

– Morihei Uehsiba, The Art of Peace

During my daily routine I am busy practising and working. Something which is nice, of course, but there is no time to think more deeply about stuff, and definitely not for writing it down. Usually, it is during the times when I travel that I can sit down and think and take some notes based on my thoughts from the keiko. This Christmas is no exception. As soon as I was sitting on the flight bus to the airport the questions started flooding to my mind.

For a while I was thinking about the attacks in the keiko. I even started writing a blog post about them. However, allthough it was useful for me to write down how I would perform the different attacks, and structure my thoughts about my goals and values in the attacks, it came to a halt. I realized that allthough it can be an interesting theme for an article, I have pretty much written about the general idea already, in my previous posts. In addition the text became very repetetive, and turned out to be an extremely boring read.


Aikido (the kamiza of Vanadis Aikido Club)

Still, what came out of my analyze of the attacks was a common point, which I needed to be present in all the attacks. This is where I believe we melt together with our partner’s ki. After this we are moving together, wether we are the one throwing (or pinning) our partner with our attack, or the partner is throwing or pinning us. Both uke and tori are doing this during the keiko. It is a part of almost any kata we do. We are doing it together with the partner, and this “magical shape” binds us together and makes us one, body and mind.

If we take katate dori as an example we can try to make the situation a bit more tangible. In the attack, the positions of the partners are forming a triangle (which comes naturally if we use the image of both partners holding on to a jo), with the grab at a slight angle. Neither partner can reach the other with neither arms, legs nor the head. Both have their respective areas: the position is peaceful.

The next step is that uke performs a “mystical jedi movement”: A peculiar movement bringing in the partner’s intention in a circular movement and proceeding in a direction. During the circular movement is where tori should take over and the partners unify into the direction in which they proceed to move to finalise the rest of the kata.


No Shi

I have heard references to no shi almost every day since I started practising daito ryu, and it works in a way that seems almost magic to me. I tried to search for no shi, on google, but for some reason I found nothing (not even a single calligraphy, so I had to draw my own no shi). I might have the wrong spelling of it, but I was a bit surprised. Maybe it is too secret? In any case, it was probably for the better that I didn’t find anything today, because in this matter I think it might be better if I make my own personal research for my answers, inside my own keiko.

From what I have understood, the no shi shape consists of a part circle, entering into a bigger circle with the center to the other direction and then straightening out to a line, in some direction. It is also popularly called “the question mark” or “the half heart”. The direction does not necessarily have to be down. It could be any direction in which we would like to move with the partner (the direction of the first movement of the kata).

What seems strange to me is how this circular movements in the beginning helps us join with our partner’s will. Because, no matter how conflicted me and my partner are initially, the no shi movement helps us agree on what to do together in a way I can’t explain with mechanics. What is it that is so special about these circles?


Janne during the seminar (with Stefan Stenudd, Jan Nevelius and Jorma Lyly) in Malmö in December 2016. Photo by Enighet Aikido.

One particular feature I have noted about this circle movements, is that they have to describe a fixed center. The difficulties in doing these movements are usually that the center will move (because the partner is holding on to us and fixing the point of contact), and hence not be the center of the movement at all, thus we are lost. Our fundaments (the stuff that is not supposed to move) have to stay, in order to do the circle. This means that we need to achieve freedom in ourselves to be able to make the circle, while the partner is holding us, and the center (which is somewhere in the air) stays where it is. The requirement that the center stays were it is all the movement to it’s end is what makes it a circle around this center.

Now this center is a very interesting thing in itself as well, because it is not my center, and it is not my partner’s center. It is OUR center. If we have several partners it is the COMMON center for all of us. We have to join in this center and together walk around it to join our intentions for the remaining of the kata.

Mechanically it is impossible to make any such movements when our partner is holding on to us. To describe a circle, we have to move (that which is held by the partner), and that in itself is impossible without violating the partner’s grab. So in reality we can’t start the no shi physically if the partner is already holding on to us. However, this is a practice method I have a great love for, because it reveals very deep truths for us all the time, if we are open to the information contained within.

Still, it is a practice method. Everything starts before the partner is holding on to us firmly. The partner have to get there and take hold of our arms, so we could physically start the noshi movement the moments before the partner is touching us. However, in my mind, we should still research this situation in tandem with the one where our partner holds us strongly. Even if we can’t move physically when our partner is holding us, by remembering all the movements from the dynamic practice, we can make the no shi in our minds while the partner holds on. We are simply creating an image of our movement based on our memory of previous performed movements, as uke and as tori. Also, we can make a small no shi movement to start the circle of the bigger no shi movement.


A visit to Aikidojo Dresden in November 2016. An aiki class with Jorma. Photo by Max Hegewald.

But, my question remains: How does the no shi movement join the ki of my partner with my own ki in such a harmonic way? What is it about a circle that helps us so much?

I heard once that our ki can only move in straight lines. If we put our intention to the corner of the room, we imagine a straight line from us to where we are going. If we put our intention on a glass of water we imagine our hand going straight there.

The reason why we end up with circular movements in our practice is because the way our body is built. Even if we move our mind in straight lines, the throws becomes circular in their appearance. One way to visualise this is our steps. We usually move our legs in straight lines, but our throw becomes circular anyway. Kote gaeshi is what comes first to my mind. We step out and enter with our mind and with our legs, but our arms describe circular paths.

If our mind want to make a path which is not straight, we have to divide the path into small subpaths which themselves are straight. In doing so we can create circular movements. Of course, I am only trying to guess the reasons for an experienced phenomenon now…

So maybe, because of this technicality of our mind, that any curved path has to be constructed by small parts which each in themselves are straight, makes it easier for us to join with our partner during such a path. Both our minds have to change direction at all these places, and during all the confusion, after a few hundred direction changes, we are suddenly doing the changes together, in unison.

There is also the theory that we should always start by doing the opposite movement of what we want to do. If we want to bring the partner to us, we push the partner away, which will naturally tempt the partner to push back to us, and then we can use the push of the partner to join with him/her. However, the turning is always a problem. It is impossible to just turn. That is where the no shi comes in. By going in a circle, we are starting in the opposite direction and following a circular path, turning all the time, until we are in the direction we want to proceed. The addition of the second, bigger circle helps zero out the effects of the first, smaller cirlce with opposite curvature, and voila, we have turned!


Where my heart lies and where my mind lingers. Vanadis Aikido Club. December 2016.

The fact that the center of the movement is a common center is also a great idea for both the practice, and the world around us, in fact. It is an non egoistic movement. We are not taking advantage of anybody and not forcing them to do something our way. Still, we are not submitting ourselves to their way either. Together we are creating a new way, describing a center that is not ours, and not theirs, but something else entirely. It is a powerful idea, which could have a healing effect on the world outside the tatami. The idea of no shi.

Enjoy your keiko! Aiki makes people happy!

Concerning the basics


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The secret of Aikido is not how you move your feet,
it is how you move your mind.
I’m not teaching you martial techniques.
I’m teaching you nonviolence

Morihei Ueshiba

What are the basics? During all my periods of practicing I have heard about this mysterious consept of basics. Nobody really agrees on exactly what it is, but everybody seems to be absolutely certain that what they are considering as basic is the thing everybody should be practising as bread and butter practice.

I remember being told to teach basics when I first started teaching. Everybody up to that point had been teaching me a myriad of different variations of the different kata forms in aikido. I asked what is it you mean by basic, as we have been practicing so many different variations and all of them about as much, and I was referred to a book by a teacher I had never met at the time. So even though I had spent hundreds of hours on each of the forms we do in the keiko, I was asked to teach from a book, because that was where the basic is. That is when I gave up the idea of having a kata as basic.


Seigo Okamoto sensei from Daito Ryu Aiki Jiu Jitsu Roppokai. The picture was taken from

From my earliest years I remember endless discussions on the tatami after the keiko, during what I felt should have been the keiko (talking is talking, and practising is practising), in the sauna, at the cafe, in the bar, on the way to and from practice, about which way is the basic way. An example we spent countless hours discussing back and forth over the decades, even before I started, in my “aikido childhood club” was which leg to step forward with in ikkyo. Of course we never reached any conclusion because there are advantages and disadvantages of both ideas, and I were doing both wrong (to the extent that I will call anything wrong, it was a part of the journey for me) in any case. What a waste of time and energy… We could just have been doing them both a couple of thousand times and figured it out much easier than argumenting for one or the other.

Now we are nearing on Christmas and most clubs have examinations. Which means that these discussions comes back and keeps tormenting my mind. I try to stay out of this kind of situations, and mostly I succeed. Still sometimes that is the only practice available. Everybody else goes home after the end of the ordinary keiko. So the discussions and questions comes. I keep thinking, well, how about we just practice a bit, instead of this endless picking on meaningless details which in my mind takes our focus away from the important parts: The keiko itself.


Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei. Picture taken from

Of course, when we are teaching somebody, we have to make a decision what to actually do. However, what we are doing is not the only way. We can help others by giving hints about what we found useful ourselves, but it might not work for everybody. There might always be a different idea that gives the big revelation for this person. We are all a little bit different both in body and in mind. I do not believe that there is one ultimate basic form. Any difficulty which presents itself as a result of any form is an opportunity to learn how to deal with that problem, without changing the form so that the difficulty disappears. In my mind that is evading the problem.

So what are the basics? Well, don’t ask me. I have no clue. However, as I mentioned above, the concept of keiko is very basic for me. The endless repeating of any exercise, finding new and exciting concepts and ideas by ourselves within the form we are performing. We are tori  four times, and uke four times, no matter the experience level of ourselves with respect to the partner. Any form is good really, as long as there are restictions leading us through some difficult passages, and they all do. New partners give us new challenges, and it changes all the time, even if we are continuing doing the same physical form all the time. The more we practice, the further we can see. The more experience we have the more details emerge in front of us. To the outside observer it looks as we are continuing to repeat the same thing forever, but in our mind we are traveling on a journey finding new and exciting places on our way.


Yukiyoshi Sagawa sensei from Daito Ryu Aiki Jiu Jitsu. Picture taken from

Well, that is a pretty useless idea of what basic is, isn’t it? So what is there to teach and learn about basics? If I force myself to make any answer to what I normally avoid speaking about (because of some past frustration and traumas in my mind), there are more concepts which I consider basic. They are countless, and it is hard to put words to exactly what they are. For me another basic concept is to be able to move with the partner without pushing or pulling. Without this basic idea there is no way to move with the partner, and we are stuck at pushing and pulling each other around relying on leverage and strenght to be able to move at all. Also, it is nice to have as a basic idea to always have a good structure in every movement we make, and to have a nice posture and base at all times.

For me the concept of basic has nothing to do with history and forms based sword warfare, and on the weak points of a the samurai’s armour, and it definitely has nothing to with what “works” and “not works”. If we do a million ikkyo, we will find our own, and it will be a little bit different from all the basic ikkyos we were thaught by our teachers.

If we take it one step further, beyond the base, posture and structure, which are rather simple concepts (allthough still difficult enough in reality though). How does the thing with moving together with the partner, in any situation, work in the keiko? What is the basic of that skill? What exactly are the requirements of that? When the partne is holding us, how do we lift the arm without coming in conflict with the partner’s body and mind. That is the basis of the movement. The basic idea we are searching for. This is the kind of questioning I make for myself to search for what a basic concept is.


Seigo Yamaguchi sensei. Picture taken from

So, first of all, our partner must be fearless in the ukemi required by the movement we are planning to make. This actually makes the fall a basic requirement for the keiko. The flip side is that tori needs to be fearless in his/her part as well. If there is any fear, it is very difficult, or in my mind almost impossible to move with our partner. There are technical details, of course, but they only give us a way to search for the solution with the partner.

The real revelation for me lies with my relationship with my partners. We need to consider each other’s needs, and feelings and never wish any harm to our partner. We need to be able to move our partner’s body as naturally as moving our own. I would actually go so far as to say that we need to love our partner in order to make aiki with him/her. If we don’t like our partner we will not move with each other in the same way. There will always be some disturbance. So in other words, I think that love, in fact, is a basic of aiki.

Now I am headed into abstraction here, so what about the forms? Well, naturally we need something to repeat to travel on our journey. We can’t just dance around each other jolly and happy, because there are no restrictions to give us the directions we need on our trip. The form gives us boarders of what is possible and not possible, because we are two bodies, and two minds, having to go through these movements together. Alone it is easy (or actually it is not, but nothing will stop us), but when the partner holds on it becomes interesting.


Seishiro Endo sensei. The picture was taken by Tomas Svec at Saku Dojo in May 2012.

I also think that it is an interesting thought to question wether or not we can change our feelings for somebody by will. I am not sure that is a skill which are possible to learn. If we do not like our partner we can behave nicely still, but our feelings will be the same, I think. To find a way to love somebody we dislike could be a tough challenge. Still, that is the basic of being able to move with the partner, and the basic of all katas which require movement.

So the history brings us the forms. Many forms, with many variations. I will not say that some are good and others are bad, but I really dislike any which damages our body over time. We are going to be doing this every day for maybe fifty years or more, so we need to have forms of practice which does not damage the body we need to do it.

I also have preferences like that we should not move more than what is necessary to direct the partner clearly where he/she should be going, and all related kata should form a neat system where everything related looks as similar to the corresponding counterparts as possible. I prefer the kata to be peaceful. Both tori and uke should be safe from the partner and at the same time not violate the areas of the partner. There is peace.


Seigo Okamoto sensei. The picture was taken from

However, even though these preferences dictates how the kata will appear, for me, this is not basics. This is just my personal preference. It will be different for everybody, I guess These katas are froms wich are a very advanced and highly complicated application of the basics. They are not something which I would expect a practicioner of a few years to be able to perform without difficulties, because many of these forms are extremely complex in their own rights. It is difficult enough to remember which arm and leg goes where to have time to consider the partner’s body and mind. Thus I feel that it is insane to call something so complicated a basic.

The forms builds on the basic, which for me, among hundreds of other things is to be able to move when the partner holds on, being in base, having a good structure and posture. I think that the basic should be a foundation to build on. For me if feels like building a castle in the clouds if we try to base anything on a dead form. A basic needs to be fundamental enough for somebody to conceive even if they never did it before. Everybody can feel. Everybody can fall (in one way or another). Exploration with one’s partner will reveal the basics, but it takes time, and it will take even more time to be able to put words into what exactly basic is for exactly us as a person.

For me the basics are the feelings me and my partners are having during the keiko. And how would we know if what we are doing is right or not? Well, we can always observe what happens when we meet a new partner on the tatami. Do they move, or do they not? Do the smile or do they frown? Do we like them or do we dislike them? The new ones, which do not know who we are ,will be our test. They do not lie, and if we do not cheat at our test, by speaking to them during the keiko, we will know if we are on the right path or not.

So in the end, what is basics? We have to teach the beginners basics! Well, I have still no idea what that really means.

Enjoy your keikoAikido makes people happy!

Concerning the Search


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And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye;
and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?

Or how sayest thou to thy brother:
Let me cast the mote out of thy eye;
and behold a beam is in thy own eye?

Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thy own eye,
and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Matthew 7. 3. – 5.

I have just retuned from the second weekend in a row of two awesome seminars with Franck Noël sensei. The second of which had a teacher’s class. I have been at these teacher’s classes two times pr. year for a couple of years now and they always bring something interesting to my mind. However, very often it happens to be something other than the actual focus of the class which stays with me years after the seminar. Time will show what will be my remaining feelings from this fall’s seminar, but right now there is one particular thing that is on my mind most of my waking hours.

The teacher’s class is from how I understand it open to whoever is interested, but concerns ideas and principles of teaching and helping others in aikido. I have never been much of a teacher myself, evading the responsibility at the slightest opportunity by leaving it to others more willing and more fitted to the role. However, I find it deeply intriguing how to transmit to others what we have experienced during our time in the keiko. This is pretty much identical to what we are doing on the tatami all the time during practice, in the communication between partners, but in a more formalised way.

There are many ideas about how teaching should be done. I will not go into what is right or wrong. I have my ideas, and everybody has their own. I am merely making and observation here. It goes for teaching, practicing, observing examinations and demonstrations, and life in general in fact.


The Balrog Durin’s Bane and Gandalf by Gackt en Ciel.

So back to the teacher’s class: We usually get an assignment from Franck. What the assignment is wary from year to year, but we usually divide into groups of five to ten people to find solutions for the problem at hand. We discuss possible solutions, practice a bit and prepare to demonstrate our idea for the whole group. After each group has made it’s presentation we have a few minutes of discussion about that group’s contribution. This has been similar all years, but I noticed a tendency I think has been present at all these classes. I have not spoken much myself, but I have been thinking exactly as others have been saying. We have all been searching for mistakes.

When Franck makes his evaluations he is considering both positive and negative aspects of the solutions presented. However, from us students evaluating each other, we have only negative comments to the people making their contribution. I think of all the years I have been there, I can’t even think of a single exception from this. Nobody were ever pointing out something positive the others did or said. This even happens within the groups while discussing which solution to present.

This is not special for any particular group or seminar. In fact I believe it is human nature. Just look at any examination or test examination. Even at the post keiko throwing some might interfere sometimes with their opinions and commands for how it should be done. Or look at the commentary field of any YouTube video, from any field. We are all very eager to point out other’s mistakes. However, can we do better ourselves? And most of all, if we do have a solution, even if we can’t do it ourselves, will really that solution, considered all consequences of the changes we would have made to the presentation discussed, be any better?

Everybody has an opinion what is the best way to do it, but who gets to decide which one is universally better? I guess we have all heard somebody (maybe somebody important even) say: “You have to do it like this” at some point, but is that really true? That way has both advantages and disadvantages, just like every other way. There are consequences originating in every change we make. Of course, our excuse is that we are trying to help, but really, how does this help? Any fool can point out a problem, but finding a real solution is too challenging. And advising somebody to make a form with a different set of advantages and thus also disadvantages is not really any solution at all. However, our ego silently applauds us for being able to see the “mistake” though.


A Balrog by the PV project.

This is totally something I think is deeply important in regard to both teaching and practising in general. Our ego is naturally drawing us towards looking for the flaws of others. A teacher might say that it is to help the student improve, but what about suggesting a solution, and maybe even put focus on the solution instead of scolding a person for the mistake they made? This also applies similarly in the keiko. If we are looking for a mistake, we will most certainly find it. However, if we look for an opportunity, we might find that as well, and what is more useful?

I often hear laughing from people watching, when I fall easily, and I do not take it badly, because I understand where it comes from. We are doing a martial art, and it is not just playing around doing athletic movements. Still, when the road is clear for me and there is nothing in my way, I have no more concerns. It is done. In my mind I am not jumping, but rather launching off tori’s arms in the most natural way I am able to at my current level. I have no wish to stay behind and look for a possibility to sabotage what we are doing.

Some might have the idea that uke and tori are doing some kind of competition with each other. The way I see it we are playing the same music, only I play guitar while you are playing the drums. We will perform better if we both try to make it the best it can be, right? Because after four repetitions we exchange instruments and play the other role. If we try our best to sabotage for each other looking for mistakes we will probably make a horrible spectacle together. However, if we do try to make it work, it might in fact turn into something nice.

Sometimes I hear questions if something is possible, or the statement that something is impossible. Yes, how do we decide to call it possible or impossible? On what grounds? If one trying to prove that is possible would compete with one trying to prove that it is impossible it will most certainly become a mess. I do not think that any of the things we are doing in the keiko are supposed to be taken as exercises for preparing for battle situations or street fighting. We are studying principles through cooperative research. Each of the exercises are designed to be educational, not to be applicable in a violent situation. Of course, there are several opinions about this. I will not start an argument with those that disagree. I will not try to convince you, and you will certainly not change my focus of study.

Sometimes I find people who have been scolded by their teacher so many times for falling too easily, that they are becoming “muted partners”. The message is clear, but they stay behind looking around, wondering if they are allowed to fall now, looking if their teacher can see them. Of course, it is not ideal to fall by oneself, but that is also a way to learn how to make the fall. Sometimes it is a good exercise to do some ukemi practice without a partner or with an inactive partner just as support. Once the fall is second nature for us,  and there is no fear connected to it, it is no problem at all to wait for the partner to send us on our way. At least that is how I feel. Standing behind being afraid to fall is the total beginner state, in my mind. And standing behind being scared of being scolded for throwing ourselves is a constructed dead end which I think is a consequence of this tendency we have as humans to point out mistakes of our fellow men.


The Balrog by

However, there is a horrible trauma in many of us, thinking that it is not real unless we are behaving difficult towards our partners and try to resist each other. OK. I respect that. But, should we be scared to explore the subtleties of our art just because we are afraid to be bullied by dorks on the commentary fields of YouTube videos? So what if we are doing exercises which are not martial in themselves? So what if some part of the human population think that we are fake? If we believe in what we are doing it should be enough, right? Besides, on the tatami we will find 95% or more people who will look for a problem and stop us when they find it. Could it be useful for the whole environment to be the one who are always searching for the solution, both as tori and as uke?

An other interesting situation is if we see the sensei doing something we didn’t do before, and we were not paying enough attention to catch it? What do we do? What did we see? What did the teacher say? There are usually a few things we can start with no matter how little we understood. I have met people who would rather go and sit at the end of the tatami because they did not feel that they understood 100% of what the teacher was showing. Well… understanding comes with the keiko, so I believe that we have to start with what we have and make the best of it. Catching 100% of what was shown might not even be within our grasp within our lifetime, in fact, with some teachers. By searching for a solution it will be possible for us to practice. If we are looking for problems we would be standing there being overwhelmed with the number of problems we have found.

It is also very interesting how we look at life. Are we enjoying the beauty of the sunset at the beach, or are our eyes focusing on the doggy bags and used diapers in the garbage bin nearby? Or maybe we are disappointed that the Sun is not square instead of round, and the sky monochromatic instead of, you know, the spectacular sight that it is? Are we enjoying our dinner focusing on the amazing meal we are eating, or do we focus on the slightly incorrectly folded napkin? Most of us don’t really have a choice. We are where we are, because life put us in that position. Very often we are only seeing the problems because we are too stressed and under too much pressure to even look for the beauty of it all.

Sometimes we are not able to find a solution. I have experienced not being able to fall sometimes, even if I want to! The person throwing was trying so hard to throw that I really could not. Even bending the knees and just go down was impossible because of the tremendous weight which was on me. Of course the partner might assume that I was looking for a problem, but in that case I could just not find a solution.

Still. I find it a very interesting observation that everybody is so concerned with “helping” others with pointing out their mistakes, but very few have any solutions to offer. It goes both for the keiko, for teaching, and for life in general.

Enjoy your keiko. Aikido makes people happy!