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I have heard that the one who knows how to live
Can wander through the land
Without encountering the rhinoceros or the tiger.
He passes the battlefield
Without being struck by weapons.
In him, the rhinoceros finds no opening for its horn.
The tiger finds no opening for its claws.
The soldiers find no opening for their blades.
Why is that so?
Death has no place in him.

Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, translation by Stefan Stenudd

On the tatami and in life we experience conflicts, both constructed and natural. Why do these conflicts occur?

Very often we end up doing exactly what we should not be doing on the tatami: Fighting the partner. Where did it start? Where does it end? Why do we constantly end up doing exactly what we are there to learn avoiding? Well, is it not natural? If we are pushed we push back. If we are pulled we pull back. If we are struck we strike back. However, where did it start?

I believe that if we are “clean” ourselves it will be difficult for others to start a conflict with us. How do we feel about our partner before we start the keiko together? Often the conflict has already begun before we bow to each other. What does the first touch feel like? When do we get affected emotionally? Why do we get emotionally disturbed by exactly this? And which part of us does it hit when it happens?

From the seminar with Micheline Tissier in Stockholm, October 2013. Photo by Mathias Bäck.

From the seminar with Micheline Tissier in Stockholm, October 2013. Photo by Mathias Bäck.

I think that we all have our opening where conflict can enter. There are things we fear that if opposed with we will enter a protective state which causes conflict. Those openings are different for different people. One interesting thing for me is that usually it is an equal thing in the partner, which also exist in me that causes the problem. We are both stiff at the same point in our personality which creates an opening for the conflict to grow. This gives us an opportunity to study.

Some people already trigger these openings with their first impression. The way they behave, the way they look, the way they feel. We can’t change the nature of the world around us, but we can change ourselves. These openings, or “hooks”, where conflicts can start growing can hopefully be mended and cleared by our own awareness of them. And of course hours of practice.

So every time I find a conflict, big or small. Even the slightest change to the sensation in the grip can be considered a conflict which needs to be dealt with. It is not the partner and it is not me. It is us together creating the conflict. It is our study to find a way to resolve it. And more importantly to find and heal the opening itself where conflicts can enter into our lives.

Enjoy your keiko. Aiki makes people happy.