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Bang your head against the stage
like you never did before
Make it ring, make it bleed,
make it really sore

James Hetfield – Whiplash

I remember one particular winter morning on my way to the morning keiko: As I was walking a crowded sidewalk near Odenplan in Stockholm, I accidentally interrupted the stressed breakfast of a small bird. It was desperately trying to get some hard earned juice from a blood orange lying exactly where all the busy people were walking on their way to work. The bird was watching out to not be stepped on, flying back and forth between the safe zone and it’s juicy meal. As I passed I felt a sting in my heart. I did not realize exactly what it was before I had passed the orange with a few metres and was too lazy to return, even though I was not in a hurry that morning, and it would have cost me absolutely nothing to go back. I realized I could have kicked the orange out to the side, to the safe zone where the bird always retreated when people approached.

First I was too slow, unclear and messy in my mind to realize this as I passed, next I was to stiff in my thinking to admit having made a mistake and correct it until it was too late. I have been regretting not helping that poor creature to this very day.

From Ørskog in June 2011. The precipice of Lauparen.

From Ørskog in June 2011. The precipice of Lauparen.

I experienced something similar when I was approached by somebody trying to ask for directions. I shook my head and continued walking, assuming that he was trying to sell me something, only later realizing that he just wanted to ask me for the road.

Today’s society is very stressful. There are so many people seeking our attention on the streets, on the telephone and everywhere, so we start protecting ourselves by locking ourselves in. We are avoiding eye contact with people we meet, using news papers and telephones to deflect any small talk. We are totally trying to get an area for ourselves on public transport and if we are not able to avoid everybody we are sitting turned away from each other using long hair or a news paper to block the view of the person sitting next to us, ear phones in and intensely staring at the telephone, sending the signal in a screamingly loud way to everybody around to not disturb us, and so on. We are shutting down our sensitivity to what is going on with our fellow creatures around us both human and non human.

Actually, the barriers are often lower to the non humans, as we do know that they are not working for somebody on a professional basis to get your attention, and our money, on the street. However, as my story has illustrated. The barrier I set up to protect myself, and general messiness of my mind, made me miss my chance to help out a little friend struggling to not get squashed while eating breakfast. So we are physically blocking each other from interaction, but the mind is also blocking. We just want to be left alone. Which I can perfectly understand in the society we live in nowadays where so many are trying to make profit on people in crowded places, but I believe the consequences of this blocking are not very healthy for us as persons.

This is one of the reasons our training becomes such a healing experience. When we are exposed to aiki several things happen. The eyes widen slightly and spins out of control, we make a sound or a shout, some start laughing, very often some vibrating motions resembling head banging develops, and finally we fall down. This head banging could be a physical manifestation of this disorder of the body and mind.

Vienna November 2011

Vienna November 2011

I believe that when we start head banging when we experience aiki it means we are indecisive and are doubting ourselves and our ability to sense the direction from the partner. “Are we going, no we are not, oh yes we are, no maybe not?” And so on. As we walk on our road we are cleaning up inside ourselves. When we feel the direction we are able to follow smoothly and beautifully, taking a nice fall instead of being stuck inside ourselves oscillating both mentally and physically.

When we are clean inside both in our body and our mind we are able to respond to outside interaction the moment when it happens and make the right decisions when we need to. This is something very useful both in our keiko and in our daily lives. I believe the head banging is a necessary middle step, where we can observe what we wish to repair or heal. I call it head banging, but it might be smaller occupations inside the shoulder for example. It is not possible to simply decide not to do it. We have to do the keiko, walk the road, and build up our awareness and sensitivity. When we are free we can move beautifully and economically, both as uke and as tori. Until then we have to accept a certain amount of head banging.

Pulpit Rock April 2011

Pulpit Rock April 2011

All in all my mistake with the blood orange did not cost anybody their lives, but I still regret not kicking it to the side. I guess I just have to accept it as a sign indicating that there is something I need to fix to not miss my chance the next time I have the chance to help somebody.

Enjoy your keiko! Aiki make people happy!