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For some time I have been thinking about the pins we do in aikido. What purpose do they serve in the new budo? Of course, in the old way this was the way to disable the attacker from continuing to fight you, by dislocating the shoulder or breaking the arm. However, as I discussed in The fear of the light, in the new way we are not seeking to destroy our partners, but unite with them. How do we use the lock to unify ourselves with our partner?

Nikyo pin with Marius in December 2013

Nikyo pin with Marius in December 2013

Even in the environment where I practice now, which is fully dedicated to the new way of thinking of budo, sometimes the locks still feel destructive in some way. I feel that there is some contradictions in the way the pins are being done. If the rest of the kata is done in such a flow of nice friendly feelings, why should the end of the kata be any different? Even if we are not aiming to injure our partner, but merely trying to hold him/her in place against his/her will, it is a violation of the partner, which I feel does not fit into the way of thinking in the art of peace.

I know that some of us, including myself, have avoided the focus on the locks just for the simple reason that it does not fit very well into our picture of modern aikido. Still, they are a part of the katas we do every day. Always altering the kata so that we throw instead of pin the partner is not a complete solution, because there are some content of the kata which goes missing when we neglect an essential part of it.

Eddie Bravo and Rener Gracie demonstrating the twister

Eddie Bravo and Rener Gracie demonstrating the twister

During the Lillsved seminars I have been attending some classes of shiatsu. This is where my solution of my dilemma lies. Instead of making the partner uncomfortable during the pin, I use what I have received from this experience to make the partner comfortable, just like in the rest of the kata. Instead of stretching, twisting and overextending parts. I am merely walking around the partner with my awareness trying to melt any tensed up areas, sending the partner good energy and in general making the partner feel safe and comfortable.

I found that this idea opens up a new world for me in working on my problems inside; my Gollum. In the early parts of the kata I just act out of fear part of the time and move my body to avoid having my partner where I don’t want him/her to be. However, when I am pinned, my freedom of movement are quite restricted. I am fixed in one position, so my partner can access the areas where I feel fear when the partner are present in.

Ikkyo pin with Marius in December 2011

Ikkyo pin with Marius in December 2011

I have started thinking of the presence of my partner as light, and my partners have different light depending on their personality. Some have warm, red light, like from a summer sun set, which makes me feel warm and safe. Others have green light, which have some kind of healing energy and make things grow and recover from hurt. Others have star light, which have the property of being able to travelling far into the darkness and reach the desolate areas where nobody has ever been before. Everybody is different, like a finger print, and their spectrum of light touch different parts of me.

I have had my partners cure a head ache with a long nikyo lock. And there is nothing like some lovely sankyo pinning after a long journey to loosen up all the tension in the neck, the shoulders and the back. However, it goes even deeper than this. This summer I had a very deeply touching experience where it felt like my partner’s energy were running into my arm and down into my body like warm water and filling all my empty spaces with love, and continuing into the fingers of the opposite arm and all the way into my toes. It was a new discovery for me. I was immediately thinking that THIS is what I should be doing in the part of the kata I always neglected and ignored!

Tanto dori shiho nage with Marius in December 2014

Tanto dori shiho nage with Marius in December 2014

I am struggling with a part of myself isolated from my conscious self. My body acts out of fear in some situations. Aikido triggers it, and so do some other situations in life, but most of the time it is hidden. I can’t feel the fear most of the time. It goes to the part of my mind where I have no awareness. Still, it is fear. The muscles act as if I am clinging on to a cliff with a deadly drop below. In some cases the fear becomes so great that I can feel it, but most of the time it stays in the dark. The only way I can know about it is by observing the behaviour of my body when my partner is interacting with me.

The last few days I have been thinking of what it is I am pushing into this dark corner of my mind. What it is I am trying to trying to protect myself from, and hide from my awareness. I think it is thoughts which I am not ready to deal with yet. This is a part of me, but I have stopped communicating with that part. I call him Gollum. I focus all my attention on others. Never thinking about the subject I hate above all other subjects: me. However, Gollum is obsessed with exactly that subject. As long as other people are talking, he is silent, but as soon as I am alone he comes out and tells me what he thinks of me.

Doing demonstrations representing aikido itself, or for helping a club recruit new members is something I do with great joy and enthusiasm. However, if it is to demonstrate my own skills there is going to be a war inside of me. It was the same in my career history. Doing exams in physics was one thing, but if it would have any practical meaning for my life I would have a problem. I did not deserve to succeed. I still do not feel that I deserve to succeed. I deserve only to be miserable and to suffer. I deserve to fail in all aspects of life. However that would hurt my friends, so that is not acceptable for me.

Gollum is telling me what I don't want to hear, so I stopped listening to him

Gollum is telling me what I don’t want to hear, so I stopped listening to him

My redemption was my friends. I put all my focus on others and pushed all my thoughts of myself to a dark corner where they could not hurt me. Still Gollum comes lurking whenever we are alone. And he is present in the contact with my partner. Even if I am pushing him into a dark corner he is part of me and he becomes visible when there is a partner. Compliments brings him out and any kind of increase of status for me as a person provokes him and makes him fight back. However, I push him back into the darkness, because I am not interested in what he has to say about me.

The throws can be lovely beyond description of words. However, the locks sustains the contact with the partner, and lets the partner access areas which is inaccessible when I am standing (because I always escape the sensitive parts where I am vulnerable). I believe that aikido is something that should heal us and the world around us. We should end conflict and create peace wherever it is possible, and the possibilities increase with our experience.

I would like to thank all my super awesome partners. Without you I would be truly lost. Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!