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A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Alexander Pope

 

I started this blog seven years ago to write down some of my thoughts from the keiko. My wish was to try to structure them into some kind of logical pattern. It is often much easier to discover what our thoughts and feelings are when we write them down on paper.

However, as long as nobody is reading it, we will become sloppy and will not properly formulate the thoughts into a readable format, which is the exact exercise we need to increase our awareness. This idea is still why I write, so whoever is reading this, here is another one of my brain farts. Thanks for your help on my aiki road.

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Keiko with Daniela and Radoslav in Bratislava.

A ladder of awareness and perception

Aikido is such a huge field of study, and often it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of different ideas and concepts to explore. When we first practice tai no tenkan, there is so much information thrown in our face that we can’t really see any of it. However, as soon as we have learned the general form we will start to notice little things; small adjustments to the form; small turning movements which makes it become more rounded and economical.

However, very soon we have come to the point of reaching the limit of how much we can develop and polish about the outer form. And as we continue to practise, we notice other things. We probably find first that there is an immense dilemma, being torn between our posture and the fulfilment of the grab. We can keep the grab conservation or we can keep our posture, but we have to give up one, to keep the other, and sometimes with some partners, we fail at keeping any of them. With practice we gain more freedom, both in the body and in the mind, so that we can keep both of these qualities. So that the structure of tai no tenkan, has developed beyond the outer perfection. We are on the level of skeleton, or structural, integrity. Building our movement from a point of load based in the correct form according to the bone structure of our body.

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Keiko in Trondheim with Helle, Rachel and Tor Magnus in May 2019. Photo by Helle Buvik.

Still, we are in the realm of leverage and physics, and we have not really gone to the human level of the kata. At this level it would be the same if it were two machines doing the form. However, we are not as simple as a machine.

The next thing we might notice is that some partners will be problematic for us, because they are simply too strong even if we use leverage. And with timing, by going the moment before, there is always the limit of how much our partner is willing to follow us. We can fool ourselves for a short time by constructing a logic where the partner is doing something wrong, and therefore we cannot do our part.

So, either we lose interest in tai no tenkan, at this point, and maybe start focusing on the rest of the more athletic katas of aikido. Probably to come to the same realisation some years later, when exactly the same problem reemerges in whatever we are focusing on at the time, because it is the same in everything. Or we start directly, with tai no tenkan, and discover the next level of awareness and perception.

We are a living organism, and our partner is a living organism. Even simple one celled organisms are much more complex than anything we have constructed. We can observe parts of it, but there is always more to discover. A person or an animal, and even plants has a presence which goes beyond the physical structure which is visible. I mean, you even receive the energy of a person over the phone, by the way they breathe, the tone of their voice and their choice of words. Even if all the visual clues are missing; Even if there is only sound, there is a connection between you, and you share energy. When we are practising tai no tenkan together there is a lot of ways we can connect beyond the mechanical grab and structural forcing of a form.

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Tai no tenkan with Anders at Oliver Twist in June 2019. Photo By Anders Lütz.

Three ways to consider the body and the mind of a human being

At this time I am very inspired by the biodynamic approach from osteopathy where we observe the human being in different zones:

  1. The physical body with all our anatomical details. Everything out to the surface of the skin.
  2. The body with the near lying environment surrounding the physical body. Imagine an egg shape around the body extending to around half a meter from the skin, without a body inside. The person, without any restrictions, is contained inside this egg shape, and ALL kinds of movements are possible. There are no restrictions of bones, limitations by the anatomy, nor anything from the first zone, which would prevent us from going beyond the mechanical function. Everything is possible.
  3. The person is extending to the whole natural world. The person is interacting with everything in its surroundings. We consider the person as a field going all the way from the center to the horizon. If we are standing in the forest practicing, the presence of the trees around us will affect our keiko, and of course the energy from the pairs of partners practicing around us. They are affected by the person we are observing and they are affecting us. Everything is connected as a whole. All of it comes in to our field of perception.
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Keiko with Jaroslav in Bratislava in July 2019.

Three ways to consider our connection to our partner

At first we might not see clearly enough to have any idea of from where, to where, our connection to our partner is going. We just touch and perform the form of what we were able to catch from what the teacher were showing, and like I said in the beginning, there is too much information to sort it out into something visible for us. However, as we proceed to practise the same forms, we start to build some ideas of how to connect.

  1. Center to center connection is probably the first one we hear about. We are told to move from the center, to connect to the center of the partner, and lead the partner from the center. To be able to do this we need to be able to keep the integrity of our body, without collapsing the inner structure when we reach a point where there is a problem.
  2. Connecting mind to mind is also an idea which we hear talking about in stories. But it is not so easy. To lead the partner in a way which is logically sane for the partner to follow is a much more clever way, of course than just having the power to push the partner around. The logic idea is to do what the partner wanted to do, and we are doing the motion together for mutual benefit.
  3. The third way of connecting is the one I find most interesting now, to move on in my studies. The connection is going beyond physical and logical reasoning. We would like to connect to our partner in the emotional level, heart to heart. We would like to feel our partner’s feelings, and our partner can feel our feelings. There is a complete transparency of everything. Nothing is hidden. We share one body, one mind, and are also united at the emotional level.
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Tai no tenkan with Kaare in Trondheim in May 2019. Photo by Marius Hatlen.

The image of mirroring the body

Of course the three different ways of considering the person does not connect directly to the three different ways to connect. They are different concepts and are independent of each other. In fact in the biodynamic theory the different zones are called A, B and D instead of 1, 2 and 3.

During the previous couple of months or so I started experimenting with a new image which I find very interesting. I very often feel hard parts which will not move. Some examples are under my right shoulder blade, the left shoulder and the left of the spine in my lower back. In fact all my mayor areas are surrounding my heart, for some reason, maybe random, or maybe not? Who knows? In addition there are of course a huge amount of unrevealed lesions, invisible for me, in between. But those are for the future studies.

In any case these areas are not symmetrical, so for each of these areas I have a healthy side, and an unhealthy side. After some years of working on these lesions I have gotten so familiar with them that I have given them names: Slinker, Stinker and Reek. In my mind there are counterparts of all of these bodily anomalies existing as personalities whom from time to time starts arguments and fights in there, keeping me up all night.

So my most recent new way to observe during keiko is to reverse the sides. Mostly our body has a symmetrical feeling, so it is not so easy to reverse left and right. However, at least I have a very strong feeling of where my heart is. So I shift my internal image of my body-mind so that my heart is on the right side of my body. Shifting everything else accordingly. My partner is also reversed of course, since we are sharing this experience together.

I tried this both as uke and as tori, with many different partners during some seminars, and I find that part of my problems shift to the other side when i reverse the sides metally, while other problems stay at the same location regardless of my shift. How does these problems separate from each other? And was it just the extent of my image which was insufficient to shift some, but not all of these problems to the opposite side, or was it something qualitatively different with the various lesions which separated them from each other?

The idea is that over countless repetitions and over time, that the healthy side will heal the unhealthy side and the problems will be solved.

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Sunset from the train from Prague to Bratislava in July 2019.

The trauma of having our negative inner emotion confirmed

Another one of my recent, very painful, explorations into the mind is that if our own inner feelings, our thought patterns, and emotions, are in some way, even very subtly are confirmed by somebody else, it will have a devastating effect on us.

I have a strong feeling of hate, darkness and repulsiveness towards what is under my skin. It is beyond logic, beyond words. Observing life in others brings light into my heart, while feeling it inside myself is terrifying, disgusting and fills me with hate.

Aikido is a very healing experience for those who have this problem, because our friends are shielded by my skin, the dirty dark and wordless evil is in here, and they are safe out there where everything is clean. We get to enjoy the light from them, while my darkness does not seem to affect them negatively. Still, my life’s greatest fear is that this “life” which is inside of me, should somehow manage to “bite” my training partner in the keiko, or my patient during a biodynamics session. Like a giant centipede is crawling up from my darkness and end up inside my friend, biting and poisoning them. It did happen a few times, and when my deepest fears, is confirmed. Chaos and panic is happening.

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Real orange slices. From Prague in July 2019.

It is probably similar if you tell somebody with anorexia that they are fat. That is not something anybody would do, but when it comes to body communication there is complete transparency of communication. One feels something, the other feels the same. It is just that when something we know deeply inside of ourselves is told to us by somebody else, especially if it comes from somebody we consider a dear friend, it is devastating.

The worst part is of course that I never noticed my creeping crawling creature escaping from my darkness, and it found its way inside my friend without me noticing. And then I found out about it later. The fear, and the endless watchfulness out to make sure it will never happen again is incredible. And the endless discussions of the Slinker, Stinker and Reek!

Even a hug becomes a traumatic experience if you always fear that you might cause discomfort for a somebody you definitely does not want to cause discomfort for. A hug is supposed to always be a mutual thing. Not something one pays for and the other gets. If you give one you get one.

Still, the cure is to drink more of the same poison, of course, like in the poem by Alexander Pope. The information I receive from my partners is in all other cases positive, and therefore contradicting my own inner feelings about myself. My partners become happy, and feel that they are honest, because I can feel it in our connection. Little by little they are curing me from my fear of polluting others with my darkness.

I believe that if we are aware of our inner thought patterns and emotions we know what is our trigger. So if somebody should say something, probably unintentionally, or if we meet that kind of person, we will be prepared that we have a problem there. So instead of being completely perplexed, shocked and traumatised by it, we can study the emotional reaction arising inside of ourselves. This is very hard to see of course, because we are trapped inside our box most of the time, being our thoughts and emotions instead of observing them. The Ego is very tricky this way. And it causes us incredible amounts of meaningless suffering.

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Sjøholt (my hometown) June 2019.

Anyway, I don’t know. The only way to proceed is to keep practising. It makes me happy, and the most important for me; It makes my friends happy.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!