sâmbătă, 30 iulie 2011

“Aikido and Mind-Body Integration,” by Curtis L.V. Adams, M.D.

“Aikido and Mind-Body Integration,” by Curtis L.V. Adams, M.D.

In 1967, after four years in the General Practice of Medicine, I started a residency in Psychiatry. A large percentage of my general practice patients suffered from psychiatric conditions and I read psychiatric literature voraciously, as I did during my first year of residency. I became more and more mystified during that year, as we were presented so many systems of psychology and psychiatry, each of which, taken by itself, seemed to “make sense”. Taken together, those systems seemed conflicting and confusing. During a discussion of this confusion with my brother, then a graduate student in speech and communications, he suggested I learn about an epistemology called General Semantics. After I followed his suggestion, and applied Korzybski’s principles about abstracting to my studies, my confusion cleared remarkably. I enjoyed teaching those principles to students, residents, preceptees, patients, etc., over the years. It was always fun to see the comprehension bloom when I could get a student to sit long enough with a person overwhelmed, for instance, by a quandary without diagnosing or classifying so he could see the person and help him clarify his situation and arrive at a workable solution.

I discovered my second passion in 1974. That summer, my family and I spent our vacation in an isolated lake cabin. I ate a lot, fished, and read potboilers. One of those books featured a hero who used Aikido to deal with bad guys. I had a book on Aikido in my library, and got it out as soon as I returned home. Serendipitously, in September of that year, Dr. Greg Faulkner moved to my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, to work in the space industry. He started an Aikido Class, which I joined. I have practiced since then and taught for a number of those years.

My general sense of well-being began to improve soon after starting Aikido. My body habits changed and people remarked that I moved more freely. When one of my psychiatric colleagues attended a trial workshop, I remarked to him that Aikido had intrinsic value different from other martial arts, and different from the attendant exercise. He did not agree, and I was unable to defend my point. A number of years later, the acknowledged best fighter in our federation of martial artists, an engineer, wondered why we all continued to practice martial arts over the years. I have attempted to answer the question about the intrinsic value of Aikido, as I believe there is such, and also the question of why I continue to practice and to teach the art. I think it is a tool to help me “make sense”, especially in the face of confrontational, aggressive persons.

The human ability to conceptualize and objectify accounts for many of our accomplishments. This ability also accounts for one of the major problems that we have to solve: a dichotomy between one’s subjective or organic self and an “I-Persona” or “I-Mask” self-concept. We describe ourselves on currency subject to being overvalued and vulnerable to being blown away by the wind of events, leaving us with a diminished sense of self-worth. In this paper, I will explore this split and in particular how the practice of the Japanese martial art of Aikido helps to resolve this problem.

This split occurs as part of development. In normal development there is a reorganization of the conceptual framework to fit the reality of the person and his world at the end of each stage of development. There is a period of turmoil associated with this state of reorganization that must be tolerated and supported by the environment. Since most human environments do not support any kind of turmoil, few people have been able to complete this part of each stage of development. For that reason, most people have a mixture of out of date ideas and conclusions in their conceptual frameworks.

Charles Kelly wrote that there are two character types based on two different ways of conceptualizing: the mechanic and the mystic. The first, the mechanic, operates in concepts, deals with the world by means of discrete units, and treats the world as though it is fundamentally static and immobile. He acts and operates on an outside reality to the exclusion of subjectivity or consciousness. The mystic over-focuses on the subjective “feeling” aspect of the life process at the expense of the objective “action” aspect. He becomes convinced that subjective reality antedates and overrides the merely physical reality of the body and the external world. He develops the conviction that consciousness is independent of the body.

In his essay on metaphysics, Bergson wrote, “There is an absolute knowledge, which can only be given in an intuition (meaning coming only from an internal processing). Everything else falls within the province of analysis,” i.e., the world of the mechanic and the mystic. “By intuition is meant the kind of intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and consequently inexpressible. There is a reality that is external and yet given immediately to the mind.” I think this is inherent in the “staying at the level of nonverbal” talked about in General Semantics.

Alfred Korzybski, who originated General Semantics, called this level of the intuitive the level of the nonverbal: the level of being and knowing without the use of symbols or words. He recommended that one stay at the level of the nonverbal until he comes to a complete knowledge and acceptance of a situation. We have to use words and symbols to communicate; however, being able to stay at the level of the nonverbal until we have contacted the external reality is important. This ability increases the reliability of our abstracting process by allowing us to gather more information before arriving at conclusions, inferences, etc.

These concepts relate to my work as a psychiatrist in that practically every person has a concept of self quite different from what can be seen or perceived in that person. People define themselves according to their status, their role, what they have been told about themselves years ago or out-of-date self-definitions. These same people often have a conceptualization of external reality that is eccentric and cannot be consensually validated. Psychotherapy, when done right, helps the person get to a sense of reality of self and helps him develop a consensually validatable conceptualization of external reality.

Aikido is another way a person can develop a more accurate perception of self and a more nearly accurate conceptualization of external reality. In Aikido there is a particular necessity of evaluating reality accurately.

Aikido is a modern martial art originated in Japan by Morihei Uyeshiba, called by Aikidoists O-Sensei or The Great Teacher (of Aikido of course). Morihei Uyeshiba was a seeker who started out early in life with a decision that he would never get beaten up. He had seen his father bullied by village ruffians and made the decision that he would not be such a victim. He entered into the study of martial arts as a young man, studying the way of the sword and the way of the empty hand, Jujitsu, and eventually ending up in a martial art called Daito Jujitsu. He was an undefeated fighter. He was capable with a sword or an empty hand of beating practically anybody in a fight and took great pride in his ability. He was sergeant-at-arms for a spiritual sect, and later a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the Japanese Navy. With all of those skills under his command, he came into conflict with a close friend, a naval officer who was a professor of fencing.

Consider the paradox. Uyeshiba was a man who said he would never be beaten up and who had taken great pride in fighting and his ability to fight. He now confronted a friend who had attacked him with a wooden sword to kill him. He was faced with a situation in which his self-identification conflicted with an external and intuitively felt reality. When does your friend become your enemy? How can you kill your friend? Morihei Uyeshiba fought this “battle” with the naval officer by using only defensive moves. When the naval officer moved to strike, Uyeshiba would move out of the way. He continued to do evasive tactics until the opponent collapsed in a sweat. Then Uyeshiba went out into the garden where he experienced a sense of lights and a revelation about the martial arts. This revelation was that martial arts are not to kill and destroy your enemy but to restore harmony that has been previously disturbed in the universe. From this experience, he formulated a new conceptualization of Budo or the Way of War.

Uyeshiba’s conceptualization was based in part on the actual meaning of the Japanese character “Bu”. The idea is that an individual stops war or fighting. The top of the character is of two crossed halberds, indicating a cessation of aggressiveness. The lower character literally means to stop. The composite, therefore would imply “to stop fighting” or end battle. He originally called his method of self-defense Aiki-jujitsu and later renamed it Aikido. Aiki means harmony of the energies. The word do, which means Way in the spiritual sense, added to aiki forms Aikido that means the way of harmony of the energies. Aikido is the current designation of the Way of Morihei Uyeshiba.

In addition to being an extremely effective form of self-defense, Aikido became a basis for the pursuit of the true self. This pursuit is done by the constant reevaluation in the learning and application of the techniques of Aikido. In order to do Aikido effectively, one has to cultivate an awareness of the body, the location of the body in space and the force of his movements. This constant reevaluation ideally caused a shift from the concept of opponents, as in self-defense, to partners, who would help in rediscovering the true self. Consequently he was “making sense” of a previously perceived paradox. His martial skills remained the same, or improved, but the application changed from aggressiveness to cooperation (or in the words of Trigant Burrow from detention to contention).

The philosophy of Aikido is the culmination of a philosophy that had required centuries of evolution and was very much a part of the life of the samurai. The first step in this evolution was that of the samurai or servant warrior. He belonged to his master and if ordered, his job was to kill the enemy. The samurai learned that this kind of killing is spiritual suicide. Then came the concept of mutual destruction, i.e., of sacrificing one’s life to kill the enemy. In that situation, a sense of appreciation of one’s life emerged. It is no sacrifice if your life is valueless. Then evolved the concept of the mutual preservation of life, the idea of the saving of one’s enemy’s life while preserving one’s own life. The warrior must have a profound knowledge of his craft in order to actualize a philosophy of saving his and his enemy’s life. Otherwise he has no choice other than to kill or be killed. His knowledge must not be of a mechanical nor of a mystical nature, i.e., abstractions have no place when one is faced with an enemy skilled in the art of killing and determined to end his life. The warrior’s knowledge must be based on an intuitive perception of movement and forces. It was out of the background of the Zen considerations of the samurai that Morihei Uyeshiba was able to have his enlightenment experience from which he developed his Aikido, “The Way of Harmony”.

In the world we certainly have to be able to deal with aggression that arises in many contexts. When we are afraid we will often retire into the world of thoughts and fantasies. The Aikidoist must learn the skills of containing his emotions in situations where the threat is only symbolic. When the attack is physical, however, and only then, the Aikidoist has a place to “enter the spirit” of the attacker and neutralize the attack. The skills that are necessary for self-defense can be demonstrated, but must be learned through constant practice. The first of these skills is to avoid opposition. This means blending with the attack, redirecting it, etc. The second is to neutralize further aggression with techniques such as locks, throws, etc.

Read more here: http://blog.aikidojournal.com/blog/2011/07/29/aikido-and-mind-body-integration-by-curtis-l-v-adams-m-d/

Yoga Warmups for Aikido demonstrated by Stanley Pranin

Yoga Warmups for Aikido demonstrated by Stanley Pranin

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin demonstrates a series of basic yoga postures he has incorporated into his aikido workouts. After suffering chronic back pain for many years, three years of yoga practice have allowed him to overcome his bad back problem. These are the exercises he has adopted as part of the aikido warmups.

miercuri, 27 iulie 2011

Can Aikido Breakfalls Really Protect You?


Aikido Breakfalls are for breaking the force of a fall to the ground without experiencing an injury. On the other hand, ukemi is the ability to receive a technique or fall safely and recover your balance.

Learning how to develop good Aikido breakfalls is very difficult to achieve. Many Aikido students do not focus on the skill of receiving techniques, as their main aim is on becoming a good performer of technique.

One of the reasons is that people in the West are generally highly competitive. Most of us have been taught to put ourselves first, and that winning is better than losing. This means that we tend to concentrate more on performing techniques, and winning, rather than receiving, and losing.

This way of thinking is rather egotistical and selfish, and the art of Aikido addresses this problem directly. In order to take we must first give. So by focusing a little more on helping our training partner, we will in turn be helping ourselves.

In my many travels of Aikido dojo, I have found hundreds of students that are fairly good at performing techniques. But, most dojo only have a couple of good uke, that are good enough be used for demonstrations. This is because the goal of most students is to win and perform well.

You can be different and truly excel at the art by looking closely at Aikido breakfalls and ukemi practise.

By working on your falls a little more, you can develop to a much higher level. It will give you the confidence to allow yourself to be of use to your training partner, by not resisting their techniques. This helps their skills and yours, a win-win situation, that removes the conflict from the connection.

I will briefly look at some of the Aikido breakfalls you will learn during your Aikido training...

Back Breakfalls

These are first learned by lying down flat on your back on the mat. Bend your knees, so your heels are flat on the floor, with arms held palm-down at 45 degrees from your body. Lift your head, with your chin touching your chest. This strengthens your neck muscles, and protects your head from hitting the ground if you fall.

Then, lift your arms up and slap the ground with your fingers, palms and forearms all sharing the impact. Repeat several times, and breathe out each time you hit. When you can do these backward slaps comfortably from lying down, move on to...

From a sitting position, roll back, making sure your chin is tucked well in and exhale strongly. Slap the ground, and repeat several times. Then try from a squatting position with your buttocks sitting on your heels. Tuck in your chin and curve your spine, and allow your body to roll backwards so your back hits the floor. You should force your breath out sharply, and slap the mat just as you touch it, repeat several times.

Practise this until you can do it without jarring your body, with no feeling of shock. Eventually you can try it from a standing position. Stand up straight, bend your knees and lower your buttocks close to the ground, and place one foot slightly behind the other. Roll onto your back, and continue as before.

Side Breakfalls

You should already be able to perform back falls before you try to learn side falls, which are just one-armed, one-sided back breakfalls. For example, you would fall on your side if the person throwing you is still hanging on to one of your arms.

Remember, your arm should be about 45 degrees from your body when it hits the mat. Immediately after, you should withdraw your arm to protect your chest or face to block a punch or kick.

Practise by dropping your legs to on side, and slap the ground with the arm nearest the mat palm down at 45 degrees. Your hip, knee and the whole side of your leg and calf should be flat on the mat. Your other leg should be bent at the knee, with your foot flat on the ground.

Forward Breakfalls

Forward Rolls are very important because they get you back up onto your feet immediately, so you can continue defending yourself. Before you try rolling falls, you should already know back and side ones.

Rolling breakfalls are impressive to watch, especially during a demonstration. But they take a lot of practice. When your body falls at speed, you need to protect your head and neck, and spread the shock to protect your arms and legs.

You accomplish this by making your body into a circle, where your body rolls. The energy is absorbed along the edge of the circle, and nothing gets damaged. Practise on tatami, gymnasium mats, or wrestling mats.

Think of your shoulders, arms and hands as a hoop or a circle. Roll along your extended hand and arm, shoulder, the center of your back, your spine, buttocks, legs and feet. You must train your body so it touches the ground all along this pathway each time you do a rolling fall.

High Breakfalls

Kote-gaeshi Aikido breakfalls are how you escape from a very nasty arm break in Aikido or Ju Jitsu. If you don't know how to leap over your own arm quickly, and land with a good side fall, your arm may snap when someone hits you with a kotegaeshi throw at full power.

The kote-gaeshi fall is not for Aikido beginners, and you need to build up your ukemi skills before you even try this. You would start learning slowly and carefully by practising with a partner in the dojo.

Once you get you used to timing your break fall to the actions of someone else, you can then practice increasing the power of the move until you are actually being thrown into the break fall.

In meeting the mat try to distribute as much force throughout your body as possible in the most relaxed manner. It takes a lot of practice to achieve the correct timing, and allow your body to distribute the force.

Always practise safely with a qualified instructor in a training hall and using safety mats!

Tony Wilden
Aikido Health Centre

Tony Wilden has been studying health and spirituality for over 30 years and Aikido since 1985. He founded the Arun Aikido Club in West Sussex UK in 1992, and has given dozens of demo's and 1000's of health treatments.

He offers junior & adult Aikido classes, self defence courses, private lessons & pressure points to individuals & small groups. He is the director of the Aikido Health Centre Website at... http://www.aikido-health.com and is the author of 3 unique ebooks... Aikido Success Blueprint, Aikido First Aid Kit, and Optimum Health Secrets.

You can get his free Harmony newsletter that offers original Aikido & Health tips... and surprise gifts. All delivered every month, straight to your email inbox... http://www.aikido-health.com/Ezine.html

Copyright 2010 - All Rights Reserved - Tony Wilden - Aikido Health Centre

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miercuri, 6 iulie 2011

George Ledyard - Open Letter to My Students

George Ledyard's All Things Aikido - Open Letter to My Students

Hi Everyone,
After much reflection in the post Olson Sensei aftermath, I decided I needed to write something about what I see as the purpose of our art and how important the Dojo community is in preserving and transmitting it. I wanted to wait until I wasn't upset any more about the abysmal attendance at the event, which by the way, did not even break even. I was, at the time, embarrassed that my guest brought seven students all the way from Montana while the majority of our own folks, and especially our Beginner student population did not participate at all. Anyway, all that is what it is. My initial reaction was to read everyone the "riot act", which I realize simply isn't productive or effective. People cannot be forced to care about something they don't. So, I have decided to explain what I believe about Aikido, and what I see as the mission of Aikido Eastside. Folks can decide what these things mean to them, personally.

Aikido is a form of Budo. Budo is basically the use of the martial arts for personal transformation. Aikido as Budo is a "Michi" or Martial "WAY" (the "do" in Aiki-do). O-Sensei, the Founder, actually believed that through Aikido, the whole world could be brought into a state of harmony; he called our art "The Way of Peace". For him, Budo was a life and death matter. Given the right level of commitment one could truly become a better person, less fearful, stronger, braver, more compassionate. One could, in his or her own Mind and Body understand that everything in the universe is essentially connected. His creation of Aikido represents a radical transformation of how Budo was viewed historically. It is a unique art. It is not a "hobby", it is not a "sport", it is not a "workout", it is a Michi, a Way. The central maxim of Aikido is "masakatsu, agatsu" "True Victory is Self Victory".

I was blessed to stumble on to Aikido 35 years ago. My teacher, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, trained under the Founder himself, for fifteen years. He is one of the true giants of post-war Aikido. Sensei's mission has been to create a line of "transmission" for the teachings of his teacher and to try to prevent the decline that often sets in after the Founder of a given art passes on. Josh Drachman and I have been greatly honored to be a direct part of this "transmission". We have been admitted to a select group which Sensei refers to as the Ueshiba Juku (named after O-Sensei's first dojo back in the 30's). To Sensei this represents the fact that we are in the direct line of transmission from the Founder, to himself, and then to us. I once asked him if that meant that at some point in the future, one or more of my own students would be a part of the Ueshiba Juku and carry on the "transmission". He replied "Absolutely!"

This is what Aikido Eastside is about. It represents the base of support for a number of us who are trying to attain some level of mastery in this amazing art. It is the place we come to work on our own understanding, it is the place we come to share what we know with the generations who are coming along afterwards. We serve as a support for other absolutely amazing teachers who come through to share their mastery with us and help us along this Path. I don't think that many of our members actually realize what we have here at Aikido Eastside. Often it takes "getting out" to realize what you have. We literally have people moving to our area to train with us. We have people coming from all over the US and even overseas to attend events. Some come specifically so that they can work with our students because they are know to be such great partners for` this training.

But this entire enterprise is dependent on committed participants. Without students who are "hungry", teachers cannot teach, no matter what their level of skill. We are totally co-dependent in our community. A student cannot progress without good partners. Teachers cannot teach without wiling students. Nothing we do is in isolation. People often think that it's not up to them, that someone else will make the effort. They can simply show up to the dojo and learn some interesting stuff, get a bit of exercise, pay dues for the privilege, and go home. If the issue were simply the survival of the Dojo over time, that would be fine. But that isn't what this whole thing is about. A Dojo literally means "Place for the Transmission or Practice of the Way". We have no equivalent in our culture. The success or failure of this transmission is entirely dependent on the people involved.

Aikido, and Budo in general, is endangered. Modern life places ever increasing demands of people's time, we are convinced that we need to fill our time with more and more things, just to keep pace. The number one reason for folks quitting or not training as much as they say they'd like is "lack of time". I have talked with various teachers and virtually all of them say that it is difficult, if near impossible, to find people who wish to train like we trained. Yet the fact of the matter is that every single person who ever mastered some art or pursued a spiritual path had exactly the same amount of time as we do. There have been 24 hours in a day since pre-history. If people allow themselves to become convinced that their time is scarce, then the very things that in an affluent society such as ours, in which we are not completely focused on not starving each day, we could be pursuing, making ourselves better, making our world better, then arts which contain what I call "old knowledge" will simply die out. They may still exist, just as you can see lots of Aikido being done out there, but in fact, there is very little truly deep Aikido being done. The tendency is to shape the art to fill the needs and abilities of the participants. Without a critical mass of committed folks, the art declines. Even the truly committed end up constrained by the fact that there are few who can or will train with them. Their own ability to achieve excellence is dependent on have a place which is supportive of that endeavor and offers an environment focused on attainment.

I realize that only a very few will ever devote themselves to any art the way my peers and I have done. It is the natural order of things that there always be a pyramid of sorts in which the number of the folks at the top is exponentially smaller than the number of folks at the bottom. There are an infinite number of gradations in this "transmission" of Aikido. Some will take their understanding to great depth and others will just touch the surface. Regardless, there is a certain commitment required to really participate in the "transmission". Below a certain level of time and effort, nothing is really happening... nothing is really being transmitted. I have never had the expectation that more than a few of our students will go the distance and run dojos of their own some day. It's a fact that less than ten percent will even stay long enough to get a Shodan. But what I do expect is that when the students are training, they do so seriously. That what they are doing and learning is really at some place along the continuum of of the knowledge we are attempting to transmit.

When people tell me they don't have time to train due to job, family, other concerns, what they are saying is really that it simply isn't important enough for them to prioritize their training. I won't use myself as an example, because I realize that I am not in any way, shape, or form typical or representative. But I think we have one of the finest examples I know of right at our dojo of someone who has managed to combine all of the elements of a typical person's life and still take his Aikido to a highly accomplished level. Alex Nakamura Sensei has had a family, a career, etc and still, he has been on the mat three times a week year in year out for 40 + years. When folks tell me they can't do that, I simply disagree. They could, but they choose not to. This is every person's right and responsibility. To choose. People will each choose differently, according to his or her individual concerns. But everyone should understand that these choices do not occur in a vacuum.

Read the entire article here: http://aikieast.blogspot.com/2011/07/hi-everyone-after-much-reflection-in.html