Heart Opening Moments

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Aikido Life


Typical training day to explore freestyle movements at the Dojo of the Four Winds in Encinitas

It was raining, traffic was light, and the lights by the on-ramp of the freeway had been turned off after the heavy morning commute. I was driving behind a fancy sports car heading down the on-ramp and suddenly the car stops right by the traffic light in front of me leaving me no time to break. Trying to break yet sliding on fresh rain, unable to stop in time, I swerved to the right lane and quickly passed by. No red traffic light, yet the car decided to stop. Somehow my base model CRV got out of the way effortlessly, and to my surprise I was completely calm.

My training partner always shared with me that aikido should translate into all aspects of our lives, and I agree. At the time he and I had been training for several months getting ready for our 3rd degree black belt test. We trained extensively in freestyle with three attackers, and were learning that part of being effective is the concept of evasion. I was getting better at sliding by an attacker without an active confrontation. In our training this allowed time to face the next attacker and the one after that. I never thought much of it during training. Most of the time training was training and I was just trying to survive. Only in hindsight was I able to see that my training in aikido saved me from countless near accidents on the road.

Several years ago I spent five and a half weeks in Japan visiting family and training in aikido. After a whole day of training, I would ride my bike back to the apartment late at night feeling completely exhausted and unable to think straight. The side streets merging onto the main road were small and dim. The last night during my stay, friends took me out to celebrate with traditional sushi and lots of beer. As I got on my bike to head back, it was already past midnight. There was almost no traffic on the road and I was riding along the main road submerged in my own thinking. Suddenly a dark transport truck came out of the perpendicular dark alley cutting directly in front of my path. My eyes glazed and my body moved on its own. The next thing I knew I took a quick right angle turn and was traveling parallel side-by-side right next to the truck – my body touching its dusty driver side door. I told sensei what happened the next day and he laughed, “YES! That is aikido! Good Pivot!”

In the first instance the evasion training in freestyle helped me to escape a collision in the fresh rain. In the second instance the pivoting technique we use often helped me to avoid getting hit by a truck. And this natural harmony was happening more and more in my life where conflicts used to occur. I thought perhaps I was just lucky, but on later reflection I was able to see how aikido training of the body/mind/energy has made me more effective in navigating in life without “collisions”. Most other martial arts I’ve experienced or seen embraced “collisions” as a way to win or dominate in any given situation. Instead, aikido asks practitioners to re-wire our thinking from fight-or-flight to harmonious interactions in any confrontation. With so many of our teen students getting ready to drive, I can’t help but smile to myself that aikido training is producing better drivers on the road. In a small way perhaps we are making a difference.


February 8, 2019 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , | Leave a comment

Healing in Confrontation

Aikido Wrist lock

Aikido: welcoming an attack, face the confrontation and choose the path of peace

On Saturday as Sensei and I worked on Shomen Uchi Nikajo Osae Ni, I found myself moving to the side when he attacked. I tensed up expecting having to put up a fight. After a year and a half of Aikido training, my body still reacted in an aggressive way. I wanted to distract him and take him off balance as soon as we made contact. I did not wish to face the expected confrontation. I wanted to move on and ignore the strike.

Yes, I often avoided confrontations.

As I spoke my concern to Sensei, he suggested that whenever a strike comes my way, I speak the words “thank you” to uke and allow the true gratitude to sink into my body. I tired. The words were forced and felt inauthentic. “Why should I thank someone who is about to attack me?” I asked myself. Logically I knew I am truly thankful for life’s little needle pricks that often ended up healing me in someway yet instinctually I cannot instantaneously be thankful for the expected attack. Instinctually I wanted to put up a fight or run away. Instinctually I cannot embrace the strike aimed to harm me. And instinctually I reacted instead of asking my body to act with clear choice based on connection toward a peaceful resolution.

I found more hidden aggression and manipulation within my body as the weekend progressed. I started to recognize how often I avoided confrontation in order to remain in the illusion of safety. I noticed most of times I distracted an expected attack hoping to avoid confrontation instead of courageously heading into a peaceful resolution. I realized I’ve always manipulated the situation so I can remain nice and agreeable instead of dealing with the facts.

As my tears started to dribble down my cheeks, I felt the impact of avoidance – with so much wasted drama and energy. Sometimes I have hidden from facing confrontation by running away from opportunities. Other times I avoided confrontation by half heartedly agreeing with untruth while manipulating it to conform instead of sinking deeper into my core truth. Recently, as my mother disagreed with my choices and started to create emotional drama to guilt trip me into submission, I did not remain strong in my core. Instead of saying no to her unconscious manipulation, I acted out what she wanted in order to make her happy – I avoided speaking my truth. In the end, so much of my energy was channeled into counter manipulations and I felt exhausted in the process while losing my own integrity.

I couldn’t help but think can saying “thank you” to an expected attack really help me in life. Can a peaceful resolution really result from the willingness and gratitude to connect to an attacker? In my gut I know the answer is yes as I have seen it over and over again – yet I still question if this concept is as reliable as gravity itself. Can Aikido truly be the tool that could transform the aggressive consciousness of our instinctual nature and bring us into harmony?

The body says yes.

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment