Monday, September 20, 2010

Transcending Theory into the Practical

I think it would be fair to say that for the majority of people training today, they are seeking some practical ability to use from their knowledge. It is probably in the slim minority that someone is training Aikido to cultivate his spirit alone and perhaps achieve that takemusu-aiki level sought by Osensei.

There are probably thousands of practitioners out there with a lot more decades under their belt and presumably with the incumbent knowledge and experience. Perhaps in their lofty perch they may scoff at what I'm thinking out loud. I don't blame them, because it may very well be that after the same decades under my belt I'd probably laugh at me too.

Still, here we are for those of us who have between a decade or two of practice... Those of us who are in the younger thirties and still have not discarded the occasional temper and flaring of ego and undoubtedly participate to some extent in road rage, be it slamming into the horn at jerks or yelling in the car at some road hog, or even the occasional swerving and slalom across the highway to beat traffic.

I am not proud to say that I've allowed this to happen to me. Just the other day as I was rushing to an event (it always starts with this by the way; rushing), I was trying to get into my toll lane when this lorry cut me off and started to block my entry. The wise and smart thing to do was to brake and let him past on his way before going in, but sadly my wise and smart brain was on the mend that day, and instead the hot tempered 20 year old brain I left disused a long time ago took control and so I sped and swerved in front of him. The affront of it! By God I couldn't let him get away with that could I? Anyway, he horned me after that and I promptly stopped and gave him... err some communicative signals. Well the short of it was we both got out, and I was carrying my age old baggage of all the insolent lorry drivers with me when I went out to confront him. Lo and behold, an educated man in the 50s was angry at me for my hand signals. Although I thought to give him a piece of my mind, a tit for tat you would say, I felt all wrong inside.

Here's the facts. Sure he cut me off. But it could have been unintentional. I swerved in front of him, to show my displeasure. He became annoyed and horned. I stopped because I took affront and gave him a rude gesture. He came out and I came out fully aware that it could lead to an altercation. I realised he felt he was wronged, and I understood his anger was at the rudeness more than it was because of the incident which could have been explained away. So... there, faced with that new-found knowledge, I felt very bad about what I did.

In the end, I apologised to him profusely for being rude. Even though I thought it was a fair thing to do to swerve at him initially, ultimately it was really a stupid and childish thing to do. To be a man is to control your ego and temper, lest it makes you useless. After all, we are learning budo, or are we really? To practice budo is to protect someone, not to look for a fight. Yearning to use your art against some 'evil' jerk is really the act of cowardice. You seek knowledge to fight as an advantage over others and you then seek a fight to prove your worth... is that where I'm going?

Thus, today is not about a technique I practised the other day, its more about trying to remind myself that its all fine to practice Aikido techniques and be theoretical about harmonising with someone, with yourself or the universe in the dojo, but out there... where we are living everyday, when we are sick, or bored to death, or having a migraine or when we are angry at something... those are the times when we need to keep our practice in our heads and heart. Its not just about this road rage which is easily identifiable. Sometimes it could even be abusing your relationship with others by taking advantage of them. Sensei once said, to be a good Aikidoka and more so as a teacher, is to be practice zanshin. Zanshin is not all about when we are on the mat practising with an attacking uke. Zanshin is to be aware of feelings, of having a 'feel' of the surroundings... It all sounds too much doesn't it. But read Gladwell's book 'Blink' and you can see that this awareness is real and can be achieved.

Anyway, just think... everytime we practice shomenuchi or some other attacks, I talk about not clashing and instead harmonising with the oncoming force. At the end, what I just did was to clash and it was only luck that brought me back to my senses. This is the shame I will have this blog remind me of each time I think I know better.


  1. wow breath taking true story, especially the first line of ur 6th paragraph. after that no more suspense hehe...did he fold his sleeves seeing u coming to him not knowing ur intention was to apologise? anyway, its nice to know that u won (from within) :)

  2. Well if you read it again, you'll see I didn't come out to apologise. I came out to tell him I was right and he was wrong. I only came to good sense when we started talking and I got to see his concerns and his viewpoint. Only then I realised it was fitting for me to apologise to him as an elder. But yeah, I thank God I didn't find a stupid punk instead or that it became a full blown fight. It was just a stupid thing to do.