Friday 8 February 2013

Aikido Philosophy...Time Travel.

Do you believe in time travel? Have you ever watched a sci-fi film or star trek and like me been fascinated by the time travel and all the 'time line' machinations? All good imaginative stuff. In this post I am going to explain to you about time travel and it's relation to Aikido.

Earlier this 'evening' I was talking to a friend and mischievously asked her if she believed in time travel. It seemed to her like a sudden 'off key' question, but that's usual coming from me but she smiled and began to question and wonder whether she did or not. Anyway, to cut the story short, after she had answered I gave her another 'off key' statement this time and pointed out that most peoples problem is they time travel too much.

You see we had been talking about where she wanted to go in the future. When we remember something we are going back into the past. Time travel. You see there is you there is your body and there is your mind. The only factor here really which tends to confuse the issue is the mind. Thus there are two ways of remembering. We have 'memories' which are recordings, pictures if you like or films we store in the mind. That's all good. Then there is you spiritually. You are the one looking at those memories for it's not your eyes doing it, it is you. So you can also just look back at the past for real. So we have a difference here, one is looking at pictures of the past and one is looking at the past. Putting yourself in the past and similarly when planning a visit to somewhere and what you plan to do and where to go etc. then you are putting yourself in the future. Time travel.

So what has this to do with Aikido. Well, in Aikido there is a term called Zanshin which basically means being in the present. Described by many as meaning 'spare or free attention or awareness' I feel that type of descriptive definition can lead to too many assumptions. The main one being that it means you can do this and that and be alert and strategize and notice openings etc. and at the same time be aware of all around. Thus maintaining Zanshin.

Well I'm going to give my reflection on the matter (I do love that word reflection) and first say it is good to be aware of the term 'here and now' and that it is equated with 'zen' and 'in the moment' and such phrases. However I am going to say split here and now into two separate things. There is here and there is now.

Zanshin is to do with here. One of the five 'spirits' of budo. Spiritually being here. That means also your attention here. Sounds simple but that's why it's so hard for as I said already 'you do too much time travelling.'

So to understand Zanshin even better recognize that attention here means it is not led elsewhere by anything. A noise taking your attention is already in the past. Predicting what you will do is already in the future. Neither is here. Then we have the mind....oh dear. Thoughts. Attention given to any thought means you have been led and are no longer here. You are now elsewhere. Even feelings lead you elsewhere. Now we can begin to see why just 'being here' is actually quite a feat. Zanshin.

The best practice I use for this in Aikido is actually kokyudosa. Many phases of learning and improvement happen over the years even on this one simple excercise until one day you find "wow, no that can't be!" One of those moments where it was too easy and also too late to avoid or deny for the kokyudosa has been done so you can't escape the fact you did it but even in yourself you find it unbelievable. For you know all you did was somehow be aware here and the partner and everything else just 'happened.'

Advanced Zanshin is what happened but it's almost too hard to believe. For it means all that happened was my attention was here and nothing else. Thus also Ki was here.

Notice I said nothing else. No thought, no mind. So Zanshin is not spare attention whilst using your mind for there is no mind there. Only quiet. So it's time to take a better look at what Zanshin actually is.

If using mind and strategy and whatever takes 'x' amount of attention then you can then see how the left over attention can be here and call that zanshin. However, why waist all that attention on those superfluous things for then all your attention would be here. Now that is pure Zanshin. No time travel. No elsewhereness. So without the mind you have full attention here, you are fully here and thus can perceive everything.

So we have quiet. The mind has gone quiet. In fact not one thought, not one anything......gone. Attention is free and here. You are free.



Monday 4 February 2013

Aikido Philosophy.....What is Martial?

Aikido is a MARTIAL art. I have seen many 'debates' on this and witnessed many a discussion and have been quite surprised by peoples views. Even on Aikiweb I see arguments as to what it means in regards to Aikido and it's the word Martial which seems to cause so much confusion.

On one side you have those who say they do Aikido as a journey and even to the point of saying they don't do it for Martial reasons and on the other side you have those who insist they are more traditional and explain how martial means in it's origins and thus it should be practiced as if 'fighting'. As usual the winning concepts in most of the arguments are those which favor ego and thus everyone can be comfortable thinking about 'opponents' and what they are preparing themselves for. Oh dear.....

Well, a martial art does not mean preparing to fight or go to war or anything military at all. Military folk may learn different ways of fighting and strategy and tactics and so called competitive martial arts may learn great disciplines and skills but neither is in truth anything to do with martial arts.

So MARTIAL, what does it mean? Well you can trace most martial arts back to their origins and you will find two things. One is merely systems of fighting but all the 'superior' ways were not for fighting at all but rather spiritual disciplines done by religious monks or even nuns. So in truth martial arts originates from religious practice. Only ego takes it into the other realms and only the ego of the other realms want to try to learn it to use for fighting and war and power and domination.

So once again I ask you what does Martial mean in the context of true Martial Art having said already it has nothing to do with fighting or competition? What makes it Martial? For therein lies the understanding needed before you can even get a basic idea of what a martial art is. One thing that sets it apart from many other things is that it is a long term discipline, emphasis on all three words there. Thus those both inside and outside of such who do understand see it is a way of life. So we are getting nearer but not there yet. What is the one factor which makes this discipline martial?

Well there is one factor that outweighs all others in this discipline which makes it Martial and as such was practiced by the more spiritual monks be they from Shaolin or Sohei or whatever and that is the discipline of facing death daily.

This is why the Samurai excelled as warriors because they also had facing death as an ingrained 'honourable' thing as do all warriors. But even most Samurai were confused by any peaceful monks having the same view. In fact when taking to arms the Sohei Monks were far more skillful than most samurai and unfortunately even they succumbed to ego. But back to the point...the discipline of facing death.

Just contemplate that statement for long enough and you will begin to see what a martial art is and how extremely disciplined it is and indeed how spiritual it has to be. You will also begin to see how zen like it is for in facing death only then can you truly apprecate life itself. Thus it also shows you, hold your breath now, how appreciating life takes discipline. True Budo is love.

Just think, death includes loss. Loss of all loved ones, loss of everything you hold dear. Yet most go to pieces over the loss of a purse or wallet. Facing the unknown. Yet ego always wants to know and hates not knowing and thinks knowledge is power. Death is also escape for some but once again that is ego running away, fear. the opposite of facing. The great zen riddle of freedom.

Now what better way of practicing facing death for monks than an action where you have to remain disciplined and calm and at the same time face threatened harm and potential death. Thus you can begin to see how the martial arts were born. How true martial arts can only lead towards enlightenment. The way.How it is the facing of rather than the using of weapons which is the true skill. Turning then the killing sword into the healing sword and the spear into the holy staff. There is plenty to learn and lots to face on the path of budo is love.

A warrior meditates and practices facing death and that is his goal. A true martial artist meditates and practices facing death as a discipline but not a goal for his goal is enlghtenment and his purpose is harmony and life.