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.




  1. That is so true, we are always travelling, remembering or making plans for the future, that is why I really enjoy aikido, there is no other possibility than to be there with all: mind and body, thanks Graham

    1. You're welcome as always. Thanks for commenting.

  2. thank you Graham, it was very kind of you.
    You know that I usually don't go in Aikiweb, the warning is still there for ever.., but fortunately today I entered, maybe a sixth sense and found your nice article, it is a pity you don't share this kind in your blog and facebook, I saw you got a nice comment, and I think people who don't enter in Aikiweb would appreciate it also, but f course it is up to you, have a nice weekend