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Making the Case for an Evolutionary Aikido

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to attend an intensive three-day Aikido training in Reno, Nevada featuring four world-class instructors along with a hundred plus practitioners. After participating in this Evolutionary Aikido seminar, my self awareness was substantially heightened and I got a deeper familiarity with this martial art’s philosophical principles in terms of their applicability in everyday life. While I’ve been training in Aikido, known as the way of harmony, for almost eight years now, I continue to expand my understanding of its vast implications for human culture.

I’m a big believer in the value of trainings, like this past seminar, which are “evolutionary” in nature. More specifically, ways of development that move both the individual and the group as a whole forward, including the teachers. In those occasions, it is often the case too that the subject matter itself evolves in light of the experiences and insights harvested.

Evolutionary Aikido

“Evolutionary” is a quality and value that organizations of all sorts especially businesses would benefit greatly from embracing. Trainings that can facilitate evolution of self, culture and organization are in low supply so finding an opportunity to participate in something like this was a real treat. I’ve attended a variety of innovative forums but there was something about this coming together that was different.

While a simple blog post couldn’t possibly capture the essence of the experience from the weekend, there were a few key points made during the intensive that should be noted:

Non-duality

  • Despite duality (or two-ness) existing throughout the universe, you know ying and yang, right and wrong, we humans have the ability to come together with others in such a way where the apparent boundaries between us can be transcended. The more we can move towards a sense of oneness, the more powerful the potential synergy that can be embraced to innovate and create. There were a number of occasions during the program where I experienced deep unification with my partner(s) which allowed for something new and fluid to emerge.
  • Often times, we choose to take an objective view on life, which, much of the time, results in a sense of duality based on the relationship between our subjective experience and the objective reality. A relevant allegory was told by Miles Kessler Sensei, one of the instructors of the seminar and a mentor of mine, of two fish swimming in water. They were being watched by a frog from the outside who asked, “how’s the water?” but received a response back saying “what water?” The point of this anecdote was to point to the ideal of fusing ourselves with our environment and the work we are doing.

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Structure and Flow

  • With the attendees of the seminar grounded in a unified field of awareness, we went on to explore the polarity of Structure and Flow. To do this, we played around with different ways of performing Aikido techniques which exhibited the characteristics of each. While this exercise was done in the context of this particular martial art, the distinction really applies to practically every human endeavor. For example, if we consider how we go about self management, it’s always a balance between creating structure to stay organized and simultaneously flowing through the day to deal with whatever arises moment to moment.
  • By acting out techniques that exhibit structural characteristics, we were able to internalize the benefits of having a sense of stability, rootedness, and other “Earth” like energies. Likewise, we were instructed to exhibit flowing characteristics in our techniques to get a sense of the dynamism, freedom and other “Water” like energies that can be harnessed. Both of these ways of being are essential and it takes training to consistently tap into each of them where appropriate.

Limiting Beliefs

  • Beyond familiarizing ourselves with polarizing energies, the training focused on deconstructing limiting beliefs that prevent us from staying mindful during the heat of the moment. Specifically, we explored 1) The belief that you have to do something a particular way; 2) The belief that you need to think before you act; and 3) The belief that you need to do anything at all. In considering each belief and applying them to particular conflict (i.e. attack) situations during the training, it gave participants the chance to question the validity and value of them to work on letting them go.
  • In each case, I personally found a great deal of relief in dropping the beliefs which yielded more presence to the situation at hand thus allowing my innate knowing of the right response to come out. Surely, this sort of exercise is important to apply to all areas of our lives. We all hold countless beliefs, often times very rigidly, so constantly questioning our stance can liberate our consciousness to more dynamically and appropriately respond.

Aikido, is a beautiful and multifaceted art form that opens practitioners up to more dynamic means of dealing with countless situations. In taking this approach and applying it to our everyday life, we are able to become more effective leaders of ourselves and all of our relationships. It’s important to keep in mind though that no matter how far we come there’s always further to go in an evolutionary context… so let’s get on with the training!

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