4/30/10 f [1s, 8v] I One of the vets who is no longer in ward 8 came to class. Nice, as I was able to have him work with the newest people. We did two versions of shoulder lock [kokunage]. I also printed a hand out of my condensed compilation of some of the history and basic aspects of Aikido, along with an invitation and a map of Northampton Aikido. I also gave homework; they were to try to be aware of stress situations, and as one happened, work on the deep breath-relax-center, dynamic, and see if it helped.
Two of the vets who are leaving the ward came up to me after and thanked me and said that they had located dojos near their home and hoped to continue their Aikido there. I took the opportunity to ask what about Aikido attracted them. One vet said he thought it might give him a way to deal with his anger. Just the relaxing to center when he felt it coming on seemed to help. The other vet said that he liket the way that putting out his energy in class seemed to give him more energy through the day.
NOTE: In the section back in 4/24, I mentioned the vet who didn’t want to do a technique out of fear he would hurt his partner [uke]. I worked with him and as he was doing the technique, talking him through breathing, relaxing as he moved. In that relaxing, he was able to be more sensitive to what was happening to his partner, which enabled him to do the move safely. I realized that when we talk about relaxing, it is almost always in terms of the internal benefits, i.e. enabling us [nage] greater flexibility, endurance and strength. There is a second, and in some ways more important benefit, true relaxation is essential to being fully aware and sensitive to external realities.
O Sensei saw Aikido as the art of peace. To me, this means neutralizing an aggressor, bringing them under control, and either maintaining that control, or sending them on their way, painlessly. [I mean, if you hurt someone, your just apt to piss them off more.] The “painless” part is very difficult. I find that when I am able to be relaxed in a technique, I can tell just when a wrist lock [a nikyo or sankyo] is going to trip my partners pain threshold. If I allow myself to be distracted, to tense up, I loose that sense of what is happening with my partner, the technique is awkward, sometimes painful. If I pause, take that deep, centering breath and relax, that sensitivity is there again.
There is another advantage to that external awareness that comes with being relaxed; I become aware of where my partners energy is and is flowing. Mary Heiny Sensei once spoke of being aware of an attackers “line”, the path their energy is taking from where their feet are planted up through their body to, and through their hand. If I am in a relaxed, sensitive place, I can redirect that flow without having to “grab on”. This can allow a very soft contact and, if done correctly, as I have seen Heiny Sensei do, partner never regains control, often is never even aware of what is happening until it is over. It helps me to consider that “line” to be an attackers “center” and I control it by guiding it to my center or center line and then redirecting it by moving my own body properly.