Nov 2021

These days we see so much force against force. Agenda against agenda. View against view. So much contending.

The moment I move against, I lose unification of mind and body, I lose my natural wholeness; what Tohei Sensei called Taiga, in contrast with Shoga, our small separate self. In these moments of moving against, body gets tense and upper-side, mind fixates, I use force instead of sensitivity, and I cede control to that which I’m resisting. The instant I resist or insist the fight intensifies, struggle ensues. If I recognize the sensations of conflicting, I can choose to let go of being against and return to body, let mind rest at one-point, connect and yield.

Aikido is non-resistance.
As it is non-resistant,
it is always victorious.
—O Sensei

True aiki is never against. When there is force coming, you respect and yield. When there is emptiness or slackness you respect and extend positive ki. It feels natural when we move this way; it’s simple, but often not easy. It is far easier to counter force with force, use leverage or superior strength or trickery. Taking advantage of others —in overt or subtle ways— in order to prevail is so seductive, it feeds our fear of powerlessness and losing. Yet every time we “win” using cleverness or force —physically or with words— we add validity to this way of being. It becomes more likely that we will resist and use counter force in the future; what we practice now is what we will do in the future. The more we are against, the less we see any alternative.

The path of aiki is more difficult; we will see again and again how addicted we are to force and conflict. It takes a resilient commitment and daily practice to unwind our habit of against, and cultivate a relaxed, yielding presence. Our shoga-self screams how unfair it is to give up winning and seemingly lose, as our taiga-self relaxes and yields. (This sounds dualistic, but in experience it is not.) Sometimes it can feel like we are alone in this crazy practice as we see so many instances of separation and being-against in daily life. Yet viewed from bodymind, each instance is an opportunity to practice and deepen our experience of unification and yielding.

Yielding is easily misunderstood: it can look weak, passive or appeasing, even like submitting or collapsing. Each moment of yielding can trigger our confusions and ignorance via rash thoughts and impulses to fight. We can practice seeing this as a display of our conditioned mind; we don’t need to believe it, nor act it out. True yielding is nothing like our fears or confusions; it is a joyful expression of our unified bodymind and our confidence in unification. To yield is to move-with our attacker respectfully, to give them what they want. This opens the Way of Union with Ki.

“If you have a mind to change your partner,
you cause resistance in your partner.
Change your mind.”
—Tohei Sensei

Being right or true does not reduce conflict. How we are in the conflict —mind and body unified— is essential. Being unified and true is a very positive way of engaging. In order to yield, we must change our minds from being against or trying to win, from trying to change them or appearing superior, to being generously connected in a mutual unification experience.

Of course this takes practice. We are unwinding eons of habit. Without daily practice this is just an unrealized aspiration. Learning to experience this natural state of unification and cultivating the capacity to be in this state while moving or speaking is available to everyone. Practicing real yielding can be ego painful in the short term, but grows our taiga-self each time we yield.

"This is not mere theory.
You practice it.
Then you will accept the great power
of oneness with Nature.”
—O Sensei


May your practice go well.



© Steve Self, 2021, All rights reserved.