If you’re like me you have a busy monkey mind. I can over-think as well as you although now I’m better because I work on myself and I know that a clear mind is paramount to me being who I am.
A distraction as clean as a whistle
Let me explain with an example. I’m working on something like my web site by making it neater Google loves it more and more something about SEO. I’ll be working away and an email will come through with a little sound which is clean as a whistle. This interrupts my train of thought and allows my monkey mind to step in so I go and look at the email. Of course, as soon as I do this I admonish myself, but it’s too late. My monkey mind took over my still mind.
We all do this, whether it’s looking at your phone, working on your computer, listening to the radio, or watching TV, we live in a busy ‘do it now’ world. And we love distractions!
But I know a clear, quiet mind is my basic ‘being’.That sound of an email coming through comes to me as clean as a whistle and it get’s in my way. If we examine that sound for what it is, all we hear is the sound and we react to it, with a thought. Then we do something, like read the email, look at Facebook etc.
You can create a clean mind
We don’t actually need to react like this because with a little practice you can change yourself.
Think about the sound. It’s there and then it’s done, it’s gone. A bird outside, for example. There’s the tweet and then it’s gone until the next tweet happens. You’re reaction to thoughts is the same. You hear a tweet, you become distracted and your thought goes to that distraction rather than what you were thinking about before the sound of the tweet.
Distractions make a monkey mind
I used to be able to have background music playing as I worked on my computer. I find it distracting now because it takes my mind off my current thoughts. When that happens I find the music frustrating. I don’t want frustration, I want that one and only thought and frustration dampens it.
We can’t give up out thoughts, that’s impossible. But what you can do is work towards the way humans were 300,000 years ago. Humans then just existed, they didn’t have all the distractions we have now, they just lived. They followed the days and seasons and had no reason to over-think anything because there was nothing to over-think.
Action Plan for a clean mind
Everyone is after a quick fix, that’s how we got into this mess. Your monkey mind very successfully wants you to grab the next quick fix. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.
You’re going to have to put something in place to help yourself and I have an idea of what you can do.
Tomorrow morning set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you normally get up. At the alarm time, hop out of bed and go to a quiet place and sit. Sit quietly, no phone, just the ambient sounds around you. Now listen. Listen to the sound of that car, the sound of that bird, and whatever other sounds are out there. Do nothing else, except breath and maybe scratch an itch.
Make a habit of this by doing it every day because it’s that simple and it’s a pre-curser to meditation.
After a couple of weeks you’ll find you hear more and you notice your monkey mind is becoming a clean mind.
Are the nerves getting to you as you inch closer to your Aikido grading?
Or are you frustrated that you have not grading sooner?
Just remember that to be asked to grade by your Sensei means you have already passed. At Fortitude Valley Aikido it’s just a demonstration of your progression to your classmates and not a test.
When getting ready for an Aikido grading, it is essential to prepare your mind, body, and circumstances as you polish your techniques. Here are some suggestions that may help.
Try to Get in a Good Mental Space
During your preparation period, you should focus on building your confidence and avoid exploring new variants of cool techniques on YouTube and the internet. Instead, focus on becoming more fluid and comfortable with what you have been shown. In class, you should practice in the same flowing, expansive, and connected spirit that you want to have during the test. Avoid fiddling with things. Let it happen. The variants will come with practice and time.
Know how the grading will be conducted so that you know what to expect. The guide book is on our resources page on the website. Surprises can really throw you off. You have trained for this, it’s just a demonstration, have fun. Also, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your Sensei, Senpai, or Ukes. It is also polite to ask your Ukes if they would like to participate in your grading.
Visualize every day on doing the start of your grading brilliantly. You have already passed, and it is something really special. You could begin with knee walking to the center of the mat in a calm manner, head up, shoulders back, and breathing freely. Avoid entertaining the habitual pattern of imagining all the ways that you could mess up. Just visualize yourself doing your best. Be in the moment.
Visualisation can be strengthened by attaching emotional triggers, explains NLP experts. They note “with your Aikido exam on the horizon, don’t just visualise passing. Visualise how it will feel. What positive emotions you’ll experience when your Sensei passes you. These will help strengthen your visualisations and equip you for success on your exam day.”
Mistakes are a gift and if you make any it’s alright. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Whatever will happen in the grading, ensure you have it pictured in your mind. You’ll be nervous and fired up, bowing gives you a moment to focus. The little moments can work wonders in terms of a sense of ease throughout the whole thing. Focus on a positive and strong note and allow the rest to come naturally. Just remember your breath.
Handle Your Circumstances
Only the black belt gradings have a written component like an essay, ensure you have it completed days before the big day. Don’t make your Sensei ask you for it months later. The same applies to gifts and thank you notes. Set yourself up to have a calm, early evening the night before your grading. Trim your nails, set your clothes/ clean uniform the night before, and fuel up your car to avoid rushing things during the day of the exam.
Also, ensure you pay the grading fees early enough. The dojo is a not for profit organisation and the fees go directly to Japan to help the Hombiu Dojo. The blackbelt gradings get a personalised Japanese Calligraphy scroll hand written by one of the Master Calligraphers.
During the Morning of Your Grading
On the exam day, wake up. Enjoy the moment. Your Sensei had at some point maybe a long time ago done this and felt the same as you. A little nervous, a little excited. Think of what he or she might of looked like 30-40 yrs ago.
Take breakfast right away so that you will have time for the food to settle. Get to the dojo early enough and warm up gradually, particularly if you are nervous. Visualizing on performing well. If there are techniques that you are still worried about, practice them with a classmate. If you’re expected to demonstrate weapons, ensure you keep them in a place where you can easily get to them during the grading.
Chiropractor Keith Maitland notes that you can incorporate good posture in your daily life to help with your posture during your Aikido exam. He explains “when you maintain proper posture you increase your chances of unbalancing your opponent and using chi rather than force. While many of us think we have good posture, we are actually leaning too far forward or back. By practising your Aikido posture at home you can prepare for your exam and increase your overall strength too.”
Ask one of your ukes to be the weapon master during the grading. Keep in mind that you’re well prepared to help with relaxation.
Some Final Words to Conclude
Know that you’re ready, or otherwise, your Sensei would not have asked you to take the Grading. You are ready as you can be.
You’ve done everything to support yourself in getting ready for your Aikido journey, so, now relax. Enjoy the moment.
If you’re looking to further your training or get more advice, feel free to
Witten by: Bob George
A huge congratulation to John Hurley Sensei for being awarded the Order of Australia Medal this Australia Day.
Awarded for his many years service to spreading the Art of Peace. His commitment to spreading the Art of Peace, his kindness and mastery as a teacher is appreciated by all who have trained with him.
Sensei Mark Woolveridge and Lee Hampson
Here we are again, at the beginning of another year of training. Existing members are back refreshed and ready for the more training and welcoming new members . Each of us, with new personal plans and paths to follow, would still have a common purpose within the dojo – learn about yourself .
If you have life in you, you have access to the secrets of the ages, for the truth of the universe resides in each and every human being. (The Art of Peace – by Morihe Ueshiba, translated by John Stevens)
We are told that, basically, there is nothing new to learn here in Aikido. We are learning to discover and recognise what are already inherent in us and to use them in our best capacity towards the art of peace.
An old Japanese proverb says: “Even on a stone – three years.” It means that even something seemingly simple as sitting down on a stone takes three years to learn. If you can concentrate on each task in life with this insight, with this willingness to study diligently – then you are sure to gain impressive abilities. (An excerpt from the book Aikido Principles – by Stefan Stenudd)
For more about the book see the following link:
The Nature of conflict it is neither positive or negative – it just is. It is not a contest.
From this basis we can look for a way to a win – win for all parties.
Key underpinning principles of conflict resolution taught through Aikido practice are:
- Effective conflict resolution does not aim to establish who is right; conflict is handled through the acknowledgement and appreciation of differences.
- Learning, growing and cooperating are goals for resolving conflict.
- Conflict begins from within. As we unhitch the burden of belief systems and heighten our perceptions, we harmonize more freely.
- In the words of the Aikido Masters, “To Do is to Understand”.
The Aikido approach in responding to physical and/or interpersonal conflict follows the following principles:
- Choose to be Centred – how to choose to be centered through consciously unifying mind and body in a conflict situation. Centeredness:-
- Allows you to be more authentic, sensitive and open.
- By its nature promotes emotional and physical stability
- Promotes trust
- Allows you to achieve a point of clarity
- Accept your connectedness
- Aikido practice opens up the possibility of experiencing our original mind which intuitively recognizes our connectedness
- Acknowledging our connectedness is the reality of our existence
- Letting go of tension, fear and boundaries is the pathway to intuitively acknowledging our connectedness.
- Be willing to understand – By emptying the mind we allow beginners mind to operate. Beginners mind:-
- Is central to Aikido practice. Beginners mind is wisdom, seeking for wisdom and a mind open to discovery.
- Enables us to let go of the filters of the past and the blinders of our expectations.
- Turns frustration into fascination and work into play.
- Perceives no right or wrong only inquiry and creativity.
- Encourages a willingness to understand through:
- Asking questions rather than having an answer
- Naturally allowing differences to fade and similarities to come forth
- Acknowledgement and appreciation of the other person
- Be willing to change
- Flexibility through harmonization allows you to stretch rather than shrink in life.
- Embracing and harmonizing with the forces of change is consciously choosing our future.
- Changing our perspective in a conflict allows us to move from a point-of-view to a viewing point.
- Understand the boundaries – the Aikido practitioner progressively learns to:
- Become open to all possibilities.
- Learn to open to others which leads to compassion and forgiveness.
Aikido training is about natural movement and not using force to achieve an outcome. It is about “Right not Might”.