“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” Obi-Wan Kenobi STARWARS Episode IV Return of the Jedi
What is the nature of Truth? The spectacle happening in the USA at the moment is testament to this quote. Our understanding of ourselves shapes our reality.
My name is Lee. When I was young my cousin was unable to pronounce his Ls and call me Wee. I didn’t understand this at the time and I found it insulting that he should call me that. My other older cousins though this was funny and teased me about it.
Conflict is the nature and limits of our understanding of ourselves and the empathy and compassion we show each other.
I was upset. I told mother who talked to my cousin’s mother. He spent hours practicing his Ls in the Mirror until he mastered them. We became best of friends after that. I now find the nickname quite funny.
What is someone else’s truth and how does that interact with mine is key to understanding any conflict situation.
The ability to lie adds complexity to this story and there are many types of lies we can tell and tell to ourselves and each other.
Training in martial arts requires a tremendous amount of focus. Combat sports training and our response to life in general can also depend on our internal mental state. The goal of a martial artists is to developed this skill of being fully present in the every moment and not just in training.
Mindfulness is being fully aware of what’s happening in the present moment. May it be your thoughts, actions, or circumstances or whatever is happening to you in that moment. Calm and Mindful and not being overwhelmed or passing judgment on anything/anyone. This ability is embedded in human nature. People do not need to change themselves to accomplish mindfulness; it just needs to be accessed and utilised consistently.
How Does Mindfulness Help the Martial Arts Student in everyday life?
The ability to be mindful reaps many benefits, especially in the long run. Research from Dr Daphne M. Davis and Jeffrey A. Hayes, authorities in counselling psychology, showed findings of cognitive and physical improvements among clients who had undergone mindfulness exercise in their psychotherapy. Some are as follows:
-Improved memory retention
-Less emotional reactivity
-Overall life satisfaction
The benefits are already rewarding in the big picture. How about in the world of martial arts? The answer is complementary to each other. Mindfulness is a path to martial arts just as martial arts is a path to mindfulness. No one can master any form of combat athletics without being fully in control of his own mental tendencies. Here are some foreseeable outcomes if one has implemented mindfulness in his training regimen:
-Controlled reaction to physical or mental adversity
-Training becomes a spiritual experience
How to apply Mindfulness
Karina Wolfin, founder of Direct Appliance Rentals, firmly believes that small habits improve our physical and mental faculties one day at a time and contribute to our ability to focus over the long term. She says, “Concentration is a skill that has to be developed and maintained for a long period. If we are not cultivating healthy eating and sleeping habits, the effects are detrimental. Mindfulness will never be fully achieved.”
A student can achieve mindfulness in different ways. Here are some habits you can immediately implement in your next training sessions:
1.Meditate – Lots of different ways have sprung up since influencers have hyped meditation. Although this is ideal, some are having choice paralysis from having too many options. Before training, start with the simple practice of sitting down quietly, in a silent room without any form of distractions. It’s best to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Do this consistently for a designated amount of time; you could start with 10 to 20 minutes of meditation.
2.Control your breathing – Before, during, and after training, be conscious of how you breathe. There are right ways to breath during combat and general exercise. Implement those and don’t let it slip away from your mind. You will feel the proper breathing is second nature once you do this consistently. When confronted with any situation, be it verbal or physical attacks breath deeply first and then choose to respond.
3.Do not judge – Remove your inhibitions, prejudices, and discernment about anyone or anything on the mat or in the real world. Don’t label anything as good or bad understand what is and choose a response. A true Martial artist does not want to hurt anyone. Resolve disputes before it gets physical. If you are judging someone too harshly because of their present actions, you are not being mindful.
4.Take care of yourself, physically and mentally – Concentrating is a burden if the body and mind are not adequately nourished. Get enough rest and practice a mindful diet.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for everyday life. Aikido, the Way of Peace is aligned with the idea of being truly present in every moment. To fully realise the present moment without judgment and cultivate a calm relaxed nature in any situation.
A Dictionary definition of Respect is; “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.”
In less “civilised” times and cultures, being rude to people could mean your death. Very simple and small slights could end in a duel or murder by the person who feels they were wronged.
I have worked in a hospital for a number of years and meet people on one of the worst days of their lives. Sometimes people are quite rude, violent and aggressive towards me. This is a rare occurrence but can often overshadow all of the wonderful people I have helped over the years.
How I choose to respond in these situations are the only thing entirely within my control. Empathy is always the best path. Words are easily the best and worst weapons. Easily misunderstood. Quick to cut. They can be bent and have double meanings.
A quick wit and a jovial nature can turn someone who is verbally aggressive into your best friend. Particularly if you don’t offend easily and have a self deprecating response. Self reflection on what it is to be offended and the situation you find yourself in allows you to rise above the pettiness of others and not be brought down by small slights.
Responding in a way that someone does not expect and humanising yourself and the situation. Waiting for a response from the other person and being polite in the face of their arrogance can throw the disagreements into a very pleasant situation.
Violence can also be thought of in this regard. It does require a certain mindset and some martial training but if someone attacks you with full force and you are unprepared for that battle who is really at fault?
Every time I am within arms reach of anybody I have chosen to be there. They have every chance of attacking me if they so choose. My job requires that I be in close proximity to someone who is injured and like any wounded animal may attack. I choose how to enter that space.
This “Covid” pandemic requires that I wear plastic armour which protects me from an unseen threat that may or may not exist on this particular interaction but given the nature of the virus I have a higher probability of contracting it. I choose to enter that space too.
Through luck, empathy and training all situations and interactions can be seen in similar regards.
As a space to find empathy and respect for those around you.
I’m a front line health worker in a Country and a state that hasn’t been hit too badly by the Covid pandemic. Even before this I have been wearing surgical masks and protective equipment (PPE) for over twelve years now. I’m also a martial arts instructor.
I work with patients who are immune compromised and sometimes I wear a mask and PPE to protect them from me. Other times I’ll wear the equipment to protect myself and my family from them.
Two sides of the same coin. Different cultures also can have different experiences. My first trip to Japan over ten years ago I was interested in the people that wore masks on the train and I asked them why. My first thought was they didn’t want to catch something, but the most common answer was that they themselves were a little sick (Flu) and they did not want to pass it on. Being Japanese they also apologised.
Coming from an Australian perspective and reading some of the material coming out of the United States I find it interesting that people are refusing to wear a mask citing personal freedoms. I almost feel like quoting Star Trek and the needs of the many versus the needs of the one. Spock and Kirk.
This duality of thought is the very nature of Aikido practice. Sometimes my patients will refuse to wear a mask. They are having trouble breathing so I can understand and I’ll wear one for them. Protecting both myself and them. Other times my patients will demand that I wear a mask before entering a room. Sometimes patients cough and breathe in my face when I’m trying to help them and I wish I was wearing a mask and eye protection.
Mind and body. Personal freedoms vs social good. Two sides of the same coin. If you stand that coin on it’s side and spin it really fast it becomes a sphere in perfect balance.
Everyday to myself I think I would like to make all new mistakes. Learn from the past and be mindful of the future but not let either take over the present moment.
It is easy to dwell on the past and be afraid to move forward. Especially after big events in your life like a divorce or a relationship breakup.
It is natural to feel angry or sad and is not something that can be avoided. Let these feelings in but don’t let them be in control of you. Give yourself time to respond and recover. Don’t make things worse by reacting and lashing out at the world and those around you. Or closing yourself off to it because you might get hurt. It can become easy to see the demons of the past arise in the new people you meet.
Consider all the things that lead to this moment and ask yourself could it be half your fault? And it is very important to only accept half of the fault. Accepting half the fault in any relationship is also very difficult. We all like to think of ourselves as heros or victims of our own stories but we can also be villains in other people’s own story.
Could the mistakes of the past be repeating themselves. Does the story you tell yourself start to sound like a repeat just with different actors? Then maybe it is half your fault.
Choose to make all new mistakes. Children make mistakes all the time and learn from them. Why is it difficult for an adult to accept fault and be able to laugh at their own failings. To learn from them and grow.
Ki training reveals to us the path to oneness with the universal.To coordinate mind and body and become one with nature itself is the chief purpose of Ki training.
As nature loves and protects all creation and helps all things grow and develop, so we must teach every student with sincerity and without discrimination or partiality.
There is no discord in the absolute truth of the universal, but there is discord in the realm of relative truth.To contend with others and win brings only a relative victory.Not to contend and yet win brings absolute victory.To gain only a relative victory sooner or later leads to inevitable defeat.While you are practicing to become strong, learn how you can avoid fighting.By learning to throw your opponent and enjoy it and to be thrown and enjoy that too and by helping one another in learning the correct techniques you will progress very rapidly.
Do not criticise any of the other martial arts or artists.The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move about.Everyone has his own characteristics and gains his own position in life.Speak ill of others and it will surely come back to you.
The martial arts begin and ends with courtesy, not in form alone, be in heart and mind as well.Respect the teacher who teaches you and do not cease to be grateful especially to the founder who shows the way.He who neglects this should not be surprised if his students make light of him.
Be warned against conceit.Conceit not only halts your progress, it causes you to regress.Nature is boundless, its principles are profound.What brings conceit?It is brought on my shallow thinking and a cheaply-bought compromise with your ideals.
Cultivate the calm mind that comes from making the universal a part of the body by concentration your thoughts on the one point in the lower abdomen.You must know that it is a shame to be narrow-minded.Do not dispute with others merely to defend your own views.Right is right, wrong is wrong.Judge calmly what is right and what is wrong.If you are convinced that you are wrong, manfully make amends.If you meet one who is your superior, joyfully accept his teachings.If any man is in error, quietly explain to him the truth, and strive to make him understand.
Even a one inch worm has a half inch of spirit.Every man respects his own ego.Do not, therefore, slight anyone, nor hurt his self respect.Treat a man with respect, and he will respect you.Make light of him and he will make light of you.Respect his personality and listen to his views and he will gladly follow you.
Do not become angry.If you become angry it shows that your mind has wandered from the one point in the lower abdomen.Anger is something to be ashamed of in ki training.Do not become angry on your own account.Be angry only when the rights of nature or of your country are endangered. Concentrate on the one point and become angry all over.Know that he who is easily angered loses courage at important moments.
Spare no effort when you teach.You advance as your students advance.Do not be impatient when you teach.No one can learn everything well at one time.Perseverance is important in teaching, as is patience, kindness and the ability to put yourself in your students’ place.
Do not be a haughty instructor.The students grow in knowledge as they obey their teacher.It is the special characteristic of training in Ki that the teacher also advances by teaching his students.Training requires an atmosphere of mutual respect between teacher and students.If you see a haughty man, you see a shallow thinker.
In practicing do not show your strength without some good purpose lest you awaken distance in the minds of those who are watching you.Do not argue about strength, but teach the right way.Words alone cannot explain.Sometimes by being the one to be thrown, you can teach more effectively.Do not halt your student’s throw at mid point or stop his ki before he can complete a movement or you will give him bad habits.
Do whatever you do with conviction.We study thoroughly there principles of the universal and practice it and the universal protects us.We have nothing to be doubtful or to fear.Real conviction comes from the belief that we are one with the universal.We must have the courage today with Confucius:If I have an easy conscience, I dare to face an enemy of the thousand men.
Teaching the Art of aikido can be just as difficult as learning it. There are a multitude of variants and techniques with different skill levels required by each variant. None of this really matters. If you are told to do something by one instructor and then told to do something completely different and contradictory by another you should not argue or complain about it but attempt to understand why there might be a difference. There is no right or wrong.
If one Instructor tells you that everything you do is excellent and the next tells you everything you do is wrong, look into yourself and question yourself, not them. What do you think? It is natural to want only compliments and disregard the complaints but are the criticisms helpful and the are the compliments a distraction? Compliments can often go to the head and mess things up just as much as complaints sometimes but complaining is always easier and compliments rarer.
Different instructors will have different ideas about how best to teach you a skill and if there is any doubts or concerns about anything you should consult the senior instructor after class with any questions that may arise. The Important thing is not to argue or complain about this on the mat and attempt to follow as best you can. Letting go of what you think you know is the first step in learning something new.
A true student of Aikido wishes to do no harm to anyone and prefers a peaceful resolution to any conflict. Therefore skills developed in sensing trouble and avoiding it are preferred option over using the martial abilities one has developed. You will not be trained in the art of fighting, fighting there is always a winner and a loser, if you harmonise with your aggressor and find balance between yourselves you may just find another friend. Finding Harmony with different Ideas that can seem opposite and contradictory can lead to new and interesting possibilities. Once everyone believed that the world was flat and the centre of the universe, the truth is only relative to your own understanding of it.
Fortitude Valley Aikido Student Guide P15 by Lee Hampson
Why is it that when we are running late we feel that everything is against us?The traffic lights are all red, the boss or the significant other doesn’t see all the good things I’ve done just the bad, all the bills come after something has just broken and needs to be replaced.The right attitude in this can be very difficult to attain.Mistakes can often lead to more mistakes and the problem whatever it is can often escalate because of this, because your mind is not clear.
How do you feel thankful for this precious gift of life when it is all going wrong.This is the most important time to be thankful.I once heard the Dalai Lama talk about loosing his country.He was sorry for the loss but not angry at the people that took it.The next question asked of him was a mother who’s son was special in some way.She told him that she worries for her son’s future.The Dalai Lama asked politely if the son could be fixed some how and the woman replied no.Will the worrying fix the problem if the problem is unfixable?All parents worry for their children, even in the animal kingdom this is normal if in the correct amount.
Mistakes will happen, bad things will happen be thankful for them, life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs and twists and turns.The joy of the roller coaster is the contrast between these events.There is no perfect way to do something or imperfect way, no good or bad, no time, too much time, no future or past there is only the now.
When you make a mistake in your life can you learn from it?Maybe that one mistake has protected you from making a bigger one in the future so you should be thankful.Many of the greatest discoveries have been made from mistakes.Medical science is full of them.The discovery of antibiotics, X-rays, medicines such as warphine are all examples of mistakes that changed the world because someone noticed what others did not.Perfection is an unattainable goal.