... others call it a life force. For our purposes, let's think of it as something that literally connects all of us.
Tohei Sensei said, "Do not think that the power you have is only the power you ordinarily use and moan that you have little strength. The power you ordinarily use is like the small, visible segment of an iceberg. When we unify our mind and body and become one with the universe, we can use the great power that is naturally ours."
Some liken it to an athlete "in the zone," a state of flow. Intuition and action happen simultaneously. However, our natural state is often under attack in the modern world by stress, technology, responsibility, etc. We strive to be in that natural state as we practice and as we live each day. Tension originates in the mind. To help cope with this, think of two words: "relax" and "softer."
The throws of aikido are beautiful to watch. They are powerful, yet flowing. It is a student's willingness to understand how thought affects the body that can transform a throw from ordinary to extraordinary. Mind leads body. We respect the energy of an attack and lead, redirect, or reverse it for a throw.
There are exercises and techniques to help students make that mind/body connection. When they see how a positive thought or a negative thought affects the body, it's an enlightening experience. It makes them more aware of all that negative self-talk going on in their heads all day.
The biggest obstacle, as in many endeavors, is ego. This quote summarizes the state of mind for learning: "Welcome to the mat of infinite possibilities. Enter with an open mind, joy, and respect. Learn. And help others learn. Leave your ego at the door. It will await your return. Expect great things from yourself and others."
But there's a philosophy for teaching aikido, as well. Tohei Sensei said, "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 are patience, kindness, and the ability to put yourself in your student's place."
When considering taking classes in aikido or any martial art, you should observe a class, take a free class, and ask plenty of questions. Also, observe whether there's mutual respect between the instructor and students.
Hope to see you on the mat. And remember . . . don't think so much.
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