Aikido- A Path to Love
Daryl Murray, Nidan Roban, 18th December 2010
Everybody needs love! And we all try to find and hold on to our idea of love in different ways. The kind of love I am talking about here is an all-encompassing spiritual kind of Love that you feel for yourself and everything in the universe. This may sound pretty heavy for a Saturday afternoon but I am sure this can be real and that we don’t have to go through our lives feeling fearful, inadequate and depressed. In day to day life I am often bogged down with feelings of unworthiness, failure and a general lack of inspiration, but the practice of Aikido has given me tools to deal with these and I am finding that just knowing they are there has started me on the road to being a person that is not only able to feel more love but is also able to respond to any situation in a more compassionate way.
Aikido training itself, where the movement, along with a focus on centre, grounding and awareness, never fails to leave me with much higher energy levels at it’s conclusion. With this elevated energy, I feel I have more options available to me and notice that I cope with otherwise negative situations in a more positive way. In other words I feel more open to giving and receiving Love. This acknowledgement was the first step in realising that there is something about Aikido that is able to change me for the better. If we look at the very foundations of Aikido practice; centering, grounding, posture and timing, it seems obvious to me now that as we practice and become more and more proficient at these ‘basics’ we are more in tune with our bodies which in turn helps us flow and move in correct response to any outside influence. Then as we practice the various techniques with a partner we are able to examine our strengths and weaknesses in order to improve further our centering, base etc and so the cycle continues in an upward and never ending spiral creating more aware and open individuals.
I have found that in training in Aikido I am often faced with challenges around my reactions to what people say or do. I might think to myself- this person is hard to train with! The challenge is to accept that everyone is different and realise that this person is giving me the wonderful gift of being able to examine myself. There are 300 Shinto rules and 3000 Confucian codes, but all are based on one word- Respect. Respect is not simply consideration, it includes identification with and empathy for another’s position. The body movement we call irimi tenkan, among others, gives an Aikido practitioner the opportunity to face the same direction as their partner and in so doing, allows them to gain respect for their position or point of view. Once you are able to respect their position at a level that is allowing and open to any possibility you may think, he’s not such a bad chap I’ll just make sure he’s not out to hurt me. Osensei said “With Aikido one seeks not victory over others but rather ‘the loving protection of all beings’”. Our ideal then would be to create an end to this situation that leaves all parties happier and with a higher level of energy and consciousness. Often on the mat after a beautifully executed technique where uke and nage have blended well I see big smiles on the faces of both. This gives us a glimpse of how every conflict could be resolved.
What stands in the way of achieving this? A large part of our journey (well mine anyway) is allowing our hearts to open and replace the fear that currently resides there with joy, respect and Love! The fear of being wrong, fear of failure, fear of public speaking, humiliation, spiders, snakes, confined spaces or heights. When we get to a place where love replaces fear, all of our actions will flow with the energy of the universe. And sometimes this fear is not obvious to us and can be the fear of succeeding, or standing out in a crowd, or even allowing ourselves to be the best we can be. Often we fear these things because of what other people will think and how it will make them feel. I say, let it go. We don’t know how others will feel and this projection is holding us back.
This is all very well you say but how do we get past these fears and insecurities? You already have the tools at your disposal that can achieve these very goals. I am talking about the teachings of the very talented Sensei Robert Nadeau, who provides the Riai link back to Osensei, the founder. He shows us techniques that transform us from our everyday being to new and improved states of ourselves by settling into our bodies, making experiential adjustments and letting the energies flow. By doing the practices he teaches we can work on the things that are holding us back. I notice, for instance, that as soon as I settle into my body and adjust my posture I can feel that the potential is there for a change in attitude.
It takes great strength to create permanent changes and this is made much easier with the support of your family, friends and in this case, your aikido family. It began for me when I walked into the Riai Aikido Dojo in Auckland and was welcomed immediately into the Riai family. We are all striving for improvement, so in the dojo we can put aside our fears and allow ourselves to feel like a fool and keep our eyes on the prize of self-development and an open heart.
The world today can appear to be awash with hatred, neglect and abuse but along with the darkness there are many truths that can lead their finders on a path to happiness and fulfillment by opening their hearts and minds to a new way of being. I believe that Aikido is one of those truths, and for me the practice of Aikido and the study of its principles has definitely led to more joy and love in my everyday live.
– Sensei Henry Lynch and Sensei Danny McIntyre, my current Aikido teachers
– Catriona Carruthers and Celeste Murray who show me what love is all about on a daily basis