In our last on-line class we practiced with the four basic energies of the unit: idea; structure; intuitive principle and unifying energy. We practiced with these four energies of the unit as they are manifested in the Aikido technique shomen-uchi irimi nage. We used the energies of our imagination to create an enhanced experience of our uke-training partner. We then worked on an internal dialog between the energies of the unit to achieve a greater state of internal harmony and integration. Moving from an Aikido technique focus to a daily life focus, we used the shomen-uchi irimi nage technique as a physical metaphor and selected a unit from our daily lives as a way of broadening our practice. This included identifying and upgrading a part or parts of the unit that needed some additional time and attention in order to create a more integrated and balanced unit.
The unit is the part of ourselves that contains the skills and abilities necessary to accomplish the tasks for which that unit is created. The energetic content of the unit is decided by the skills necessary to perform that particular function and therefore will vary from unit to unit. Performing brain surgery is a very different unit than running a marathon. Being a parent is very different than being the CEO of a company. One of the most commonly asked questions in Aikido is, why is it so difficult to transfer the good feeling I get in class to other activities? One response is the energies of Aikido are unique to Aikido. The chemistry is the same but the chemicals (energies of the unit) are different in each situation.
The unit is the clothing we wear to accomplish particular tasks or assume particular roles. O Sensei called the unit haku-Essence of Aikido (pg.27).
This process as I of “inhabiting” particular units is often unconscious. When we walk to our car to drive home, that is a unit, one to which we don’t generally give much attention. Some basic units are much more a part of our identity than others. Examples include your choice of work; your place in a family or other important social groups.
The overall goal of this series of classes is to help create a more balanced and integrated unit that functions better and allows a better forging to occur between the I and the unit resulting in better performance and more personal satisfaction.
Our goal initially, is to experience the basic parts of the unit and their interaction with each other. It is in this conscious interaction that a real opportunity for a balanced and integrated unit exists. If the basic parts of the unit are not consciously experienced we may miss important elements of the unit and therefore start from a place of fragmentation rather than wholeness. Our best experience is not available for the task at hand. If that is not addressed we will experience the downstream negative effects of that fragmentation, in reduced performance and satisfaction.
One way fragmentation occurs is when action is taken from only some of the energies of the unit that are the most readily available to our experience. An example is, we get a good idea of taking action and don’t allow an experience of the other energies that make up the unit of that idea. We may then run out of energy and can’t complete the task well or at all. This can happen when the idea or one of the other energies of the unit is put in a position of carrying the whole task of performance. A fully formed unit is much more likely to produce the outcome we envision.
O Sensei laid out the parts of a fully integrated unit-Essence of Aikido (pgs. 32-33). He called them the four souls and the eight powers.
The four souls are: the intelligent soul; the rough soul; the gentle soul and the optimistic soul.
The eight powers are: movement and calm; release and solidification; retraction and extension and unification and division.
These are high level examples of what makes up a fully functioning unit. We are going to work with this four count model and apply it specifically to the units we experience.
As stated earlier, the version of the four counts of the unit with which we will work in this series of classes is: the idea; the structure; the intuitive element and the unifying principle. The first two energies we refer to as the obvious ones. They come up easily and often. What is my goal and how will I achieve it? The second two we call the not so obvious because they often need specific focus in order to be consciously experienced.
One example of the four counts is the task of building a house. Energy 1-the idea-is like the architect who does the design and provides the blueprint. Energy 2-is the contractor who actually builds the house using the blueprint from the architect as a guide and a starting point. Energy 3-is the interior designer who crafts the living space so the house is not only livable but a pleasure to live in. Energy 4-is the overall manager who brings the other three together into a fully working unit.
One very important principle throughout this series is that every unit has value!
We will use a kata like version of a basic Aikido technique as our physical reference.
Before we begin to work with the unit, let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is to experience the out breath not as an exhalation but as a release; and the in breath as allowing the breath to come in rather than as an inhalation. This can help the process to seem more natural and less forced.
Dimensionality With the Unit
We will again use the basic Aikido technique shomen-uchi irimi nage as our practice technique. Please refer to the video on our Facebook Group of the technique for a clear visual of the movement.
- Let’s begin with two rounds of shomen-uchi irimi nage. In order to make the practice more vivid, take a moment before we start to visualize your uke as someone you admire. This could be a real person you like to practice with or a character you create with your imagination. In this first round tailor your visualization as close to this admirable person as you can. As we do it try and remember your experience so we can refer back to it as our practice progresses. To make the experience of the uke more tangible let’s do the attacking movement a few times on each side. Then let’s go through the shomen-uchi irimi nage technique working on each count of the energies of this unit-shomen-uchi irimi nage-in turn to directly experience what each adds to the fullness of the unit.
At each point there is a sense in which you become a different person, there is a shift in identity as we quoted Nadeau Sensei in the previous classes.
- Get feedback-what was your experience?
- Now let’s change from your admirable uke to one that you find more difficult to practice with. This can be a real person-no names please-or someone from your imagination. It could even be you. Once again to make the experience of the uke more tangible let’s do the attacking movement a few times on each side. How is the attack different with this different uke? Once you have changed ukes, let’s advance the practice we did with the admirable uke, now with the difficult uke, by going through the four counts again. Let’s also change the focus from shomen-uchi irimi nage as a technique from the art of Aikido into a physical metaphor from your daily life. Then repeat the four count practice we did on our first round. Now let’s take a moment for reflection. Which of the four counts do you feel is behind the others in fullness and ability to support the whole of the unit? This is not meant as an exercise in self-criticism. The goal is to give the count more time and attention to reach the same level as the other 3. The ability to directly experience which part of our system needs some attention to create a more balanced whole is of great value in working through difficulties in performance. The alternative of using force to push through the problem creates a high level of stress without getting to the root cause. Once you identify the count a moment of full attention will usually allow an experience of what the count needs to “catchup.” Give the count another moment of full attention to bring the insight to fruition. Depending on the size of the unit and the amount of change needed this may not happen all at once but even a partial movement will be helpful. Then repeat the shomen-uchi irimi nage technique again.
- Get feedback-how did this practice change your experience?
- We have arrived at a point where the unit is more fully integrated and functional than when we started. Let’s now work with dimensionality. This time visualize your uke as being someone you believe can help you make a shift to a finer, deeper, fuller level of you as the unit, still from daily life. It can be a real person a fictional character or someone created completely from your imagination. Then using the circle center practice as a “travel vehicle”, allow your system to open, settle and experience a deeper, fuller center. The question to ask here is what is the level 2 unit in this daily life lineage Then repeat shomen-uchi irimi nage and see what is your experience as level 2 unit of practicing the technique, how is it different than being a level 1 unit?
- Get feedback-how did this practice of dimensionality change your experience?
In this class we advanced our practice of working with the energies of the unit. This included identifying and experiencing, at a working level, the four basic energies that make up the unit and what they each contribute to a fuller experience and improved performance. We then practiced with different “ukes” to experience the process of the unit adapting to differing circumstances. In addition to focusing on the technique in the context of the art of Aikido we also used it as a physical metaphor for a unit on our daily lives. We practiced to identify which part/s of the unit may need more time and attention to come into balance and fullness with the others. We concluded with a practice of making dimensional shift from a level 1 unit to a level 2 unit.
Feedback on practice.
Practice before next class
Use the shomen-uchi irimi nage technique/unit and see if you can move through two levels of dimensional shift and see how that changes your experience.
Chuck Norris provides an example of applying this principle to daily life-The Secret Power Within Zen Solutions to Real Problems (pgs. 97-98).