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. We completed the class with a brief experience of dimensionality moving from level 1 of the unit to level 2.
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.
We have focused on laying out a map of consciousness and practicing how to navigate on that map. We all know that the map is not the territory. Keeping that in mind, we are going to shift to a more experiential practice utilizing what we have gained from the previous classes. We will still refer to the map but in a less reflective way and put more focus on the experiential, relying that our ability to navigate with the map will help us.
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 extend the experience of center with both the out breath and the in breath to the spine. We can experience the fullness of the spine as a natural outgrowth of being more centered.
Dimensionality Work With the Unit
Today we will use the basic Aikido technique kata-dori ikkyo 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 kata-dori ikkyo. First let’s focus on the experience of the uke stepping in to grab the lapel or the collar. The uke is a unit equal in every way in importance as the nage.
You are your own uke-feel the power of your step and the muscles of your hand closing on your own lapel. Step with power and determination. Grab with strength and focus. You are receiving your own attack! Old Japanese martial arts saying-the attacker is a mirror of yourself.
- Get feedback-what was your experience as your own uke?
- Now let’s shift to the nage side of kata-dori ikkyo. You have practiced as uke, now receive your own attack. Stepping back and off the line not as a retreat but with fullness of intent to receive your own attack. Feel how rooted you are as you complete the step back.
- Get feedback-your experience as a stepper with fullness and grounding? We can look at that as count one.
- Repeat uke practice. Next is grasping your attacking hand with both rootedness in your feet and relaxation in your hand-not antagonistic to each other. Feel the depth of contact with your partner’s entire body when these two complementary experiences come together.
- Get feedback-your experience as a stepper with rooting and sensitivity? We can look at that as count two.
- Repeat uke practice. We complete the movement by entering decisively with your step and creating a flowing circle with your hips, arms and hands. As you enter strongly with your step, you are at the same time creating harmony with the circle of hips, arms and hands.
- Get feedback-your experience as someone entering with decisiveness and harmony? We can look at that as count three.
- Allow your experience as uke and nage to come together in a complete experience. Your fullness of experience comes because the previous practices have allowed you to internalize all the energies we have practiced so far. There is no need now to reflect on them-move and experience the whole!
- Get feedback-we can look at this as count four.
We have mixed a unit that is a worthy foundation for dimensional shifts.
- Circle center practice to level 2 of kata-dori ikkyo.
- Get feedback-as level 2 kata-dori ikkyo unit.
- Circle center practice to level 3 of kata-dori ikkyo.
- Get feedback-as level 3 kata-dori ikkyo unit.
In this class we worked at a more experiential level as both uke and nage and then made dimensional shifts to levels 2 and 3.
Feedback on practice.
Practice before next class: use the kata-dori ikkyo technique/unit and see if you can get an even better level 1 than we achieved in this class and then make dimensional shifts.
Chuck Norris provides an example of applying this principle to daily life-The Secret Power Within Zen Solutions to Real Problems (pgs. 97-98).