In our last on-line class we continued to practice 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 kata-dori ikkyo. We broke the movements of both uke and nage into separate practices to highlight the energies inherent in each movement. We then worked on going through two rounds of dimensionality based on the creation of a solid level one unit. Our shift in this class was to focus less on reflecting on the counts of the unit as a map of consciousness and more on direct experience as we went through the movements both as uke and nage.
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 on our previous practice with the map to help us to navigate it.
Noel Burch, educational trainer, developed a model of mastering a skill called the Four Stages of Competence. The four stages are: unconsciousness incompetence-I don’t know what I don’t know; conscious incompetence-I know what I don’t know; conscious competence-I know what I know and unconscious competence-I can manifest what I know without having to think about it. In this class and the previous class we are moving through this process to conscious competence and the early stages of unconscious competence. At this final stage our ability to function as a balanced and integrated unit can happen without reflection on the four counts. When we then move to the next level of that unit the process is repeated perhaps skipping the first stage of unconscious incompetence. When changing from one unit to another we may go back to the first stage of unconscious incompetence.
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 personalize the practice by deeply feeling your experience and what more can come out of this simple practice for you.
Internalizing the Counts of the Unit
Today we will continue to 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. The role of the uke is to assist in the balanced development of the nage.
You are your own uke-feel the energy of your step and the experience of the muscles of your hand closing on your own lapel. What energies in your system do the step and the grab call up?
- 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. What energies are called up in your system from the step back? Next is grasping your attacking hand. Feel the depth of contact with your partner’s entire body. What energies in your system does the contact through hand with your partner bring up?
- Get feedback-your experience as a stepper and then intercepting uke’s hand.
- Repeat uke practice. We complete the movement by entering with a sliding step with your front foot and then step in with the back foot. You also want to create a flowing circle with your hips, arms and hands. As you enter with your step, you are at the same time creating harmony with the circle of hips, arms and hands. What energies in your system does the contact through the hand with your partner bring up?
- Get feedback-your experience as you complete the technique?
- Allow your experience of the four counts as uke and nage to come together in a complete experience. Your fullness of experience results from the previous practices which 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! Then let’s take a moment to feel our system and see what count needs a little help to be more fully in balance with the others. A moment for circle and center to allow that quality to be more fully experienced. Then back to the movement and see if the practice helped to balance your movement out more fully.
- Get feedback-we can look at this as an experience of the complete unit as unconsciously competent.
We have mixed a unit that is a worthy foundation.
- Now let’s transition to a different unit using kata-dori ikkyo as a physical metaphor. Select a unit you would like to work on. Then we will go through the technique. It is important to allow time for clearing and transition. How are the energies of this unit different than the kata-dori ikkyo energies we have worked on in this class?
- Get feedback-on kata-dori ikkyo as a different unit.
In this class we continued working at a more experiential level as both uke and nage on further internalizing the counts of the unit. We first worked on the energies of kata-dori ikkyo as an Aikido technique and then as a unit of your choice. In both cases we looked to personalize the energy experience of the movements both as an Aikido technique and as the unit you selected.
Feedback on practice.
Practice before next class:
Use the kata-dori ikkyo and select a difficult unit and see how it changes your energetic experience.
The Heart of Aikido (pgs. 76-77).