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 but in a less structured and more experiential way. 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.
We also introduced the four levels of competence-from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. We then worked on going through two rounds of practice. The first one focused on the kata-dori ikkyo as an Aikido technique and the second using the technique as a physical metaphor. The goal of this part of the practice was to experience the difference in the energies when we changed units.
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 have shifted 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 classes 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.
Aikido is an art which teaches us to productively deal with feedback, both positive and negative in a healthy way. The feedback helps to emphasize the positive part of our experience and work to improve negative experience.
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 are the five principles of misogi breathing from Koichi Tohei Sensei:
Five Principles for Ki Breathing
- Breathe out with the sound of HA, don’t let your breath just leak out
- Breathe out as calmly and quietly as possible
- Breathe out the Ki of your head to the Ki of your toes
- Breathe in from the tip of your nose until your body is full of air
- Calm your mind infinitely smaller at the one point after inhaling
Balancing the Counts of the Unit
Today we will use the basic Aikido technique mune-tsuki 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 mune-tsuki irimi nage. First let’s focus on the experience of the uke stepping in with a punch for the torso. 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 punch coming from your legs, hips, arms, shoulders and fist. What energies in your system does this attack call up?
- Now let’s shift to the nage side of mune-tsuki irimi nage. You have practiced as uke, now receive your own attack. Stepping in and off the line with your front foot with fullness of intent to blend with the attack. What energies are called up in your system as you step in? Next are your hands engaging with your partner, the hand from your front foot touching the partner’s neck and shoulder area and the hand of your back foot touching your partner’s hand just above their fist. Feel the depth of contact with your partner’s entire body. What energies in your system does this contact 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 circling with your hips, arms and hands and stepping in with your back foot to complete the technique. You 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 with your partner bring up?
- Get feedback-your experience as you complete the technique?
- Let’s now look more deeply into our experience. Repeat the mune-tsuki irimi nage technique with the question which counts of the unit are working well and is there one or more that needs that a little more time and attention in order to achieve a deeper level of integration and balance?
- Get feedback-on counts of the unit needing help.
- Now let’s work with that count of the unit and open it up to its own four counts. As an example, count 3 the intuitive element needs more attention to achieve balance with the other counts of the unit. The intuitive element has its own 4 counts. As a standing practice let’s count them off and experience which counts need more time and attention. After completing the four counts allow a moment of full presence to incorporate your experience into the count. Then go back to the mune-tsuki irimi nage technique and see if the practice actually resulted in improved integration and balance.
- Get feedback-on mune-tsuki irimi nage as a fuller more balanced 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 mune-tsuki irimi nage as an Aikido technique. We then worked a four count with the part of the unit in your system that you felt needed more time and attention.
Feedback on practice.
Practice before next class:
use the mune-tsuki irimi nage as a physical metaphor for a unit you want to work with and identify the part of that unit that needs some help and work with it in the way we did in class. See if it does help the unit you selected to function better.
The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pgs. 14-15).
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.