Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Live free or try hard

Alright, the title is a bit too newspaper-like but it really captures what I want to say (and my favourite male actor is Bruce Willis, anyway :D). One of the reasons I kept doing aikido for so long is that I usually try things too hard and trainings slowly teach me how not to. I want to control my life, plan everything ahead so nothing is unexpected and for everything I have a plan (or plan B, C, etc.). Obviously, this control-freakness doesn't allow much flexibility, spontaneity and creativity. You always tell yourself how things should be done and you lose the freedom of acting in different ways easily. That's why if you try something too hard you can't live free although you will need the freedom do decide whether to throw your opponent to left or right, step back or forward in randori, etc. When you are attacked, it's practice and quick thinking only, there is no time to make up plans.

About trying too hard: many people say "Try not. Do." I try :) to organise my life accordingly but it's hard :). Whenever I catch myself just trying - and that my jaws are locked from that much concentration - I have to remind myself to let things happen simply the way they do. As another famous saying/prayer goes:

"Lord, give me the strength to change what I can, give me the strength to resist what I cannot change and give me the wisdom to understand the difference between the two" - St. Francis of Assisi.
Ok, this is probably enough life philosophy for this post, so let me explain how this is connected to my aikido experiences. When you need to connect with your partner and redirect the attacker's energy you can't lock your muscles (although the initial shock reaction is usually muscle contraction). They have to be relaxed to connect and lead your uke which is not so easy, especially if you are similar to me and tend to try things too hard. I tried too hard on Sunday. I didn't consciously want to try too hard but I wanted to do that nikkyo omote so well and, as a result, I messed up each technique. I became frustrated and tried even harder, guess what the outcome was :). So I tried to relax by shaking my hands and legs to relax my muscles. Then I tried again but then I guess I overrelaxed because now I messed up the other way! :)

It's a never ending process to find the balance between too hard and too easy ways. To find the right tones of muscles that allow me to do the techniques the right way. This can be said about almost anything in life, I know: don't go towards the very extremes unless you just want to find how not to do things (and obviously the extremes should not cause something 'final' because if you got stuck there you can't come back and do things the way you think they are worth doing). Hmm...see? I'm looking for control again. :) Plans for everything. :) "Blessed is he who" doesn't worry about planning and gets to shodan within 4 years :D.

So I think this should be the Question of the month:
How do you balance between extremes? How do you not try (doing an aikido technique) too hard yet you don't fall apart from being overly relaxed?
I appreciate every idea from the simplest to the most philosophical.

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