In aikido, we practice attacking one another and defending ourselves, and either of these roles may feel unfamiliar or even a little unsettling at times, particularly when it all happens quickly and unexpectedly.
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This month's theme for practice at the dojo was “peripheral awareness”, a skill useful in Aikido in scenarios like multi-uke randori or jiyuwaza, as well as general safe practice on a busy mat with bodies flying everywhere. Indeed I think there is a lot of opportunity to develop this skill within the dojo, from sitting in seiza with a soft gaze to finding a safe place to stand when you are the odd one out in partner practice, and of course any time you are actively practicing by being aware of the other practitioners and the space.
Head over chest over hips: the posture mantra. When you have good posture and maintain it throughout a technique, you stand a far better chance of keeping proper maai (the distance between you and your attacker), of moving from your center, of unbalancing your attacker and of using chi and physics rather than force.
This month I learned, discovered or was reminded that hanmi is a state of equilibrium for both the mind and the body. In hanmi, the body is balanced over the feet, firmly rooted to the ground, not so close as to trip over each other yet not so far apart that you can be knocked over easily.
After throwing or pinning our uke, we are instructed to face them, standing in hanmi, prepared for the possibility of another attack. In Aikido, this is what zanshin, or “lingering mind” looks like. However, off the mat and in our daily lives, zanshin can take on many different forms.
When our children embark on new classes we consider: are they enjoying themselves; does the activity provide the opportunity to learn new and valuable skills; by spending our time engaging in this activity are we helping our children learn the value of today's most fleeting resource—time?