Sunday, December 13, 2015

Follow the Leader

Last Friday in class we tried a few minutes of "leading energy" practice.
This is a fundamental concept in aikido, as you can see from the video.

The principal of leading energy is to first blend with the attacker's motion, rather than fight against it.  This avoids strength on strength confrontation, which will inevitably favor the physically stronger opponent.  Leading energy allows us, after blending, to redirect the force to another direction.  In aikido this is most often done by leading into a circle/spiral or a straight line.  In either case, we can lead the partner's energy into a harmless direction, which in aikido culminates with a pin or a projection, followed by zanshin (attentive, focused mind).  The sequence of three elements described in the video are: blending, extending and leading.  All three exist in Kali as well.

For Kali practitioners, the concept of leading energy is contained in the Passa or "passing" principle.  Rather than direct contact "contrada", passa techniques involve moving the attack offline, usually away from the centerline.  Passa techniques are often used to move the attacker using their momentum, or to gain their side or back by putting them out of position.

When performing these techniques the initial movement, blending, is extremely important.  Any attempt to strongly push or pull the attacker usually results in them changing their motion and the technique failing.  The goal is to allow the attacker to continue on their intended line while we blend, and only then do we redirect the energy elsewhere.  Very importantly, we do not sit idly and wait for the attack to develop.  We must enter early and blend in order to safely redirect the motion as it develops. Waiting too long makes it impossible to blend, so timing is critical.

Once we blend, we can extend, and allow the attacking energy to commit.  In this portion, it is important to maintain our structure, posture and balance, thus allowing the partner to extend their energy (blended with ours) with a minimum of distraction, preserving their line.

Lastly, having matching the motion and extended it fully, we can then lead it elsewhere with minimal effort.  Trying to lead too early, without blending, results in disconnection from our partner.  Trying to lead before extending confuses our partner and causes them to want to pull away.  The three steps of blending, extending and leading must be done in order to be effective.

In daily life, as in the dojo, blending/extending/leading energy is an important concept.  Rather than direct confrontation, blending/extending/leading can be used to help others arrive at an optimal result without feeling bullied or attacked.  This method is especially helpful when dealing with peers or superiors, since it implies teamwork and a willingness to cooperate.  Just as in the dojo, blending/extending/leading takes less of our own energy to achieve, and so makes us less tired, which is also helpful in corporate and family life.

Rather than openly disagreeing with co-workers' opinions, "blending" requires that we consider their point of view thoroughly.  "Extending" requires that we let their full argument be made and their logic allowed to reach its conclusion before any further action is taken.  If needed, we can then lead to an optimal outcome, but not before blending and extending have been done.  Many times, people just want us to listen and accept their point of view (blending) without necessarily agreeing.  Blending validates them.  Extending allows their ideas to be fully explored before any further decisions are made.  Leading as a last action insures the best outcome because it minimizes confrontation and maximizes participation in the outcome.  This is especially useful when you are managing others.

Aikido's principles are universal, and have an important role to play in our Kali study.  It also has very broad applicability in other areas of our lives.
I encourage you to consider this.

See you at class.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Other Side

(thanks for the inspiration JLH)

Inspiration is all around us if we look - people who have overcome nearly insurmountable odds to achieve their goals.  Of course there are famous people too, but it could be the person sitting next to you at work or a fellow parent at school.

The quiet, unassuming guy I worked with, who had been in a horrible car accident in college which shattered his body - arms, legs, wrists, pelvis.  He broke nearly everything, except his will to recover.  Two painful years in the hospital with multiple surgeries.  If you didn't know him like I do, you'd never even guess.  Mentally, he is one of the strongest people I have ever met.  I can't even imagine that much courage; that much goddamned PATIENCE to endure such a thing.

I like the quote "everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about".  Life can really feel like a struggle sometimes, but why do some people rise to the occasion while others seem to give in to despair, stumble, and fall - never to get up again?

These people who don't just survive, but THRIVE despite adversity, have one big thing in common: They Can See The Other Side.  They can visualize a time and a place where they are past their current hardship -  free and clear and happy.  I cannot overemphasize how important this is.  Studies done on holocaust survivors identified that those who survived the death camps often did so by staying focused on what their lives would be like when it was all over - never accepting the possibility that they would not make it.  No matter what horrors happened, they never lost sight of that specific personal future beyond the barbed wire and death that surrounded them.

My greatest victories have often been born out of sheer desperation, the feeling that I had no way out, no way but FORWARD, head on into my challenges - breaking through them no matter the cost.  This has not been the best way to achieve my goals but it has gotten the job done, and there is something to be said for having enough determination and confidence to see a task through, no matter how much it hurts.  Too often, I am just too stubborn to give up.  Sometimes I reach my goals too exhausted and battered to savor the moment.

A far better way is to focus on the positive outcome; use my mind to see the result of my successful efforts.  As JLH told me, visualization is a key to high-level sports training/coaching.  I agree, but at the same time there is something fundamentally different about harnessing the will to run faster in a race, lift a heavier weight or throw a ball.  Overcoming life's hardships often requires seeing a bigger picture on a much longer time horizon than a simple sporting match.

In my case, the biggest goal I achieved (getting to Japan) took me 10 years and 3 failed attempts to finally complete.  Through this I learned that if I just don't give up I will ultimately find a way, no matter the obstacle.  Proving this to myself has been the greatest asset to my success as an adult. This confidence has stayed with me ever since and enabled me to take on challenge after challenge, odds stacked against me almost every time, and still attain the goals I set my mind to.

Our training is designed to repeat the cycle of goal setting and achievement again and agin, instilling in our KM students the same unshakable quiet confidence they will use for every aspect of their lives - career, personal relationships, academics.  We don't just want to create the best fighters, we want to create the best people.  We want our students to be the best they can be, able to go out and make the lives they want without fear of anything that might stand in their way.  Kali Majapahit is our secret weapon, not to hurt others, but to enable our own success.

I encourage you to take a moment --- see the life you want.  GO GET IT.  You can do it.

Great Heart Will Not Be Denied.