Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do I want to practice Aikido or boxing?

When I was little, and through my teen years, I was considered a crusader.  My hands rarely unfurled from their fist like state and although I was never looking for a fight, if backed into any kind of corner, fight I would.  No, I wouldn't use my fists (or rarely), but I would throw my energy around and try to bury, whomever I considered to be my attacker, with words.  Some good and bad came from this way of living.  I honed my debating skills, I became confident, and I had passion.  I also burned myself out, alienated some friends and forgot how to be "soft" and pliable.

Over the past twenty years, I've been taking a slow yet steady path of change--partly unconscious but mostly conscious.  I learned that yes, I'm going to get hurt and yes, my body/mind/spirit is pliable and if trained correctly, can bounce back--after all, there is strength in flexibility.  This process of finding my inner softness has taught me so much about myself and others I wouldn't have it any other way.  I also consider myself a life long student and by no means see this as a linear journey.

My title of the post, comparing Aikido to boxing, comes in by how I want (notice I didn't say choose) to handle confrontation.  Although I have never practiced the physical form of Aikido, I love its philosophy:
One must first learn to control oneself before attempting to harmonize and control others. Without a good balance and control of oneself, one can neither avoid an attack nor apply an effective technique on others. It is through self-control that one can learn to enjoy a harmonious way of life.
Boxing, on the other hand, is once again stepping into someone with fists up.  When I first learned about Aikido, I though long and hard about the practice of stepping next to someone vs. into them and letting the attacker's energy/momentum work essentially against them.  First, it allows you to see their viewpoint, second it takes much less energy on my part to stop them (I'm referring to both of these things in the physical and mental way).

This entire post was inspired by a difficult test I received yesterday.  For the fifth time since I've been at my place of employment, I was questioned by one of my employers about my cycling habits.  I'll say "questioned" now but what it really felt like was an attack on the thing I cherish most in life.  Essentially I was told I shouldn't be out winter biking because it's too dangerous...wait for it...for the drivers.  Other comments that have been made to me by my superiors have been "well, let's hope you don't get hit" and "I hope you have good insurance".  I take these comments as being quite aggressive and my knee jerk reaction would be to verbally attack but I knew this was both a teaching moment for myself and for her.  I left the room and after thinking about the situation for a couple hours, decided to write a well thought out e-mail to her--trying my best to find a balance between clarity and non-aggressiveness while staying true to myself and my passion.

Did it work?  Who knows.  Other than writing this post and trying to problem solve a bit to prevent this from occurring so much--not just for myself, but for others, I keep this little zen story on loop in my mind:
Two monks were travelling from one monastery to another.. They were celibate monks, even not allowed a direct gaze at women. After long walk, they came to a river, which they had to cross. The river was flooded and there was no way that they would
get across without getting wet. One lady was also at the banks of river, wanting to cross.. Monks decided to cross the river by walking thorough the shallow part of the river, Since the lady also needed to get on the other bank, one of the monk without much ado, carried her on his shoulders, and soon they reached the other bank, where he set her down.. The lady went her way and the two monks continued their walk in silence. The other monk was really upset, finding the other monks act disturbing. As per their injunctions, they were not allowed to look at the woman, forget touching and the other monk carried her across the river!!
After some time the confused monk couldn't stand the thought and asked other monk? "We are not allowed to look at other women, not touch them.. but you carried a woman across the river?!" The other monk had a smile on his lips when he replied "I put her down when I crossed the river, are you still carrying her?!"

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