An intention I’ve been playing around with while training has been unity. Unity can be achieved on many different levels, all of which we can work on. Separateness is the opposite of unity, and this is a state of being that I’d, personally, like to consciously grow out of. In the world out there, it seems just about everything is separate and self-defined by its outline. This especially is the case the closer we look at things. As we zoom in, we see separateness in something that looks whole from further away. If we look at a rock with a magnifying glass, we might see individual pieces of sand that make up the rock. Zoom in a little further and you see things from maybe a molecular level and see billions of separate molecules, each doing their own thing. Zoom back out to the perspective of the naked eye, and it’s still the same rock. So here we have something which can be seen as divided and whole, all at the same time. The only difference is perspective.
It seems that when we start out in Aikido, everything is in a state of separation or duality. Lets take one technique, say shomenuchi iriminage, and at first we’re trying to figure out where the foot goes, and then the hand, while at the same time keeping in balance and moving the hips correctly. With your training partner in the mix, you have a whole other entity to deal with and as you progress, you’re trying to affect his balance, grab his right wrist with your right hand and move in this direction, all while staying relaxed and breathing fully. After some practice, this becomes unified and is then performed with less effort and the ability to see the whole movement in one snapshot, neatly labeled with a name of the technique. So progression goes from duality to non-duality, or unity. The thing is, is that it’s all a matter of perception, really. All the while, we were doing shomenuchi iriminage, it’s just that our perception or focus changed. At first, we could barely make a step without fumbling over ourselves, while a month later, many different movements came together to create this one technique. If you take that one technique and combine it with the almost infinite number of other techniques you can do in Aikido, it’s all one Aikido. From separation to unity as a progression, but all being one.
In Aikido, it’s really easy for some of us to think too much about our practice from the brain’s perspective. The brain is a tool used for separating and disseminating things, which in some cases is quite useful. When we’re working on unity, it may not be the best tool for this purpose. We start analyzing our Aikido and questioning ourselves like “Hmm, am I more a hard-style aikidoist or soft-style? Is my Aikido more creative and spontaneous or textbook basic and an intellectual? Should I think about what I’m doing or just feel it? Do I like to have soft feather-like ukemi or fall with a dramatic flare slapping the mat intensely as I go down?”. Maybe it’s just me that does this, but I have a feeling it may be common. The question I have is, why do I have to label it and define my Aikido with such strict guidelines? Why pick one way or the other? Isn’t this extremely limiting? Hard/soft, left brain/right brain, creative/intellectual, rigid/flexible, iwama style/hombu style… Unify. Get your whole being on the same page. Do both…all at once.. Look at these as co-workers instead of opposites. Why do we assume it has to be one way or the other. We only limit ourselves. We have the ability to experience all of it. That’s what’s so great about this art, we can consciously work with this stuff and play with this energy in as many ways as we’d like.