by Sean Hannon
“When an opponent comes forward, move in and greet him;
if he wants to pull back, send him on his way.”
– Morihei Ueshiba
Aikido challenges us to evolve beyond primitive, instinctual survival mechanisms and reflexes that are taught in so many other forms of martial arts. For example, many Aikido students ask, “Why does Aikido take so long to master?” This is a valid question because Aikido does, in many cases, take much longer to master than other martial arts. In Aikido, we strive inwardly for self-perfection by training ourselves to utilize higher levels in the brain; to reprogram seemingly-contradictory, yet ironically, more sophisticated levels of thinking, non-thinking and other societally-conditioned responses into our unconscious mind.
An Aikido student must learn to break inborn reflexes that are culturally reinforced by society and replace those reflexes with new ones. When someone pulls us, we usually automatically respond by pulling back in the opposite direction. Similarly, when someone pushes us, we push back, again, in the opposite direction. This natural response is both an inborn reflex and is also culturally reinforced into us. This is a primitive reflex based on responding to fear or threat. Aikido teaches us to react not with primitive reflexes, but with higher levels of response. This retraining of the brain can have a long learning curve for students especially if you don’t begin to train Aikido until adulthood.
In stark contract to many martial arts, in Aikido we push when pulled at in the same direction of the attack. Similarly, when pushed we pull, again, in the same direction of the attack. This reprogramming of our nervous system’s automated responses is challenging to learn, difficult to master and difficult to make automatic in our reflexes. Only through years of repetition in Aikido practice do we learn to break the primitive, conditioned responses of pull/pull and push/push and replace them with the expansive, higher level Aikido responses of push/pull and pull/push.
Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion in your life. We invite you to come try a class at our Aikido school in Castle Rock, Colorado for free.