Horsey Therapist

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I can't get my head around this...

This notion of defending myself seems foreign, remote, bizarre. Yet that is one core facet of Aikido. It is not an offensive martial arts, it is solely defensive. The increasing awareness of vulnerability in face of attack appalls me. Whether by nature or by influence, I freeze when attacked.

Well, that is no longer true. Through practice in the dojo, I am learning to protect myself from the onslaught of hands, arms, and weapons. I am grateful for the advanced control of my practice partners, both in their abilities to stop before hurting me, and in their abilities to successfully defend themselves when I am too strong. Or perhaps when I am adequately strong!

Why does this bother me so -- this need to defend myself, to protect from a deadly strike from an opponent -- that is part of learning Aikido? I want to believe I live in a safe, supportive world. A world where everyone harbors friendly intentions. A world where vulnerability is honored and hurting others is avoided at all costs. A world where my email signature quote (quoting myself) rings true: "It's our nature to get along."

That is a dream world though. Do I risk death of this body by choosing the structure and content of that dream world to the exclusion of embracing also the dream world where people act on harmful impulses? Some would say that both are dream worlds. I have liked to think that if I fully believe in a world of peacefulness, that is what I will draw to myself and hence live in the safety of attracting only those supportive people and experiences.

So when I experience some strife, is that my fault? Am I faulty somewhere inside myself for some unconscious belief that allows for hurtful experiences?

In fact, the more I have practiced defensiveness and the activities that will more likely result in the ongoing life of my body should I be attacked, the easier it is to defend from psychological intrusions. I have less and less tolerance for and increasing quickness to defend myself from unwelcome energy coming my way. As long as I remain soft as I defend myself -- from scary fists or fantasies -- my growing capacity to defend myself is a good thing. A very good thing.

I wonder if I were attacked today, would I have a defensive instinct on the surface, ready to act rather than my previous freeze behavior? I have been attacked in the past. Mugged in NYC many decades ago. SCARY! When I think back to that, I wonder if I would defend myself had I known some Aikido? I was attacked by someone I knew -- that attack I'm certain I would fight off had I developed the thinking I have today -- I am worth protecting.

This concept that I am worth protecting came to me via the world of horses. Who has spent time around horses and not been pushed over, stepped on, knocked to the ground? I automatically admire anyone who never has, as they are living in a state of awareness and certainty that precludes those collisions with horses that end in human distress.

I could say those collisions start with human distress -- a condition too many of us take for granted. The subtle, chronic distress commonly acknowledged as busy mind, distracted, caught up in thoughts about the past and the future... I suspect that my time practicing Aikido is like house cleaning -- getting to some dark corners of my inner world where dust bunnies of distress have lain undisturbed for eons. This would bring meaning to why I can feel so upset while being open to the lessons of Aikido -- a cleansing, expansive upset, not a stuck, resistant upset.

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