Sensei's Corner - July 2007
The word block1 is, in my opinion, misused when applied to describing truly effective martial arts techniques. Although we casually use the word referring to what we do with an opponent's strikes, we really mean something else. Actually, the correct word that properly describes the intention we must have to effectively defend ourselves from an attack is to accept2 the strike rather than block it. From the definitions of these two words (see footnotes below) it is apparent that the activity of blocking consumes the defenders mental and physical energy whereas the activity of accepting frees the defender's mind and body to immediately implement a proactive response.
To block is to directly oppose by standing in the way of. Obviously, the least effective way to defend a punch is to stand in its way! It is more accurate to say that you accept the presence of the punch and move in cooperation with it to end up poised to counterstrike a vital part of your opponent. Although many of us have understood this concept and even spoken to beginners about it, few have embraced this concept of acceptance to its maximum usefulness. Flinching, jumping backwards, freezing, and other forms of physical denial are manifestations of an overall attitude of non-acceptance. An attitude of non-acceptance can hinder both your martial arts applications as well as your effectiveness in everyday life.br>
In 1989 I attended an Aikido seminar in Melbourne, Florida with guest instructor Gaku Homma 3, Shihan, a former live-in student of the Aikikai Hombu in Tokyo. At that time he was running a successful Aikido dojo in Colorado. Gaku Homma, Shihan, was an extremely cheerful, almost childlike soul whose enthusiasm and compassion emulated from each and every word and act. For one of the classes he instructed all students to verbalize the words, "thank you," to our partner every time he/she attacked us. In doing so, the idea was to immediately enter a state of acceptance and positive action. Frustration as well as tension diminished with each repetition and everyone was at least mildly entertained by the background voices repeating, "thank you" with ever increasing volume and enthusiasm. In the years following this seminar, I continued to digest the essence of this lesson and to apply it in my life. I dare say this is one of those concepts that I will spend a lifetime in pursuit of.
How many times do people give you feedback at home or at work that you gracefully accept and immediately apply? It's often generous to use the word feedback since many times the unsolicited feedback of others takes the form of criticism or even insult. Is your initial reaction one of accepting or blocking? Blocks take the form of defensive statements, excuses, and finger-pointing. Accepting takes the form of saying, "thank you' while you listen and consider objectively the information provided. Most successful people eventually accept and use feedback no matter the form it is given in, but few are savvy enough to immediately apply the concept of acceptance to avoid delays in the improvement process. The least among us get so caught up in blocking that physical confrontation erupts from words. What a waste...
Everyday problems present a similar challenge. Imagine the day begins and you start getting ready to head out to work. You have some trouble finding where you left your keys and then you have to change your shirt because you accidentally spilled coffee on it. By now you are really cutting it close and as you begin your drive you come upon a traffic jam along your normal route. That's it, you're late. It was one thing after another. You look around you at the other people sitting in their cars. Many are leaning to one side, heads propped against their hands. Some are punching their steering wheels and shouting things you don't need to hear to understand. What do others see when they look in your window?
Now is the real test of the application of this lesson. Do you accept or block the situation? Do you consume your energy wishing life had dealt you different cards this morning or do you mentally maneuver yourself to a position of advantage over the situation? Perhaps you find an alternate route, take the time to stretch your wrists and fingers, practice your kata or techniques mentally to pass the time, or simply enjoy the moment with some music. You realistically can't change the circumstances, but you have the power to create options as to how you will experience the rest of the day.
Now, review your basic techniques and insert the word, "accept," wherever you see the word, "block." Identify how or if it seems different to you and make a note in your training journal. Repeat this process for every application and every kata you know. In the end I believe you will find a new dimension of understanding and a new level of effectiveness in your technique.
1 Some Definitions of "Block" from Websters Online Dictionary: OBSTACLE b : an obstruction of an opponent's play in sports; especially : a halting or impeding of the progress or movement of an opponent in football by use of the body c (1) : interruption of normal physiological function (as of a tissue or organ); especially : HEART BLOCK (2) : local anesthesia (as by injection) produced by interruption of the flow of impulses along a nerve d : interruption or cessation especially of train of thought by competing thoughts or psychological suppression -- compare WRITER's block
2 Some Definitions of "Accept" from Websters Online Dictionary:
1 a : to receive willingly b : to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added)
2 : to give admittance or approval to
3 a : to endure without protest or reaction b : to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable c : to recognize as true : BELIEVE
4 a : to make a favorable response to b : to agree to undertake (a responsibility)
3 Gaku Homma (b 1950) is a Japanese aikido teacher who has spent most of his teaching career in the United States.
He was born in Akita Prefecture and trained as an uchideshi in Iwama and the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, under the founder of aikido Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito in the late 1960s. He moved to Denver, Colorado in 1976 and founded the Nippon Kan as an independent dojo in 1978. This dojo has grown into the largest aikido dojo in the Rocky Mountain region. He has organized several large aikido seminars in Denver, many of them taught by Morihiro Saito.
In addition to the dojo, which is a non-profit institution, Homma Kancho has founded the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network (AHAN), which helps promote and investigate the growth of aikido in the developing world. AHAN activities have included sending computers and aid to an orphanage in Mongolia, supporting a sick aikido student in Nicaragua, and assisting dojos in Turkey and Brazil with charitable fundraising efforts.
Gaku Homma is the author of numerous books and articles about aikido. He travels widely, conducting seminars and charitable works.
- Sensei Don Seilerinclude 'archive.php'; ?>