Thursday, November 13, 2008
Restoring balance to the universe
I didn't bring my A-game to tai chi class yesterday.
Things started off OK. I woke up early and ate properly. Took my vitamins and hydrated myself. (I have a routine to prepare for aikido class everyday. Usually, lack of sleep or food will wear me down.) But when I got to class, I just couldn't start the engine. Oh well, someday it will be like flipping a switch, but not today...
Even so, it was a good class. Rick Barrett is one of those guys who was born to teach. He just loves it. He also has the ability to see the humor in life -- a very important and underrated skill, especially in the internal arts; it means he's on to something.
And it may be a strange set of coincidences, but the guy just seems to read my mind. I've noticed whenever I have some kind of realization or "significant" thought, he will invariably bring up the topic, with no prompting from me.
Over the past few days, I've been thinking a lot about yin and yang and how it applies to what I practice. In aikido, we're very good at teaching the yang aspects of the art: Lots of extensions, projections, flowing energy, movement, etc. But we're a bit less articulate on the yin side. I've noticed some higher-ranked sensei absorbing energy (not just moving around it), but it is rarely explicitly talked about.
I remember I asked Eran Vardi about something he was doing to lower his center while in seiza (where one doesn't have the option of bending the knees), and he showed me a kind of sinking thing he did with his center. I thought it was kind of cool, and I knew it was important! I tried to do it a few times, sitting and standing, but promptly forgot it until recently.
Now that sinking thing is something I'm trying to work into my tai chi form. I can see how that would be very applicable to aikido, too. Often we lower the center and I usually accomplish that (when I remember to do it) by bending my knees. That is fine. But I think if that's accompanied by this tai chi energy sink, it'll be a lot more effective.
I was also thinking about the yin side of every technique we do. Basically, I think most times when we take uke's balance, we are doing it with yin to counteract the yang of the attack. Once kuzushi (the principle of destroying one's partner's balance) is achieved, the aikidoka then goes yang and applies a technique or throw.
Think of a simple tenkan. Uke comes in. That's yang. Nage gets off line and pivots, that's yin, isn't it? It's a different dynamic, a different flow of energy. Once uke is off balance, he's now yin and the technique applied is yang.
A properly executed aikido technique, therefore, restores balance to the universe. :) I'm sure this is the same for push hands or tai chi applications, but I don't really know those yet.
So this is how my mind was ruminating over the past few days, when Rick made pretty much the same point in class last night (sans the balance-to-the-universe part). It's not the first time such a thing has happened.
Either Rick's picking up my wavelength, or I'm just making "obvious" conclusions as led by his instruction. I'm not sure which, maybe a bit of both. I'm just not going to be too surprised by it anymore.