In Aikido practice, the 250-pound dude rushes in to punch my face. I might fear in anticipation of his attack. How strong is he? How quick is he? Is he aiming through my head? Even after over 30 years of Aikido training, those thoughts sometimes arise. I fear before the attack, the fear of impending danger.
In the moment of the attack, I presence mushin, “no mind” or “empty mind”. The late Mizukami Sensei taught me the Japanese koan, “Mushin. Mushin.” If I think about having an empty mind, then I don’t have one. Sensei said, “Have no preconceived notions.” Hai, Sensei.
The wise French Sensei said, “Enter the attack and die with honor.” I could win or I could lose. I have no idea how the attack will resolve. I just don’t know.
Over the years, Mizukami Sensei instructed: Wait it out. Take a glancing blow, if you have to. It’s one time. Ishibashi Sensei instructs: Don’t look at your attacker. Instead, I look at the world in front of me. I apply the Aikido technique to myself whether that’s nikkyo or kotegaeshi (wrist locks). The attack, the attacker really doesn’t matter. It’s only me against me.
In the bigger picture, O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I overcome me. I don’t overcome others. I get under what I fear, enter what I fear.
In the moment of the attack, I get under it. I enter the attack. I can choose to let the attacker pass me or to finish the attack. I could win or that I could lose. In that moment, in the danger, I have no fear. I choose. I just do what needs to be done.
My fear is not in the actual danger. My fear resides in the expectations of the impending danger, not the innate danger present. Sure, the hulking chiseled dude who comes to punch my head off is scary. Who wouldn’t be scared? Yet, nothing has actually happened. I invent my fear.
After Sunday morning Aikido practice, Ishibashi Sensei and I discussed the training. Sensei said that the purpose of Aikido is to release our fear. In that bigger picture, I heal myself in constantly letting go of my fear. I just train, whether I fear that I’m not strong enough, that I’m not good enough, or that I’m just not enough.
Sensei and I dedicate to this training. He says, “There’s always something to fix.” Yeah, we always have something to work on to become the better person. That’s the greater purpose of a martial art training. Amen.
Much of my fear arises in the anticipation or expectations of the impending. Not in the actual event or action itself, in that moment. In bokken (wooden sword) training Ishibashi Sensei said, “The safest place to be is under the sword.” The safest place to be is under what I fear. I don’t run from it.
When I’m present in the moment, there is no fear. I create from mushin, from nothing. I do my best. I’m as authentic as I can be. I accept whatever consequences that may come my way. It’s just me against me. I’m good with that.
So, whether that 250-pound dude comes to take me out with a punch or I ask the pretty woman, who I like so much, to see a movie, I wait it out. I take a glancing blow, if I have to. No, I may not get away scot free.
In that moment, I really have no idea what will happen, how this will go. I have no preconceived notions: There is no fear. I choose who I’m going to be. Just saying.
Fear is biological. It’s physiological. Fear is what it is to be human. Yet, I choose who I am going to be in any given moment. On the path, I heal myself in constantly letting go of my fear. I practice letting go over, and over, and over again. Just train. It’s not like I have to get somewhere.
In life’s challenging times and moments, empty the mind. Have no preconceived notions. Bruce Lee said, “Be water my friend.” You choose. There is no fear in that moment. Just saying.
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