Bubenreuth, Germany Seminar, May 14 & 15, 2022

Good morning, everyone.

There are many different disciplines that we practice in Aikido. So, we have many different disciplines to choose from in a seminar. Whatever I select, I always want to teach the very basics of that one thing. You all have plenty of time in your weekly classes and you all have excellent teachers. They can teach you all the techniques that you desire, all the exercises, all the forms of practice, and that’s wonderful. If we had a week together for our seminars, then maybe we could spend more time on that kind of thing. But we only have part of a weekend. I now come only once a year from far away to see you, and for most of you, we train together just this one weekend. Therefore, please allow me to spend the short time we have together focusing on the essence of our practice, so that we can share that together and you can apply it to your own practice. This way you can have a taste of the experience itself, and you can take that and let it serve your Ki exercises, your techniques, your bokken and jo, and even your meditation. 

Now, maybe from this weekend, you have a question or two to ask me. If so, now is the time.

Student: It seems to me that the topic of your teaching this weekend was intense connection. When we give a Ki test, the person being tested is sometimes looking straight ahead into the distance, and not daring to look into the eyes of the examiner. So how can we have a good connection, if we stare off in the distance and are not relating to the examiner? I mean, that’s a kind of a paradox, isn’t there?

If, as you say, the examinee is staring far away and ignoring the examiner, then the examinee is probably just trying their best to be unified, thinking that is something we do in a vacuum. It may be a very intense effort the examinee is making, but that does not make it connection. 

Teachers often tell us not to stare in the eyes of the examiner, so maybe the distant stare at nothing is the examinee’s way of avoiding the eyes of the examiner. The key to this question of where to look during a Ki test is to look “everywhere at once.” In other words, just be natural. When someone asks me what to do with their eyes during a Ki test, I always tell them to do the same thing they do with their ears. What do we do with our ears when we’re having a Ki test? Nothing! We do nothing with our eyes or with our ears.

Just be natural. When we’re talking with our friend having a beer, what are we doing with our eyes? Nothing special. Why?  Because we are relaxed in a Ki test, we’re simply aware of what the examiner is doing. When we are being tested there’s no difference between the examiner and ourselves. What is the examiner doing? When we are testing someone we are feeling into the state of mind of that person. This is how we can tell whether they’re stable or not, by just feeling into them. What is the level of calmness that we feel? We must understand that clearly if we’re going to assume the responsibility of Assistant Examiner, or Associate Examiner, Examiner, or even Special Examiner. We must be willing and able to experience within ourselves the standard level of calmness that each test calls for. We need to understand this both from the position of the examiner and from the position of the examinee. 

Thank you. All right, someone else

Student: Sensei, can you say something about supporting the uke? I have tried to extend Ki in the way that supports the movement, or the flow of Ki. Is this what supporting the uke means?

Okay. This is what we were just talking about. We support the uke by maintaining the state of mind that we would like them to uphold. We would like the uke to have the same state of mind as we do, meaning a very stable connection with everything around us.  So, we want them to extend Ki, and be calmly committed to that. We support that in a way that we can accept them completely. On the other hand, if we approach the uke with a challenge, a sense of domination or an attempt at control, then they will resist, and they won’t be able to extend Ki. They won’t be calm, they won’t feel comfortable and competent to let themselves go completely into the rhythm of the movement. 

Of course, we cannot have expectation of a specific result of our action without worrying about the result not happening. So, we must eliminate all expectation and so eliminate worry. This just means we don’t need to add anything to what’s happening. What’s happening is in our mind and our body. Everything within us knows what’s happening already and knows what to do. We must let this happen by being stable, calm and full of present attention.

This is what I mean by “supporting the uke.”

And let me just say one more thing. Every human being has had the opportunity to be engaged in authentic practice from time immemorial. All communities in the past have had someone who began noticing what was going on within them and began to practice this noticing. Maybe you remember from my book “Letting Go,” the Five Stages of the Practice of Awakening. The first stage is always “noticing.” This means noticing that whatever we think is always reflected in how we feel. Use of mind affects use of body. We feel the way we feel not because a person or government or even nature does something to us. This is never the actual cause of what we feel. We don’t feel the way we feel because of something from the outside. We feel the way we feel because of how we react to that stimuli. And our reaction is a direct product of our conditioning.  

Once we notice this sequence within ourselves, only then can we begin to make a practice out of it. If we look at the great teachers from the past, we see individuals that noticed this for themselves, and then started practicing it, and at some point, started sharing it with others. That’s how every authentic practice begins. So, no matter what religion, martial art, spiritual practice, etc. we might belong to, the fundamental and authentic principle we are all practicing is this noticing. How childish of us then to object to things we don’t agree with or don’t like in someone else’s religion or practice. 

Student: Sensei, please talk about who is the one who witnesses in meditation?  Who is the one who notices, who recognizes?  Is this the small self? 

Okay, so can you please show me your small self? Can you look inside and find that self, and then tell me what you see? Please. Right now, what do you see? 

Student: …nothing… 

Nothing. There is nothing there to see, and yet, we exist. This “nothing there to see” is because the one we are looking for is the one who’s looking. And the one who is looking can never see itself without a mirror, just as the human eye cannot ever see itself without a mirror. We say that we “reflect” on something, but what is that exactly?  When we reflect, we have the feeling of stepping aside, outside of the moment to consider a past or future thought or action.  Is that how to see who we are?  Perhaps we can learn something through reflection. But can we experience the truth through reflection? No, the “truth” is not an observable fact, but something that can only be experienced directly, can only be known through action, and only while we are engaged in that action. In other words, truth can only be experienced in the moment. That’s why only calmness in action is true calmness. 

We search for the truth of the self by reflecting on our actions. But this self is not there, but only here, so infinitely close that it is impossible to see.  This doesn’t mean it’s not here, but just the opposite. We can never see it because we are it. 

This is why Aikido is such a powerful practice. Because we practice in action, confrontational action, interrelational action. When we’re in the middle of something, we are not reflecting on anything. We’re not even aware of the passing of time or where we are located. We are engaged in life completely. 

Thank you very much.