Aikido and Alexander Technique: Practice & Dialogue

What does thinking in education mean?
What role does perception play when it comes to learning?
Sounds like questions one could ask at a convention on philosophy, right? Actually, not really.  It is another evening of work at my local Aikido dojo. Aikido is an interesting learning experience and one that I have been lucky enough to be involved in for the past 4 years.  The reason I use the word ‘interesting’ is that it draws on and nurtures a vast expanse of what it is to function as a well-organised structure.

Are humans Structures?
Now, that might sound like a subtopic in a neurology class…but no.  Just Aikido again masquerading as the perfect analogy for working out how timing, direction and intention combine into cohesive action.  The practice, is just practice – taking a calculated risk based on a well-constructed plan of action.  It is in many ways a probabilistic practice: there is a lot of time that goes into constructing a model of behaviour based on real concepts that make structural and practical sense.  Aikido techniques are designed as a test and measure of how the practitioner is evolving on the path of working with interrelated structures: levers, timing, steps, turns, controls and everything that relates to construction, or how the practitioner is evolving in regards to thinking as they learn.

Dialogue defines education.  There is no question about the primary importance of inquiry and dialogue.  There are many vehicles through which a constructive dialogue can take form: words, movements, techniques, rhythms, measurements, comparisons between types of timing…the list is endless because the nature of educational dialogue is multi sensorial.  The practical dialogue between how we perceive and what we do is continuous, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of ‘flow’.

Unless we are able to form a constructive dialogue and adhere to certain rules of collaborative and respectful community, there really isn’t a chance for one’s thinking to evolve, for perceptions to change, and in this example, for my Aikido to grow.  But, don’t get me wrong! I am not a big fan of lots of talking during Aikido practice, the dialogue I am referring to is an internal dialogue of logic and concept formation.  Think of it as a discernment in learning that leads development.   

The questions I ask here are part of my inner dialogue.  I get a lot of possible answers and many more questions and problems to solve during and after every practice. Like with Alexander Technique, Aikido is a cyclical practice.  The funny thing is that in principle Aikido is very simple: When I do the techniques I am to align every action of my hands and limbs to the interconnected lines that coordinate with my visual perception.  Simple enough, right? Once I started to realise that I need to start to see in relational points, lines and planes….and interrelate all the techniques as if they where one! Oh, it’s easy enough, but it is such an engaging process to learn this way that I just don’t want to ever fully learn it.  Just to get better and better is my goal.  Now, I am sure I’m referring to Aikido and Alexander Technique as a combined practice.

Here’s a dialogue and a problem all rolled into one.

Perception is not a mysterious thing at all! It is simply to learn to see in an interconnected way.

Another little detail of Aikido: Don’t let the other person ‘feel’ where you are! Every bone of the torso is continuously and imperceptibly readjust to the movements of breathing and multi-planar relationships in movement.  With a well-constructed set of principal means, Aikido is easy.  For me, stepping away from the mystery and focusing on what is actually involved was a useful step.  As long as I remember to call on my inquiring, thinking, and perceiving mind, dialogue in practice comes with no fear of being wrong.  Just practice.

I want to state again, that the hardest thing about Aikido is to let go of the perception that there is some deep mystery at play. No, I’m simply to block the other person’s vision, but without them knowing it until they have walked clear of me.

“easy peasy”!

Getting back to the dialogue, mine is becoming a more and more a constructive one with practice.  I am becoming familiar with the pattern of how every once in a while a fundamental principle becomes more practical, more structurally and constructively available and within closer reach than before. This applies to music-making, teaching and learning.  A little voice that nudges me about all the insurmountable difficulties within practice sometimes breathes a new breath within me, as if to say “How could you not realise that before? It is embedded in every move!”.

Alexander Technique practice does have many parallels to Aikido, neither is as mysterious as I used to perceive them to be.  Nor is one as separate from the other as I used to think, and they both deeply require me to perceive in a simpler, more accurate and a more geometrically-cultivated mind.

I hope you get the opportunity to learn to practice Aikido. There is really nothing quite like it! Except life.

I would love to hear about your creative dialogues, especially ones that deal with learning something.  Write me a note. Let’s have a dialogue.

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