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Just A Little More

Just A Little More

There’s a point in the technique where you can feel uke’s weight or resistance. You think you can’t go any further and feel as though uke has stopped you there in the middle of your movement. However it just so happens you are training with a sempai who directs you to move a little further to make the technique more effective. Sometimes just a little extra extension is all it takes. You were trying to be relaxed while doing the technique, but in fact made some parts of your body dead weight instead. There is a big difference between being relaxed and being limp. You can still be relaxed while having energy extend throughout your movements. That added energy is just the bit you need to extend upward for that Kokyuho or create a sharper cut down for that Ikkyo. When you’re at a point where you feel like you’ve hit a dead end, give it a little more energy and see where that takes you.

How far is your reach? There’s a $100 dollar bill hanging just a centimeter beyond your answer. Now, how far is your reach? We can often do more than we believe we are capable of (unless you’re one of those people with exceedingly high levels of confidence). Under the right circumstances and pressures we may see capabilities come out that we never knew we had. With the right motivation we find that extra bit of energy within ourselves to tip the scales in our favor. This doesn’t mean that we over-exert ourselves though. I often see people putting too much “effort” into their techniques. They put all their might into a throw and they get exhausted quickly. Meanwhile, the uke at the receiving end of their brutal efforts grimaces and would most likely avoid training with them in the future. Putting more energy into your movements is more subtle and precise than the brute force maximum “effort” approach. It’s adding some energy and extension while cutting with the edge of your hand, instead of using all your muscles to push through someone.

On my commute to the dojo delays on the subway happen every so often. Sometimes a train is delayed at a station indefinitely leaving passengers with no idea of when it will start moving again. It could be 5 minutes; it could be half an hour. When my train is delayed at a station where a transfer is available I think to myself of whether to wait out the delay, or to transfer to another train that may take slightly longer to get to my destination. There are those times where a minute after I exit the train to transfer, the train closes its doors and starts moving again. If I had just waited an extra minute I would have gotten to my destination sooner. The reverse can also happen where I stay on the delayed train too long, and transferring would have gotten me where I needed to go on time. Do I move a bit sooner, or wait a little longer? Timing is important in Aikido, and luckily it is easier to feel that out than how how long a train will be delayed for. As we train more we get a better sense of when to move to create the right distance between us and our partners. And as we learn to feel out better timing we start to understand where subtle changes need to be implemented to improve our technique and movement. Stepping out just a second (or less) sooner can make a significant difference. But if you step out too soon uke can track you with their attack. Sometimes an extra second of patience can be the key instead.

There are many different types of effort. There’s inefficient effort that just exhausts you without really getting you anywhere. There’s efficient effort that helps you steadily move towards your goals. Then there’s effort of intention that shows other people you care. Things like simply being present in someone else’s life can convey a lot of intention of care. Different people approach this kind of effort of intention in different ways. For the more gregarious types it may be enthusiastic conversation; for others it may be more subtle. It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing about this since I’ve never been good at showing effort of intention. I often come across as cold to others and don’t talk much to most people. But I see the effort of intention other people show me, even if it doesn’t look like I acknowledge it. Some people take a while to warm up.

You bring someone a cup of hot tea on a cold day, but that person doesn’t want it so it gets cold. For the next few days you try again, but the same thing happens; the tea gets cold. You keep trying though since it doesn’t really inconvenience you and you’re getting drinks for other people too. After thirty days of seeing that cold cup of tea each day, you think maybe tomorrow I’ll order one less cup of tea, but you decide to give it one more try. On the thirty-first day you find an empty cup, a smile, and a thank you. (Disclaimer: This story is for metaphor purposes only. I am in no way suggesting to buy tea for someone who doesn’t want it for thirty-one days straight). Some people may never warm up to you, because certain people just don’t connect well due to incompatibilities in personalities or worldviews (or other reasons), but sometimes chipping away with bits of effort of intention over an extended period of time can go a long way.

Whether it’s reaching or cutting that extra inch, moving a second sooner, waiting a second longer, or just adding that bit of extra effort that shows you care; a little extra energy along with some subtle changes can make a big difference. A strong intention doesn’t always guarantee results, but sometimes it’s the tipping point. For every grounded and heavy uke there is a weak spot. Find that spot, put some energy and intention towards it, and uke’s balance will come tumbling down. That extra bit of initiative or patience can bring surprising results. People don’t expect a lot from a little, but many little things add up and the simplest changes can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

By Andrew Lee, New York Aikikai

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