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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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June 15, 2015

"Flowing Stillness"

Rafael Oei Sensei

Thank you so much for making our year-end annual demonstration and potluck such a success. To all the parents who helped with the set up and take down; it was all so efficiently executed... Thank you. And thank you for all the delicious food!

A special and huge "Thank You" also goes out to the students who helped Leily Foell find her retainers... digging deep and long into endless garbage bags in the dumpster. I'm glad the retainers were found. Without a thought, you all very selflessly and readily helped someone in need. Mrs Oei and I, as I am sure Leily's parents too, are so proud of you. What an example you have set.

It is also reflective of our little quote... "Flowing stillness..." What a seeming contradiction, but just as the students helped Leily without hesitation, it is performing a task selflessly that reveals the presence of this flowing stillness. This stillness comes from being comfortable and confident within oneself.

It begins by being still and silent within oneself. At times, suspending judgement... Being at peace and calm. This is the way every class begins and ends: in silence. For some, the stillness is disturbing, resulting in the need to always be doing something, going somewhere, or having the need to talk to anyone and everyone, all the time.

In aikido, it is the confidence one has in each technique. Develop this by practising with quiet focus. Imitate what you think you saw in sensei's demonstration as closely as you can during practice with your partner. Do not discuss what you are doing. That slows you down. Being over analytical does not help too. Experience the movement and footwork silently and slowly on your own - with focus and concentration. Paired practice during class is not a social activity. If you want to, you can socialise after class.

Some students create scenarios during practice, adding a punch here or a kick there; engaging in "what if" situations. Explorations during general paired-practice may escalate and cause unnecessary accidents in the dojo because the pair will eventually not be practising the same technique as the others. Refrain from exploring "what ifs". Trust that the sensei will include possibilities when students are better-versed with the techniques being practiced and the appropriate ukemi that goes with it. When the application of each technique becomes instinctive enough, the sensei will develop its application further with drills involving scenarios and techniques flowing one into another. This is when form becomes no-form. This does not come easily to some; requiring hard work and concentration.

The calmness in the face of a challenge begins in the silence of one's heart. When the practitioner flows from one technique to another, shifting along with the attacker's balance or attack, it stems from being present in the moment in spirit, mind, and body - like flowing Zen; without judgement. Responding purely from moment to moment.

You see this in great concert pianists or performers, when what flows from them seems effortless. I've seen this in the kitchen when my late mother-in-law prepared meals, sometimes in huge quantities because she was frequently asked to cook for institutions for the poor and the homeless, and for church events. It was always executed swiftly and effortlessly - without fuss. The meals were always first rate and delicious.

Have you noticed that with the great cooks / chefs? They whip up meals without consulting recipes and hardly measuring any ingredients. Ah..., to have "flowing stillness" in daily life too...

Thank you for another awesome year of Aikido.

Do have a most enjoyable summer!
And to the fathers... have a most meaningful Fathers' Day!

If I don't see you at the Aikido Warriors' Camp in August, then I'll see you in September.

With gratitude, peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei and family.

(© Copyright June 2015: Rafael Oei)

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