Meditation / Mindfulness (1)
Many people are able to associate martial arts with cultivating concentration and even mindfulness. At the same time, meditation is associated with sitting still in a quiet place. Aikido is sometimes called "moving zen". What does "zen" mean? How can something be meditative and dynamically moving and changing?
Training the Senses
Two analogies to describe the process of practicing relative to refining the senses.
Like learning to be a master chef, in the beginning, a person may taste ingredients or a finished product and think, "What's the difference? They taste the same. This salt and that salt. This $2 dish and that $30 dish. etc." Through repetition of tasting and "trying" to discern differences, a person may ultimately refine their senses. The "trying" entails shifting from the everyday brain, becoming more refined and perceptive.
When learning a new language, adults will typically use a literal dictionary and a mental translation. How can we get away from depending on translating every time? Firstly, one must recognize how one is dependent on one's native language, using their native language first and the new language next.
Aikido practice is practicing to use the "here, now" brain and not the intellectual brain, the nonverbal brain over the verbal brain.
In aikido we try to give an opportunity to slow down and observe, "savor" in the midst of external, sometimes vigorous, demands, and give a rest to the "everyday" brain that moves according to habit and conditioning.
One of the points of doing a martial art is to study how a smaller power can overcome a bigger power. It follows that we strive to use as little power, or "muscle strength", as possible. This inevitably requires the process of developing sensitivity to how much power one is using, becoming discerning where in the beginning one perceives everything as the same and only judges things based on results.
It is said that the techniques of aikido somehow embody peacefulness or avoidance of harm to the other person.