Wednesday, April 01, 2015

On Winning and Losing...Sports vs Aikido

I enjoy the world of professional competitive sports as a fan. Locally we have enjoyed the Giants recent success, three world series titles in the last 5 years.....And we are now enjoying the Golden State Warriors as they are moving towards the best record in professional basketball and being a serious contender for the NBA title.How do we equate this with winning and losing in Aikido, which has a non-competitive structure?

One thing that I have come to realize is that you must look at things both from the standpoint of product and process........Product is easy. The ego thrill of winning in a dominant fashion. I remember in the recent World Series realizing our Giants didn't win in a way a lot of people wanted them to. While there were a couple of important home runs that won games, the Giants tended to play good fundamental baseball and often times the other team would make a mistake and beat itself.... a wild pitch, a crucial error...Everyone likes winning, being on top, identifying with a championship level team. So how does this fit into aikido?

I think we need here to go into process. The current Warriors are a good example. Rather than focus on beating the other team there are three keys to this team:

1. Playing good defense
2. Taking care of the basketball
3. Moving the basketball, ie the extra pass....someone with a good shot defers to someone with a great shot.

If they do these three things, the product, ie winning....entertaining moments....spectacular plays....will take care of it self. So what is process?

Process is inner referent. As opposed to fixing on a strategy to beat so and so, one prioritizes one's goals and one's inner development and growth. And there is a a clear inner commitment or intention to continue. In the Giants world series run a key game was the second game of the NLDS againts the Nationals, who had dominated them in the regular season. Our locals won game one, surprising the baseball world. Game two went 18 innings. I started following the game at its first pitch. I took about an hour off to have  lunch and coffee with a friend. Then I follow it. It went on and on. 18 innings. Neither team could score. It would be such an advantage for the Giants to win this game and and go up two games to none. When it became apparent this was going to be long, I went to the place where I listened to the Giants game 4 victory over the Tigers in the 2012 World Series, with the same radio, and dug in as a fan. I went throug a lot. Just give up and get the score on ESPN......I felt almost as if I were in the game. But given the nature of sports someone had to win......And since I had committed to following the game and had gone to my 'magic spot' I was not going to move unitl it was over. 8 hours. A Brandon Belt home run in the 18th. Hunter Strictland with a big save. I remember having similar feelings when I was training in Japan. I can't do this. I should quit. Nothing works. What am I doing with my life. But the term was Gambatte or hang in there. So I continued past the negative. Buster Posey caught all 18 innings, an example of focus and process. And of course the Giants got past the Nationals, who were picked by most to win the NL pennant, and won both the pennant and World Series themselves. There is a lot to be said for clear intention and follow through. Choosing a goal and sticking with it no matter what. Honing oneself in the process, not fixing or worrying about the product....

Ueshiba Osensei stressed Masaka Agatsu Katsuhayahi or True Victory is winning over the 'I'/ego which is a neverending battle. Polishing oneself on a daily basis with the goal of going from persona/ego to self.. Most people fixate on the throw, or accumulating strength or rank...........Osensei stressed misogi which is a whittling away of the ego/'I'. And he also stressed shugyo or findng a path of personal transformation......and walking acheiving or completing your mission in life.......

It is ironic that the strength needed to do this does require a strong ego. A great athlete must have total belief in his or her ability to do what they must do.But something that has come to me recently is that the true strength therefore the true purpose of the ego is to surrender to the true self inside. Osensei talked about calling upon the limitless power of the universe, at the same time purifying oneself from the controlling ego that is ever persistent. The current Warriors follow an interesting pattern. There is a definite star on the team, Steph Curry. There is a rising star in Klay Thompson. There job is to dominate the offense . Yet they are a part of an offense that moves the ball like no other in the league. Everybody touches the ball. When things are going well the extra pass is always made. Draymond Green can play defender to all 5 positions on the basketball court. And their defense leads to early and good offense. Offense is product. Defense is hardwork, committment, and finally that word again, process.

In Aikido we have a daily chance to win over the competitive side of ourselves and to treat our partner as a team mate, not an opponent. And team mates can help each other grow.and improve as they together walk the path. So strength of technique, rank are in aikido product. Let us make sure we at the same time keep our attention of process, as the Giants of the last five years and the current Warriors have done so well.. And let's all try and keep Osensei's message alive in our hearts on a daily basis......