Verbal Aikido In Paris
The reason why I practice aikido is because I believe that the fundamental principles that we learn from the mat have an incredible power to transform us as individuals, and following from that, to change the communities we live in for the better.
So for some time now, as an adjunct to my practice, I attend weekly Verbal Aikido sessions on line, led by Luke Archer, the founder of the idea, (https://www.verbalaikido.org/). Luke and I connected some years ago, when I organised the first Aiki Extended seminar in 2016, (the next one happens in 2020, so if you want to experience a truly unique event then here is the website link - https://qcooke.wixsite.com/aiki-extended/events/aiki-extended-2020).
Although Luke was not and is not the most experienced aikido practitioner on the tatami, but I find
his understanding of the underlying principles to be far deeper than many teachers who have practised for far longer. He had done his research!
He in turn, enjoys my aikido teaching and so there is a mutual respect and friendship. The pleasant consequence of this is that we recently ran a seminar together in Paris. (Well could it be a better venue. You can be certain that I took full advantage of what the city had to offer).
My job was to point out how best to use our body in the art of verbal communication, remembering that at least one study came to the conclusion that 85% of communication was non- verbal. I wanted to show that if you wanted to truly listen and understand what someone is trying to tell you, particularly when someone is being aggressive or rude, you need to be relaxed , centred, grounded and aware. In particular, my job was to let students experience what that felt like in their bodies, so I used some of the many exercises I have learned over the years from the mat, although on this occasion none of them involved a throw of any kind and pain was never even a possibility.
Some of the audience spoke reasonable English, a good few knew enough to get my drift, and some needed Luke’s translation to appreciate what I was asking them to do. I had thought that this may be a major problem. However, given that I was teaching what it feels like to use your body and mind properly, (definitely a felt experience), it didn’t get in the way.
At the start of the seminar, everyone was asked to say why they were there and what they hoped to get out of the event, and as I listened to their answers , I truly wondered how what I was going to present was going to help them get there. Amazingly at the end, when they were asked if they had got what they wanted, they all said ‘yes’. Hugely gratifying!
For many, what we did was profound and over the course of the day, there were many squeals of delight, and jaws dropping. One lady even said that the seminar had somehow shifted a block in her that she had been living with for some time. (Time for my jaw to drop).
It’s not the first time, I have had students tell me after just a lesson or two, that the simple ideas we practise in aikido make a huge difference to their lives. It’s something to bear in mind, the next time you have a student who appears for a few weeks, extols aikido to the high heavens and then disappears off the face of the planet. For the teacher that can be disappointing, but we need to remember that we sow rich seeds all the time, we just don’t always get to see the spectacular crops that result. Don’t ever forget the difference you can make!
This seminar was another wonderful milestone on my personal aikido journey and another reminder that the true practice of aikido takes place off the mat, and what we learn on it, is just preparation for that!