[ENG] Butterfly in the stomach

Lucas Merdinoglu

Lucas Merdinoglu est un élève de longue date de Didier Hatton Senseï. Il nous livre ici un essai pour son passage de grande Nidan ( deuxième grade de la ceinture noire), en anglais, symbole de ses voyages dans le cadre de l’Aïkido.

Butterfly in the stomach

I will speak about my feelings as uke, especially the fear.

Aikido is much more broad than just a self-defense martial art and one of the reason is the work of uke. If someone who is not an aikidoka watches aikido he will probably not understand the beauty and the richness of the uke’s work. For me it is one of the most interesting and difficult part of aikido.

I would like to focus on the fear, because in my opinion it is one the reasons why uke’s work goes so deep.

To be uke means to take ukemi from tori. However, because it is a martial art it is not so easy. Even if we repeat each move over and over, we should act as if each one of them is unique, because we do not know what could eventually happen. So before every move there should be a tension. Otherwise it means that you do not understand the situation, that you lost your Shoshin (beginner’s mind). This tension and the awareness that you have for your opponent or partner is also known as zanshin. It means to stay focused on the possible threats, to be ready without the need of being “really’’ready, to take the total control of the space around you. I wanted to start this essay with those basic notions (Shoshin and zanshin) in order to show that during the practice we should create this kind of electricity between partners.

Lucas Merdinoglu

The fear can take different faces. Usually it appears when we are losing the control of the situation. This can happened as a result of surprise. The tension before the action that I described earlier can be replaced by fear, and this can happen for different reasons like: the overfull of pain, the confusion, or the lack of escape… I think we can say that the uke’s fear is usually caused by a partner who is more advanced in aikido. From my experience getting scared of someone is translated to getting stiffer, losing your reactivity and increasing the distance. So to feel the fear could appear as a bad thing because you are less efficient in your practice, but in the long run it also allows you to work on various processes.

First of all, it helps to develop the idea of “let it go”. This is related to mushin, the state of no-mind. Mushin can be summarized with the phrase “as it is” . The concept of mushin comes from the zazen practice, it means appeased mind without any fixation. This state of mind is particularly important when you are uke because it allows you to act without thinking, to have a better perception of tori’s intention, to react faster, etc… and at the end to be more efficient, because you are fully receptive to the moment – the effect which is totally opposed to what fear produces. So for me, the feeling of fear pushes me to let go if I want to overcome it, to work on my mushin.

Secondly, the feeling of fear helps me to work on fudoshin. It is probably a less known notion in aikido which can be translated to immovable mind. You are like a rock, you do not leave any room for doubt or hesitation. It is important for uke to be clear in his intentions when he attacks. For me it means that when you get paralyzed you just jump in the fire with all your energy and determination to overcome the situation. This notion is also applicable for tori, especially when we talk about ‘’írimi’’. The meaning of irimi is to enter in the attack, to come closer in order to find the right place, usually in the blind spot of the opponent. But to accomplish irmi you need to go straight under the attack without any detour and the more you are able to cope with your fear and the closer of the strike and your opponent you can be.

This last part is not specific to aikido, it is more about the fear in general. When you are getting the feeling of fear, you are usually losing the control of your body as I mentioned earlier. What is interesting is that you are also losing the control of your mind. Actually this process is no different than with the body – if you have to survive, your instinct of self-preservation, your animal side will take over. It means that the psychological mask that you created for the society disappears, revealing your real identity. I think there is not only one way to react to the feeling of fear and that fact helps you to have a better knowledge of yourself. You can also explore some dark sides of your personality. When you feel threatened by someone you can either give up, run away, counter-attack or even become dangerous. All these cases are extreme reactions, heavy in meaning and uncommon in everyday life. That is why it is important to work on the mushin, not to lose control, not to get carried away by the emotions and to stay clear in the mind.

Didier Hatton Senseï et Lucas Merdinoglu

Experiencing fear in our practice is obviously good in order to find solutions for it but the main point for me is that it teaches me how to deal with some situations in daily life.

Finally, I think that fear is a part of something bigger and it is a bit specific to Birankai: to push limits to always go further in the practice. Because it is a martial art we need that electricity, to create danger, to push each other in order to stay alive in our practice. At the beginning maybe one can find it nasty but it is the nicer way to behave with your partner because even if it can be painful it lets you find your limits and not get stuck in your progress.

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