Interview by Richard Elliott, for Still Point Newsletter
I'm Richard Elliott. I am an Aikido student here at Still Point, 3rd Kyu. I have the pleasure of introducing this new feature to the Still Point website. This is a student project, suggested by the students as, hopefully, an enhancement to the website. This is a supervised student project. All interviews or dialogues will be reviewed by the person interviewed and by the chief instructor before it goes online. This feature is more exactly an educational tool for the students at Still Point and we hope an entertaining diversion for the reader on these hot Texas afternoons.
It was agreed that the people approached for this project be anyone the student chooses, with the chief instructor's consent. These may simple be general human interests stories. It was stipulated by Ross Robertson-sensei that the interviewer have a working knowledge of Aikido principles even if they are not explicitly stated in a piece.
Many thanks to Ross Robertson-sensei, our chief instructor, for consented to this introductory talk. Our talks were informative, enjoyable and as usual engaging for me.
I must add that of what is here almost none of sensei's remarks were touched except for a few conjunctions, there and here, to inject a few periods. The editing of what is here (about 20%) is all my stuff. As you read, you will see, that my side of the dialogue is a little weak in the precision department. I have to struggle.
What follows was edited from 3 separate hourly talks I had with sensei. I used about 30% of the 1st, none of the 2nd, and about 80% of the 3rd. And It's still a little long, but no one, I'm sure, has ever accused Still Point of serving too much fast food.
One important note: Aikido is not a religion. No one's faith, or beliefs are checked at the door. All are welcome. This, because I think certain inferences could be made from the language used that could lead to erroneous and faulty conclusions. Another interviewer might use different words entirely, as it should be.
There are references to an O-Sensei. This is Morihei Ueshiba. He founded Aikido and stated that Aikido is not religion, but also that it was for the whole world.
Here we can borrow an analogy from Owen Barfield. There is a kind of knowledge acquired by a clever boy who knows nothing about the principle on which an internal combustion engine works, and yet who manages to figure out the correct operation of all the switches, knobs, and levers in order to drive an automobile. But it is quite different from the kind of knowledge possessed by someone who has studied the internal combustion engine and the construction of automobiles, even though he may never have driven a car himself.
Virginia Stem Owens---quoted from her book GOD SPY
Again, sensei, my respect and thanks for your usual candor. I definitely overstated the uniqueness and rarity of community, but an intense nostalgic breeze went through my ears.
Conversation with Sensei
Richard Elliott: Sensei Robertson, what is the most remarkable thing you've experienced teaching children?
A lot of times in children's classes I'll ask a question and one of the kids will ask a question and a discussion will develop and go off into a depth that is really surprising and tremendously profound. The children's minds are quite capable of grasping extremely sophisticated concepts.
Richard Elliott: Really?
People think of kids as just wanting to run around and play lots of games; they themselves think that a lot. But sometimes, these discussions will last an entire class. It seems to me that they've been at a level of sophistication as deep or more so than any I've ever had in any of the adult classes.
Richard Elliott: That's good, that's pretty good sensei. I'll have to come to the kid's class.
It's a rare thing. It's something I can't really make happen, but once in a while a child will say something, and I never try to baby-talk to them, but I will use words I think they can understand and at the same time I don't hold back on the concepts. Very often, I will say something that they will want to push hard on and they will pursue it. It's really fascinating where it will go and just how far it can be taken. Children really have their own way of challenging a concept, but usually when they do it's not really from the standpoint of trying to get power over the discussion. They really want to know what's what! [Laughter] They're the ones that really want to pursue the ideas sometimes.
Richard Elliott: That's pretty good! Do you really think they understand sensei?
Yeah, I really do.
You know, I can't tell them what's what, but I can tell them what I've experienced.
Richard Elliott: So, it's not just fun and games with the children.
It's more fun and games with the children. The thing I want to say... the kids do want to have fun. They want to get up and run around, but sometimes these discussions have lasted all class and they're the ones that kept it going. I've always been pretty much ready to set it down and get right back to the physical part of class, but they're the ones that really want to pursue the ideas sometimes. It's certainly not the case that children don't have long and deep attention spans. It's more of a case that most adults just bore the kids right to death.
Richard Elliott: That's pretty funny!
It's really important to work with kids. Most of what, I guess, my personal insights, discoveries or innovations since I've begun to teach regularly have been while I have been teaching with kids. There's a simplicity they have to employ, their potential of sophistication notwithstanding, you have to go in and strip the techniques to their essential nature. Teaching kids is really different. You have to show what will lead their balance, the pain techniques are not allowed. The power and coercive techniques are not allowed, so it really gets down to leading their energy flow and working with balance.
Richard Elliott: So, you really have to know your stuff when you work with children?
You either have to know your stuff or you have to go in willing to let them teach you. You have to go in not with the presupposition that you know everything, but you have to look and see what is and what is not working for this person. I tower over these guys like a giant and I have to teach something they can actually use on somebody my size. So I have to really focus on what is working for them and what's frustrating them.
Richard Elliott: Sensei, what is it your trying to impart to the children, as opposed to adults, about Aikido that will stay with them in addition to the self-defense?
I think really with children and adults the challenge is pretty much the same. You want to find a way to excite their imagination and transmit the message continuously that I CAN do this. There is still so much more to learn and I can continue to learn, but that this is something I CAN do.
Richard Elliott: When I was a kid, sensei, I particularly remember, now, how many things, ideas, projects, I never really completed or followed through on. I really think it's very important, for children especially, to start something and really try to finish it.
Well, I think there's an incompleteness aspect to everything we do and that's a fundamental confrontation with the limitations we have. All of the things that we plan to do, only a tiny fraction of them tend to be realized.
Richard Elliott: O.K. My introduction to the martial arts was through Tae Kwon Do. I really didn't know why I wanted to do it except that I needed, at that time, some sort of challenge; What, I didn't know, and I must say it certainly fulfilled that need. For anyone entering Aikido, in general, what kind of challenge could you say they might be offered?
I think that when you're talking about the martial arts, most people hear the term "martial" and they don't give much thought at all about the "art," that it really is an art form. I think, properly taught, any of the martial arts offer themselves as a genuinely creative discipline.
Whether we're working in the medium of paints or sound, we have ourselves, our thoughts, and the circumstances of our lives. Aikido, in particular I think, is a certainly valuable tool to reshape the person that you are, to arrive at an ongoing result that is more consistent with your internal ideals, the way you ought to be and the way the world around you ought to be.
Richard Elliott: Sensei, if I came to you for the first time and said, "Mr. Robertson, man, I'm looking for a challenge. What does Still Point have to offer me?"
[Sensei amused] Well, I'd have to turn it right back on you and ask, "Why do you want a challenge?"
Richard Elliott: "Well... I'm just... damn! I'm bored, I'm busy, but I'm bored!!
Richard Elliott: "But no seriously, sir, I am bored to death! I want something to challenge me physically and something more than mechanical routine exercise, um, --something more!"
"I don't wanna be bored, I know I shouldn't be, but I need a challenge; I need something to... some help to snap out of it. You know, there are a lot of these karate outfits around--You know what I mean?" Whad'ya got here?"
Yeah. Well, we all wanna be inspired.
Richard Elliott: Yeah man, I wanna be inspired!
I think that's really a challenge that we have in approaching an endeavor like this because, in my opinion, I think it's absolutely essential that people learn how to be their own inspiration. That, itself, is one of the challenges we have at Still Point. People come in and look for leadership and direction, and they look for a charismatic central figure. And this is understandable, this is healthy, so the chief instructor has to engage that, has to blend with that, to a certain extent. While at the same time Aikido teaches us to operate from our centers. There's this inherent paradox that we need someone to show us the way; at the same time, that someone should insist that we find a way for ourselves.
I think that's an extraordinary challenge; a group of people coming together, as a group, to learn how to cooperate, as a group, with the full focus on how to become better individuals.
I heard an instructor define the dojo as a "dilemma-rich environment." I like that a lot. A dojo really isn't a place to come to for answers, but a place for questions: to be challenged, to be surprised, to be even threatened a little bit. At the same time, to establish a kind of camaraderie, where you feel safe, that this is both a sanctuary and a vehicle for exploring alien and even hostile territory. An that, I think, those things can be compatible is an extraordinary challenge.
Richard Elliott: If you have ever been apart of a community, sensei, what were the most important or determining things that made it so?
It's really the idea of synergy. When there's a group of people that come together that really enjoys doing what they're doing and believes in the activities and they believe in the relationships then they as individuals feel more enabled, more enhanced. For me, its never been the kind of thing where the individual is sacrificed for the greater good, it's very much where you pool your energy in with this group of people, the energy all gets mixed in, and this energy seems to come back to you magnified. There's this sense of generating a force that you can do together. If you're moving furniture and you try to lift it up by yourself, which is really hard, if you get one other person to help it's a lot easier and so people working together can accomplish a lot more than just individuals can. But in order for that to happen you have to have individuals who are strong and capable and have differences of ideas, and everybody can bring what it is they have in common, but they can also bring their different points of view and that makes it that much better. So, for me, it's just really the idea that there is this combination that makes you feel, in some sense, more like yourself than you sometimes can when you are completely alone. And I say that from the standpoint of someone who puts a high premium on my solitude, which is something I consider another valuable feature of being...
Richard Elliott: I want to make a case for weakness, uh, actually. One of the things we talk about is "range of effectiveness" as you just mentioned with lifting furniture. One of the aspects of a community is that people gain confidence. Then at some point you're willing to try something a little harder, something you may not be comfortable with, something a little beyond the "range of effectiveness." That's when you have to rub shoulders with your neighbor, and that's where mutuality can come in; you have to share the weight and establish a "center" between you and someone else. And so, I just think you have to take people as they are, not everyone is strong, and not everyone has the right attitude.
I want to come back to attitude, but I think that is part of what testing is. From my own experience, and I believe most people would agree, that from time to time we are tested sometimes even when we don't recognize it as such. Tests, and this is not a comparative thing, help me to understand and appreciate my own limitations.
Richard Elliott: Attitude: My dad was always telling me, you have to have the right attitude. It seems to be a common belief that before you begin something you must have the right attitude to really succeed. I think I asked this question before and you answered it by not answering it.
Richard Elliott: Do you think it's necessary or important to have the right attitude before you go into Aikido to make progress... or... how does that work?
I think they're really related topics. If you don't feel motivated, if you don't feel a need or a strong desire to begin and stay with an activity, then clearly it's going to be the case where you're easily distracted and you just won't last in that particular activity. So you have to, on some level, perceive a need for something outside yourself, the need for a teacher, the need for a discipline, the need for a community of people. Similarly, the community has to have some sort of need for you and if they don't there is not going to be that good match; there is not going to be that good possibility for synergy. You were talking about the sense of your experience with the community where you gained confidence, and a lot of that comes externally from feeling valued and, hopefully, a lot of it comes internally from realizing your own expanded capabilities.
As for as attitude, I don't know if there is a single right attitude. I just know that if you're comfortable in your house, on the couch watching t.v., and you get the idea that going off and studying Aikido is a great idea, but you don't on some level feel it in your bones, then ultimately sitting on the couch watching t.v. is going to be the greater magnetism for you.
And I think that's going to be a highly individual thing. I think when you come to an Aikido practice in spite of the strained muscles, the bumped shoulders and the amazingly...
Richard Elliott: And bad attitude, bad attitude.
[louder] Richard Elliott: bad attitude! Bad attitude!!
Yeah, all the inevitable conflicts and frustrations, somehow something in that has got to be rewarding something in you, and that something can be totally individual, so I don't think there is a single right attitude. So I don't think I can answer that question. I just know it has to satisfy some need or desire that is genuinely felt, otherwise you'll come and just participate for awhile as a dilettante, but very likely be distracted by something else which is probably for the best.
Richard Elliott: Well, I wouldn't say it's for the best, but uh...
Well, if you keep coming back as a dilettante, but you keep coming back, then the argument is circular. Then the Aikido training is more strongly magnetic than whatever the other options are available. The very fact that someone keeps returning even though their involvement may appear to be completely shallow... you really have to go out of your way to come to Aikido; it doesn't come to you.
Richard Elliott: It begins when you get off the couch...
That's right! That's right! And I think that one of the most important and difficult tests that you're talking about is that decision to get off the couch, go out the door, get in your car and go somewhere other than where you were, the first time particularly, to go meet these people you don't know and you're probably very guarded about. You don't know if they're going to twist your arm out of its socket, or throw you on your head, or make you look bad, or challenge you to fight, so I think that's a tremendously ripe turning point for an individual. But having done that once I also think it plays itself out repeatedly every time you stop whatever your doing and go train. You may know the people by now, you may have built up enough trust, but you're still choosing to do nothing else out of the amazingly complex universe with infinite number of choices, you're choosing to reject all of them and come and train.
Richard Elliott: You've made a decision.
It's hard to judge. In a specific context, negotiating for some exchange or advantage as in business, politics, etc., there are rules, game rules, where not just language but impressions from the other senses must sometimes be carefully attended to or manipulated. First impressions are important. One can't be concerned, can't afford to be, with the whole person except as much as it can get you what you want.
Richard Elliott: Now for anyone that comes to a dojo, Aikido also has rules of behavior, rules of etiquette, that are important to follow; they're in the handbook. But talking about attitude... Aikido seems to try to address the wholeness of the person, at least from what I've experienced and read, being in your class, over time your addressing the whole person not just one part.
I realize you have to divide things into parts to understand but ultimately when you're being attacked or doing a technique you're addressing the whole person, the body, attitude, energy, everything that can possibly be addressed at that time. Does that sound right sensei?
I realize you have to divide things into parts to understand but ultimately when you're being attacked or doing a technique you're addressing the whole person, the body, attitude, energy, everything that can possibly be addressed at that time. Does that sound right sensei?
Richard Elliott: If someone attacks and the defender feels like the attacker can justly be killed at any time, with that gut belief, it seems, it's likely to come out at some time or another in some aggressive way either in one's martial arts or behavior.
Particularly if you hold that as an expectation rather than as one of a number of possibilities.
Richard Elliott: Right. I think there's something in Aikido called "The Sword to Let Live."
I think selfishness is an extremely useful attitude when it comes to training. Selfishness has a bad reputation, but when the selfishness leads some individual to a certain realization or a deeper felt want, which in some sense is a felt inadequacy; I want to do this, or I want to be a certain way, to experience and learn, as a recognition that I don't have those things or qualities, there's an element of hunger. The very basic selfish need to satisfy a hunger is a very powerful motivator. The nice thing about Aikido is that when you come in, however benign you put a spin on it, however you want to window-dress your motivations, I think you overlook the fundamental selfishness involved; you're there to satisfy some part of yourself that hungers after something and I don't think you're unified, I don't think you're addressing that wholeness of the person you're talking about if you don't recognize this selfishness.
Having arrived in class and interacted with all the individuals and doing the ongoing process of plugging yourself into that community, there is hopefully the potential for the realization that to satisfy that need we have to be very, very careful and conscientious about the resources supplying that need. So if I want to train I can't do this particular kind of martial art in my own backyard--you just can't. You can do parts of it and maybe make some progress, but you're not doing Aikido if you just dance around in your own living room. To do real Aikido I need you and a group of people. And if I have that need to train, then I have a dependency. In order to satisfy my own selfish need I must see the necessity of taking care of that resource, that community, those people who are satisfying that need and sustaining that growth and preserving my life. It's a particularly wonderful kind of selfishness that leads to a self-reward that is increasingly based on compassion. And so, there again...
Richard Elliott: And otherness.
Yes, and otherness exactly. So whichever way we come into it or go about it we run back into the oneness thing. And I think that that's what this community stuff is based on that we're skirting around. To be a community there has to be communication. Those words are based on the same root for a reason and these things sort of distill down to the notion of "commune."
Richard Elliott: I would say communion, but that's my own bias.
Yeah, communion absolutely, and I think it very much is a type of communion that we're enacting here in Aikido practice and I think this is something that can be experienced at any moment in anyone's life, but we typically talk about those moments -- like sitting and watching a sunset, we really feel connected with that particular moment, or when you're having a particularly rewarding conversation there's the dialogue, this flow and the intercourse... or sex, a good meal, there's this whole exchange of energy, and I think that really is what aiki is in its most essential nature.
It is this exchange of energy where the components of the system are augmented rather than diminished. So, I think this is a working definition of Aikido and of community: a group of individuals who come together who share their needs, their selfishness and their "ki", and in the process we all come away enhanced somehow.
Richard Elliott: So in the beginning your aim may be yourself, but ultimately your aim cannot be yourself.
I think, ultimately, your aim can only be yourself. Your aim can't be anything other than yourself, but I would split hairs by saying the further you practice the larger your sense of self becomes to include more of the other. For me, self-defense means protecting my individual being plus all that around me which I hold dear. Aikido helps me enlarge the sphere of that which I hold dear, and most people are interested in staying alive and protecting their quality of life. Most people would include care for their loved ones, their circle of friends, a few people would extend that to the larger community of work associates and sensitivity toward environmental issues around town. A few patriotic people may have the sense of self-defense as enlisting in military service and serving their country. But I think all of these arise from the same motivation; you identify on some fundamental level your well-being as intimately connected with this vast field of "other."
Richard Elliott: That is not yourself.
That is not yourself but is your larger self.
[long pause] Richard Elliott: I was struck with an interview with O-sensei. Some big bully had challenged him and he put him down with one finger, something to that effect...
I've heard those kinds of stories.
Richard Elliott: Well, what struck me was that when they ask him how he did it he said that he drew a circle around this person. He didn't say he drew a circle around himself and the person, he drew a circle around the other person.
Richard Elliott: I want to get with this larger self, but I just want to emphasize, for me, one of the differences... what? It revolves around this issue of oneness
Richard Elliott: And, uh, confusing your own little oneness and the experiences of that with the big "O."
Richard Elliott: And getting those mixed up.
Richard Elliott: I do better when I appreciate the differences and particularity of the other person and not try to assume a commonality based on just another part of that person. Yeah right, I have my likes and dislikes: I don't like the way that person walks or talks, I don't like this person's attitude or lifestyle, or I hate it when I can't be as exact and articulate as I want, etc.,etc. But at least in Aikido it seems to deal with comprehensiveness as opposed to the All-Encompassing.
When you're trying to deal with comprehensiveness, much the way you describe energy-systems, when you're attacked... I keep coming back to attacks and conflict. I don't know how to talk about Aikido outside of conflict.
Richard Elliott: But as for as attacking you have to see the thing as comprehensive or, at least for me, when I do a technique and I know "yeah, I got it!", I just forget about where that guy's leg is or where my arm is and we're just together. It's more than a feeling! It's like... well... I can't describe it.
It's a total experience.
Richard Elliott: Sort of, it's not total with a big "T", it's a small "t." Um, I'm not big enough...
Richard Elliott: And I've had these experiences in other contexts. I just think its important not to confuse the small "one" with the big "One." I don't think it always comes across in the language that people use to talk about Aikido and those distinctions aren't always articulated. And I think people forget after awhile. If you constantly talk about something in an All-Encompassing way, and I suspect that's a lot of the problem that people had understanding O-sensei's lectures, he had such a deep and broad context of awareness... he started all of this.
Richard Elliott: To me, the importance of otherness, uh... [long pause]... and not trying to infer too much from the feelings... I don't know, I just do better when I appreciate the otherness of the person. At least I think my techniques do better.
People seem to think that in oneness all differences disappear, but I think it's more of the one and the many; the many are one but the many are still many too.
Richard Elliott: Again? Come again now!? What?
Well, you know...
Richard Elliott: Ahh, sensei, I really do not understand what you just said.
It's very simple. You and I are having this conversation. We're able to have this conversation because we're two different people, but it's one conversation.
Richard Elliott: But that seems like just an enumeration sensei. Yes sir, this is 1 conversation, uh... I think when you're talking about Aikido...
Richard Elliott: Yes sir, or are you just talking about enumerating 1,2,3...
Well, I don't mean it's 1 conversation and we take a break and have another conversation and we have 2 conversations. I'm talking about the interactions between the different components: you're still Richard and I'm still Ross, and that never stops being the case, but only you and I could be having this conversation and so there is that oneness of the dialogue.
Richard Elliott: Is duration one of the main characteristics of a community? To be a living community does it have to last a long time? Forever?
I don't think it's a hard and fast criteria. For certain agendas to achieve certain goals and to have an ongoing vehicle then clearly you want something durable. In my case, if I'm teaching professionally and all my students disappear next week then my reason for being is faulty. It will not serve me in an ongoing, durable way. On the other hand, I think there are events that are sparked spontaneously and it may be purely a singularity in time. Festivals, concerts and rituals that happen that will never happen again. And so it's finite in time, it's very, very well bounded, but I think even in those cases we have the natural tendency to want the effect to have duration. So I think duration is a signpost we use in assessing the quality of the community. But I also emphasize that sometimes community itself can be very temporary
Richard Elliott: Many people think that because the marriage ended in divorce it wasn't a real marriage to begin with.
I think community is so unique, so particular that... and I don't mean only particular people or only particular kinds of people belong necessarily, but that the event is so unique and so rare that ... uh... I lost my train of thought. I guess it was too unique... my analogies just flew out the window!
Richard Elliott: Well it couldn't have been very good if it didn't last now could it?
Richard Elliott: Right! [Big Laugh]
Richard Elliott: Oh well, that's a good one sensei. These are hard!... I don't know! I don't know... Forget the [inaudible]
Richard Elliott: The older I get the more I appreciate forgetting. I don't have to go back and figure out who Nine Inch Nails are.
It's O.K. It certainly makes everything fresh when you can't remember anything.
Richard Elliott: This is bad because I'm taking a vacation this week because I forgot to take it last week. I got busy and just forgot about it. That's terrible!
Richard Elliott: Oh yeah, communities are so unique that, I'm not saying they disappear, but when you try to hang on to something too hard a lot of times, it's just like grabbing someone too hard, it sometimes makes doing technique impossible or it changes the technique to something else.
Richard Elliott: I think when the need for duration is too great it can be damaging. You have to keep reassessing the community. You can have goals, aims, projects, but the quality of the relationships, the communion. Are we only using each other as means to an end? I don't think that's indicative of actual community.
Right. Over the years inevitably people ask me: Why do you do Aikido? Why did you start? Why are you still doing Aikido? My answers have predictably changed over the years and now I just have to say I don't know why I do it other than it's better than not doing it. And I really can't say why it really has become so much apart of what I do that I've really stopped trying to assign particular reasons for it because Aikido has been particularly devious and perverse in, one by one, striking down all my reasons for doing it. And when I think I have a reason for doing it, eventually, that reason proves insufficient and I find that once it proves to be insufficient I'm still doing it. Rather than saying O.K. I guess I was wrong about it and so I won't do it anymore, I find that, even without the reason for doing it, doing it is still somehow or other self--sufficient.
Richard Elliott: Self--sufficient?
Yeah, if you're doing Aikido for fitness eventually you're going to find a better program for fitness than Aikido. If you're doing it for martial arts self-defense and to defeat all comers eventually you're going to find out that Aikido doesn't really sit on that particular throne, though it addresses all of these things. If you joined Aikido to be some sort of lonely hearts club eventually you're going to figure out you're on your own.
Richard Elliott: Does anybody come to Aikido...?
Yeah, I've seen some people join just because they want to meet people. And there's nothing wrong with coming just to meet people or to find an interesting activity in which to meet people. But if your primary goal is to find a girlfriend or boyfriend or to just hang out, eventually that's going to let you down. And you could continue to extend the list out indefinitely and I could almost guarantee you Aikido will let you down at each particular reason and a lot of people drop out when they find those reasons to be insufficient, but when...
Richard Elliott: Hyper-reflectiveness does not foster forward progress. My analogy and my experience has been, I don't want to say never, but it can be a dangerous thing to peer over your shoulder to see what the Holy Spirit is up to.
It's kind of similar to Lot's wife in the Bible. She looked back over her shoulder to see how God was keeping his promise and she got zapped.
Yeah, um, and so exactly, that kind of thinking can stop you in your tracks and to the extent that you're dependent on having those particular reasons fulfilled... you know, Aikido is so much larger than any one particular reason that if you're doing it basing it on that reason it will fail you.
Richard Elliott: It just is back to the thing about comprehensiveness. If you isolate just one aspect of uke (the attacker) and forget there is this total person coming at you... If you just forget about yourself... I meditate on this vision of O-sensei in the garden and having this incredible experience and he says he forgot every technique he ever knew. That's a profound thing to me!
Richard Elliott: One more thing concerning oneness: I was talking to an attractive young Native American woman at a party and the conversation hit on the topic of peyote. She got real serious and asked me if I was afraid of it and that I probably should be. My inference was that she was suggesting that if you go into this experience with a trivial or frivolous way you could freak out.
Slap you down, yeah.
Another thing I like about Aikido is it really brings in the importance of gravity, of being grounded, and for me that involves a kind of soberness. In other words, I can't let myself be taken off to too many flights of oneness and peak experiences.
This is why when you said earlier that you were looking for another way of describing it besides that of attack or conflict, I don't think we should look for other ways to describe it.
I very much like the groundedness, that however magnificent or profound the experience of doing Aikido is, it still comes down to... you're gonna get a bloody nose, it's gonna make you afraid and your gonna bump when you hit the ground.
It is the groundedness aspect of Aikido. This has been one of the things that has given it a duration in my life that other lines of investigation have not because they have either been very intellectual, but without a physical way of experiencing it, or they've been very physical without giving me the tools to properly analyze it to refine my practice of it. It could be emotional and spiritual, but difficult to reproduce in any sustainable and ongoing way. Aikido seems to hit on all those cylinders with varying emphasis at different times. The overall arc of the experience of it, like you've said many times, it has that satisfying quality of being very comprehensive.