You're hearing, but you're not listening

This morning, in judo, we worked on a little shime waza exercise. We've been going over Sloan Sensei's choking drill for several class periods, over and over.

Today, I finally turned on the little bell (it rings every three minutes, and when it does, you switch partners), paired everybody up and had everyone work slowly on the ground and look for choking opportunities. Hunt for them, try all kinds of things, see if they work. Talk about it with each other, explore, other helpful suggestions, etc.

For the most part, it was a great exercise. At least, I had fun, I enjoyed my partners and I think we got a lot of learning in. There's one student, though, that proved to be a little tough to work with. Not that he's a bad guy, mind you. In fact, he's actually very nice, probably give you the shirt off his back. But people can be "difficult" for various reasons (I talked about this once before in a post about working with difficult partners, which dealt with physical limitations and infirmities).

This fellow happen to study judo years ago with a judo player who was pretty well known and accomplished in the judo world and got to about brown belt. Years later, and now older, he's back into judo with us. Which is great, wonderful. I'm open to ideas and philosophies, with judo, aikido or anything. I'm an empty cup.

The unfortunate thing is, this particular chap like to share what he knows with anyone and everyone. Again, I don't mind sharing, but sometimes it gets in his own way and I worry that it might keep him from learning anything himself.

Anyway, after class, some of us got to chatting. One fellow (another brown belt) mentioned who student A, we'll call him, kept trying to "teach" and "show how a choke was done," when clearly, student B wasn't really feeling it. And when B tried to choke A, A fought it, instead of trading back and forth and exploring like we were supposed to.

What was B's reaction? You guessed it. Well, if he's not going to let me choke him, then I'm not going to let him choke me, by golly!

Perfectly understandable. I react that way all the time. I think most everyone would, except maybe a few major religious figures. The problem is, it solves absolutely nothing.

So, what was the advice two black belts gave to our poor, frustrated brown belt? Let him choke you. Seriously. Let go, and let him choke all he likes.

In the end, a couple of things will happen.

1) By getting choked (as with anything), it will actually improve your ability to choke others (learning from the negative side) over time.

2) Plus, you'll get to a point where, once you've been choked zillions of times, pretty soon, no one will be able to choke you! You'll know exactly what it is, how it works, and when it ain't working.

3) Lastly, and this may be the most important, you won't loose control of yourself. When you meet force with force (he's resisting, so I'll resist; if he fights, I'll fight!), you've forgotten your aiki training, or maybe it never sunk in. If you're meeting force with force, figurative or literal, you've lost control of your emotions, your pride has gotten the better of you, and you've "given in to the dark side" as one shortish, green master once put it.

Student A's need to constantly put out his thoughts is a stream of energy. How do we deal with energy that comes at us in aikido? I'll let you answer that to yourself. But I wanted student B to think about what he's learning when he's in aikido (where he's a 1st or 2nd dan).

Is he learning about cranking on wrists or throwing guys onto the ground? What's the deeper principle there? How can we apply that not only to a physical attack, but to life, the universe and everything? We're hearing what's being taught in aikido, but are we really listening?

All that being said, can I claim to have mastered this little tidbit of wisdom? Nah. I may have a glimmer of some truth after 15 years, but have I fully, or even partially embodied it? Who knows, maybe a little. Frankly, my advice to B is the same advice I give to myself, every single, stinkin' day.

But have mercy on yourself. You're learning. Have mercy on others, they're learning. Rather than fight, go with the energy, absorb all that they give you, learn, grow. From that, I think you will find potentially explosive situations defuse, and believe it or not, love actually springs. Yeah, that's right. Even for the guys we thought we couldn't stand.