The first two articles of this series presented the rationale at the core of the ‘budo for education’ concept as well as some concrete examples of such budo-derived tools and how these can be utilized as part of an educational system for our youth. Here we further present more key tools for life taken from budo’s ancient wisdom, to be applied within a proposed contemporary educational framework.
Kumi-te – connect to others
Kumi-te is a key term and concept in budo that translates (from Japanese) into ‘integrated hands’ with the deep meaning of the two practitioners ultimately becoming one. As an educational tool, kumi-te serves to enable people to connect to others: enhancing environmental awareness, connecting to and being at one with surroundings and others, developing sensitivity, responsiveness and the ability to anticipate and influence while being completely within the present situation. Kumi-te is a great tool for the many suffering from attention deficit disorders, as the essence of the situation of facing an opponent reinforces complete ‘here and now.’ Letting your mind drift might have severe consequences.
In practicing kumi-te, students learn and acquire:
- tools for proactively at will stop their mental race;
- the ability to reduce the endless uncontrolled hopping of thoughts and running what-if future scenarios;
- the ability to create an inner peaceful space within stressful situations;
- reduced attention disorders (ADHD), recruiting all mental-physical faculties for a given task;
- enhanced awareness, sensitivity and responsiveness;
- the skill to be here and now rather than caught up in past memories, future planning or concerns;
- how to connect and become one with the environment rather than being a sideline observer of life.
By employing budo kumi-te exercises, students learn to read clues and signs exposed by others, revealing their intentions, tendencies and habits. We start with oji-waza (response theory) exercises where one side initiates an action while the other learns to connect, anticipate and respond with good timing. Next we exercise shikake-waza (setup opportunities), taking calculated risks to make others expose their intentions, take action or commitment, thus providing us with an opportunity. All of the above can be considered as budo meditation, as these exercises help (ultimately force) one to: stop their mental race; completely be here and now; be connected and at one with the situation and their partner; and be mentally flexible, responsive, determined and part of the situation.
In many interpersonal interactions it is critical for your success to be able to read people, understand their pain, dreams, interests and preferences so that, based on what you have ‘read’ you can set an effective corresponding strategy and create respective opportunities.
The word kumi-te expresses the deep concept of ‘integrated hands’ where the two involved are totally engaged, ultimately becoming one. In budo we do not defend or attack, rather we learn to identify or create opportunities (qyo). Applying ozi-waza, we anticipate the opponent’s next move, leveraging the gaps he provides unintentionally by responding with good timing. Applying shikake-waza, we further proactively create such opportunities by setting up the opponent while managing risks. Either way we always try to avoid running into the opponent’s physical superiority through kumi-te – becoming one with him.
As an educational tool, kumi-te can be a lot of fun, delivered in a high-energy exercise format specifically suited to the young generation who are developing the above skills for life. It is important to practice kumi-te according to the old tradition of the shi-ai concept, which means ‘testing each other’ for the purpose of guiding future development, rather than simply for the purpose of winning. So I bow to my partner as I thank him for helping me test myself and improve, rather than seeing him as an opponent, and consider our training as a way to prove I am better. This concept makes a big difference in the way people learn to connect to others.
Acquiring the Kumi-te skill in life means learning to connect to people so you can assess and read others, determine their real intentions early on, realize what is behind their declared positions, discover their natural tendencies, dreams, pains and fears etc. Such information can then be used to set and apply an effective strategy for interacting with those individuals; influencing them, creating opportunities and leveraging those to achieve your goals. The key point and skill to be acquired has to do with sensitivity, openness and mental flexibility.
Tanden – discover your center
In budo training we learn to discover and connect to our center – (gedan) tanden – physically and consequently mentally. Physically we draw our extremities to our center then initiate any movement or technique, by breath, from our center.
We learn to perceive our opponent from our tanden (serving as our antenna), project our intention or ki from our center, become in-tune with our opponent, connect to him and initiate any action from our center. Collecting ourselves physically to a single control center stimulates a general recruitment cognitive effect, enabling us to summon all mental-physical faculties at a given moment for a given task. When your mind wanders, your attention is scattered and you wish to ‘collect yourself’ for the best performance of a current task, Tanden awareness and activation enables mental-physical oneness, as physical union influences mental stability which enables us to fully be in the present moment with a single mind.
Such tanden meditation helps to achieve stable emotions to take control over our mental race, often manifested by a drifting and scattered uncontrolled mind. Tanden-generated ki-ai further helps to raise our energy level and determination. When acquiring an effective timing response (oji-waza), employing the concept of mu-shin (no mind), we try bypassing our analytical brain in favor of an immediate intuitive response, with the image of perceiving and accordingly initiating an immediate effective response from our center. Through training, a mental-physical change occurs and a skill is developed so that we percieve, feel, project, connect, initiate and in a way experience life from a core stable peaceful anchor – tanden.
In budo we learn to collect and connect our extremities to our center – tanden. Furthermore we perceive our opponent, project our ki, become in-tune with our opponent and initiate any action, by breath, from our tanden. While exercising a response and timing we symbolically say that we bypass our analytical brain, let our tanden take over and decide when and what to do as it serves as an immediate, intuitive instant monitoring control center at one with our opponent. In budo our center is our ‘control room’ from which we perceive and connect to our opponent, take decisions, initiate all actions, project our ki energy, control our extremities, gather our determination and initiate ki-ai.
As an educational tool for life, collecting ourselves physically to a single ‘control center’ stimulates a general recruitment mental effect, enabling us to summon all mental-physical faculties at a given moment for a given task. When our mind wanders, our attention is scattered and we wish to collect ourselves for best performance of a current task. Tanden awareness and activation enables mental-physical oneness as physical unity influences mental stability, enabling us to fully be in the moment with a single mind.
Such tanden meditation helps to achieve our stable emotions take control over our mental race or drifting–scattered–uncontrolled mind. Through training, a mental-physical change occurs and a skill is developed so that we perceive, feel, project, connect and initiate and experience life from a stable peaceful core.
Eyes back – seeing the big picture
Eyes back is the ability to take a figurative step back for complete awareness, allowing a fresh creative approach within difficult and at times stressful situations. By employing the budo concept of ‘eyes back’ you can learn how to take control over your mental state by leveraging the amazing human physical-mental bi-directional mutual influence. The simple physical act of drawing your head and eyes back to view the bigger picture works miracles for your ability to successfully handle many, at times stressful, real life situations.
All through our life we zoom in and out of situations as we mentally step back and take a remote overall view of things, or at times get completely involved in specific activities and focus on specific relevant details. We do this automatically, depending on our natural tendency and as circumstances dictate. For example, when lecturing in front of a room full of people you would usually ‘zoom out’ trying to be aware and interact with the group as a whole, yet when someone is asking a question you should temporarily focus and concentrate on this individual.
Nishiyama sensei used to give the example of observing a mountain full of trees from a distance. ‘Eyes back’ in this case means mentally switching to total awareness mode versus concentration mode. So instead of limiting your perception by concentrating on a specific tree, you physically and mentally pull your eyes back to become aware of and perceive the overall essence of the whole mountain. The simple act of adjusting your posture and pulling your head back so it aligns in place over your spine – with the image of having your eyes way back behind your head allowing overall total vision of your surroundings – results in a significant mental effect. To further clarify the difference between the two modes of perception, concentration versus general awareness:
- concentration is a very important human ability where we focus on a specific input in an attempt to understand, analyze and respond in an intelligent and effective way. Concentrating on a single entity implies we are trying to ‘filter out’ other input as these are interpreted as a distraction to the main task we are currently concentrating on. Given our very dynamic life with many inputs and stimuli and the need to concentrate and respond to each within a limited (short) time gives birth to the multi-tasking that our brain is constantly involved with, hopping from one subject of concentration to the next. At times it is beneficial or even essential to be able to quiet our mental hopping and switch our brain proactively to another mode of operation – overall awareness.
- Overall Awareness is when we open our lens, perceive all, not resisting, filtering, rejecting or prioritizing one input over another. In other words, not focusing on any particular detail while being aware of everything. Being able to employ overall awareness is a critical skill in budo, where real time response under pressure requires awareness rather than concentration. Budo knowledge accumulated over centuries is now backed by scientific research showing that we respond better and faster to external events when we are in awareness mode, as different parts of our brain are employed and relevant mental resources become available once we switch from concentration mode to awareness mode.
Employing the ‘eyes back’ concept – switching to awareness mode while perceiving the total picture – helps us to reduce our mental race, allowing better judgment and responses in stressful situations. The skill to be acquired is to be able to switch modes, at times zooming out of our deep involvement and detail-oriented focus, to calm our ongoing mental race and multitasking so that we can:
- see the bigger picture;
- become aware of other options and alternatives;
- gain a fresh perspective;
- become emotionally detached from the situation, to better prioritize relevant factors and options;
- become more sensitive and hence responsive.
Kumi-te (becoming one with the other) is actually not possible without the ‘eyes back’ concept, as concentration results in duality and separation: me and my opponent/partner as two separate entities. Employing ‘eyes back’ is often useful during situations such as getting stuck or drowning in the complexity and multitude of details, when it is often of much value to pause and gain a broader perspective so that we can see new options and alternatives. From a philosophical perspective and in reference to Buddhist concepts, ‘eyes back’ enables oneness or avoiding duality as we stop perceiving ourselves as a separate entity independent of all other beings.
Eyes back summary
The key point is to be aware of the situation and be able to proactively change our mental state for improved performance by figuratively ‘pulling our eyes back.’ This small and simple physical adjustment of our posture and head position, coupled with the ‘eyes back’ image, creates an instant change in our mental state, perception of the situation and hence ability to handle it in an effective way. If we try switching to total awareness mode by pulling our eyes back every time we get overwhelmed with details, stuck on a specific point or not able to make progress on a specific path, this consequently helps us to become aware of the bigger picture, new options and creative alternatives.
In this part of the article we further presented some of the budo-based tools for life that can be of great benefit to our youth and future society once provided within an educational framework globally. These tools include:
- kumi-te – learning to connect so we can read, respond, influence and ultimately lead others;
- tanden – awareness of center, creating a stable mental center from our physical center;
- eyes back – switching at-will to see the bigger picture, new options, alternatives and taking control.
The next article shall further provide more budo-based tools, explaining their benefits once delivered within an educational framework.
If you are thinking one year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking 10 years ahead plant a tree. If you are thinking 100 years ahead educate people.