–a reblog from the aikido blog—
“Do not stare into the eyes of your opponent: he may mesmerize you…”—O’Sensei
Above is a very famous quote by O’Sensei—only a bite from a much larger statement that The Founder had on the importance of not allowing your uke to own you within his/her attack.
It has been highly quoted and stated to me throughout my training. I’ve had countless teachers, senior, and enthusiasts state that it was the utmost importance to not look into your partner’s eyes. Most instead suggest fixating, a soft gaze, at, or around, the uke’s collar bone. (Some have even said to act as if you were staring through your training partner.) I’ve accepted this without must complaint or questioning for years. And, I do not discredit it. In fact, the opposite; it is very wise advice. However, most recently, a strange thought occurred to me while rereading this most famous of quotes from O’Sensei.
The thought was very simple—more of a nagging question than anything else: who’s the other guy in this quote? You know, the dude you shouldn’t stare in the eyes of. The guy who has such an insanely dominating presence that you should fear to linger too long on his baby-blues. Who is this man that can throw you off balance with just a gaze? Who is this man who can draw you in, entrap you, and splinter your concentration by just being? Who’s that guy?
A lot of things have happened to me throughout my training and life, and as things change, so do my attitudes. I’m starting to view the above quote with new eyes. I’ve decided to no longer avoid my uke’s eyes. (At least, not purposely.) I’m done with being the guy in the quote that has this piece of marked territory he should not tread over.
Instead, I want to be the other guy. The guy who doesn’t need to attack, whose presence alone is enough to shrink any imaginable opponent. The guy who needs no army, nor mounted attack, nor sword. The guy who just is, and because he is, his nage is knocked off center, absorbed by him, and taken. The one that awakens nage to the realization that they were merely under the delusion that they were even the one that was nage in the first place.
I had recently reread the story of David and Goliath. With my new eyes I became suddenly sensitive to an aspect of the story I had never recognized before. To paraphrase, in the story the scripture clearly states, before the great battle that had Goliath done in, that “the giant came down upon the armies of God.” Yet, the young shepherd-poet, David, when he saw the giant, his equally imposing brothers, and the Philistine army, was quoted as saying, “Who is this man who comes up to challenge the armies of God?” The portrayal of Goliath as a giant coming down from the higher ground on top of David was an objective in the narration. It is what is really happening within the story. However, the relative perspective of David is displayed in dialogue. He refused to recognize Goliath as a giant, nor would he recognize the position he held as the higher ground. David, in practical matter, understood this fundamental truth: men don’t slay giants, giants slay men. So, the answer to killing the giant is simple–just simply refuse to acknowledge Goliath’s gianthood, in favor of embracing your own. Moral of the tale: there was only one giant in the story of David and Goliath, and it wasn’t Goliath.
I am as big and as bad as I think I am: that is my new training, teaching, learning (living) goal. Because, in the end, I don’t want to be the one avoiding the uke’s gaze. Instead, I want to be the guy you avoid the gaze of. I want to be the guy O’Sensei warned you about.
The other guy–nage–a giant slayer.