As part of the requirements for the PhD program I was in a few years back, I had the pleasure of learning a martial art – Aikido. I’d already done quite a bit of training in martial arts when I was younger, but Aikido is quite different from Karate. Not to descend too far down a tangent, but, in my understanding, Aikido is much more about blending whereas karate’s primary focus, again, in my understanding, is not blending.
One of the exercises we would often do to practice this sense of blending involved our partner (or partners as it was usually in groups of three or more!) to approach us as if they were attacking us. It was our job to then move out of the way, whilst staying centered. [Note: I couldn’t find any video of this particular exercise, as I think it’s quite basic. However, I was able to find some video of some of the basic Aikido exercises that are similar to the one I’m describing.] The tempo of this exercise usually started out really slow (intentionally). Though, as time passed, our partners would then speed up. You can imagine how it might be challenging to stay centered in this kind of an activity.
During these times of practice, I remember having a bit of an epiphany.
As my partner would approach me and I would step out of the way, I noticed that the quicker (and the more out of balance!) I was, the more out of balance I would be when stepping out of the way for the next partner who was approaching. Think about that for a second: as I stepped out of the way of one partner and I was off-balance, I was that much more off-balance when stepping out of the way for the next partner. It’s almost akin to the Bullwhip Effect.
This may seem like a small thing to notice, but we can apply this lesson to a much broader (macro!) scope. Let’s think about this in terms of our own lives. When I am faced with one problem or issue and I “lose my center,” I will be that much more out of balance when approaching the next problem that comes my way. This sense of being out of balance seems to grow exponentially (see: the Bullwhip Effect).
We can apply this to an even broader scope (communities or countries). When a community/country reacts to a problem they are faced with, and they aren’t approaching the problem from a sense of balance (and they don’t maintain a sense of balance throughout the problem-solving process), there will usually be a sense of being out of balance at the end of the solution. Furthermore, by being out of balance at the end state, when the next problem approaches, there will be even more “out of balance.”
There’s just two more things I want to mention about my experience during this Aikido exercise. First, when I noticed myself starting to get out of balance during the exercise, I would often try really hard to get myself back in balance. This only made it worst. As I would try to get back to a sense of balance, I would often swing the other way, causing more imbalance, etc. And second, eventually, by being out of balance, I would fail the exercise. That is, by being so out of balance, I might not see one of my partners who was behind me.
The consequence of being out of balance in this exercise illustrates the inherent narrow-minded focus of one who is not centered.