Walking on the path of a martial discipline is a fascinating experience, sometimes it’s hard.
Training after training our psychophysical system opens up to new dimensions, movements, habits and perspectives we weren’t aware of.
The same happens with words, with terminology and concepts through which we verbally communicate what we try to embody in our practice. This is an area in which several critical issues arise: either because as part of Western culture we are used to schematize, conceptualize, trying to understand even before experiencing it directly, or because the terms used in practice and the concepts from which they derive originate from languages and cultures far from ours.
Thus it is not uncommon to find martial arts’ practitioners who, in a sincere and convinced way, repeat sentences and words spoken on the other side of the globe, in other languages and in other times. With the risk of creating misunderstandings and misguiding ideas.
One of the most “dangerous” words is harmony.
We know that generally Western individual is fascinated by the representation of the Eastern world as a dimension of clean rigor, of kindness, of decorous formality. Places and times where everything works well. Where an individual finds himself or herself in contact with nature and through certain practices.
To describe all this, we use a term that derives from the Greek, ἁρμονίζω, armonizo, from which harmony, in fact, stems.
Yet… That term originally meant “connecting, adapting, putting something alongside something else”.
From this point of view we should therefore consider a heap of rubbish, a bag among another, an industrial chicken farm, a set of instruments that plays music simultaneously, to be harmonious.
Yet usually we all consider a clean garden as harmonious, on which maybe free-range chickens scratch with a delicate background music…
What, then, does harmony need to be really such?
Probably the concept that we summarize with the word “unity”.
We are fine, we generally feel pleasure when we feel immersed, we feel “one” with what we live. In a relationship, in a family, in a beautiful landscape, during a sensorial immersive experience …
We can say that we tend to be attracted to harmony. It is this, nothing else, that drives us to get out of our comfortable shell and “connect” us to another. And that’s what a martial discipline aims at achieving from every individual; each keiko aims at the physical level to engage the person in an incremental connection path.
Our whole system realizes when this moment of total union occurs, or if we prefer to say it in Japanese, when aiki shows up. It’s a unique feeling.
It is a rare sensation and it does not pop up “on purpose”, we can only set the ground with constant work for this to happen. With perseverance, patience, confidence, training after training.
In this way harmony becomes a less dangerous word. The risk of considering oneself as a disturbed guru, or a new Saint Francis with a black belt on, drops dramatically if you start listening to that faint voice that speaks of beauty and unity and that you can grasp by silencing everything else.
Disclaimer Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash