Between non-duality and synesthesia: Aikido is such stuff dreams are made on

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep (William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV)

Literature and poetry have given us wonderful pages. A poet’s skill to represent a reality and a concept through words becomes real art when a reader almost physically perceives that sentence. What are dreams made of? Who has ever physically seen a dream?

Yet each of us “feels”, “sees” and “touches” the velvet or the harsh of our dreams.

Synesthesia is precisely the ability to combine and hybridise two clearly distinct sensory perceptions to merge them into a new level of communication. In neurology it is the sensory phenomenon whereby, as a result of a clear stimulus from one sense, there is an equally clear response from another sense. Salvatore Quasimodo’s “black scream” in Alle fronde dei salici poem is a perfect representation of synesthesia, both on an artistic and physical level.

Aikido is proposed as a discipline that studies the overcoming of a dual vision. The couple formed by nage and uke and their continuous exchange of roles of intention and reception creates a dimension in which the margins blur and gradually a new perspective arises. In the clarity of roles and responsibilities, the “us” shows up.

There is a risk of misunderstanding about this characteristic – which is common to every discipline but is more marked in Aikido. On the one hand, there is a serious possibility of self-manipulation: overcoming duality does not dilute, rather it refines the truth. What, albeit with smiling and friendly tones, we practice on the tatami requires to be taken very seriously. The lines of attack are either clear or they are nothing. Centrality, being grounded, taking other’s balance,… No principle, when absent, can be replaced by our desire for it to exist. Either it’s there in reality or it isn’t, even if in our heads we wish it were. And so often a facade of pacifism is on the air. A kind of soup where there is everything inside and its opposite and for this reason it has no taste. Pacifism and not harming anyone are good things. Less good if they are shortcuts used to get rid of the embarrassment of living the effort of clarity and acceptance of the limit that it highlights.

On the other hand, the overcoming of duality is an experiential reality. Although it is intuitively accessible, it is only a direct experience that can restore its sensation and truthfulness. Seen from the outside, the practice of Aikido marked by the search for non-duality raises many eyebrows. Even within the circle of those who practice combat sports.

And this is where synesthesia arises.

It has happened to us many times, especially in recent years, to come into contact with those we can define as “budoskeptics” and make them “feel” the experience of some typical principle of Aikido, in connection with their body, with their balance and stance.

Usually skepticism evaporates and turns into very funny expressions of surprise.

What did it happen? It happens that in Aikido there is an incredibly long time to stay in contact between two people, between two psychophysical systems that travel the world contained within the limits of their bodies.

In this timeframe, hybridization begins. On a geometrical and physical level, two centers converge towards a third point around which the action is resolved, modifying the balance and structure of one of the two.

At a pressure and hormonal level, breathing, the variation of position, the application and intensity of energy, continuously modify the parameters of the couple during the technique, fatally lowering the masks and barriers that each of us consciously or not wears and builds.

In contact, and over time, emotional states begin to be perceived and it is in this phase that mutual contamination leads the couple to a level of mutual understanding that is not verbal, it is not technical but transcends the levels of form to arrive at a which is not so clear -nor important- who attacks or who defends.

Our attacks, as well as our techniques, open up to the most total synesthesia. Who among us has never thrown a “honey tsuki”? Who has never received a lever made of fire? Well, that’s the meaning.

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, therefore, our Aikido is made of the stuff of which the most intimate elements that constitute us are made and it is up to us to discover its nature to understand whether it is appropriate to change or enrich it.

Of course, the goal remains to overcome definitely a latent duality. We believe it is a possible goal, which requires knowing how to bring our stuff to light every time a partner grabs our wrist.

Disclaimer: Picture by Jr Korpa from Unsplash

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