The similarities between Aikido and NLP

What you read here are the notes of a talk that I gave recently about the similarities between Aikido and NLP.

These notes were written with my dual perspective as an Aikido instructor, and a Trainer in NLP.

Aikido is a martial art that can help a person achieve a greater sense of relaxation and well-being, grace, balance, compassion, and overall awareness.

The principles of Aikido can be incorporated into our daily life and we can achieve immediate benefits from our study. Students come to learn how changes in their physical/mental/emotional state affects all that they do. All people of all ages, regardless of their fitness or condition, can benefit. It is hoped that students come away with an increased overall feeling of well being, health, and vitality.

NLP: “Neuro” Signifying that all experience is received through the neurology of our 5 senses;

“Linguistic” referring to the coding of the information received through the 5 senses into language;

“Programming” as a description of the way in which this coding is organized by the brain.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a field of study that can help people to achieve greater creativity, relaxation and well-being, compassion, grace, and intelligence, in the performance of their life’s activities. In this sense the potential outcomes can be very much the same as in Aikido.

The techniques that NLP uses to help a student become more advanced in the study and application of the art, have a great deal of similarity to the principles of Aikido. John Grinder, one of the founders of NLP used to call Aikido- The physical expression of NLP.

The originators of NLP decided to study people that performed with excellence.

One of the main purpose of NLP is to help students transfer the formulation of excellence as studied in others into one’s own life.

In Aikido, Ueshiba sensei studied with various masters in the martial arts. One of the main purposes in Aikido is to help students transfer what they learn on the mat into their everyday life. In Aikido we are not meant to be learning how to fight, but rather we are meant to learn how to live in a heartfelt generative manner.

It is very important to note that NLP in one way of thinking, is a synthesis of what has been learned by studying the patterns of various exceptional people. Aikido is a synthesis of the process of various exceptional martial artists.

The creators of NLP carefully noted what they observed while watching several geniuses in particular, perform in the course of their work. NLP distilled the principles of high quality performance/learning that were uncovered. In order to teach these principles, exercises and techniques were created in order to give the student an experiential understanding of these principles. The exercises and techniques of NLP are much more signposts to be followed, rather than skills to be mastered. The same is true of Aikido. In the real world we are not meant to apply exercises or techniques, but rather we are meant to be able to adapt the exercises and techniques to the situation at hand. It is the ability to adapt what we know to the situation at hand that is a beginning sign of mastery. This is a process of learning how to model excellence in one’s self and others. Flexibility, expanded awareness, openness to not knowing, and “knowing” what to do while not knowing, are some of the important ingredients for every student.

It is important to keep in mind that each student makes NLP and Aikido into a different study, depending on what it is they have in mind to accomplish.

NLP people tend to say that 90% of all communication is non-verbal, meaning that the actual words spoken are only 10% of what is being communicated. Akidoists tend to say that we must learn to understand our counterpart’s “mind” by using our “hara” or “one point” (which is characterized as an area in the lower abdomen), to tune into the “hara” of our counterpart.

There are many metaphors to describe our perception of life. Some people say that there is a kind of “glue” that holds everything together. Other people say that there is a common thread running through the entire fabric of life. Aikido calls this “glue” or common thread “Ki:” or Universal Energy and we practice in order to have an experiential understanding of “Ki.” I believe that NLP practitioners have the same task.

Aikido students approach their study from a beginning place of experiencing one’s physical body in relation to movement, balance, and flow.

Most NLP seems to begin with a more thought oriented approach that explores the common thread of how each mind works when in an optimal state.

We can use the study of NLP and Aikido to form habits that are more beneficial then the one’s that we are currently performing. We form new habits via the exercises and roles that these arts require us to carry out. As we learn the “proper habits” of these arts we hope to be able to concurrently generalize these new habits into the various other parts of our lives where they “fit”.

Ethical/Perceptual Framework

The model of teaching and learning that I am explaining suggests the importance of always considering what is best for ALL parties concerned in any given situation. This attention to “The whole” as compared to attention to one or more of the various parts of the whole, is in my mind the very essence of these two systems. In NLP, even as a salesman or other person involved in working in a field that requires swaying the client towards a particular service, product or way of thinking, the model requires that we assist the client in clarifying their needs and objectives, so that they act in their OWN best self interest. In Aikido, even when we are attacked, we are meant to take care for the attacker, as well as for ourselves. When we act in such a manner (in either art form) it is natural for the other person to develop a sense of trust and a more enduring commitment to relationship with us, and thus they will tend to take “our” needs into consideration as well.

In Aikido- “Keeping one point” (becoming centered) leads to a balance of mental and physical activity. We hope to achieve this in our study of NLP as well.

In NLP and Aikido we look to understand and feel that there is always a cybernetic loop of energy between “self” and “other”. We are all already connected to everything.

In both NLP and Aikido it is suggested that we continually extend our “ki” and send our mind/breath freely, out into the Universe, while “keeping one point” (remaining balanced) and maintaining a state of dynamic relaxation.

In both NLP and Aikido it is suggested that you learn how to understand the emotional impact of your partners beliefs, their sense of identity, and the way in which they perceive the situation that exists in the moment.

In both NLP and Aikido it is suggested that at all times you respect your counterpart’s “ki”. In this sense we can say that it is important to respect your counterpart’s model of the world. We work at understanding how to understand and respect our counterpart, while at the same time not necessarily agreeing with their model of the world.

In both NLP and Aikido the student explores “putting myself in the place of my counterpart” which amongst other things means understanding how I would react and feel if I had the same model of the world as my counterpart. We work at “becoming my counterpart” by adapting their breathing pattern, posture, and movements. In NLP this can be called “creating rapport.”

In both NLP and Aikido we work at learning how to perform with confidence. Especially at those times when the conscious mind does not know exactly what is occurring, or what to do next.

I see both NLP and Aikido as practices that can help us have greater awareness and compassion, while simultaneously accessing the full potential that exists at any one time.

When someone is in stress they tend to use only their “most valued” and most habituated modes of coping, rather than the full range of their abilities. This can be likened to a person in a rowboat that is sinking– The person will toss things out of the rowboat in reverse order of importance, until at last they are left with only what is vital to their survival and well being. In our study of NLP and Aikido we are meant to put aside what is not necessary, until we find ourselves embodying “the little bit that remains”– A pure heart and a simple mind. This means that we have less complications to deal with, but are left with much greater potential, compassion, and commitment.

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