Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Putting things into perspective!

A post from the Aikiweb .com forum 19th July 2006, posted by David Chalk:

A father passing by his son’s bedroom was astonished to see the bed was nicely made, everything had been picked up and the room was tidy.  Then he saw an envelope propped up prominently on the pillow.  It was addressed “Dad”.  With trepidation, thinking the worst he opened the envelope and read the letter with trembling hands.
Dear Dad.  It is with great regret and sorrow that I write this note.  I had to elope with my new girlfriend, because I wanted to avoid a scene with you and mum.

I’ve been finding real passion with Tracy and she is so nice, but I knew you would not approve of her because of all her tattoos and piercings, her tight motorcycle leathers and because she is much older than me.  But its not only the passion, Dad, she’s pregnant.  Tracy said we will be very happy as she owns a trailer in the woods and has enough firewood to last most of the winter.  We share a dream of having many more children. 

Tracy has also opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana really doesn’t hurt anyone.  We will be growing it for ourselves and we can trade it with the others in the commune for as much cocaine and ecstasy as we want, maybe making a profit to spend on drink and cigarettes.  In the meanwhile we’ll be praying science will find a cure for AIDS, so Tracy can get better.  So don’t worry dad, I’m 15 and I know how to take care of myself.  Someday I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so you can get to know your many grandchildren.

Love, your son, John.

PS:  Dad, none of the above is true.  I’m over at Tom’s house; I just want to remind you that there are worse things in life than the school report that’s on my desk.  I love you!

Call when it is safe for me to come home.

A good example of the principles of Aikido!

Life in action. ‘Big’ Aikido.

  • Zanshin  -  awareness of possible issues and outcomes in advance (sen no sen – translated means ‘before – before’).
  • Putting into place a ‘before the event’ strategy.
  • Redirecting the potential energy of a confrontation.
  • Diffusing the situation before it happens.


To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit www.zanshinaikido.co.uk You can e-mail Peter at psethp@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

BLENDING (becoming ‘one with’).

Blending depends on more than ‘timing’. 

It is commonly accepted that ‘timing’ is one of the keys to success.  This is rather simplistic. Even ‘blending’ itself is open to interpretation.  To become ‘one’, what does that mean?

To keep it simple I’ll loosely confine myself to the physical act of blending energies with a partner as performed in activities such as martial arts (Aikido is a good example to use).  But can be applied to many/all other activities eg: dancing, sports, fishing – (Your adversary being the fish – your connection the rod and line.  Using the balanced flexibility of the rod and the strength and stretch of the line you can ‘play’ the fish efficiently and with little effort.  Sometimes landing a specimen many times the weight your equipment was designed for).   

 If a partner/assailant/competitor applies their energy against you – where do you start?
Do you respond? 
When do you respond? 
How do you respond?  (it may be too soon/late)? 
Do you anticipate? 
When do you anticipate? 
How do you anticipate? (It may be too/soon late)? 
Are you aware? 
How much are you aware? 
Do you see ‘all’ the potential dangers?

ZANSHIN = more than awareness. (Japanese word).
Are you ‘Go – no – sen’?  (After - before),  or  ‘Sen – no – sen’?  (Before - before). (Japanese phrases).

Do you wait and counter or try to anticipate and ‘get in first’?

Is there a fine line between attack and defence?  Or, no line at all?

A must!  Without rhythm appropriate to the energies at work, then timing is, well, basically a ‘waste of time’.  On a physical level an example could be:

As you may have seen in films, a horse running loose – cowboy jumps on as it is passing – good timing.
Lands in the saddle when horse on up stroke - bad rhythm – sore backside.

To blend correctly with any situation is incredibly difficult and takes more than being physically adept.  To truly blend you need mental, spiritual as well as physical elements.  You need to empathise as well as harmonise.

Important:  Never be drawn into the rhythm of the enemy!
Your rhythm must be ‘outside’ of your opponents, out of phase if you will.  This will affect his timing. 
This being so, does it mean that rhythm and timing are the same thing?  Are they interchangeable or are they separate things which depend and affect each other?

There’s something to think about!

To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit www.zanshinaikido.co.uk You can e-mail Peter at psethp@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Gentle Touch

Most things respond to the ‘gentle touch’ and the ‘gentle touch’ works well in all areas of life.

This includes Martial Arts and more importantly, relationships. Which in essence are what Martial Arts and life are about – establishing, developing, nurturing and sometimes safeguarding relationships.

Whether the relationships are, personal – one to one, within a group, nationally or internationally, employing the ‘gentle touch’ is the most constructive and positive way to deal with people and will always win through in the end.

Imagine, having a handful of sand, if you grip it tightly it squeezes through your fingers and you lose most of it.  What is left is crushed and misshapen. But, if you hold it carefully and gently, it moulds itself into your hand and none is lost.  It still maintains its own identity and independence.  It rests easily, conforming to the shape you form for it, blending and it comfortably becomes part of you.

Other well-known analogies are the bird and the butterfly.  If you try to hold either of them other than gently, they will struggle to escape or you will crush them.

In Martial Arts and life, a hard, strong, aggressive technique or approach may work.  But, you may be left with disharmony, damage, death and a negativity, which usually promotes or incites a very similar reaction.  This may develop and increase in scope and intensity, involving more and more people either by choice or not.  You can see where this may lead!

For example: In an aggressive act it is obvious that violence begets violence.  It is also true for a defensive act; if you are attacked and you respond ‘violently’ causing damage or worse to your attacker, their family, friends, allies will respond similarly causing a chain reaction of violence and chaos (Feuds, vendetta’s, conflict and wars).  This is regardless of where any blame lies; in life, blame or responsibility are easily or conveniently shifted, disregarded or ignored to meet current needs or agendas.

If however, you were to blend with your attacker’s energy (preferably before they form an ‘intent’ to attack), and lead them to a position where their energy is dissipated, then their capacity to harm you is gone and they are controlled but unharmed.

This is also very confusing for them!  They are usually used to the ‘feel’ of violence and the pain and discomfort of physical combat and they use this to reinforce their aggression, i.e.

 They attack, the other person retaliates, they get hit, - pain – adrenaline/endorphins/pain limiting chemicals released – a new monster emerges – a renewed more violent attack.

Some individuals actually get a ‘buzz’/‘high’, out of this cocktail of chemicals in their system and the feeling of control and power it gives them.  They can actually become ‘addicted’ to violence.

But, if upon attacking they find themselves for example sitting on their backsides relatively unhurt, they do not know how they got there, but they know you had something to do with it. Their thoughts may be ‘Oh bother, what on earth happened there?’ Or words to that effect!

Their friends/family/allies get to know, they then view you with more caution and respect, there is less likelihood of a repeat performance, sometimes, new alliances and friendships can be formed or at least a stalemate is achieved.

As mentioned, an even better strategy is to ‘react in advance’ (sen-no-sen); blend with them before their intent is formed. Recognise and blend with the ‘instigators’ of intent, dissipate whatever factors may be involved in the forming of the intent to attack.  The intent and desire will then be stillborn, dying in the womb as it were.          

This is very hard to do! It is called DIPLOMACY.

This does not mean be soft and passive, rather be assertive but use the ‘gentle touch’.

The ‘gentle touch’ applies to all things in life, it is the ‘strategy of harmony’ - A positive force in this world.

To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit www.zanshinaikido.co.uk You can e-mail Peter at psethp@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

How authentic is your art?

I was pointed to this article by a friend - though not about aikido or a mainstream art, it begs the question:  Are all martial arts not quite what they should be?

With most arts now studied as a hobby, pastime, leisure activity, tailored as it were to suit and literally an age away from their real application and purpose; are the arts being watered down, losing their real focus and impact? 

Even Aikido tends to be more and more leaning to the art side - beautiful and effective, but moving away from its real state as a martial art which is descended from a variety of practical combat arts. 

I always make a point of showing my students the reality and full potential of each movement i.e.  Its combat potential - what its reality is or could be.

Read the following article by John Clements:

Sword fighting is not what you think

To borrow a famous line, the problem with most people trying to understanding the true nature of historical sword combat is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.  Click to read more….

Do the points raised apply to your art as well?

Who is John Clements?
John Clements is a leading authority on historical fencing and one of the world’s foremost instructors of Medieval and Renaissance fighting methods. As a long-time Western martial artist who has been studying historical fencing since 1980, John is the most prolific writer on the subject of historical fencing. He has practiced European cut-and-thrust swordplay and for more than thirty years, taught on it in 15 countries, andresearched arms and armor on four continents.  He instructs both nationwide as well as internationally and (since 2005) from his one-of-a-kind private facility, Iron Door Studio, based outside Atlanta, Georgia. (ref: http://www.thearma.org/Director.htm)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A knowledge beyond the workings of the mind!

Ai-ki-do.  (Harmony – Spirit – Way).

What is generally practised world wide as ‘Aikido’, is in fact not really Aikido per se.  Rather it is a mixture of ‘techniques’ gleaned from various martial arts (depending upon the individuals experiences).  These are performed under what the individual perceives the translation of Aikido principles to be.

O’sensei (great teacher) Morihei Ueshiba was a brilliant technical martial artist, proficient at a number of arts. But, and here is the man’s genius.  He moved from this technical ‘doing’ stage, (the stage where technique is performed and the opponent is physically defeated by force and technique); forward to the ‘feeling’ stage where he attuned to the flow of energy, the vital importance of space, time, form, movement and rhythm.  Also, that ‘thing’ beyond anticipation, which when tapped, enables an individual to blend with and in advance of an attack, to facilitate the attacker to defeat themselves.  Even to the point of ‘merging minds’, as it were, to sense intent, even before it is formed.

(Sen No Sen).

Any individual who initiates an attack, or even thinks aggressive thoughts, has in fact already committed themselves to imbalance, in both mental and physical energy.

O’sensei and one or two others who understood and were attuned to this, could blend with this imbalanced energy and guide it to dissipation i.e. Lead the attacker to throw/defeat themselves, using no more than ‘zanshin’ awareness, space/distance, form and movement (minimum/transitory or no contact) – no ‘technique’ at all.

Traditional instruction must be based on technique, a structured core of defined and structured movements.  This is essential to establish a basic knowledge of principles, performance, ability, effectiveness and movement through the ranks.

But, some/most people, especially those who become adept and maybe receive kudos for their technical abilities, lose sight of O’sensei’s message and continue to amass an even greater repertoire of techniques.  They get stuck in the convention of what they perceive the art to be, they drag an ever increasing ‘baggage’ of technique along with them.

You can learn too many techniques.  So when the time comes to act, you have too many choices. This delays or interrupts your natural flow, your head becomes ’engaged’ and your natural instinctive actions are compromised.

To succeed in combat you must be in a state of Mu Shin - ‘no-mind’, this is not possible with your head full of techniques.

It was O’sensei’s wish, that when technically proficient, the basics learned, all students of the art should aspire to take up where he left off; to ‘feel’ Ai Ki and use it as a ‘way’ or ‘path’ by which to live;  to rise above the mundane/technique, however pretty and spectacular it seemed; to recognise Ai Ki in all things and to travel along the true path of harmony with all things.

Free your spirit, feel your art’.

Leave that heavy baggage of technique/convention behind.
It will still be where you left it when you need to go back to query/reflect, which you regularly will.

Aspire to be a swallow amid the chickens, but always remember you have to land occasionally for sustenance.  And try if you can to encourage the chickens to fly, or at least look up!

The following was on an ‘Aikiweb’ post (Aikiweb.com) –
‘It’s easy to squash a bug, it’s much harder to pick it up and let it go’. 

Says it all really!
I have used Aikido as an example, but the message is true of all martial arts as well as all areas of life. Try to fly – or at least look up!  Learn the basics, then, let them go.

Sensei Shoji Nishio said, "We are Artist's... using the tools of destruction to develop a peaceful way to express love and harmony within ourselves and others."

This chapter though describing a martial art, parallels with all other areas of life – learn the basics then using them as a base - explore, push the boundaries. Don’t be afraid of challenging convention and changing the basics if that is what you need to do.

© (P Seth 03).

To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit www.zanshinaikido.co.uk You can e-mail Peter at psethp@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, 2 March 2012

Nice to see it sometimes works! (Even if it’s just being aware).

(Email from a past student).

“Hi Peter, sorry been a while since said hello.
Chris probably said I was in Bournemouth now, hope everything's going well up there.

A little while before Christmas had a couple of thugs tried to beat me up.
First time, he pretended he wanted a word then went psycho on me, he grabbed for my throat, and I just stepped back quick and he had that eye-popping-out-socket look we get in aikido, like saying "what just happened?" 

Stayed calm, kept my hands up, and managed to block a swipe he took at me (and kept glasses on my face with the block!) Eventually he gave up and went back into this little clothes shop he manages.
I thought, maybe this'll blow over –

I had just located an aikido group in Bournemouth, and thought it would probably be a good idea to get along, and there was a class the very next day. Would you believe it, but he was teaching the very same escape from the throat-grab that I'd done the day before.

Anyway, the class wasn't much good - he didn't believe in the energy aspect of aikido and didn't do break-falls because "if someone can break fall the technique is not very good". When I asked but what if someone did something like a hip-throw, he just looked confused.

Decided after a few weeks to go past this shop again, and some guy comes running after me, saying "Hey, friend" but I knew something was up again.

So as he was running I turned to face square on, and then he started moving really slowly - like pretend slow motion. So I turned again and moved away quick, and he started to run again (obviously to hit me from behind). Did the same thing again, turning square-on and again he did this pretend-slow-motion thing again. The road was really busy, so somehow he got me cornered against a full glass window on 2 sides (like an L-shape). He kept speaking to try and distract me, he wanted to punch me when I wasn't aware, I just kept moving my arms in the right place; this went on for quite a while without him able to throw a punch. The guy who attacked me the first time was a few steps away as well behind him to the right. I could really feel the energy of how hard his punch would have been if it hit me at one point. Was surprised I didn't have an adrenaline dump, so that was good, but mentally I realised I could get killed here through the window pane. Was concerned about my glasses, he must have picked up on that, he says "Now you can't see," took a grab at my glasses and took a couple of steps back, that gave me my chance to get off of the window and decided to just make a run for it.

What was amazing though is that not one punch was thrown, even though they obviously intended to really smash me down.

So a long overdue thank you definitely in order, your aikido saved the day :-)
I did find another aikido group down here that I've been going to, they were incredulous that the other teacher doesn't teach rolls and falls! Much better, they do get the energy component. Hope everything is calmer in the North-East!

Hopefully see you soon,


To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit www.zanshinaikido.co.uk
You can e-mail Peter at psethp@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Knives & Weapons…. another one for debate.

 Knives!  Horrible things in the hands of fools!  In fact it does not even have to be a knife, almost anything can be employed to intimidate, terrorise, wound and kill.  It is the individuals not the weapons they use which must be the priority in addressing the present violence sweeping the country.

Apart from the criminal element and the perpetuation of violence for gain, the other main area is the violence which seems to be prevalent and increasing amongst the youth in this country.  With youngsters both male and female ranging from as young as nine or ten up to the age of early twenties and sometimes beyond being involved in nasty and sometimes deadly violence. 

How to address the issues?


This is by far the most important factor in controlling violent behaviour in general.

The youngsters who are most likely to use violence and carry weapons are usually the least likely to respond to traditional education but are usually attracted to activities of perceived violence.  As a practicing martial artist (who has worked within the traditional education system) may I suggest that one way could be that martial arts should be included in the national curriculum, even if it is outside of school hours?  In Japan for example where this system operates there is virtually no violent crime compared to this country. 

I know from experience the personal and social benefits good martial arts training imbues in the individual – respect, confidence, fitness, goal setting, tolerance, team work, good work ethic, and so it goes on – all positive things. It may also alter the general impression of martial arts as learning to be violent, instead of its real goal – to improve the individual character.

In answer to a media report that a thug had used martial arts techniques to beat up someone:  ‘If he had been a martial artist he would not have been a thug!’


Sensible – long term – NOT knee-jerk. Weapons, especially knives are readily available anywhere, but as previously mentioned it is the individual which is the main element in violence and this should be taken into account.

How about a positive sustained policy of stop and search when the carrying of weapons is suspected as well as more rigorous application of the sanctions already available?  Let those intent on violent acts realise there will be serious consequences – mandatory minimum sentences for the unlawful possession of weapons with intent. Even for those misguided souls who ‘carry for self defence’ out of fear.  Someone has suggested army style ‘boot camps’ to give the yobs a glimpse of real discipline and to generate some idea of respect – maybe a good idea?

Mankind is designed at its most basic to be violent, but there are many factors which come into play which control its use.  Some are regularly quoted in the face of the many incidents which occur – poverty, ethnicity, crime, alcohol, drugs, breakdown of the family, stress etc. These are all valid factors which must be addressed. 

There are more basic ‘human’ traits which directly influence violent behaviour.  Resources, tribalism – gangs – mutual defence - peer pressure (proving you belong by perpetrating violence on behalf of or as part of ‘the gang’), ego, greed, status, need to dominate (power) which gives you more access to available resources.

This could come under the heading of various levels of the natural survival instinct.  There are also the psychopaths and sociopaths who have no grasp of civilised or moral behaviour whose violence can be random and without reason.  But, in the main the bulk of society, want to live a peaceful life.

Training to defend yourself!

Does anyone actually know how a martial artist would fair if they defend themselves?

With the perceived misconceptions the media and the authorities seem to have (or manipulate for whatever reason) how are martial artists actually seen/viewed in a fracas situation?

I’ve heard in the past about a '6 month veteran' at karate who was involved in an 'incident' and the media had him down as an expert who used his 'great skill' on some poor thugs who attacked him. Not sure of the outcome but he didn’t get good press due to his 'vast' marts experience (a whole 6 months - can’t even walk properly in that time).

Are martial artists penalised for trying to learn to control violence and make themselves better citizens? Do we immediately become cast as aggressive, violent people? Does it actually make a difference to the authorities and how do they really view it? After all the police are trained in arrest, restraint, armed (to various degrees) tactics etc. Does that make them martial artists?? Some of this is tongue in cheek but also serious - would be great if someone from the media or authorities could give their take on the subject.


Until the law is clarified and common sense and moral justice is considered it is a very dodgy thing to intervene - the police are only too happy to 'apply' the 'law' AGAINST the good citizen. It’s a very easy point or two on the target board and a lot easier than dealing with a pack of yobs. Especially if the good citizen has a smattering of martial arts experience, after all we are all experts eh??

There is no incentive to be a good citizen if you risk arrest for doing so. A great shame that in this once proud country the nice guys are on the run. There’s lots of talk from the yoof lobby but how about some positive action - lets try address the problems. It’s a fact that teenagers are or can be in the right conditions the most dangerous sector of society (they have not developed empathy - poor moral limits) and have poor perception of boundaries. (During the war the Hitler youth aged 15 to 20 had the worst reputation for barbaric acts). You are much more likely to be killed by young 'yobs' than by older age groups. What are the limits a good citizen can go to defend themselves legally??

There’s that saying ‘Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6’.

To find out more about Sensei Seth's club visit www.zanshinaikido.co.uk You can e-mail Peter at psethp@yahoo.co.uk