I don’t know much about martial arts. So when the subject of aikido came up as it relates to training at a recent facilitator training, I was intrigued. I began to ask myself, “How does aikido relate to training?”
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as “the Way of unifying (with) life energy.”] Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury. From what I can tell, there is a substantial amount of mental as well as physical ability involved; in fact, there may be less physical strength involved than other martial arts because the essence of aikido requires the practitioner to blend their motion with that of their attacker and redirect the force of the attack, rather than opposing it head-on.
This concept struck me as immediately relevant and applicable to training in two ways.
First, as performance consultants, internal or otherwise, how often do we try to tackle problems “head on”? Here’s the common scenario: a manager or other executive comes to us, and of course, they know just what the problem is. I n fact, they have the intervention already designed, and you and your team just need to “fix” whatever it is that’s not working. Preferably soon. And preferably in under four hours.(Sound familiar?)
Of course, our first impulse is to jump in feet first, whether it’s to get it done, or push find back for further performance analysis. But how often do we blend our motion with that of the person requesting training, redirecting the request, rather than opposing it head on? Maybe it’s just me, but I spend way too much energy in “head on” situations, rather than aligning myself to others.
Second, as stand-up trainers, do we check our ego at the door every time we teach to ensure that we have concern for the well-being of our students? Now, certainly our students are not opponents, but who hasn’t felt attacked in a training session once or twice? Who hasn’t secretly thought of themselves as imparting wisdom, as a subject matter expert brimming with insight and awareness? I confess that I feel confident when I am the expert in the room – but is that the best mind set for a effective learning environment?
Aikido suggests that you align yourself with the other, find out where the common ground lies, and go from there. According to my research, aikido’s philosophy is fundamentally derived from the belief that deceptions, trickery and brute force will not enable us to defeat our opponents. Instead, concentration that invokes the spirit will be sufficient to strengthen us. So, although I won’t be flipping anyone through the air in my next training session, I do think that aikido’s emphasis on alignment, focus, and “concentration that invokes the spirit” are excellent concepts to apply to training.
Adjunct Instructor, The Training Clinic