Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Within about a week, I witnessed two separate and completely different events through the internet that brought something peculiar to mind.

The first was sitting back around midnight when my twitter stream announced that Moby was streaming live from the Coachella music festival on YouTube. I watched in awe as a sea of bodies pulsed together to the rhythm of the music and the flashing lights over the course of an hour. In my younger days, events like this just weren't part of my experience. I wouldn't have found being part of such a crowd appealing in any way, and I wasn't prone to "losing myself" to music or anything else. So watching, I wondered what it would be like to stand in the center of that crowd, and I wondered if I could "enter" into the experience with the others or if I would stand there in some sense alone.

Boston Marathon, via The Washington Times
The next event was the unfolding of the events surrounding this year's Boston Marathon. At once the news feeds and social media came to life. The news stations in particular went wild with moment-by-moment speculation while the social media gushed with wild emotion.

And just like with the Moby concert, I sat as an observer and wondered what it would be like to be one of those people so deeply affected by what they observed... Could I leave my detached perspective and enter into the experience, feeling the waves of empathy that affected everyone so deeply?

via tomikiaikido.blogspot.com
In Aikido we have the concept of "Irimi"--or "Entering." As we've discussed here many times, at a basic level the defender is closing distance toward the attacker, often in an unexpected and disruptive way. Even within the confines of a safe dojo environment and within a fixed choreography to practice an attack-defense exchange, it can take the student quite some time to become comfortable stepping toward someone intent upon killing you. It takes even more time before it's natural, particularly in unscripted exchanges. It may take even more time before the student develops the attitude of freedom and situational control that the physical entry represents and integrates it into daily life within any situation. After all, the irimi is not the concept of entering into an attack, nor is it really a programmed response; both of those stand between the student and the actual irimi. If anything, irimi is what happened when your spirit stepped forward and takes charge, trusting your body to use the techniques it's learned. It's not necessarily when you "become one with the technique," "become one with the attacker's energy," or anything else... You've not given yourself to the overwhelming attacker nor are you solely responding instinctively, however skilled; rather, you become fully present and step forward, defining the situation in your own terms.

When I wondered if I could even enter into the roles of what I was witnessing, I immediately failed... unless, of course, I entered spontaneously--and perhaps unwittingly--into the role of an observer.

It's a "technique" that--in my experience--has served me well.

Are people defective for being detached? Is an "observer" necessarily passive? Does being an observer not actually affect the outcome of a situation? Where do we draw the line? What are your thoughts?

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