The Way of Harmony

Aikido. A.S.I.A. Bologna. Italy. M° Bertossa 003 by Squiz.biz

Aikido was originally developed as a defensive martial art in Japan and has since spawned many different styles. The style I practice is Ki Aikido. Ki Aikido abstains from the terms martial art and self defense branding itself as a distinct art form that focuses on developing ki, the Japanese word for “harmonious spirit”. Once you’ve practiced with someone who has spent many years developing their ki you become aware of their superior balance and ability to move you with seemingly no effort. Ki means different things to different people. Some people place ki in a spiritual realm. Some people believe the impressive results are purely psychological and physiological.

The principles of Aikido can be practiced through ki tests. Aikidoers adopt a stance and then their balance is tested by applying pressure to various points on their body. One of the astonishing lessons from these tests is that good balance is all in the mind. If you’re focusing on the wrong thing then the tester will be able to move you. If you train your mind to focus in the right way then you will remain steadfast.

Ki Aikidoers develop and refine skills that can be applied to all walks of life. Skills such as self awareness, poise, confidence and relaxation. Many skills fundamental to public speaking could be improved using the principles of Aikido.

Ki Aikido has four principles for coordination of body and mind. Each principle could be used to train your mind to make you a more confident and relaxed public speaker.

1. Focus on your one point

Tense all of your muscles in your lower abdomen. You will become aware of a internal space blow your navel, above your groin and between your hips that cannot be tensed. In Aikido this area is called your one point and is your body’s centre of gravity. Focusing on your one point can dramatically improve your balance and add power to your movements.

At the beginning of a speech focus on your one point. This will force you to be centred and balanced and prevent problems like putting too much weight on one leg, nervous shuffling or movement of the hips.

2. Completely relax

When you’re completely relaxed you will appear more confident and perform better. But when your mind is focused on remembering a speech you may forget to take a moment to calm down.

Are any muscles tensed? Perhaps your forearms and hands are ridged giving you robot like body language. Maybe your facial muscles are tense. Take the time check your body is completely relaxed and that your breathing is slow and regular.

3. Have a light posture

This principle is about maintaining a tall, relaxed posture. Your head should be held high and your shoulders should be relaxed. This posture makes you look confident and happy, it is also a comfortable way to stand. If you slump you may look depressed or timid, something you want to avoid while on stage.

4. Extend your mind

This principle is about extending your awareness beyond your own body. There is an interesting exercise where Aikidoers are asked to point at something, if they focus on what they are pointing at (extending their mind beyond their body) their arm should be difficult to bend. If they assume the same position but focus their mind on their hand their arm becomes easy to bend. Trust me, this really happens. You have to see it to believe it.

Fear of public speaking may lead to avoiding eye contact or closed body language. The speaker may be so focused on what they are trying to say that they neglect to make a connection with the audience. Rather than trying to create a barrier between you and the audience you should extend your mind over the whole room. You should be aware of each person from the front to the back rows. Once your focus is in the right place you’re voice and eye contact will naturally follow.

“The techniques of Aikido are neither fast nor slow, nor are they inside or outside. They transcend time and space.” - Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 11, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I did not know much about the Aikido despite of my nationality! Very interesting and I could learn much from you!

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