Canine Aikido? Taking the Leap…

After much anticipation within myself, I am now ready to document the journey I am taking where my martial arts study parallels and interweaves with my dog training. As many of you know, I am a practitioner of aikido, a Japanese martial art that utilizes blending movement between uke (‘oo-kay‘, attacker) and nage (‘nah-geh‘, person applying technique). Aiki is a combination of harmonizing with movement while using and projecting “ki”, the universal life force or energy that all beings possess. So, through waza (technique) we implement throws, joint locks, and neutralizing the attack. In NDT terms: conjoining of polarities and subsequent resolution of stress to overcome the .01%. All of this is done through smooth and soft blending of movement with a mind that is slowed (tuned), and focused (steady state). A common term we use in aikido is “internal strength” which allows us to, as we say in our dojo, “move without moving.” None of this has to make sense right now, but for those of you who are familiar with NDT theory, you probably have picked up on the terms I’ve inserted thus far.

Having given you the above quick and dirty intro to aikido, I want to highlight on some “Aha!” moments we had at class last night. We were practicing some randori (multiple person attack) – this is a bit what it looks like

I guess you could say the nage (again, the person apply aiki techniques), from an NDT lens, would be equatable to “the moose” (i.e. multiple attackers surrounding one person much like a pack of wolves surrounding a moose or buffalo). This is a topic that I plan to expand on in a later post so hold your thoughts on that for now. Anyway, last night when I was nage I started out with one attacker and blending was going well. I felt like I had smooth movement and was throwing the uke pretty good. Suddenly, sensei sent another attacker my way. As soon as my vision caught him, I instantly went into panic mode because it caught me off guard. I became “stuck” in my movement and all flow dissipated. I admitted that my mind went to thinking, “I can’t move this way or I will turn my back to the other uke.” I became rigid and disjointed in my reaction and got hooked up in the attack – all because I started to think and the world just seemed to disappear in a flash. Needless to say, we went to the board for discussion. Sensei had us gather around as he wrote the following on the board:


When I saw what was being written, I instantly went into NDT mode of mind. I began to see more of a connection between NDT/Design in Nature and Aiki than ever before. It dawned on me how simple it really is. “Flow and Go” is NATURAL — in ANY context. In aikido we feel the movement of another. Sure, we utilize our vision but it goes beyond that. On a deeper level we feel and subsequently move from our center as we feel the movement from the others’ center. Emotional/Physical center of gravity, anyone? This is how we blend. This is why we harmonize. Moreover, in traditional martial arts (aikido included) we follow the concept of Mushin, or “no mind” or “mind of no-mind.” This allows us to flow without the resistance of the thoughtful, chattery mind (Big Brain). Much like the dog and his handler, the uke and nage become one with each other, like a dance centered and connected around one point of contact. This might be like saying the midpoint for the dog becomes the human when they are in a state of flow just as the uke becomes the midpoint when their movement blends with the nage’s.

Dogs don’t operate on “thinking mode” and neither does nature. Nature doesn’t analyze. Humans do, and much to our benefit in certain regards. When it comes to dog training and even such practices like aikido, we humans must give ourselves permission to move by feel. In cartain situations that is automatic however, in others we must train ourselves. That permission is not given by the mind…it is given by the body. If our true sense of connection to nature was thing-like, might it be symbolized by the physical and emotional essence of a dog? I think so, and I think that’s what NDT points to in my opinion. Its easy to get caught up into the mechanics of NDT techniques and to a degree that is appropriate when we are first learning and applying. But see if you can attune more to your own movement as you train your dog. Let your body guide you in connection with what your dog is showing with his movement. As for aikido, I am learning to receive and embrace the attack as it comes so that I can flow and blend. Take the pushing technique in NDT, we essentially are assuming a physically open stance, to welcome and embrace the entering of the dog into our physical space. This becomes a physical, biological, emotional process, much less a mental or cognitive process.

© 2011 – 2014 by Scott Hamilton and ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author.

One Comment Add yours

  1. bobscomment says:

    I think it is the same with music and dance, that is, we feel the beat and move/dance to it. We do not analyze it or think it over before getting out on the dance floor. It is felt by the body; not thought out by the ‘Big Brain’. JMT

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