Hypnosis, Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
and Aikido – Part 2

Note: This is part 2 of 5 of the original article published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis – Volume 34, November 4, April 1992 by Michael Samko, Ph.D and Rod Windle, Ph.D

Overview of Aikido

Aikido is a martial art with the stated purpose: to resolve conflicts and to help unify humanity (Uyeshiba, 1974). An attacker, by virtue of his aggressive frame of mind, is seen as being out of balance or harmony with his surroundings, in a state of distress (much as the patient who comes to the therapist for assistance). The skilled Aikidoist has the option of whether any injury or death occurs by how he applies his art; thus, an ethical component is an important aspect of Aikido.

Aikido makes total use of the attacker’s incoming energy and uses that energy to facilitate a throw, pin, and resolution of the discordant situation. In Aikido, size, age, or sex is not a factor in success, since it is not a match of strength against strength, nor of speed, cunning or guile.

The Aikidoist takes the energy (attack) offered, blends his energy with it, avoids all resistance, and leads the attacker where he has no choice but to fall. Especially, the Aikidoist is adept at first avoiding, and then utilizing, all resistance that might be offered. It is his forte to be able to do this without being caught up, mentally or physically, in a “struggle.”

Psychotherapists deal with similar issues of resistance daily, although usually their work is confined to a mental realm. Generally, it is accepted that therapists must remain inwardly calm and focused on their patients to help facilitate change. However, patient resistance can make this very difficult; the therapist can become caught up in his own anger, negativity, or feelings of impotence, and can unconsciously begin to struggle with clients rather than blend with them and utilize their energies and presentations.

Aikido offers specific training for creating and maintaining inner calm in the face of violence or threat that goes beyond what traditional therapist training offers. Aikido also has a unique understanding and methodology of dealing with resistance that may help therapists with their own work in this area.

Essential Components of Aikido: Centering
Techniques of throwing are taught in Aikido, just as techniques of induction or therapeutic response are taught in therapist training. However, during training it is made very clear that techniques alne are not sufficient. The most important component of Aikido is not the mechanics of movement, but the psychophysiological state of the Aikidoist. To perform Aikido effectively, one must enter a specific state of mind/body that is centered.

This centered state includes several aspects that closely parallel hypnotic trance, including deep relaxation, parasympathetic response, arm catalepsy, lack of startle reflex, unfocused gaze, and time distortion. Aikidoists hold that this centered state is a prerequisite to sensing another (the attacker) with enough clarity and sensitivity to respond appropriately.

Aikido centering as a discrete psychophysiological state fits in well with a schema discussed by Rossi (1986). Rossi contends that many mental and physical phenomena, including hypnosis, amnesia, and placebo or “miraculous” healings, are examples of state-dependent memory, learning, and behavior. Many different states are available to us, and what we know, think, feel, and remember depends on what state we have accessed. Aikido centering has those characteristics of a discrete psychophysiological state. Certain functions that are central to Aikido performance are only possible when one is in the centered state.

Western writers have been imprecise in describing what the attributes of their mental states are when doing therapy or hypnosis. One advantage of investigating Aikido training in centering is that the attributes of the state, or at least the major behavioral correlates, have been clearly defined. These attributes include the following:

1. Physical relaxation, combined with a balanced posture (not rigid, not limp).
2. Loose shoulders and a general absence of excess muscle tension.
3. Loss of startle reflex.
4. “Soft” eyes (simultaneous use of focus and peripheral vision).
5. Slow, diaphragmatic breathing into the abdominal section of the body.
6. Increased awareness of energies flowing into and out of the body.
7. Perception of self and others nonjudgementally and simultaneously.
8. Increased ability to detect minimal psychophysiological cues from others.
9. Slowing or absence of internal dialog.
10. Spontaneously (i.e.,subconsciously/intuitively) generated associations, ideas or understandings about others.


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