Hypnosis, Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
and Aikido – Part 5

Note: This is part 5 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

Training of Blending Skills in Aikido

Training of blending skills, as with centering skills, takes place on both mental and physical levels. In the “turning exercise,” two Aikidoists stand facing each other: in three turning steps, they pass face-to-face, almost touching. They end facing each other, having merely changed sides. After multiple repetitions, the two begin to function almost as opposite halves of one organism, operating in perfect synchronicity, “a magnet shifting polarity” (Leonard, 1973, p.18).

At a more advanced level of training, there is a group of techniques known as kokyu-nage (literally, breath throws). In these, the Aikidoist moves in response to the opponent’s ki, entering it in such a way that the attacker’s body is drawn off-center and made to fall without any physical contact. Techniques such as these, demonstrate the refined, applied use of blending and leading resistant energy.

Blending in Aikido is the single most effective way of gaining control over an opponent’s energy and physical body; similarly, utilization is an effective tool for inducing trance in hypnosis and producing change in therapy. Aikido is able to offer a conceptual framework that helps to understand why blending and utilization or effective. The principle can be stated simply: Force seeks force. This means that an untrained individual will immediately offer resistance when force is applied to him. If his wrist is grabbed, he will try to pull his wrist away. If his lapels are grabbed, he will push or pull with his chest or will attempt to twist his chest out of the grip. The individual’s mind is naturally drawn to the point of contact, and from this point of contact, resistance springs. Selye’s alarm reaction again serves as a useful model to describe physiological response. However, this way of responding to force will only result in tug-of-war, relying on physical strength. Likewise, a therapist who confronts resistance directly or responds to it without utilizing it may find himself engaged in a contest of wills.

Aikido is a process of not being drawn into a tug-of-war or a conflict. The Aikido solution to force-seeks-force may be stated as Never put power at the point of contact. If an attacker grabs the wrist of an Aikidoist, the Aikidoist “gives” the wrist to the attacker. This causes the attacker to feel in control. He feels no force resisting him and so he does not experience a heightening of tension and conflict. His sense of power is not threatened. Yet, subtly, the Aikidoist is moving other parts of his body, radiating out smoothly from his hara. The result is that the attacker usually feels totally in control until, quite suddenly, all balance is inexplicably lost, and he tumbles to the ground.

Aikido works, in part, because the attacker can find nothing to push back or resist against. There is no way to fight with an Aikidoist or resist his technique because the Aikidoist is not there at the point of contact. He generates his power from another place, a place the attacker cannot push back against. By not directly confronting the attack (resistance), by not activating a force-seeks-force response, an Aikidoist gains the ability to control the other’s movement and balance. The Aikidoist’s motion, when it occurs, also initially takes place in a manner that blends completely with other’s energy. When a change in direction does occur, it is accomplished so that the attacker feels no force or change until it is too late. He has already been guided to a condition of imbalance where resistance is no longer possible..

Blending, Resistance, and Pattern Interruption

There is a very close parallel between how an Aikidoist deals with an attack and the most effective methods of utilizing resistance in trace production and in psychotherapy. Resistance may be very simply viewed as nothing more complex than a patient’s pushing back mentally against a force or direction he perceives as coming from a therapist. The context of the patient’s experience is somehow at odds with the therapist’s ideas, and so the patient very naturally resists this change of direction that he perceives as a force affecting him. Thus, the principle force seeks force is in action, with the resultant psychological correlates. The therapist who understands this principle can guide a patient to success without resistance.

To utilize this principle, the therapist must operate in a manner that will not activate a force-seeks-force reaction from his patients. This means, in general, that he must move from a point other than the point of contact. In therapeutic terms, this means that he proceeds indirectly, or that he must have a depotentiated resistance before he moves directly. If a patient cannot sense change as force coming from the therapist, he is less likely to resist it. Thus, if the change is suggested symbolically or metaphorically, if it is presented in an imbedded manner or in a way that confuses or weakens the force-seeks-force response, then the change or suggestion will be more readily accepted by the patient.

Erickson made frequent use of confusion in trance and therapy to disrupt the patient’s usual patterns of processing their experience. Similarly, Aikido interrupts the usual pattern of force seeks force by moving in an unexperienced manner. The resulting imbalance of the patient or attacker makes it more difficult to resist and allows both arts’ practitioners to lead in a different direction, facilitating new possibilities and patterns. Both disciplines confuse by a lack of presented “power,” by an absence of the familiar push back to conflict or resistance. This confusion tends to loosen up the focus or rigidity of an attack, or intrapersonal contextual set. Power for change is then applied indirectly, away from the conscious focus of contact.

Conclusion

Aikido’s effectiveness is very much a function of the centered state of the Aikidoist, coupled with his facility to blend with the attacker, and with his range of technique. In Ericksonian hypnosis, shared or therapist trance is sometimes acknowledged as important, but utilization and pattern interruption are explored more often and given more weight.

Therapist trance has only recently become an important consideration in some circles. Erickson’s philosophy and teaching style indicated that he understood the value of the therapist being in a ceratin flexible, accepting, and responsive state. He demonstrated that hypnotherapy could be facilitated if the therapist could use his own trance or altered states.

Aikido provides existing conceptual and practical framework for the use of the altered states in relational context. The production and therapy may find that the methods of Aikido have value in helping him to access his optimum state. He might utilize a cue or cues to access state-dependent behaviors, which could have utility during observation, in helping to clear his mind of one patient before another, during stressful therapeutic encounters, or in generating solutions to problems.

Aikido also may hold promise as a useful system for helping to understand the utilization of resistance in hypnosis and therapy. Training adopted from that offered in Aikido could facilitate methods of anticipating and avoiding nonproductive clashes of power in the therapeutic encounter. The visual and kinesthetic nature of Aikido provides students of the mind with additional sensory channels to observe and to interact with phenomena that are usually verbal, or minimally visual.

Erickson and Uyeshiba appear to have corroborated with each other’s discovery of principles of great power and multiple application. Continuing cross fertilization of methodologies and cultures can lead to increased understanding of the basics underlying human behavior and change and can provide therapists with more precise tools and training methods with which to work.

References

  • Delkman, A. (1982). The observing self. Boston: Beacon Press
  • Erickson, M. H. & Rossi, E. L. (1977). Autohypnotic experience of Milton
  • Erickson, M.D. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 20, 36-54
  • Erickson, M. H. (1967). A hypnotic technique for resistant patients. In J. Haley (Ed.), Advanced techniques of hypnosis and therapy, pp. 32-36. New York: Grune & Stradton
  • Freud, S. (1963). Further recommendations in the techniques of psychoanalysis. In Therapy and technique: Collected essays. New York: Macmillan (Original work published in 1915)
  • Gilligan, S. (1987). Therapeutic trances: The cooperation principle in Ericksonian hypnotherapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel
  • Hayward, J. (1986). Science and intuitive wisdom. New York: E.P. Dutton, pp. 202-206
  • Leonard, G. (1973). Aikido and the mind of the west. Intellectual Digest, June, 1973, 17-20
  • Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person, Boston: Houghton/Mifflin
  • Rossi, E. (1986). The psychology of mind-body healing: New concepts of therapeutic hypnosis, New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Selye, H. (1976). The stress of life. New York: McGraw/Hill
  • Takahashi, S. (1979). Memoirs of the Master. Aiki News, 47, 7
  • Uyeshiba, K. (1974). Aikido. Tokyo: Aikido Hozansha Publishing, p.23
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