By Fritz Amer
"There is a field outside of right and wrong. I will meet you there." -Rumi
It was an extraordinary experience to be in the presence of a teacher like Anno Sensei. At his core, Anno is a spiritual teacher and Aikido is the medium through which he walks his spiritual path.
By "spirit," I mean nothing dogmatic. I'm using it to refer to the human spirit, our individual ki and how we connect it to universal energy and to the ki of our fellow beings. In my opinion, this study is the essence of Aikido and the essence of our life's journey.
Anno Sensei has gone a long way on this journey.
What I saw as I watched him was a person who places his technique in the service of his exploration of heart and spirit. And that, if he had not been an Aikidoist, no matter what he may have done in life, from sweeping floors to corporate law, he would have used any situation he was in to further his quest for expanded consciousness.
Through years of training and inquiry into his own inner landscape, Anno Sensei has moved to a high level of receptivity. He has moved from reaction to response, from fear and its judgments to a timeless serenity. Both take stock of what is happening but reaction answers the situation by calling up an entrained reflex that may be appropriate or may not. This reaction is rutted into us and is very difficult to control. It reduces or even eliminates choice. Nowhere is this better experienced than on the mat. Even very advanced Aikidoists constantly work to overcome their tendencies and habits so that they will be free to choose how to respond in each unique situation.
Aikido is a process that entrains new patterns in order to allow us to be present in each moment with no attachment to the past or fear about the future. When we reach such a state of being, we will be able to respond rather than react. Response is choice rooted in our subjective perspective that allows us to feel all of what is before us: its intent, intensity, shape and rhythm and to answer it in an authentic way rather than deflect or flee from it.
I could see Anno Sensei's responsiveness in the way he never rushed and in the inclusiveness of his gestures. There was an inner power that allowed him to be modest without self-effacement and loving without judgment. This is a vulnerability that can be created only by the ultimate strength.
Everyone comes to Aikido for their own reasons and therefore there are many points of view about its purpose and methods. In Anno Sensei I saw what I wish to achieve, an open heart and an open mind. He has transcended the martial aspect of the art because he has transcended inner conflict. There was no question of defense because he didn't see an attack. He responded to each situation by accepting it and offering himself to it without attachment.
Someone who was uke for Sensei said that he doesn't throw, he just places himself and you go down.
And what I heard him saying over and over was that if you want a good technique, change your heart. If you want harmony, change your heart. If you want good feelings, change your heart. In other words, place yourself inside and the outside will follow.
This is nothing less than what every mystic seeking enlightenment has said from the beginning of time.
"Ultimately, you come to the state where you do nothing and accomplish everything." - Lao Tzu
*Fritz Amer, MA has been sizzling with enthusiasm since she began training with Kimberly Richardson Sensei at Two Cranes Aikido, in Seattle, WA. She is fascinated by the universal quality of Aikido's principles. Fritz has written a trilogy of children's Aikido stories and is the owner of Errata Writing Service. You can contact her at email@example.com.