Applied Principles: Being a good husband

Kokikai Basic Principles:

  1. Keep One Point
  2. Relax (progressively)
  3. Correct Posture
  4. Positive Mind

At our dojo, we look at these principles every time we step on and off the mat. When I teach, I tend to call attention to them–sometimes to a specific one, sometimes to all of them. Of these principles, perhaps the one that most often comes up in class is the second one: Relax (progressively). The idea is simple in concept, if difficult in execution: the more relaxed we are, the better we can assess a situation. We can move more correctly and more efficiently. We can prevent an opponent from applying their power because it is very difficult to use force against something that is relaxed and forgiving.

(Don’t believe me? Go lift a box spring. Pretty easy right? It’s got a solid structure. Now lift the mattress. Harder, right? It’s still got structure, but less so. Now lift a futon. You don’t have to–if you’re like me, you’re already rolling your eyes. Lifting a futon is a pain, because it has very little form to it. It flops and folds. I hate moving futons.)

(Still don’t believe me? Go lift a toddler (yours, please, or with the permission of the toddler’s parent).  Now think about when you had to lift that same toddler when they did NOT want to go somewhere. They’re kind of like a futon, right?)

After nearly 20 years of studying aikido, I understand how important being relaxed is. It’s just the better way to go. And, on the mat, I tend to be pretty good at it.

It’s harder when I’m not on the mat. For example, when I’m trying to be a good husband to my wife.

See, my wife is pretty stressed. We have three kids, one of whom is on the Autism spectrum. Our oldest child has swim practice and camps and just general pre-teen angst that goes on ALL THE TIME. Our five-year-old can be sweet one minute and hitting his brother the next. Our youngest is prone to whining and antagonizing his older brother until said brother hits him (as I just mentioned). We have two dogs. They shed. EVERYWHERE. I have literally vacuumed the floor only to find that it has made almost no difference whatsoever. We have a garden. We have a house to maintain. Oh, and my wife has her own schedule and challenges. She has injuries from the past that continue to bother her, and injuries from the present that she’s trying to avoid. I just read a blog post about how many mothers are tightly wound, and I found myself thinking: that’s my wife. And you know what? I can’t blame her for being this way. In fact, I’m constantly surprised she hasn’t completely lost it.

So I come home, and I use my highly-trained aikido senses (or I just open the door to the house) to discover that my wife is very stressed out. When I sense this kind of stress, my training from the mat takes over, and I think of how I can relax my way through this, so that not only I remain calm but hopefully my wife can remain calm as well.

Good intentions. Bad idea.

Guys, our wives don’t want us to help them calm down. She IS calm. Our wives need us to do one of two things:

  1. Get stuff done. The dishes. The laundry. Getting the kids out of the way for 10 minutes. Whatever.
  2. Get out of the way. Don’t ask questions. Don’t chitchat. If you don’t have something to do, grab the kids and go somewhere else. Anywhere else. Morocco, perhaps.

In Kokikai, being relaxed is usually synonymous with being calm. But that’s not the only interpretation. An equally valid interpretation is being efficient. I am understanding, more and more, that being a good husband does not mean helping my wife remain calm under fire. My job is to be efficient. To get stuff done quickly and correctly and then get out of the way. It is just like being on the mat: our job is not to have our opponent calm down. It is to move quickly and correctly in such a way that our opponent’s desire to fight is reduced to zero. My wife is most certainly NOT my opponent, but the idea is the same. I cannot, and should not, try to “calm things down.” Instead, I should move quickly, correctly–getting the stuff done that I know needs to get done.

Some folks might resist this idea. “I have worked hard all day! I need a break.” To these people, I say: No. Actually you don’t need a break. Not  only that, you don’t actually want a break. Has any husband ever “taken a break” when their wife is still dealing with all sort of chaos in the house and had it work out in his favor? No.  What you want is a bit of calmness, a bit of peace. You can get some of that by finding it within yourself. You get the rest of it by getting everything done that needs doing around the house–be it parenting, making dinner, whatever. To put it in another way: I don’t get to “take a break” when someone is throwing a punch at me. I get calmness when I’ve moved correctly and deflected the punch into something else.

In short: move first and get things done calmly. Then, and only then, is there a chance for that calmness to move through the rest of the house. That’s what my wife is working towards. Time I try harder more correctly to help.

One thought on “Applied Principles: Being a good husband

  1. Hoping to become a better husband seems to me quite a beautiful reason to practice Aikido. Maybe Aikido is called the martial art of peace and harmony not because the techniques are inoffensive or uniquely defensive but because of the spirit in which it should be practiced: we do not practice with opponents but with partners and we do not try to achieve supremacy but instead always try to maintain a win/win relationship where each partner progresses and matures thanks to the other. In short I believe that harmony and peace stem from gratitude. Gratitude towards the Dojo where we can train, gratitude towards the teacher guiding us, gratitude towards the partner without whom there would be no training at all. So, progresses might be slow, the training might be more than what we can handle, we might get hurt, humiliated, angry, panicked but knowing that it is the way to maturity we are grateful and always come back for more. Gratitude takes the stress and the venom out. Likewise, my wife is my partner and we built a dream together; we live the life we chose. This is as close as we can get to freedom and we would not have managed half of that freedom had we been alone. And, contrary to lust, gratitude grows with time. With gratitude I will always love my wife. And I think that is what is most important to her. I might not be that calm or that efficient but our (rented) room is a home to which she comes back every evening. All the problems we have come from what we have created together and it would be so sad to have nothing to worry about: it would mean that nothing was created, that our union was totally sterile. I don’t know whether it relates to the Positive Mind but I would rather bet on this instead of betting on Relaxation to achieve not calmness, but rather, to achieve happiness and harmony in apparent chaos, stillness in action, and balance in motion. Love is a shield and a weapon.

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