Saturday, 1 June 2013

Business, Communication & Aikido: a mini-workshop with Thomas Gehlert - Sunday 2 June 2013

Over the past four months we had the joy of having an incredibly enthusiastic and positive visitor from Germany join us in our Aikido & Kenjutsu training sessions. Thomas was visiting New Zealand for this time to do some studies in Quantum Physics and practice speaking English, both of which he did for further development of his professional work as a Business consultant, Executive coach & Perception trainer. During that time Thomas had also decided to fulfil a lifelong dream of his and begin studying Aikido, so luckily enough stumbled across our webpage and jumped into it with both feet. Next to regular classes in both Glenfield and Helensville, Thomas saw me for additional one-on-one sessions and came to see me regularly for massage & Shiatsu treatments to learn more about the wider things we offer at Jikishin Dojo Auckland.

During all this time together Thomas and I had many long and interesting conversations and more often than not came to exchange ideas about how our respective work overlapped in so many ways. Out of this grew the idea to have Thomas teach a mini-workshop for us and present us some of the ways in which he works and how this work is in line with our Budo studies. Thinking we'd find ourselves doing lots of unfamiliar things, as it turned out, the first thing he did was make us fight..

The purpose of this exercise was to get us straight into feeling and thinking about head-to-head confrontation and more Aiki-style solutions in which we feel and allow the other person their energy and direction, and follow it initially to finally deflect it away from us.

Much along the lines of the philosophy of Aikido, Thomas draws on 'The Harvard Concept' to teach his clients in the corporate world to develop and foster good long-term relationships and communication rather than focus on short-term gains for one party only. For this it is necessary that conflicts get dealt with in a way that leaves both sides and their relationship fully intact at the least, but if possible even better than before. In other words, to think about ways to create a win-win situation for both sides and cooperation replaces competition.

To be able to do this, in communication as well as in Aikido, it is necessary to apply certain 'techniques', or develop certain skills. Amongst these are the need to become sensitive to the others energy, intention, needs or wants (depending on the context). Rather then become overprotective of our own position/space from the initial point of contact onwards, which ultimately prevents deeper contact beyond this wall, we explored ways of trying to really understand where our counterpart is coming from. In non-martial, communicative setting like for example business negotiation (or even just everyday conversations with anyone with a different standpoint), the chief technique or doing so is probably listening to what the other person has to say. Should the other person not come out directly, possibly having pulled up a wall of their own, asking them becomes the simplest method of establishing contact, ideally followed up by active listening, or any other method that allows us to fully feel and understand the others standpoint and goals.

In understanding the others perspective the next step is to not loose one's own balance over this process, but be clear about, have confidence in, and remain present with one's own standpoint. Drawing on our Aikido practice, what we can do to keep our balance is to remain flexible and precisely 'not stand on one point' only, but take our center (e.g. our core values) along for the ride and move, react and change if necessary. It seems pretty clear how this readily applies to the martial situation and the communication setting alike. If our counterpart is big and strong (physically or otherwise) we cannot simply remain static, because we simply won't be able to hold our ground, but we need to move and change accordingly if we want to stay standing. Conversely, if our partner is not very strong, we might not need to move much at all to retain our position. Like we say so often in training, we do neither more nor less than necessary, but just try to find the right action for every particular moment.

Whichever way it goes, we keep reminding that the goal is to find balance between our counterparts and our own interests and needs, to live and let live, or better yet, part as friends rather than enemies. We certainly all left the Dojo in this spirit, happy and inspired with more insights into the meaning, value and application of our physical practice for our lives off the mat and vice versa. And in Thomas we have made a great new friend, who has concluded his time in New Zealand now and is sitting in the airplane as we are publishing this. Wherever it takes him next, we wish him all the best for his travels in and out of Aikido and look forward to many more years of friendship and shared practice, anywhere in the world.