Step out of the win/lose dilemma

There’s more than one reason you won’t find Aikido at the Olympic Games, but essentially an activity that produces no winner is an unlikely choice if you’re expecting an exciting climax. It’s quite easy to understand why most people believe that having a winner inevitably implies the existence of a loser, after all, it’s what we see all around us; in sports, politics, talent shows, lotteries… the list is endless.

“There is no place in the Art of Peace for pettiness and selfish thoughts. Rather than being captivated by the notion of ‘winning or losing’, seek the true nature of things.” (Morihei Ueshiba)

But what if there were other ways to perceive these processes? What if seeing things as “right or wrong”, “win or lose” was just a first step in our understanding? To prepare your movement away from this dualistic view, I encourage you strongly to explore your own beliefs on these notions and, if you can find a willing partner, stretch these words (right, wrong, success, failure, etc.) to develop a greater understanding both of yourself and the limiting subjectivity that surrounds them. choice-abstract-4-1237643-640x480

Secondly, start (and keep) asking “What else is there?” This question, given any dualistic perspective, contributes greatly to your open-attitude kamae. Remember that if someone gives you two options (e.g. either continue reading this post or walk away) you always have more options that are available. There is a difference between a choice and a dilemma; in a dilemma there are two alternatives, but true choice starts with three. For example, if you felt that the only two possibilities you had at this moment in time were to either continue reading or walking away, it would be a useful exploration of alternatives to consider that you could also:

  • Copy or take a snapshot of a part of it that you liked,
  • Meditate for a moment on a quote or idea that touched you,
  • Make a comment at the bottom of the page,
  • Send a link to a friend and talk about it,
  • Write a few notes on a piece of paper and make an airplane with the page…

The next time you’re somewhere and you wonder “should I stay or should I go”, take a moment to explore other alternatives that may be available… I guarantee you’ll find at least one more, and that in considering these other options, making your choice will seem more evident and often considerably easier.

“I am constantly losing my balance. My skill lies in my ability to regain it.” (Morihei Ueshiba)

Finally, you may be already familiar with O-Sensei’s teaching “Masakatsu Agatsu” – True victory is victory over oneself – but did you know he is reputed never to have lost an argument? Indeed this doesn’t mean that he ever won one either! But rest assured, there are many ways you can win on a personal level without producing a loss. The most fundamental of these is to remain centered when faced with adversity. But don’t get discouraged, because the experienced practitioners also lose their center regularly, get destabilized and even fall. So another form of self-victory might then be your capacity to return to center as quickly as possible… How many other types of self-victory can you find before the end of the day?

“To win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.” (Sun-Tzu)

If ideas are not yet coming to you by the shipload, this may set you off in a helpful direction: there is a Chinese proverb that says “If I have one object and you have one object, and now we exchange objects, we both still have one object. But if I have one idea and you have one idea and now we exchange ideas, we both have two ideas.” So, if your objective in an exchange is to discover something rather than to convince or show what you know, then you will walk away from any interaction richer than before.  There’ll be no ‘loser’ in sight, yet… you’ll ‘win’.


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Step out of the win/lose dilemma