Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bringing the Lake to the Mats

We are again at the point when the temperature of air and water are 10 degrees apart.  Instead 68 degree water and 78 degree air, we are at 58 degree water and 48 degree air.  The air has dropped 30 degrees, the water ten.

I want to nuance this idea of "bringing the lake to the practice" that is the experience of cold water swimming, such as it is, to inform the experience of practicing aikido.  I've spoken about the role of adrenalin in the practice of aikido.  It takes time to get to that point on the mats, and when it is there, the herculean powers must be noticed and controlled to keep the practice within bounds, and power trimmed for appropriate response.

This practice is hard to achieve, but necessary for acting in the real world, when using aikido as a martial art, when on the street and experiencing "game on."  The super powers that conflict precipitates must be already well under control, so you execute a well-timed ten-kan and not spin wildly into a face-plant.

The dive into the 58 degree water brings on the self-defense adrenalin immediately, with the entire body in response to the existential threat of water too cold to be acceptable to a system that is a tribute to a billion years of evolution, or more likely, designed by a God who loves us.  Either way, adrenalin presents.  The act of swimming is not optional, and discipline in movement is clearly advantageous in this situation.  As the body signals fight or flight to the brain, and the powder monkeys haul out adrenalin and the stack it where most handy, the spirit says "quiet down, I've got this."

That's what is going on, and it brings a small improvement to the practice.  To what degree the improvement manifests doesn't really matter, we can all use any improvement we can get.

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