April 12, 2002
Mr. Hobson's Choice
Bill Witt, Shihan, Takemusu Aikido Association:
Gregoire Hobson died last week. I did not know him, but I celebrate his life. His obituary described him as a dedicated civil servant and musician. Apparently, he loved his three decades of work at San Francisco City Hall and was also a very accomplished violinist. He was talented enough to play in local orchestras and was passionate about music during his life. He was also dedicated to his family.
To me, the life of Mr. Hobson describes an ideal. I believe he was extremely fortunate to find a balance, during his life, between work, his family, and an avocation he followed with dedication. This triad provided solid support to his life and gave him balance and satisfaction. This triangular base of his life provided him with the stability required on an uncertain surface-The events of life. I do not know if he made this choice consciously, but I am sure it made him a well-rounded, interesting person. I should like to have known him.
Seeking balance in our lives is something for which we all strive. Our elusive goal of happiness and well being may well depend on this balance. How fortunate we are to find a life calling which gives us satisfaction. How fortunate we are to have a good family relationship. How fortunate we are to have a further activity in our life which gives us relaxation and pleasure.
In Aikido our primary consideration is our stance. Our basic hanmi, the triangular stance, will allow us to balance well on unfamiliar surfaces. This gives us solidity to meet an oncoming attack or to observe coolly our surroundings. Consider the alternatives, if we were to alter our stance such that we stood on two points or, even worse, one. During an attack, we would spend most of our time trying to keep from falling over, rather than address the issue. As we train, at first being consciously aware of our stance, it feels awkward and forced. As our training progresses, we assume the basic stance without thought. It is just there. Soon we feel unnatural if our stance is anything but optimal. This stance gives us the balance and confidence to move with the intent of our attacker.
As an Aikido instructor I meet many different people. The one question that everyone seems to have is, "How do I incorporate this into my life?" Most people seem to be attracted to Aikido by its philosophy rather than its martial aspect. I believe we have to start with our basic stance. The triangular stance denoted by the forward foot and skewed rear foot can be considered work, family, and avocation (Aikido in our case). It will not make a difference, which point on the triangle is assigned to a life aspect. At times, the work point is forward and facing an assault of work-related stress. The other two points of family and avocation give support. Alternatively, in times of family stress, perhaps work and avocation become the supports to help you with your balance. Too much concentration on the forward point will tend to de-emphasize the back two and lead to an unbalanced condition. The basic stance, therefore, becomes a metaphor for our life practice and can simply remind us each and every time what is important to our basic stability in meeting daily events.