Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finding Your Line

Recently Christian Tissier, one of the best-known practitioners of aikido, gave a seminar at my dojo. People came from all over the world to participate. I was glad to learn from him, and also of the surprise opportunity to ask him questions. Aikido is as essential to me as art and, for me, they deeply inform one another.

So I asked him this: At this point in my training, how do I best advance internally? Is it about focusing on something in my practice, or attending more seminars? How does he approach it? [Stay with me here, I'm getting to the art part!]

He said: "You must find your line." He talked about aikido as having many lines, lines of ancestry in particular, and that jumping all over and trying to pick up something from everywhere is actually not so useful. That sooner or later I'm going to have to choose my line, and follow it.

As simple as this may sound, it had never really occurred to me before. I guess I've always believed that I should listen, look, and try to learn from everyone who has something to share. That it is important to remain entirely open. Not to select, if it means leaving out.

Sometimes people just say something at the right time and it goes 'thunk.' Yes, aiming involves going towards. But there is another part, which is about letting fall away the parts that are not the target. That at a certain point in one's practice, being continually open to all new influences may be just as stymying as being totally closed to them. That if I want precision, if I want to get to the core, I also have to hone.

So the obvious next question I had for myself was, what does 'finding my line' look like, both in aikido, and in art? Here is how I applied it to the art:

1. Literally: What are my unique mark-making techniques?
2. Methodologically: What do I choose to make, and also not to make?
3. Heritage: Who are my artistic ancestors?
4. Innovation: To what new places am I taking this trajectory?

It's not as if I haven't considered these things before in this context; they just haven't been at the forefront.  So I am looking forward to embarking on using these guidelines as a lens, and seeing where it takes me.

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