Henka Waza: Learning to Pivot in Life

Tai No Henko: Learning to Pivot. (I don’t have a picture of the Henka Waza :-) )

Yesterday in class my Sensei started teaching us henka waza. Henka waza is when you start doing one technique, but halfway through you change to another. In the business world we would call this a “pivot”. To someone just looking at our Aikido dojo as a place to learn martial arts, Sensei was continuing my preparation for my black belt test (sometime in the future). In reality, though, I think he was teaching me a much more important lesson. Maybe he has been trying to teach me this lesson all along.

Sensei was teaching me, and others, about change. About how you move forward in life — start a technique — and then something happens. Something shifts, and you can no longer continue in the direction you were going. In the technique, this is a slip or someone resists or counters. In life it could be an accident, a new opportunity, a birth, a death, an illness. Really, it could be anything.

On the mat yesterday, I found the transitions difficult. I was very much caught up in my head trying to think through the techniques and puzzle out the steps and movements. It was hard to visualize doing it “right” because I was not in tune with… well… anything. I was completely in my head.

The one or two times that I started to feel like maybe I was getting it, looking back, I was not thinking but rather feeling my way through the technique. I was feeling where uke’s energy was going and noticing what was happening between us. When I did that I was able to adjust and move into a new action more easily.

As I was thinking about the class this morning, I realized that Sensei was showing me how when something goes wrong in life, like injuring my knee, the way forward, the way to “continue” as Sugano Sensei would have said, is not to puzzle it out, but to feel through it. To connect to something bigger than myself. To connect to those I am sharing this journey with, and pivot.

To be sure, the way forward involves effort and persistence, but limiting the learning and the movement to mental problem solving ignores many, if not most, of the resources we have available to us in life. We cannot ignore connection and flow. We have to find a way to move together with our environment and with ourselves to continue during a pivot or we risk only achieving a robotic ability to complete (if we are lucky) a technique in life. By feeling the energy of the movement and using it in the turn, we can gain so much more.

The hard part is that this flow requires the right timing. The ability to wait for the right moment, the right footfall, and then the ability to move instantly when that moment comes.

Too often in life, I feel like I am clinging to the past as though my very essence depended on it, and then I rush to change because I don’t feel like I can do it unless it happens now. I operate in the extremes, which leaves me discontent most days. I am so busy either holding on, or rushing by, that I miss the timing all together. I am not even looking for it to notice when the time comes. How much better would it be if I could be in the moment, flowing with what is around me, letting the timing come while preparing myself to move when it does.

Yesterday, I felt for a brief moment what it might be like to flow with the changes I am facing in life. To find the timing and allowing the change to happen in its own time. Maybe if I keep practicing on the mat my ability to pivot in life will get stronger. They say that intention is what drives one’s practice. My intention is to learn to flow when I have to pivot.

Thank you Sensei for sharing this with me.