Aikido Principles to Face Challenges in Life

Life constantly presents us with many challenges. Some challenges in life can be enlivening and exciting and some can be really difficult and dark and some (most) are a bit of both. Some examples of a few life challenges: meeting someone new romantically, breaking up with someone, getting married, getting divorced, getting a new job, losing or being fired from your job, getting promoted, losing a promotion to someone else, starting a new business, and closing down a business. Of course, the list is much longer than can be expressed here.

We may be enlivened and excited when we perceive the challenge we face to be positive, and we may be dejected and fearful when we perceive the challenge to be negative. In the positive case, we may be willing to suffer short-term to get to the prize. In the negative case, we may be “stuck” with our suffering and getting to the other side may seem insurmountable.

It may be easier to see in the positive challenges that we choose the suffering. For example, when I first started to practice Aikido, I didn’t know what to do, where to place my arms and legs, how to position myself, how to take a proper fall without hurting myself. It was really frustrating and it took every ounce of effort not to just quit. I questioned whether if I had the ability to move through to the next level. But I saw what was possible on the other side if I stuck with the training and I made enough little progress to keep me seeing it’s possible. This is true with most challenges that we see we have a choice in life. After all, if I’m not doing well on the mat, I can leave and go on with my day and I have other areas in my life I can be happy. Ultimately, I can choose to quit and do other things.

When we view the challenges as negative, usually it is because we don’t see anything else possible on the other side and/or that we don’t see any other choices available to us. It is not so easy to see that we also choose the suffering in this case. But all things being equal and we really look at the challenges, we can choose who we can be in the face of those challenges. And, all challenges are really neither positive nor negative, it is just challenging!

Aikido is a martial art. By definition, it is an art to deal with physical attacks or dealing with challenges in a physical way. Aikido is also the art of peace with the vision to protect oneself as well as one’s opponent.

So let’s look at the Aikido principles applied to challenges:

  1. Being relaxed and present – when dealing any challenge in life, start by getting present to the here and now. We usually have so much going on internally during challenging times. To get present, start to be aware and take notice of your feelings, your thoughts, your body sensations, your judgments or opinions of yourself and of others, any thoughts/images of what might happen in the future. Just notice and observe them and don’t add or take away from them.
    Start to get present to your surroundings and what is actually happening at the moment.  The same things may come up again and again for you. That’s okay. Just notice they are there and set them aside again and continue to be present to your surroundings and what’s happening now. Notice that what is going on for you internally may have nothing to do with what is actually happening right now. When you are present, you can be calm and relaxed in the moment.
  2. Blend with the incoming energy – don’t resist or try to change the situation. Start with having compassion for yourself and others. Be willing to forgive yourself and others for whatever wrongs you hold. Give yourself permission to let go of your feelings of hurt or anger.
  3. Flow with your partner – start to recontextualize the situation and create a new vision for an empowering future for you and others. Make plans and put in structures to support you to accomplish the new vision.
  4. Envelop yourself and your partner in protective energy – Take actions to realize your new vision–work your plan. If the plan needs to be adjusted, then do so and continue to take actions to fulfill it.

Of course, these steps are simplified because I can’t convey this process in a short blog article. This is only meant to give you a taste of the process and what is possible. The best way to start to master this process is by working with a coach.

Enjoy your Day and See You On The Mat!

Thanh Huynh
Leadership, Executive and Life Coach – San Jose, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

If you would like to chat with me about how I can help you move forward in your leadership and life, please email me at

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