Peter Block Column
Views for a
Diary of a
Off The Mat
Finding Harmony Within the
Body and Business
influence of the East has hit the American mainstream, from
karma beads to the influx of movies touting martial arts
heroes to the Dalai Lama’s visit to a capacity-filled
Central Park. Adopting the eastern principle of harmony of
mind, body and spirit has become, well, almost trendy for
Americans. Even architects are designing
“gentler” spaces that promote balance and
harmony, influenced by training in Zen disciplines.
---What is it that has suddenly
become so widely attractive to Americans about these
age-old philosophies? Maybe it’s the dawning of the
new millennium that has inspired this rush towards finding
peace. Whatever the impetus, the answer is really quite
simple: Who isn’t trying to achieve harmony in
particular, martial arts practices promote the principles
of discipline, confidence and physical and mental harmony.
They also teach important foundations of timing, balance
and suppleness. Because they are so mentally grounded,
it’s only natural that these tenets to living
healthier would eventually make their way “off the
mat” and into America’s businesses.
---Jamie Haveri, an internal
organizational communication consultant in Olympia, Wash.,
has been practicing in the Shin-Shin-Toitsu school of
Aikido for nine years, and has found great success in
applying Aikido’s principles to both her own life and
her consulting business. She conducts corporate Aikido
workshops for participants to open their awareness, extend
themselves and see things from another perspective. In
doing so, they can achieve new levels of leadership,
self-esteem and mutual learning.
The Way to Harmony with Universal Energy
Aikido, a form of martial arts that is strictly
self-defense has recently witnessed a transition from
popular culture into organizational culture. The premise
behind Aikido, and subsequently, corporate Aikido, is using
one’s own energy to redirect others’ energy for
---Haveri explains how she grew
not only physically stronger through practicing Aikido, but
more confident, secure and empowered. “I first
stumbled upon Aikido during graduate school. While
researching about violence against women, I learned that
attackers sense a person’s inner strength; they can
tell when someone is vulnerable or not paying
attention.” The first rule of Aikido teaches the
power of having a physical presence through your own
energy. Aikido made perfect sense to Haveri as she sought
to empower herself.
---Considered young, as far as
martial arts go, Aikido was developed in Japan in1943 by
Moraihi Ueshiba, who was noted as being physically gifted,
quick and strong. It’s rooted in the arts of dijitsu,
a defensive art that uses an opponent’s strength, and
kenjitsu, the art of the sword, as well as incorporating
tenets of the Shinto religion.
word Aikido can be broken into three parts: Ai, harmony,
ki, energy, and do, the way. Thus, Aikido translates as
“the way to harmony with universal energy.” By
finding harmony within, one has the power to deflect and
defeat aggression without hurting or getting hurt.
---Aikido is practiced in the
dojo, or training school, and interactions between students
are meant to build partnerships and to encourage mutual
learning. In Aikido, there are never
“competitions” or “opponents.” The
learning and personal development exists in a space in
which both people take care of each other.
following the basic principles of the art, any manager can
open communication with his or her employees and achieve
harmony within corporate culture. Regardless of what
obstacles may arise, through extending energy, keeping
focused, relaxing and staying firmly grounded, one can
overcome or accomplish anything.
---Aikido is based on four
basic principles of focusing one’s attention and
attitude within. Maintaining a physical presence by finding
harmony within, whether it is in the dojo or at the
conference table, is central to making the most of
---First, you must extend
one’s ki, or energy, celebrated in Aikido as a
dynamic force that flows through all things. A student must
use their body as a conduit of energy. Through finding the
right balance of energy, one determines this solid physical
example, a leader must establish and maintain a physical
presence through posture, speech and body language to
support their position of leadership and influence.
Physically, they must portray confidence to gain respect
from other managers and employees. This can only exist when
one is mentally prepared or focused on the position that he
or she holds.
---Second, one must focus on
one point in the body, using that point as the center of
balance. Notes Haveri, “Typically, on the mat, the
one point is two to three inches above the navel, the
body’s natural center of gravity. One must physically
and mentally focus on that spot, keeping one consistent
place for facing resistance from outside
This translates simply into business: By centering in on
one project, one role or one issue, a leader can focus his
or her full attention or energy on the particular issue at
hand. In the dojo, randori is a situation in which one is
faced with several attackers. How can one person survive
seven other people coming from all directions?
---“The secret is you
must deal with one person at a time. You can even use one
person against one another,” Haveri says of randori
on the mat. Do the same for randori at the office: Trying
to handle everything at once can be overwhelming; focus on
one project at a time.
must also relax completely, finding the right balance
between too much energy, which can lead to tension, and too
little energy, which can lead to gaps or limpness. Haveri
calls this the Goldilocks principle. “You’re
either too hot, too cold or just right,” she said.
Finding the perfect balance between expending too much or
too little energy is central to achieving harmony within. A
leader must determine how much or how little time and
energy to expend on different projects, tasks and employees
to ensure that he or she is efficient.
---Finally, one must stay
grounded. Keeping calm and realizing where one stands,
whether it’s physically on the mat or as a role in an
organization, can make facing opposition or resolving
conflicts much smoother.
---Haveri provides this
example: If one concentrates on the top of one’s
head, they can be easily pushed over. By thinking about
another point in the body—the “one point”
which has been established to be the source of
stability—one will remain constant. A leader must
find that one point and stay grounded there in order to be
effective. The mind cannot wander, but must stay
concentrated on the appropriate issue at hand.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be
By applying the aforementioned four principles, one is
empowered, through connecting with the role or the issue at
hand and by relaxing, staying focused and conserving energy
to use it only when necessary.
---Once empowerment through
personal mental harmony is achieved, phase two of Aikido
begins: facing the opposition. Conflicts will inevitably
arise in the workplace. So now what?
the mat, Aikido partners are trained to observe their
partner’s posture and presence in an attempt to
determine their motives. In the office, this represents a
fundamental way to handle situations—to observe and
to listen. Haveri refers to Stephen Covey’s principle
of “Seek first to understand, then to be
understood.” By realigning one’s perspective to
see from the other point of view, one can assess and
address the problem. Without this recognition, a leader is
useless. In Aikido, whoever fights, loses.
her own practice, Haveri has used this to anticipate her
client’s needs. By listening to their communication,
she can open herself mentally and fill in gaps.
what happens when someone is just not cooperating? Haveri
says that in these cases, she has to face that they are
just not going to go where she is. “I’m in
charge. I cannot change someone else,” so she does
not expend unnecessary energy on the problem. The best she
can do is to help by sharing her perspective.
---Aikido is all about
rethinking the way we deal with first ourselves, and
subsequently with others. By realigning perspectives both
internally and externally, one can ultimately achieve the
oft-sought harmony that the East holds so high. It’s
as simple as taking energy and making the most of it. As
Haveri says, it’s all about “learning new ways
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