ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2000

Issue Highlight - The Hunt For Next November

April in the state of Missouri is turkey-hunting season...For some reason the experience, despite its discomforts, is spiritually renewing and leaves you a little more optimistic about life.

In This Issue...
Angels With Rotary Wings
Reality Mirrors Movie
Stop The Merry-Go-Round
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Diary of a Shutdown

Taking Aikido Off The Mat
Finding Harmony Within the Body and Business

---The 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 life?

---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 resolution.

---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.

---The 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.

---By 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 one’s energy.

---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 presence.

---For 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 forces.”
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.

---One 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 Understood
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?

---On 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.

---In 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.

---But 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 of being.”

Return to March 2000 News for a Change Homepage

  • Print this page
  • Save this page

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this item

View comments
Add comments
Comments FAQ

ASQ News