We're advised from day-1 in our classes to look the partner in the eyes - maintain eye contact. but then someone eventually brings up the famous Ueshiba quote...
Do not stare into the eyes of your opponent: he may mesmerize you. Do not fix your gaze on his sword: he may intimidate you. Do not focus on your opponent at all: he may absorb your energy.
I, for one, have found immense benefit to my aikido in maintaining eye contact, and I have only been "mesmerized" once or twice in the last 20 some-odd years - but I suppose in a lifetime of life-or-death encounters, a samurai wouldn't have been able to tell when that 1 fatal time would occur.
Sean has done a good treatment of this look-don't-look paradox in our practice. I just wanted to add a little anecdote to this discussion.
I have discovered recently that I am not able to watch really good jodo practitioners doing kata. I'm not able to see what their arms and legs and weapons are doing because I get sucked into their eyes! It's really weird - as if there is some sort of really high-energy communication going on between the eyes of uchitachi and shidachi, and if I ever meet their eyes, even as an observer on the side, I am sucked into that data stream and I can't see anything else. There have been several times lately that a sensei would say, "watch this kata," and I would start watching and get sucked into the intensity of their eyes and at the end I'd think, "Damn! I missed the whole thing!"
I've tried squinting and focusing on hands and feet, but if either participant's hands ever pass near their eyes, as in jodan, I'm sucked in again.
Anyone else experience this?
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Patrick Parker www.mokurendojo.com