Training Reactions, Disciplining Instincts

I’ve spent a few years training my dogs and applying what I’ve learnt from the Cesar Millan aka Dog Whisperer, and I’ve realised just how much I’ve been training myself. Dog training isn’t just a way to “program” your dogs to get them to behave how you want; dogs reflect the energy of their owners, so if you want them to behave in a certain way you have to modify your own energy (i.e. reactions and instincts) so they have something different to reflect off of. And it has nothing to with physical superiority, it’s psychological. As you can see with the elephant tamers in India, giant animals that could easily overwhelm the humans in charge of them, but that actually cooperate. A few years ago I learn to ride horses the “horse whispering” way, earning their trust and cooperation rather than dominating them and controling them. Their own reactions reflecting the reactions of their rider. This requires discipline and consistency and an insight into how you react in certain situations and how you can train your reactions into other, more constructive directions.

And this is something I’ve been observing in Aikido, and is true of many martial arts. Any martial art is about training your reactions. When we’re attacked our reaction is to defend ourselves in whatever way. With martial arts we learn to refine our reactions so we can defend ourselves in quick and efficient ways. Aikido goes one further: we learn to refine our reactions so we can defend ourselves in quick efficient ways AND without hurting the attacker. You “accept” their attack, their aggression, to direct it yourself and neutralise it.

This requires discipline and consistency, the same discipline and consistency for training your dogs, i.e. training your own instincts. There is detailed etiquette involved which focuses the mind to the task at hand; there are behaviours my dogs have to observe, which in turn obliges me to behave in a certain way. And we all get what we want and need.

But this discipline or aikido and dog/horse/elephant whispering is not aimed towards mechanical control but an energetic and harmonious cooperation. We have an animal within us that needs expression and exercise, and is often reflected in the relationships we have with animals around us, and they can help us in this relationship, to establish an inner harmony.



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