Robert Chevalier reminds me in email of how our popular conception of ourselves-as-isolated-actors-in-the-world can be a serious handicap to increasing our success in ordinary activities, whether they be Aikido, dancing with another, or simply crossing a street.
A teaching of Aikido is that we are connected by a kind of universal mind, and that at the very least we ought to act toward one another in recognition that we can be nodes of a larger system. In Aikido a version of that larger system is the one that emerges to include both attacker and defender. It is a dynamic system that manifests in leverage, potentialities, energy flows, and physical throws that can not exist on the level of just individuals. Couples dancing, moving together as one organism, provide another exemplar of individuals playing with energies arising in a larger system of action, one beyond the domain of solitary actors.
Yet, in Aikido and in other daily pursuits, we see individuals acting unilaterally as solitary agents, pushing others around, without recognition that they are more like transformers of information embedded in a larger web of people and relationships. Aikido students who do this are easy to spot. They seem to be powering through their techniques, relying on their own physical strength to force their partners into throws. To an observer, this kind of practice has an ungainly, ungraceful appearance. In terms of cybernetics, it is an approach to training that doesn't recognize or utilize the larger information feedback circuitry that includes both defender and attacker, the mat, and other important concrete elements.
Gregory Bateson suggested that living in conscious awareness of this potentially vast arc of feedback circuitry was to locate "mind" everywhere in the system, not just in your own brain. Thinking this way has interesting consequences, not the least of which are that the customary idea of "self" as that of a solitary, isolated individual begins to define a small game.
Bateson explained it with a thought experiment. Imagine a blind person walking down the street. Where is does the blind person end? At his hand? Half way down the white cane? At the end of the white cane? In terms that describe the practical flow of information that the blind person uses and transforms to get across a street, a more relevant and pragmatic model of the blind person would show the particular information circuitry in play, a circuitry not limited to the edge of the body but arcing through it in a larger loop, carrying transforms both radiating out into the world and feeding back in.
Thus, thinking of the blind person as a solitary "self" is a conceptual obstacle to understanding how he or she actually operates in the world. To shed the notion of isolated selfhood opens the possibility of seeing "mind" as unlimited in scope, enlivening and inhabiting ad hoc information networks established essentially on the fly.
Using this same logic, in Aikido we can flood mind into on-the-fly information loops limited in scope only by our ability to concentrate them into existence. From this perspective, to do Aikido only from within the boundary of one's skin is to completely miss the party.
[The material drawn from Gregory Bateson can be found in, Steps To An Ecology of Mind, Ballantine, 1972, pp. 304 - 320.]