Are you willing to surrender?

Aikido practice

Are you willing to surrender?

I anticipate most reading this would instinctively say “absolutely not” and say so in a heartbeat. Period. Full stop.

Yet, this is not an easy question to answer when examined more closely.

Hustle, sport and military culture would, as a default stance, tell us to “never surrender”.

However, the question becomes more nuanced when we ask, “Surrender what exactly?”

Our society and culture assume surrender means loss or giving up.

In Leadership Circle parlance, this pattern of thinking and language in a business context is a reactive structure of mind.

On the Aikido mat, we often hesitate in an attempt to control being hurt physically. We attempt to protect ourselves, which manifests in physical tension in our body and overthinking what happens next. Instead of enjoying and allowing the process to unfold, we focus on the outcome.

In our teams, we hesitate to speak up to protect our turf. We avoid being perceived as weak by choosing to avoid interaction, or we ensure we fit in and comply through mild sycophancy.

Underlying “never surrender” is an internal assumption that if I am not __________, then I am perceived as, or I feel __________ .

For example, if I am not right, then people will judge me to be _________ (fill in the blank). Hence, I am not willing to surrender because of this internal assumption.

There are many examples of “never surrender” internal assumptions among leaders, teams, and organisations. Yet when we are willing to explore these assumptions we find that there are gifts to be harnessed.

Once we reframe our “never surrender” mindset, we discover the gains that can be harvested and help us operate at our next level.

In the Aikido dojo, we cannot learn and progress without a willingness to surrender completely to our training partner and our teacher.

Falling to the mat when thrown by our training partners requires complete surrender and complete relaxation of any physical and mental tension within us. It requires that the ones required to fall must let go of themselves with a complete acceptance of what is about to happen as our training partner uses our energy to master their own Aikido technique.

No tension.

No hesitation.

No thought.

Surrendering is not easy, but it is essential to be able to grow and develop our humility, grace, and courage from the inside out.

Aikido practice becomes a practice of surrender, of giving oneself to someone else for the benefit of both. This may seem counterintuitive but from witnessing the experience of elite athletes and performing artists many will confirm that their best performances came from an act of surrender rather than a thought process.

Surrender protects the person falling from injury. Surrender allows our training partners to be ‘all-in’ with their practice to improve their fine motor skills without impediment.

Surrender expands our comfort zone and, where sufficient challenge is present from the application of a technique, produces personal growth for both partners.

In other words, the act of surrender results in a gain for ourselves and, often, in the same act, a gain for others.

Surrender means to open up, to open up to your whole self, and to give in and let go of the things you think you’re supposed to be.

Surrender means simply being who you are.

Warren Bennis noted that becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. He said, “It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult.”

So, I wonder, what or who are you willing to surrender to today?

What will you and others gain from it?

Scroll to Top