I just learned about this ‘super-normal stimulus’ recently and instantly connect to hows and the whys and the contemporary challenges in learning an art like Aikido.
I will no delve on the subject of Supernormal Stimulus, you can read it up at
or you can refer to the excellent comics drawn by Stuart McMillen.
Why do I specifically say contemporary challenges?
And when we talk about contemporary, how do I define that?
I guess it all begins with the word ‘super’. And of course the proverbial evil dollar.
I guess, humans, like all biological creatures are endowed with ‘supernormal stimulus’, it is closely linked to our fight/flight response. When we are still not so intellectual to analyse a specific threat, on hindsight, we simply response.
But when we start to develop language, and start to analyse things, we get recounts like ‘The sabre tooth tiger’s teeth is BIGGER than my HEAD!” or “the artillery round was BIGGER than my car!” When things gets exaggerated, you know there is something being ‘superised’ in there.
Why? We need that attention, we need that drama, we need to be captivated by something. Normal mundane life, well, seem like normal mundane life. And when one captivates, one sells more! In our capitalistic world, the more you sell, the rest is history.
Success in life is now very much ‘superised’. Everything is, and the advertising industry is not helping, in fact they are perpetuating it! why? it boils down to a marketing term call ‘a share of mind.’ Or a share of whatever you want to call it. This ‘share of Whatchamacallit’ is perceived as a limitation of a human’s ability to absorb the larger picture of things.
So when a stimulus gets ‘superised’, it hypes us up, and that is exactly what the perpetrators wants, a hyped up sense of being so that they can capture our attention and holds our reality hostage. And a hype gives us a sense of high, and that sense of high gives us a feel good feeling. But that feel good feeling, never feels good for a long period of time. It will become mundane once again, and when that happens, we look for a new high. And another and another, until we become saturated with highs, and we avoid the lows. The higher we gets hyped, the less grounded we become. The less detached we are from reality.
Aikido is as close to reality as you can get. Why is it unique from other arts, is precisely due to its non-competitive nature. When you compete, you stimulate a fight/flight response, things gets superised. Opponents becomes bigger, we get fixated at finding out their weak moves. We get fixated on winning. Everything else does not mater anymore.
Aikido allows you to be, just be. Attacks are not really attacks but it is mean to give you a reasonable amount of stimulus. But not overly. It is calibrated according to skill levels. And all Aikido moves looked the same, generally a beginner’s irimi nage looks the same as an advanced practitioner’s irimi nage. The only difference is the level of speed and the ‘smoothness’ of the technique. I wouldn’t really consider an Aikido practice as ‘intense’ unless you are in the practice yourself. Anyone observing Aikidokas in practice will seldom describe Aikido as ‘intense’.
There is a reason for Aikido’s design. It is to help us regain our balance. bring our supernormal stimulus back to a manageable manner. Bring attention back to reality. Bring reality back to our lives. The contemporary challenge is that an Aikido class will last, at best, 2 hours. we have another 22 more hours to be superstimulated. and right now with the world going 24/7 to 24/365, there is no more room in us to find that equilibrium. We perpetuate from one highs to another, and keep on finding issues to relate our identity to. At what costs? To what end?
Aikido is telling us, life. That is all to it. And life is much larger than the supernormal stimulated self, settle down and go to an Aikido class.