THE VOCAL MODEL IS PROTECTED BY CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. YOU CAN USE IT FREELY FOR PERSONAL USE AS WELL AS INTEGRATED IN YOUR ACTIVITIES AS A TRAINER AS LONG AS YOU MENTION IT AS A AIKICOM MODEL DEVELOPED BY Christian Vanhenten. ANY WRITTEN REFERENCE MUST MENTION THE LINK TO AIKICOM WEBSITE.
The Vocal model has been defined in 2017 as the core model of AikiCom. This model is the result of more than 10 years of AikiCom training and coaching and more than 20 years of research about the benefits of aikido in all domains of life.
The VOCAL model is at the same time very simple and really efficient. It describes a process, the process each experienced aikidoist is executing when practicing aikido.
Starting from this sequence, AikiCom has built a powerful tool to face conflict and difficult situations.
The VOCAL process
VOCAL is the acronym for « Verticality – Orientation – Connection – Action – Letting go ». Let’s take a closer look at these 5 letters:
V – Verticality
Verticality characterizes our human nature. It represents our dignity. When we are vertical, we are aligned.
The vertical axis is the axis of being. We don’t do anything: we are. This axis is connecting the sky to the earth, through our body. Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba, used to stay that the human being is a bridge between heaven and earth.
The sky in AikiCom is the place where we locate our values, all what is important. Justice, equality, kindness, perfection, openness, fun, happiness, are examples of values. We are not always in contact with all these values. At each moment some values are important in the current situation. The sky is changing with time.
The earth in AikiCom represents the constraints that we have to face, what we cannot change nor control. We cannot escape to gravity. It is the force that sticks us to the earth. The same applies to our constraints. The adage « Don’t fight the problem, » reminds that it is not worth fighting it. So we put it in the ground and we try to take a good stance on it to orient our action.
The vertical axis is connecting the earth to sky and passes through our body. It is not a rigid axis. It may be compared to a channel in which our vital energy is circulating and information is exchanged between the three centers that are part of the AikiCom approach:
- The head or the cognitive center. It is the place of our thinking, our mental processes. Our reasoning, our beliefs, our memories,…
- The heart or the emotional center. It is the symbolic place of our emotions. When we are feeling intense emotions, it happens in the region of the heart. The symbolism of the heart is strongly linked with our emotions.
- The belly (the hara for the Japanese) or the somatic center: This is the center of our body. The hara is a very important symbol and concept in the Japanese culture as well as in the Chinese (the Tan Tien in Tai chi chuan). In a more materialistic dimension it is the place where our gravity center is located (when we are vertical). The position of the gravity center determines our balance and stability, a crucial aspect in combat. Mastering someone else’s gravity center is mastering our opponent.
In AikiCom the somatic center is a very important part of our being. Neuro-sciences give it the name of enteric brain or second brain (more about this in « In Search of Martial Kindness », the book about AikiCom). It is the center of our intuition, the origin of what we call « the gut feeling ».
Getting back to our verticality is getting back to all the dimensions of our being:
- where I am (in my body)
- what I feel
- what I think
- what are my values (at this moment)
- what are my constraints (at this moment)
This way we can consider what has to be done in a balanced way. Our action will start from ourselves.
O – Orientation
The next step is the O of Orientation but also of Observation and Openness.
As soon as I come back to myself, I start observing my environment. What do I see, hear, smell ? Who is there ? What is he/she doing ? What is there ? How is it spatially organized ? Is there movement ?
And the most important question: what requires my attention? Answering this question will orient my body in the adequate direction.
This observation phase is a 360° observation that ends with the orientation of our body mind in one direction (even if we keep a wide vision). Openness is here a critical quality to avoid being focused (tunnel vision) that would blind me from other important elements or elements that would appear suddenly.
C – Connection
Connection is a transition. We pass from the I-phase to the We-phase. It started with the openness of the previous step. If we oriented toward a person (in a fight it would be an attacker, or another person in a situation of conflict) we will establish a connection. This connection begins by going out of the line of danger if there is one and is intended to weaken the frontiers between me and the other person. This is a direct application of aikido practice. In aikido we don’t fight against the attacker. We try to transform conflict by connecting to the opponent. This transforms the opponent in a partner. This paves the way to the Action of the next step.
A – Action
Acting is doing, speaking, expressing, moving, looking,… But it is also not doing, not speaking, not moving. It can be listening, being present, closing, opening, vibrating, giving, offering, receiving,…
The VOCAL model is a generic model. Impossible here to determine the action that has to be done. The decision is the result of flow circulating through our centers. Thoughts, emotions, intuition produce this action in accordance with our values (sky) and the constraints (earth) we have to accept (rather than withstand) .
L – Letting Go
When the action is executed, we could be tempted to try to control the effect of the action of previous step. In many cases it is possible but in many others it is not possible. Certainly when other people (or more generally other living beings) are involved or in case of complex situations.
This step seems easy but it proves to be maybe the more difficult step in the VOCAL process. As, when we act, we like to get the expected result.
The Letting Go step is crucial to not getting lost in action. It creates the opportunity to perhaps initiate a new VOCAL cycle.
Applications of the VOCAL model
The VOCAL model is an efficient to for the coach doing aiki-coaching. Aiki-coaching is a somatic coaching. The body plays an important role in aiki-coaching and the VOCAL model is way to explore the coach’s experience and invite him to experiment the solution state he defined during the session.
The VOCAL model is useful for developing our emotional intelligence. The V of the VOCAL is a real mindfulness practice. The C is practice of empathy and compassion. The A coming after the V-O-C steps is a wonderful way to learn how to interrupt acting purely on the basis of emotion or impulsively.
The applications are so numerous that a detailed description would require an entire book. AikiCom workshops illustrate the multiple possibilities of this generic model. Limiting ourselves to pure a cognitive understand of its components cannot be sufficient. We have to embody the model by practicing it in various circumstances to make it a life changing model.