Sensei Brian Hill joined our chess camp this year for two Aikido (Japanese Martial Art) sessions designed to teach Aikido concepts that apply to chess. Sometimes looking at concepts from a different perspective facilitates learning. Here are a few things we learned:
1. Respect your partner. In Aikido, you bow before practicing with a partner. In chess, you shake hands. This is a sign of respect which encompasses the reminder not to underestimate them. In Aikido, chess and life, overconfidence, not respecting others, can lead you not to give your all.
2. Always be aware. This is a basic premise in martial arts to be aware of things around you at all times. We called situational awareness. In chess, it is important to be aware of the entire board as well as your opponent’s body language, facial expression, breathing, eye movement.
3. Stay centered. In Aikido, you have to keep your balance, and not over commit yourself with your weight forward or let yourself to be bowled over backwards. In chess, don’t let yourself get flustered in the face of an onslaught, and also don’t get overconfident and get drawn into a trap. Breathe, know your strengths and limitations, and stay in the moment.
4. Blend. In Aikido, we don’t clash, fight, or compete. Our goal is victory, but not at the expense of our opponent. We figure out out our opponent’s plan, blend with it and use it to resolve the situation. Watch your opponents game and strive to see their strategy from their perspective. Then you can align yourself with their game and turn it to your favor. This idea applies to life as well. You are infinitely better able to reach your goals in a given situation if you first strive to truly understand the other person’s perspective/situation.
5. Take your opponent’s balance, decisively. If you’re able to do the first four of these suggestions, then you should be able to assert yourself with laser-sharp precision, make decisive moves, and checkmate your opponent’s king. In Aikido, this is the moment at which you decide what throw, pin, or other move you will use depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent.
How about the reverse? Chess players, what have you learned from playing chess that helps you in other endeavors?