We live in difficult times. There is a general lack of respect for and civility towards one another. Almost daily there is another mass shooting. Intolerance and hate are on the rise, whether it is directed toward women, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, or anyone else who is perceived as “the other.” How do we move from a culture of violence to one of peace? I would propose that we do this as we do everything else – one step at a time, one person at a time. One means to pursue this goal of personal change and growth is the practice of Aikido.
To study a martial art to achieve peace seems an oxymoron. We might choose martial arts classes for our children to promote self-discipline, self-confidence, and physical fitness. However, the popular culture view of martial arts practice as two individuals engaged in combat to the death, or at least to the tap out, likely does not appeal to those individuals who are seeking a more peaceful and harmonious approach to life.
Make no mistake, Aikido is a martial art. It is also “The Art of Peace.” Morihei Ueshiba (known as 0’Sensei, or Great Teacher) developed the art from a deep understanding of both martial and spiritual principles. There is a clear moral underpinning to the practice of Aikido. If a person does harm to another, that person stains his own spirit. If I, as a practitioner of Aikido, understand this, then I have a responsibility to protect that person from staining his spirit. Thus, if you attack me, I have a duty to neutralize your attack in a way that prevents you from harming me and in a way that does not harm you. To do this, I have to have a clear understanding of martial principle, and then choose to use only that force necessary to keep us both safe. Or, as I like to say, if you attack me and I don’t kill you because I don’t know how to do so, that is incompetence. If I know how to kill and choose not to, that is a moral decision.
Is Aikido technique effective to neutralize an attacker with an assault rifle? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, that typically requires another person with an assault rifle. And then, where does it end? One act of violence begetting another and another. Instead, Aikido offers us a different way to think about conflict and its resolution. In Aikido, we do not spar. There are not winners or losers. We engage in paired, cooperative practice so that each person can learn and grow. We do not conflict with our partner’s movements, we blend with them, reaching a harmonious conclusion to the “attack.” When we train, we respect our partner for who they are in that moment, whatever that person brings to the mat. Our growth as individuals carries the whole group forward.
Aikido is a physical manifestation of the business philosophy of win-win. In our daily life, the practice of aikido can help us to deal with interpersonal conflict in a more productive way. Instead of meeting anger with anger, or shying away from conflict, we learn to accept each individual for who and where they are and to harmonize with them to craft a mutually agreeable outcome. This is the practice of Aikido in our daily life. If each of us carries forward that spirit of mutual respect and of a shared decision making process whose goal is for each party emerges better off, then one person at a time, one encounter at time, the world becomes a better place.
Perhaps Aikido interests you? If so, drop by for one of our Saturday morning introductory sessions to see how it is we train our minds and bodies in The Art of Peace. We hope to see you on the mat.