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Yay! I could train tonight! I held back a bit because it's still a little hard for me to breath, but overall I felt pretty good.
I've been thinking a lot about power recently -- partly as continued fallout from re-reading Dueling with O'Sensei, partly because of a visit from a friend I hadn't seen for four years, and partly because of a comment my wife made recently.
One of the essays in Ellis's book deals with abuse of power. It was an interesting essay because he highlighted the relationship between teacher and student -- and the inherent potential for abuse. I've never been abused, but I know those who have (not by a martial arts instructor, but by family). I got to thinking that any time there is a relationship based on trust and unequal power (student/teacher), there is a potential for abuse.
So, the first thing I wondered is what keeps some relationships from straying from one of shared or equal power to one of unequal power? I think part of it is that some people have the strength (often borne of painful experience) to never tolerate abusive behavior. My friend, whom I hadn't seen for several years, is divorcing her husband of less than two years because he was unfaithful to her. This was not abuse, but betrayal. My friend, drawing on the support of her family and close friends, after trying to work things out with her husband, that her power lay with her ability to leave the situation. It was painful for her, but staying would have been more painful.
Conversely, I think healthy relationships show that there is a power in being vulnerable. Something my wife said to me was that by admitting her fears and accepting them, she was better able to deal with then than if she tried to deny that she had them. Sometimes this means admitting a fear to a spouse, and sometimes it means simply admitting one to one's self. This reminded me of our main stance, our hamni. We stand with one leg strongly forward, but with our arms relaxed (I realize this is different from the way some people do it). In short, we do not try to cover our vulnerabilities. Instead, we accept them and present an open stance. (See, this does have to do with aikido!)
So, I've recently been exposed to three aspects of power: (1) unequal power, as in a student/teacher relationship (2) power borne of an inner strength, and finally, (3) power borne from an understanding and acceptance of one's vulnerabilities. I see all three in an aikido technique.
When we begin as nage, we accept our vulnerabilities and are open to an attack, but we realize that our vulnerabilities are not liabilities, so we blend and become the center of the relationship ? power from inner strength. Throughout, we are in a state of unequal power. We have the advantage over the attacker and can even (ideally) teach him the error of his ways.
I used to think that ethics was where one put the balance between individual rights and the good of the community. Now I think there is something deeper. Ethics, in part, is how we choose, as individuals, to use power. I don't think power happens without relationships, and I feel that aikido gives me a way to study relationships and explore the use of power in a safe manner.
As a final note, I realize that unequal power is seldom a bad thing and does not automatically lead to abuse, but the potential is there. Most student/teacher relationships lead to enlightenment, self-discovery, and learning. I do feel that a good marriage is based on love, openness, and trust. An interesting by-product of which is strength through mutual vulnerability. Hmm.