View Full Version : Can a pacifist study (apply) martial arts?

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Guilty Spark
08-21-2007, 10:32 PM
My answer is no.

I've read posts from Aikidoa and other martial artists who like to consider themselves pacifists.
While I think it's a nice thought, I think it's wrong.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) -
–noun 1. a person who believes in pacifism or is opposed to war or to violence of any kind.

I believe the minute someone physically defends themselves (including Aikido) they are not considered 'passive'.
I think the key is taking action.
Even with aikido's ultimate goal of not hurting your attacker, you're still commiting to action vice being passive.

1. not reacting visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling.
2. not participating readily or actively; inactive: a passive member of a committee.
3. not involving visible reaction or active participation: to play a passive role.

08-21-2007, 11:01 PM
you're confusing two homophones imo. Pacifist - believing in peace =/= passive - not doing anything.

There's a great quote which I'm sure someone will supply about only warriors being able to choose pacifism - everyone else is doomed to it. Which is true. I think the choice not to resort to violence has more meaning when you have a capability to use violence.

I also think that it's not a binary situation. It's a scale with pacifism on one end and infliction of mindless violence on the other. There are degrees in between. I think it's very possible to be *firmly* down the pacifistic end of the scale and be a martial artist. Maybe not at the *extreme* end. But since when is talking in extremes a useful exercise....

Michael Hackett
08-21-2007, 11:05 PM
There is also the school of thought that a real pacifist might have the capability of exercising violence and choose not to. That would suggest that a pacifist could study a martial art, but choose never to apply it. It also suggests that pacifism is a choice and if one had no capability to be violent, then he would have no choice and would not be a pacifist. But, whadda I know about pacifism?

Roman Kremianski
08-21-2007, 11:17 PM
Pacifists are against violence, but martial arts practice is not violence, so I guess they can do it.

08-22-2007, 04:48 AM
I consider myself a peaceful person, but if it comes down to me, my family, or innocents being confronted by violence, not to act would be a violation against nature.

Pacifism is a study on not creating violence from a non-violent situation and promoting peace. So to answer your question, yes doing Aikido and having the "proper" frame of mind, is indeed pacifism. After all did't the Buddhist Monks of ancient China and India create versions of martial arts like Shaolin Kung-Fu, and the Indian derivative to not only do physical training but also to protect them from invading marauders.

08-22-2007, 05:17 AM
actually I believe the story goes that that shaolin was a deriviative of the indian arts not vice versa

08-22-2007, 05:33 AM
How did you confuse Pacifism and passivity? The definition of violence is (taken from about.com): Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing: crimes of violence.

Even with the definition for pacifism that you presented, a pacifist may still act with physical force for purposes other than violating, damaging and abusing, which most martial arts preach against, anyways.

Dirk Hanss
08-22-2007, 05:34 AM
Pacifist means literally "peace maker".
While I do not think it is in the meaning of theColt with the same name, it really means you have to do something. But always with the intention to preserve or create love and peace.

To make peace, you need to have the choice. So if you are not able to do harm, you cannot call yourself a pacifist, you are just non-violent by non-ability.

To find the exact edge is very difficult and individual. But if you tolerate violence (against third paries) you are not making peace - and if you are trying to destroy someone else, even if he is evil or if you accept 'collateral damage' you are just doing the opposite of making peace.

So applying Aikido techniques is not the golden path, but it can be a reasonable compromise.



08-22-2007, 05:42 AM
IMHO, yes.

John Ruhl
08-22-2007, 09:08 AM
I can't help but think there's a T-shirt opportunity here:

Aikido: putting the "fist" back in "pacifist".

That said, if you browse definitions in different dictionaries, you'll get a variety of wordings, some of which make it sound like the label "pacifist" should be reserved for those who don't believe in taking any violent actions ever. Other definitions are less strident, leaning more toward the word root interpretation (pac, as in Pacific Ocean = peaceful ocean) that Dirk pointed out.

So the answer to your question depends on your definition of pacifist; when the answer depends on the definition, it's time to use more than one word.


Basia Halliop
08-22-2007, 09:32 AM
Aikido: putting the "fist" back in "pacifist".

I love it!

I'd say yes, they are sometimes compatible, although I suppose to answer precisely you'd need to know more about the person's beliefs, since different people define pacifism in subtely different ways, as well as more about the martial art in question and how they train it and when and if they would be willing to use it and how.

(and no, the fact that pacifism shares several letters with passive is a complete coincidence... many many words share letters without having any shared linguistic basis or shared meaning! Some, like 'too' and 'to', even sound identical and there is no hidden message there; it's an accident of linguistic evolution)

jennifer paige smith
08-22-2007, 09:59 AM
the complete
sequence of associations if found in the "four souls" and "one-spirit"
formulation: sachi-mitama, nigi-mitama,(pacific soul) ara-mitama, kushi- mitama, and ichirei
[ ] associated with earth, water, fire, heaven, and primordial void, in that

Pacifiism is an element of the whole based on the function of nature. We are all, and possess, all of them, whereas we are usually 'heavy' in one department. The purpose of training is to balance the earthly (universal) elements that exist in, around and among us. Nigi Mitama is the pacific soul, or water soul. Last time I checked we were chock full of water (both individually and planetarily)and balancing that element with the others outlined in the above quote would be a damn
good plan for practice.

The quote at the beginning came from Abe Sensei's translations.