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[Originally posted on my blog www.grabmywrist.com, on 10/10/2009, at 4:25 p.m., when AikiWeb was down.]
I've heard it said that Aikido is more like police work than like the military. You want to control a bad situation, keeping everyone as safe as possible. There's nothing comparable to storming in and taking out the enemy. It's an analogy that resonates with me, and has been very useful in explaining to non-Aikido friends why my training isn't about fighting or beating people up.
But I've noticed something in the past week that brought another image to mind. First, I was watching Sensei working with some of the yudansha. There was no rushing, no anger, no malicious intent. What I saw was calm, composed compassion, along with undeniable power and absolute control. It suddenly reminded me of watching a veterinary technician (vet tech) control an animal patient. Vet techs have a variety of techniques they use to immobilize a animal so it can be safely treated without hurting them, the veterinarian, or itself. The animal is absolutely controlled, but with no intent to cause it harm, only kindness and sympathy. It's done firmly, so there's no question in the animal's mind that it might be able to get loose, but no more force is used than necessary. It's interesting that the animal usually feels safe, and calms down.
Later I got to experience being Uke as Sensei demonstrated a technique. The analogy held up. There was no pain, or even force, but there was also no question of resisting, and a sense of total safety.
It's easy to imagine some of the sense of safety being due to working with someone you trust implicitly. But cats don't trust vet techs, and they still seem to have that experience.
If we can use Aikido with actual attackers (in whatever context), to evoke that calming sense of utter control and safety… Well, it's an image I'll keep around and play with, to see how well it fits.