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Today, a reading outside of aikido literature has led me to ask some questions about what I, an aikidoka with Asperger's Syndrome, am attempting (among other things) to accomplish in my training: to apply the Founder's budo to the resolution of my personal challenges. But how complicated a proposition is this? And more directly, how in blazes will this WORK?!
I've begun reading Nick Dubin's rather thoughtful work, Asperger's Syndrome and Anxiety: A Guide to Successful Stress Management. In the second chapter, Dubin expounds at length on a number of the social & psychological challenges that "Aspies" like me face, while trying to keep the reader from becoming intimidated or discouraged, and summarizes by saying, "Instead of viewing the world as a dangerous place, view yourself as a brave warrior heading into battle." This, I now realize, is EXACTLY what I've been trying to do, my whole life, through MA practice & fandom.
It's an appealing metaphor, to be sure. But it runs into a kink when you consider, further, how Aikido interprets the warrior ethic: as being utterly opposed to conflict on principle, not bracing for it with every moment. So before I go overboard with the analogy of "asper-kido" as the solution to all my problems, I'd better sort this out.
Ueshiba-kaiso had a unique interpretation of the word, "budo": the martial path. It might be said that he took the Tokugawa-era principle of "The Life-Giving Sword" to an extreme, when he recast budo as the means to end and eliminate conflict, so much so that aggression and might became downright antithetical to budo, rather than its bases. Aikido is a martial style variously described as "peaceful," "harmonious," and "even "forgiving," rather than a tool for defeating one's enemies, inside or out. So how do I apply this to a mode of self-therapy for my condition? How do I conquer my challenges by blending with them, and by refusing to harm them?
(SIDE NOTE: If there's a Japanese phrase for, "Oy vey," I could sure use it now.)
Anyway, while I may not be able to resolve those questions right away, I may make some progress by backing up, and concentrating on the basics. (Fortunate, then, I that I just read some old Aiki News comments to that effect, by Saito Morihiro!)
First, this may justify, and even explain, my personal preference, for a functional, practically applicable aikido. Part of this is simply my personality: I'm a practically-minded person. But even I have been forced to admit (as I've said elsewhere on this site) that in real life, the likelihood of violence is so minimal that the character-development lessons of aikido are probably more valuable. This, I'm sure, is part of why Ueshiba-kaiso referred to his art as a "Budo" and not a "Bujutsu," or the like.
But the irony here is that the very qualities that are likely to benefit me, personally, may be better derived from combative practice than from philosophizing, particularly where the ability to handle stress is concerned. Aspies like me have a horrible set of issues with panic, being easily startled, fight-or-flight reflexes acting up inappropriately, and the inability to relax, either before OR after stress. Also, our way of thinking can sometimes make it hard to practically apply learned knowledge, however extensive. These are precisely the issues that martial training ought to address.
(Furthermore, this would seem to validate my side interest in exploring adrenaline-stress or flinch-response training: these would seem to be very directly relevant to my problems.)
I also might step back to the budo tradition in general, and even to Zen, by trying an adaptation of the principle of zanshin: total awareness. By applying this internally as well as externally, I could work towards a total consciousness of my emotional and psychological state (often a terrible weak point for Aspies), over and above the material facts about me. This, too, might have combined therapeutic & functional merit.