Conflict and Aikido
Conflict, arasoi in Japanese, may be seen as the clash of two or more purposes. The role of Aiki is to somehow get them into a mutually beneficial alignment.
An enlightened student of the Founder's Aikido, duly recognizes that the occasional, and inevitable need to actually fight for survival in the real world does occur. In choosing not to fight, however, the preferred reason would be the desire and commitment to discover and apply pragmatic and appropriate alternatives to the win-lose scenario that attends almost every fight.
If "fighting" is the primary rationale and primary option to resolve the conflict, then there is probably no opportunity to consider any other. As such, training to react and prevail in this primal manner is probably the best option for such a determined individual. For the truly determined, one can choose to resolve the conflict through whatever means that ends in a "win-win" agreement to cease hostilities. This choice allows for an almost endless exploration of scenarios, from verbal negotiation, to the skillful and compassionate subjugation of the attack and attacker. Or, one may choose to unfortunately terminate the conflict, to include ending it with extreme prejudice in its final form. This choice would clearly demonstrate that the mission of Aiki to have all parties mutually prevail, has truly failed, and that "peace" could only be achieved with the permanent removal of the antagonist.
The student who is seriously dedicated to behaving consistently with the principles of Ueshiba Aiki, and of his Aikido, must include an effective fight response to his overall training system. Hopefully, he will have an opportunity to first apply the non-confrontational elements of his craft to satisfactorily subdue a violent attack. Only when this attempt fails, will he assume the awesome, and unwelcome responsibility to then "fight fire with fire".
This commitment to resolve conflicts without undue harm to the participants, along with eliminating the basis for the conflict, is made with the sanguine realization that actual fighting may well be inevitable at some point. It is not the responsibility of the aikido practitioner to "ensure" that overt conflict or violence will not occur, or that permanent injury or death may not result. No one can, or should, be held accountable for any inappropriate decisions or misguided judgments made by others.
The "love" alluded to by the Founder, was never intended to apply to those who chose to be his enemies. His profession of "Budo is Love", was meant to honor the myriad and ever present examples of harmony, peaceful co-existence and non violent exchanges occurring daily in his world. Yet, he did realize that such manifestations of universal accord do exist side by side with the potential, and actual occurrence of arbitrary, mean spirited, and horrific displays of destructive violence and human suffering occurring simultaneously in the very same environment. As he made his choices, so do we get to make ours.
In the world of nature, there exists no "good", "bad", "magnificent" or "evil". Such notions are man made, representing a uniquely human attempt to rationalize, justify or emotionally characterize both the positive and negative impacts that naturally occurring phenomena and events have on us. Just because we "think it so", doesn't "make it so". Wizard's First Rule cautions us to remember that "People are stupid. They will believe a lie, if they believe that it is true, or when they are afraid that it might be true.". Let us think things through thoroughly, to avoid being trapped by untruths. We have both the right and the responsibility, to correctly assess things for what they really are.
As students of both Ueshiba Aiki Principles, and of the Founder's Aikido, we owe it to ourselves to undertake whatever "due diligence" is required, to seek and perform ongoing self examination and discovery, to glean the lessons we need from daily training, and to be open-minded to all research into things "Aiki" related, within ourselves, and from those we trust, respect and admire.
Yes, omnipresent conflict, threats of violence, and wholesale evidence of universal suffering remain embedded within the fabric of our existence. So too is the overwhelming evidence of affirmative examples of harmonious co-existence, unforeseen acts of random kindness, the exquisite thrills of sudden discoveries, the amazing examples of the power of the human spirit to overcome incredible challenges and trauma, and the unbidden instances of joy that visit us almost on a daily basis. As fortunate students of the Way of the Founder's Aiki, it will always be our privilege, honor and determination to know the difference.
In our daily practice, we must first develop honest confidence in our own abilities to move and perform the fundamentals of our craft. Then, we must learn to recognize openings and opportunities, to both move into and out of them without constraint, while practicing restraint. Practice makes perfect.
We must then learn to allow the opponent to commit himself and his purpose before we do. Only then, may we be confident of the correctness of our final response, and to act decisively without hesitation.
Remember to always respect the opponent's tendency to compromise, provoke, disrespect, misunderstand, and to harm you.
Understand that the apex of the opponent's threat, is also the nadir of that opponent ‘s ability to defend himself. This is the opening you must enter.
Enter, into the vacuum of any hesitation prior to the attack, and execute your technique for maximum control and effect.
Enter, into the vacuum of the opponent's passing, to then exercise your sense of restraint and compassion, while neutralizing the attack.
Resolve the conflict of purposes using Aiki Principles, and allow stability and equilibrium to once again return to the interrupted conversation.
Resolve to achieve true reconciliation, through the mutual desire for balance, peace, and lasting friendship.
Resolve any and all conflicts within yourself, before you face any other kind.
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.
Re: Conflict and Aikido
I like what you are saying here, Sensei... I think that we each have our own toolbox; and while the tools therein may be different from one individual to another, the trick is still to know how to select with confidence the best tool for the job. The guy who always grabs the blunt instrument first is gonna mess up a lot of stuff... ;)
Looking forward to your future columns...
Re: Conflict and Aikido
Are you Terry Goodkind in disguise? :D
Re: Conflict and Aikido
That last line is the hardest part, isn't it? Just that one will keep me busy for a while!
Re: Conflict and Aikido
True victory is victory over self.
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