V: Violence, View, and Victory
Breathe in violence
Breath out view
We live in a world of violence. Yet, violence, like anything else, is how we view it. How can we view violence in such a way that we can respond so that we win a victory and not become just another victim?
Violence: (1) physical force, (2) destructive force, (3) fierceness, ferocity or fervor, (4) illegal force, (5) to harm or damage, (6) aggression, hostility, brutalityThe first Buddhist Noble Truth is that life has suffering. Perhaps we express suffering in the giving and receiving of violence. There is the violence others do to us, the violence we do to others, and the violence we do to ourselves.
In the dojo, there is supposed to be no violence, or at the very least, controlled violence. Perhaps that is why many people take up the martial arts, to learn how to be violent in the face of violence. Most people who are already comfortable with expressing violence do not end up training in a dojo. All too often, it is the victims of their violence, the people who are uncomfortable with it, that end up training to be able to confront it. In the striking arts, we may find people already more comfortable with violence. For some of us, we had to spend many years in the striking arts before coming to the blending arts.
In life, to confront the violence in others, first we have to confront the violence in ourselves. We are a fear-based society. As a counselor, I have worked for many years with the victims and offenders of family violence (child abuse and domestic violence) and societal violence (crime). While many people think of violence as the problem, it really is a symptom of a much deeper problem. Violence is often a faulty attempt at solving that deeper problem. Like so many attempted solutions, it actually facilitates, repeats, reinforces, and perpetuates the problem it is trying to resolve. In essence, (with very few contextual references) violence does not work.
View: (1) range of sight or vision, (2) scene, (3) opinion or belief, (4) act of looking for something, (5) perceive and perspective, (6) pictorial representation, (7) survey, (8) to regard something in a particular way, (9) to observe or look at something, (10) to inspect or examine something, (11) to watch or review, (12) to consider, regardThe second Buddhist Noble Truth is that suffering comes from ignorance and attachment. The third Buddhist Noble Truth is that ignorance and attachment can be overcome. The fourth Buddhist Noble Truth is that the suffering caused by ignorance and attachment can be overcome by following the middle-way of the eight-fold path. The first two of the middle-way of the eight-fold path has to do with cultivating empathy, compassion, and altruism through the cultivation of right view/perception and right understanding.
In the dojo, we get the opportunity and experience of confronting and seeing through physical (and psychological) violence. To train well, we must give our training partner an honest and genuine attack to work with. Otherwise, our training partner gets a false sense of confidence and competence. We learn to move our bodies in a violent strike or grab, but we must learn to let go of our internal aggression. Whether we are the uke (attacker) or the nage/tori (defender) we must learn to control our bodies and minds. Our Sensei (teacher/instructor) must provide guidance of the physical technical movements and the strategic mental focus and process. Rather than a competitive adversarial relationship, we must learn to cooperate in training. Rather than fight, flight or freeze behavior based on a fear-based perception, we must cultivate the ability to flow physically by staying mentally mindful and emotionally empathetic and compassionate.
In life, often before we can get lasting behavioral change, we need to make an internal cognitive perceptual change. To change the do, first change the view. Violence is usually the protective reaction to pain, fear, and taking things personally. Bill Cosby suggested that hurt people hurt people. Beneath the striking out is the emotional hurt. The more violent people are, the more hurt they are. When we only react to the violent striking out, we miss the opportunity to respond compassionately to the root cause of cognitive ignorance and distortions leading to emotional fear, pain, and suffering. Seeing through our own pain allows us to be more pro-active in seeing through the pain of others. This is a part of the healing and recovery process in relationships. Many times, we are not mad at what people do, but hurt by how we personally view it.
Victory: (1) conquest or triumph, (2) win against an enemy or opponent in a battle or contest, (3) success in overcoming a difficult situation or obstaclePerhaps victory is protecting others from our violence through an ethical life of right action, right speech, and right livelihood. Perhaps victory over our self and world view can only be obtained through right effort, right concentration/contemplation, and right mindfulness. These are remaining steps of the Buddhist middle-way of the eight-fold path.
Part of the illusion of life is that we are all alone. This is the basis of the existential angst of loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. We only see the "I" of the learned ego identity and the "we" of the inter-connected and inter-dependency where we all co-create and co-exist. We all win or we all lose.
In the dojo, O'Sensei stressed the lack of competition perhaps to help us turn away from the confrontive and comparative adversarial position where we see ourselves separate from each other to a cooperative opportunity, endeavor, and experience of working together in everyone's best interest and safety. This is no easy task. The important constructive things in life are not easy. They require that we quit competing and comparing ourselves against others and work on redefining and refining ourselves. Victory is over our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, not the fear-based power and control over others.
In life, we cannot demand everyone in the world act the way we want them to. Okay, we can demand it, we can even expect to get it, but that would be more magical illusionary thinking. We cannot control the world, but we can control how we respond to it. When others are hurting and acting-out (violence towards others) or acting-in (violence towards self), we have the opportunity to practice compassionate mindful perception and perspective by being help-full not hurt-full. To do this, we may have to see through the point of view that thinks we are separate from others and expand our self-view to a world-view and accept that victory is inclusive and defeat is exclusive.
Not seeing ourselves as separate from other's fear, pain, and suffering (even expressed as violence) but as means of healing it may be the true discipline of our training in and out of the dojo.
Breathe in violence
Breathe out view
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.
Re: V: Violence, View, and Victory
What a beautiful treatise, Seiser Sensei! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your reflections.
What you have written is illustrated physically so very clearly on our mat even though we don't practice techniques.
Beginners in our dojo are taught how to maintain an authentic attack intention without the intensity through movements I call "Stretches." I call them this because an "attack" stimulates a lower brain response, but a stretch is something we can help our partners accomplish (his mission, per Osensei) by "spotting" them (being involved in the action without interferring, with the intention of support). This way, from the first time a new student steps on to the mat the student understands that in our practice the purpose is to effectively support our attacker, not thwart his intention or retaliate with a throw.
I endeavor to impart to my students the viewpoint that violence is the expression of a need to connect to others that is so great that it overcomes the attacker's natural tendency to protect self. I teach them that the energetic flow of ki to the central core of the target inherent in violent attack is actually the same as extending beneficent support, but that fear has caused the attacker's flow of connective energy to express as a constricted, hence destructive, flow like a fire hose.
But when we can, through beneficent intention, direct our flow of ki in a broad, non-constricted flow, the combination of energies produces a unification that reaches to the central core of the attacker transforming his intention as it transforms the linear force of the attack to a spiral that permits the energy to ground without obstruction.
Since we don't practice through technique emulation, no one in our dojo knows how their uke will attack, even whether it will come as a grab or strike. It is just understood that the attack will come with authentic attack energy. For flawless aiki to manifest in this circumstance, we have found that it takes a transcendence of the lower brain reflex to defend/withdraw in order to extend compassion/acceptance/benevolence/forgiveness, etcetera. As that state of grace produces an optimum ki flow, the aikido manifests spontaneously, sometimes in the form of one of the aikido techniques I practiced for 20 years (which they have never been shown) or more usually in a much simpler path.
Therefore we use our practice to "change the view" as you mentioned.
The way we practice means a lot fewer trips to the mat for uke because we discover that most of what prevents the aiki from spontaneously manifesting has to do with our resistance or withdrawal as nage rather than our support.
However, as difficult as it may be to find that state of being that will produce the optimal ki flow for aiki to manifest spontaneously under the duress of authentic attack intention, this kind of practice gives us honest, undeniable feedback as to whether we are really in that state of compassion/acceptance/benevolence/forgiveness, etcetera or have been conned by our intellects into believing that we are in in, when in fact we are in a "picture" of it. Our intellects love to believe that the map is the territory, because it is usually easier that way.
But when uke offers authentic attack energy instead of collusion with a technique, we are instantly made aware of the truth because uke will not "complete his mission" unless we transcend our illusion and become authentic in our selfless state of being. In this way Masakatsu Agatsu becomes the literal operating principle of our aikido. In our dojo, unless we can be victorious over our reflexive responses of defend or withdraw, and transcend our lower brain to access the higher consciousness that allows us to embody the qualities of selflessness (victory over self) each time, we will see no one on the mat.
When we practice this way we may only see a handful of "falls" in the whole session, but when aiki manifests on our mat, both participants get instant insight into all the spiritual teachings of the Founder, not as ethereal enigma, but as profound literal truth.
Thank you for the rich food for thought.
Re: V: Violence, View, and Victory
It sounds like you have a great way at perceiving training.
IMHO, we often limit our perceptions, filter them through what we already know, and use the experience to justify what we already know does not work.
Perhaps we are our own worse victims of this violence.
In solution-focused work we often say that before we can change the "do" we have to change the "view".
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, its how we train together.
Compliments and appreciation.
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