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Old 01-31-2010, 11:28 AM   #46
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Dojo: Milwaukee Aikikai
Location: Wisconsin
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 401
Re: The Martial Art of Difficult Conversations

Bernard Kwan wrote: View Post
I started Aikido in 1999 so I probably can't comment from experience when this phenomenon originated. One of the things that has always mystified me is how often these "verbal negotiations" or other examples of "Aikido in Everyday Life" come up in magazines, newspaper articles come up. Maybe it all originated with Terry Dobson's book that Peter Goldsbury highlighted in his post. I remember reading the book and thinking - "what does this have to do with Aikido?"

It seems to me that in North America especially that Aikido is viewed as a "spiritual" martial art without any clear definition or understanding of what "spiritual" means. If an outsider read all the literature it would seem that Aikido can be applicable everywhere - from physical conflict, to disputes over parking spaces, and even to raising horses (?!- a recent newspaper article).

The risk this runs is that the term "Aikido principles" (usually irimi, tenkan, blending, etc) are diluted to the point where I don't believe they are useful anymore. The term "Aikido" then becomes something meaningless like "the art of peace" which can be an umbrella term for everything nice...

For instance - someone comes up and slaps me, I turn the other cheek and walk away. There is no further conflict. Is this "aikido"? Reading a lot of the literature this seems that the common denominator it boils down to is avoidance of conflict and being calm.

Now I do believe there are distinct fields where good research and practical work is being done such as "crisis management", "negotiation", "international relations and diplomacy" and "body movement" and "alternative medicine". But we should take care not muddy the waters and label them all as part of Aikido practice or embodying Aikido principles, because we risk devaluing aikido or applying it where it has no business being applied.

To me it is a little like Marxism, you can have a bunch of general principles that you can apply to everything (sociology, economics, psychology,etc. ) and in the end the term becomes so abused leaving you with Communism with Chinese Charateristics (which is to say not really communism at all).

I am writing as an outsider here, although I did study and work in the US for three years, but I believe that other countries don't necessarily see Aikido in the same way? For instance do people in Europe have the same vision of Aikido as "self-help / personal improvement in a dance format"?

Sigh...maybe this maybe a little off topic and needs a thread of its own...
I think there is a happy medium here. We can apply aikido's ethics, underlying motivations, and thought process to any kind of conflict, not just violent conflict. But I think we go too far if we try to find verbal equivalents of tenkan or irimi.

O Sensei believed that we could use the lessons we learn in aikido to create a more peaceful and harmonious world. Those lessons, as I see them, are to be relaxed and flexible and to move in harmony with the world around us rather than statically resist it. These are things I think we can apply to our daily lives.

More broadly, any martial art with do in its name fancies itself more than a method of combat. A do is a way, a path, not just an art or method. My students at school who learn taekwondo are learning respect for authority and others, perseverence, confidence, integrity, and leadership. If taekwondo were just a method of punching and kicking, it would be catastrophic to teach it to our students, many of whom have gang connections and/or violent personality disorders.

While I think the martial arts analogy can be (and often is) taken too far, I believe that the martial arts can and should teach us things that we can apply to the non-martial aspects of our lives.
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