All was stillness and desolation, each corpse
in its usual place... war had turned the
water babies into little ghouls that danced
around the dead... but you must struggle,
and will carry the memories all your life.
-- E. B. Sledge
I don't know much about violence and fear. I've prepared and practiced, studied, trained for killing -- "commitment to violence" is what the man said, talking to us about hand-to-hand -- but no more than that. Never seen the elephant.
I've been afraid and I've been hurt... but not much. Been nowhere near my breaking point, and can't say I know just where that might be. Don't want to know.
It's tempting to say that fear and violence have no power over us beyond their potential for preventing appropriate action. Feelings pass, even blinding terror and pain, and don't exist beyond ourselves. What we do remains. Our actions have real effect on others, consequences rippling through generations.
But fear and violence can change someone. If that someone is one I love, and if the change means my someone comes home, then a good change it is. But they are changed. Nearer dead.
I believe Aikido can help resurrect one's deadened humanity. It is my duty to train in a manner facilitating your struggle with whatever demons you happen to bring. (I expect you'll lose the struggle. I sometimes suspect you're not even struggling.) In helping you, my fears fade.
Respect for our art's deadly potential does not require its exploration. There is violence enough too easily found. There is fear enough in us.
I asked my teacher if Aikido hurts.
"No, of course not. Doesn't hurt at all. But when you screw it up," he said, "it hurts like hell."
That's what I'm afraid of.