How often do you think about, hear about, or engage in a discussion about the feasibility of you emerging victorious in a fight, because of your martial arts training? How many hours do you spend each week training in martial arts? What are the odds that you will end-up in a physical fight in the next month, year, decade…? Why do we spend so much time training for something that is highly unlikely to occur? Are we really that crazy? If you are trying to become a warrior, why not enlist in the military? If you are trying to become invincible, how dangerous is your world and what do you think that you are invincible from? Why don’t we look at our training as a way of redefining the fight so that our training does make sense.
Aikido can teach us to look at the idea of a fight from a very different perspective. A fight involves two or more people. Let us start off with simply looking at two people wanting to fight. These two people are wanting to enter into a unique relationship with the other person. The relationship centers around the issues of control and dominance within the confines of a fight-or-flight paradigm. The action-reaction sequence that occurs defines the nature of the fight and typically the outcome as well. The more effective the act of aggression is (in comparison the other person) the more likely that this person will emerge victorious. Aikido teaches us to connect to the other person. This connection has to begin at an energy level and typically progresses to a physical level. If this connection allows you to blend in to the other person, then the other person will have a hard time “finding” you. If a person throws a punch and your react with a tense movement in the area where the punch has been directed, the person typically tracks you and follows that up with another strike. If your body movement is in-tune with the other person’s punch, the punch does not hit the target and the attacker has a hard time tracking the changes. A perfect example of that in another arena would be to watch video of Roy Jones Jr. (boxer) in his prime. If the person has trouble “finding” you, this process will continue in order to create the next step of reacting to the initial action. While the aggressor is “stuck” in step one, the Aikidoka has the “freedom” of the connection to place the aggressor in the situation where he/she is suddenly and unexpectedly having to react to something unanticipated.
The focus on the connection between two people (or more) changes how people view the idea of a fight. When people think of a relationship and the connection inherent in that relationship, they typically view this as existing in positive relationships. Many people have to stop and think about the idea of a fight as simply another kind of relationship. The aggressor in a fight is trying to elicit a particular kind of response from the other person. Aikido teaches us not to communicate with the aggressor in a manner that the aggressor is both accustom to and is expecting. Our different response/communication sets leave the aggressor “searching” for the response set that is expected in order to control and dominate that relationship. In absence of that “reply” to the aggression, the aggressor is still “searching” for the expected response, while the Aikidoka is moving in a manner that can thwart the aggressive act from succeeding. This occurs because the aggressor and Aikidoka are literally existing within different, subjective time frames. The aggressor is stuck in an action-reaction time frame. The Aikidoka is free to move within a connected/unified time frame. We can experience this as an attacker when we attack and we suddenly find ourselves in an inescapable predicament….
Most communication that takes place between people is non-verbal. The most important time to communicate effectively is when there is conflict in a relationship. That means that effective communication in a fight is a great idea. The aggressor is communicating TO the other person and not WITH the person. If you can communicate WITH the aggressor in a manner that thwarts the attempt to communicate TO you, then all the better. Positive, relaxed and focused non-verbal communication can accomplish this. To prove this point, have someone come to attack you in any manner. You stay calm and focused and when the person is at a distance that you typically reach out to shake hands, reach your hand out to shake that person’s hand. Watch what happens to the attacker. It’s quite amusing. Usually, the attacker stop the attack with a puzzled look on the face, or even impales one’s self on the shaking hand.
Many people start fights because they project onto others, aspects of themselves that they do not like and cannot acknowledge within themselves. Their internal world is intolerable at some level and a sense of relief can be achieved by beating-up another person. Our training should be a process of getting rid of the fight within us. Developing a center is a process of developing a sense of self that you are truly comfortable with. This involves developing a greater sense of awareness & sensitivity of one’s self, which results in a greater degree of awareness and sensitivity of others. Our new-found appreciation of self and others leads to a greater awareness and appreciation of relationships in our lives. This awareness allows us greater “lead-time” in addressing developing problems, thwarting the potential conflicts that can arise. Our deeper appreciation of ourselves and others allows us to view a fight differently. We begin to ask ourselves questions: Is this issue really worth it? Do I really need to take it to the next level? Is it really necessary to put it all on the line? If the physical fight does occur, the training that we have engaged in should hopefully allowed us to survive the experience.
Being able to put it all on the line in order to go home to your loved ones, means that our practice is very, very important. Choices made in training can help us make the world inside ourselves and outside ourselves a better place to live in. That makes our world safer, so that the very rare chance of being caught up in a fight is made even rarer.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here