Aikido and Muslims.
I read here and there on the internet various Western viewpoints of how to deal with Muslims who are interested in joining an Aikido dojo.
I did think a lot about it, and give my viewpoint, i hope it can be a guide for non muslim dojo's dealing with aspiring Muslim members.
When i first encountered this topic online, my natural rraction was one of reason and social etiquette, or so i believed.
"well mister, if you join any club you have to follow the rules, you cant expect any club you join to bend the rules especially for you."
In the end this attitude seems to be the most common western attitide; the aspiring Muslim Aikidoka is viewed as a troublemaker. No wonder he dont come back. No wonder so little Muslims, and Black people, do Aikido.
But is it really up to us, to prevent people the joy of practising Aikido just because their life values dont adhere to some social etiquette?
I have a vivid imagination, and i imagined Osensei. And here come two Muslims to his dojo.
"oh sensei, we would like to practise your Martial Art of Peace, but our religion forbids us to bow to other people or images. What should wedo?"
How would O'Sensei react?
"what? you dont want to bow to my photo on the wall? you are not welcome, go away!"
of course not.
Osensei wasnt a man of rigid social etiquette (no Great Man is..). He more likely would have waived it away and welcomed them and showed them Aikido.
I learned a bit more about Muslims practising Aikido. Some (or many) Muslims are particularly interested in Aikido because of the peaceful philosophy of Aikido and as a selfdefense, not learning to harm other people like in combative sports, but selfdefense.
Their motivation, coming from their Muslim faith, greatly matches the Aikido spirit. How can we be anything but welcoming to such Aikido brothers and sisters? Only our narrowmindedness and selfrighteousness prevents us to see the great oportunity.
Instead of chasing away that inquiring Muslim, we should drag him into the dojo, welcome him, dont insist on petty social rules that divode, but on the essence of harmony that unites.
Muslims dont want mixed practise with the oposite sex? So what? Anybody can decide his lifestyle choiches. Be kind and understanding, let people choose their own partner.
Also some (non muslim) females like to practise with the same sex and feel uncomfortable training and touching males. So what? Why cannot? Of course can. Dont shove social rules on other people, let people practise freely in a harmoneous spirit.
Some muslims dont like to shake hands with females. So what? i also feel repulsed by involunarely shaking hands with a stranger based on social rules.
The no touching and no mixing of sexes in Muslim communities, has more sophisticated background than what many wrsterners think ("they dont shake hands because they feel superior.)
Imagine, when a curious Muslim comes to our dojo, instead of viewing him as a potential problem, we truly welcome him. He might join the dojo today, and bring his friends next week.
Aikido is about Harmony philosophy, building bridges, etc, its not about petty social rules. Social rules are just to bring order in the dojo. If they prevent other people with the right attitude and philosophy to join Aikido, get rid or change or adapt the rules.
People are important . Not rules. I think Osensei would agree with that.
Next time when a Muslim knocks on the door, why not ask him kindly why he wants to do Aikido? His response might forget you to make problems about silly non essential rules, and you might view him as an Aikido brother instead of a stranger.
Lastly, a good technique to get a better understanding, is to turn the tables.
I am a vegan. I imagine how would i feel if i visited a Muslim festivity or celebration, like Ramadam. Imagine the host saying "why should we accomodate to your vegan diet? Just conform yourself of go away!" Yikes. Got it.
How about "welcome welcome!! how wonderful you take the time visit us! You dont eat meat? Oh dont worry we will make you a delicious Arabic vegan dish!"
There are always people searching and looking for differences, to create division, to create a "we and them". Its not the Aikido spirit.
Instead of people replying and talk ABOUT muslims (i am so not interested...) i would like to talk WITH muslims, and especially listen to them how they combine Aikido and Islam...