What is the opposite of a martial artist? And, more generally, what is the opposite of "martial?"
You might be tempted to say "a pacifist," or "peaceful." And indeed, we could leave it at that. But something that fascinates me about language is having terms that designate a particular concept, but often lack good terms for its logical opposite.
In the case of "martial artist," why is it not common to speak also of, say, a "concordial artist," or a "paxian artist?" (Not surprisingly, my spell-checker doesn't even recognize these.) In fact, why is it that most people know from childhood that Mars (from whence the term "martial") is the god of war, but far fewer people can name an equivalent avatar of peace? (i.e. "Concordia" or "Pax.")
Partly, it may be that war is often seen as something active, a thing to be waged; while peace is generally thought of as passive -- nothing more than the absence of war. This impression is understandable. After all, we could just as easily say that health is the absence of disease. In this view, peace and health are non-things.
And yet we know that true health requires activity and vigilance. It requires exercise and discipline. It requires intelligence and situational awareness. Health arises from a robust immune system capable of repelling invaders. Health... well, gosh, it looks like I'm right back to using martial terminology.
So it is, in large part, with national and international health, which, when robust, is characterized as peaceful. Peace may arise from a variety of activities and machinations, from defense to diplomacy to trade relations to forceful intimidation and subtle espionage, to cultural exchange, and more.
But a nations's peace with the world is one thing, while "inner" peace is another. Domestic peace means creating an environment of prosperity and freedom for the populace. People need access to quality education and honorable, meaningful labor. People need creative outlets. They need exposure to the profound meaning and beauty of the arts, and the breathtaking discoveries of science. Such things do not magically appear in the vacuum between wars although they certainly do tend to better thrive in the absence of fear, intimidation, anxiety, interference, and the waste of resources.
Arguably, all martial enterprise is aimed at securing these very conditions. Whether defensive or imperialistic, warfare is conceived as a means to protect and empower a particular people -- often, regrettably, at the expense of other people.
And therein lies the paradox. War and peace are not necessarily opposites. The purpose of war is peace, even though war destroys peace. By the same token, the means of engendering and fostering peace are necessarily matters of defense and the elimination of hostile forces.
A warrior then (or martial artist), may be seen as one who strives against strife. Yet, a life of striving is a life of strife, so to be complete, a warrior must also live in accord with accord. A warrior practices war, but what word do we give those whose discipline and specialty is peace?
It's true that we have terms like "mediator," "arbiter," "peacemaker," and "moderator." These are actually pretty good candidates for answering my original question. Yet by now hopefully you will have realized why the original question is flawed.
In asking about opposites, we set ourselves up for exclusives. If you are one, you cannot be the other. Whereas the point I am trying to make is that in order to be one, you MUST be the other.
Part of the path of aikido is to reconcile opposites -- to turn them into complements. Aikido is often referred to as the "Art of Peace." In fact, this has become so popular that many would prefer it if aikido were not considered as a martial art. Others insist that aikido is meaningless if not acknowledged as a true martial way.
Such dissent and division might not be necessary if only we had better words. In medicine, we understand and routinely accept that a healer actively engages pathology, and unflinchingly will resort to violence if it promotes the overall goal of health and well-being. Why cannot the same be true in aikido?
So extreme is the devotion to one's particular view of aikido that people will tangle themselves in knots trying to avoid the language and practice of violence. There is tremendous risk of delusion in believing that skill in aikido can result in freedom from harm, either the giving or the receiving. At best, aikido can simply reduce the necessity of harm, and can teach effective action without the presumption of harm. But as with the surgeon, the skills are incomplete without the tools of violence and the knowledge of how to employ them wisely, compassionately, and parsimoniously.
As for the other camp, it is equally dangerous to see aikido as no more than a combat sport. To imagine that aikido is nothing but self defense is to miss the essential core of the art, which is the confluence of forces acting in accord, in all areas of life.
To address the problem of War and Peace, an army of peacemakers is needed. Peacemakers who are willing to take a stand against the disease of unwarranted violence, while understanding that force is occasionally necessary. What is needed is an advanced armed force whose mission is to bring all human beings together in accord. We need individuals who appreciate the unity of these apparently contradictory capacities, and act accordingly.
What would we call such a person? What name do we give to such an occupation?
If English fails, even with its rich Latin genealogy, then perhaps Japanese can offer hope. "Aikidoka" would serve perfectly, if only we could get past the mutually limiting philosophies of violence and nonviolence. The aikidoka is necessarily warrior (budoka) AND conciliator.
I wish there were a good word in English that combined these concepts in their proper synthesis. For now, back to Latin.
In addition to Mars, Concordia, and Pax, the Romans also acknowledged a goddess named Salus. Salus personified health, safety, prosperity, security, salvation, and welfare. If I had to choose, I suppose I would rather be a Salusian Artist rather than a Martial Artist. Ultimately, however, I would mate Mars and Salus to produce an offspring, perhaps named Marsalus.
Had history and mythology in the West been both more kind and more pragmatic, we would all know of Marsalus, and the name would be revered. Marsalus would be the deity that fiercely defends and protects, while promoting health, harmony, and happiness. I would happily consider myself a marsalusian artist, and I would not feel silly in saying so.
Unfortunately, it is silly, and I am not seriously recommending that people adopt the term. But neither will I recommend that we allow our thinking be bounded by our language. A deficiency in terms should never be an excuse for a deficiency in concepts.
Still Point Aikido Systems
Austin TX, USA