The Golden Rule admonishes us to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated. A saying from street vernacular warns that "whatever goes around, comes around.".
Good advice for the ages, and good advice today.
We all encounter situations where we may be treated with less respect or courtesy than the situation or ourselves probably deserve. If such occurrences happen too often, perhaps we need to first examine our own behavior, to uncover what we may be unconsciously inviting, via our own unconsciously inappropriate demeanor, negative vibes, or "attitudes", that may be perceived by others as negative, and worthy of an equally "appropriate" reaction.
It may well be that we frown a bit too much, or simply fail to see other human beings as those who would truly appreciate even the smallest courtesy, like, "hello, how are you doing today
?". Being proactive on the positive side can't hurt, can it? A simple hello may be the difference in a business situation, a personal conversation, or in an unfamiliar place where strangers call the shots.
At other times, it may appear that a whole bunch of people are acting like trolling "garbage trucks
", looking for any place to dump their baggage. By keeping our proper distance (ma-ai)
from such people, we can choose to avoid being the unwarranted victims of such negative behavior and careless mind sets, and find ways to anticipate and invite positive behavior changes on their part.
Are we truly "entitled" to expect courtesy from others? Are they actually "entitled" to expect courtesy from us? Or is courtesy another form of coin, that we matter of factly spend to negotiate and barter our way through complex relationships and their unique challenges? If so, shouldn't we use our training as preemptive martial artists to take charge of the developing situation and set the correct example of appropriate behavior and to take presumptive command immediately?
Someone remarked to me that getting value out of life is like being in a cafeteria. First you pay, then you get to eat
. Paying the price of politeness and common courtesy can give you benefits not available in any other way. Another person may be more inclined to work with you, after you have shown good faith in taking the first step of reaching out with empathy and kindness.
In Aikido, etiquette or courtesy is called Reigi
, and the system of being courteous to everyone we meet is called "Reigi Sa Ho".
Of course, the original intent of such a habit is embedded within historical Japanese societal ethic, where a samurai was allowed to cut the head off of an "offending" commoner. Today, however, we can achieve a similar result by cutting off
any chance of a misunderstanding or argument by taking immediate and effective control of the conversation with a generous demeanor, and friendly speech.
Timely use of courtesy may indeed serve us well today as the right thing to do, as well as being an effective martial habit. By resolving to be polite as a matter of policy, we can avoid unfortunate misunderstandings, psychologically disarm a potential adversary, and make a positive first impression on total strangers in strange places. Making a new friend "by mistake" is preferable to making an enemy by design, or even via inattention to simple common sense.
How does one appropriately apply acts of courtesy in training? Isn't it a fact that Aikido is a martial art by history and the Founder's intent, making the purpose of training "real" and effective? If so, how do we reconcile the apparently opposing notions of dispatching an opponent, and doing so politely?
There is a mandate in my dojo that admonishes all who train there to, "execute the movement and technique, and not each other". We learn to properly and effectively attack the "attack" itself, and not the person. We train with our own agendas in mind, but do so while respecting the agendas of all others.
This requires a precondition to training that amounts to a "gentleman's agreement" of sorts. The Uke agrees to refrain from interfering in any way with the right of the Nage to work on the technique correctly. The Nage then, agrees to execute the movements in such a way that allows the Uke to take a safe and appropriate ukemi, and thus reduce the possibility of injury or suffering. This is our brand of "courtesy", that we share willingly and knowingly with one another in training, and beyond the confines of the training area.
There is no such thing as zero risk. To effectively maintain as low a risk of injury within the environment of training, it is a requirement for the exercise of constant vigilance by the instructors, senior students, and especially by the participants themselves. This is, and must be, a group commitment and effort.
It is our dojo policy, supported by all who agree to train there, to maintain our NH
(No harm) philosophy of low risk training. This understanding is paired with our SH
(shit happens) awareness of the actual risks inherent in martial arts training. It is often a fine line to walk, but the consequence of not doing so, is a scenario we must never take for granted, or to tolerate.
I feel that it really takes little effort to smile more often, to maintain a cheerful disposition, and to be ready to give the benefit of the doubt to one who is probably just having a bad hair day, and would greatly appreciate an Aiki smile. It may be the most efficient cost-benefit ratio technique you employ.
Others who have felt
that their change of attitude did make a difference, report their days to be much smoother running. I have personally found
that taking the friendly approach was just the thing that some person needed to feel
good about themselves, and to modify their own behavior for mutual betterment.
Pre-emptive strikes of kindness. Hmm. Do you really think it could work?
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.