"Extend your heart rather than your sword" This injunction of the Japanese Grandmaster Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is incontestably relevant for men and women of the entire world. It is urgent to meditate about it at a moment when everywhere around us, violence extends its ravages. It savagely opposes peoples, ethnicities, religions and nations. After the horrors of two World Wars and the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wars keep raging on, propagating never ending killings, child mutilations, tearing of families, senseless massacres, destruction and vandalizing. The worst of it all is that violence penetrates even up to schools where children kill and injure teachers, supervisors and even comrades for no reasons.
Another type of violence, a more diffuse one, which acts in a more sneaky way under the cover of fake necessities, install itself at the heart of relationships between the agents of world economy. The obligation of being competitive, the inhuman imperatives of concurrency, yields and profitability generate and develop conflicts; the consequences of which are perhaps less visible but no less cruel for the individual. Without even speaking of the men and women who are led to unemployment because of so called economic imperatives, our hospitals and retirement homes are filled with individuals that a job which has become inhuman has literally shattered. Under the same motivations of profit, producers, conveyers and drug distributors keep abusing, without any scruples, human beings in distress. Still within the money making process, violence installs itself on our screens, big and small, and injects insidiously its mortal poison, especially in the minds of the weakest. The effects can be witnessed in our cities with car theft, pick-pocketing, hold-ups, degradations of public properties etc. Under another form, violence comes up to our mailboxes which are filled with leaflets full of lies and traps. From all parts, at all times, we are being aggressed.
But aren't we aggressors ourselves? In moments of annoyance, irritation or wrath, aren't we sometimes hurting or insulting others? Aren't we sometimes the perpetrators of brutal gestures or insults which are all the more inexcusable that they target our children or weaker individuals?
In all cases, it is violence that wins, and like all plagues, it is extremely contagious: violence breeds violence. In this world dominated by money, egoistic pleasures, lust for power and possessions, in this universe where man progressively gives up commandment to machines, and where a small number of people gets richer pauperizing the majority of others, it is time for men to rise up and say "that's enough".
We have to end this trend of savage materialism and give a little bit of conscience, spirit and love back to the world. We must put down our sword and act with our heart, to let go of violence in order to track down intolerance, repress aggression, and teach compassion.
In other words, we need a supplement of soul. Extend your heart rather than your sword!
It is quite surprising that this cry from the heart was launched to the world by the founder of Aikido, the Japanese Master Morihei Ueshiba. Indeed it seems that nowadays, the practice of martial arts is quite far from canalising violence and that instead, it tends to encourage it while giving to its adepts the means to exert violence without providing them with the means to control it, unlike what was taught originally.
O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba filmed by André Nocquet
Master Ueshiba has always deplored the fact that in the world, combat disciplines have become competition sports. The ambition of most practitioners is to win at all cost and they are encouraged by those who, without thinking, present the will for victory as a virtue and make of the winner the only worthy participant.
Contrary to public opinion, martial arts are not violent sports. When it is something else than a simple formality without signification, the gesture by which practitioners greet each other before and after the exercise expresses a deep mutual respect of two equals that give homage to the value of their partner. This gesture proves that this is not the brutal fight between two adversaries, but instead, that it is a common exercise during which both participants teach themselves and each other through a non-violent practice.
Martial arts, when they are properly practiced, propose exercises of defence. More precisely, they aim at teaching the art of deterring the potential enemy and, only if necessary, to neutralise and immobilise him without injury. Martial arts contain techniques that must be mastered through daily exercises and a persevering practice.
André Nocquet at the Aikikai Honu Dojo in the 50's
However, this indispensable technical mastery is only a preliminary to a more advanced study. The essential part of the art, whether it is in Judo, Karate, Aikido, Kendo or other, lies in the spirit of the heart. It is a different mentality that one has to acquire, a way of considering, feeling and guiding one's partner on the tatami as well as in everyday life.
Of course, it is easy to the martial artist to respect a partner when this one is a friend with whom he gets on well, with whom he shares the same pleasure of exercising. However, when this situation changes and when he is suddenly aggressed by someone who wishes him harm, the true martial art practitioner must, like on the tatami, keep a perfect mastery over himself, and consider his adversary with the same level of respect that he held for his training partner, and to lead him calmly to realize the inanity of his violence in front of the strength of non-violence.
Obviously, we can't attain such a degree of self-control overnight but it is the only purpose of martial exercises and the only acceptable attitude for a respectable martial art practitioner. The techniques taught by all true martial arts must lead to this degree of self-control which is the sole remedy to violence, the sole way to defuse it. This result comes first from a sufficient mastery of the technique and once this is acquired, it is the mind that must be taught.
In order to understand the worth of this "conversion of the inner look", of this change of mentality, this different way to look at the world and its beings, let us investigate into the source of martial arts, the considerable energy that the practitioners call "Ki" from which arises everything that was, is and will be.
Promotional video for the practice of martial arts shot by Master Nocquet
The Ki is at the origin of elevation of the sap in plants and in the foliage of trees which produces billions of leaves of an incredible beauty and diversity, it is the Ki that controls the tides and projects water with a tremendous strength on rocks or shores, it is the Ki of the universe that regulates the prodigious ballet of billions of galaxies that spin in fantastic speeds. This immense force is at the heart of every one of us. This is why once he is conscious of the presence of such a force inside of himself; the martial art student is able to face all outside violence in absolute serenity.
To conclude, the violence that menaces our societies, just like it aggress the individuals, probably has a multitude of causes that those in charge of organising our cities (architects, municipal officials and sociologies) must analyse. It seems however that at the root of this violence lays a frightening lack of education from the family and from the educators. Etymologically speaking, education is the removal from a human being of all that is primitive and bestial in order to make him a civilised man, a citizen. A true education includes inevitably a form of discipline, a certain constraint, in order to tame and canalise the instinctive brutal forces that, in all men, are the vestiges from its animal origins.
Amongst the multiple factors that come into play in the education of a child, martial arts have the advantage of joining necessity and enjoyment. They also exert a strong appeal towards the youths since they link playfulness to exercise. Martial arts are so widespread in Japan because its leaders have come to realise the direct relationship between the pleasure of physical activity on the one hand, and the immediate efficacy of its utilisation for the sacred cause of defence and national security. This aspect, perceived as too final in Occident, deserves to be reflected upon nonetheless.
If we want to stop the escalation of violence, if we want to eradicate it from our society in order to leave room for conviviality, tolerance, friendship, if we want to bring a bit of warmth in human relationships, we must come to the realisation of the emergency of setting up an educational plan. This includes the controlled practice of martial arts, as one of the most adapted means to fight against violence. Tolerance and non-violence are the essential qualities to allow our youths to access to a degree of humanity such as one can say of them "They no longer need to exhort, they just have to exist, their existence is an appeal."
(Original blog post may be found here