Recently, I visited the Peace and Sport Forum
in Monaco. It's an annual event organized to stimulate the work towards peace through sports activities. Quite a lot of admirable work is done by this organization in places where such initiatives are needed the most. I think we all agree that aikido, too, is an excellent instrument in this pursuit.
The organization Peace and Sport
is not older than about five years, but it's already making a mark. The name is odd, as if implying that peace and sport are by nature different, maybe even opposites. Some ways in which sports are practiced can give that impression, especially when competition becomes a rage.
But the French name of the organization clarifies its idea and purpose: L'Organisation pour la Paix par le Sport
, which would be Peace by Sport, or Peace through Sport. There are so many sports activities that bring people together, regardless of age, cultural heritage, and so on. This joining to play is a force for peace in itself.
But aikido goes further. It's the practice of transforming conflict to harmony. Join is what we do. That's the nature of each aikido technique and the constantly present essence of the practice.
It's kind of a reprogramming of the body's reflexes as well as of the attitude of the mind. Practicing aikido, we discover again and again that there is a peaceful solution, and it is the superior one. Not to mention how much fun it is.
History has shown us countless times that peace is hard to reach and even harder to keep. Mostly through the centuries it has been little more than the short intermission between battles. Peace has been the occasional absence of active warfare, as if impatiently waiting for the next one.
For peace to last, its own value must be explored and enhanced. When we see how it shines and feel how it warms our souls, then we become occupied by prolonging it and indulging in it, instead of fearing and preparing for the next war. When we learn how to truly enjoy peace, war will become obsolete.
I believe that aikido is doing just that. It shows the sensational joy of instantly turning every action, no matter how hostile, into a friendly dance of sorts. A pas de deux
if you will, celebrating the bliss of peace: inspired mutual benevolence.
Well, not every aikido technique, and not every way of performing it, is all that peaceful. For example, the element of pain in some of the pinning techniques might make the dance less mutual in its benevolence -- especially when it's used in triumphant excess, which is sometimes the case. That goes for some of the throws as well.
Even the delightful principles of aikido are possible to twist into mere brutality. To avoid that, we probably have to stop worrying about efficiency and self-defense aspects. We need to relax concerning the overpowering of the attacker. Otherwise we are unlikely to find the solutions that do not provoke at all.
It's not the same as yielding, although it may give that impression. Actually, I think the truly peaceful way of doing aikido is without worrying at all about if it may seem yielding or weak. That's how gentle aikido emerges. Paradoxically, it's also tremendously strong -- invisibly, like the trickery of an illusionist.
Stefan Stenudd is a 6 dan Aikikai aikido instructor, member of the International Aikido Federation Directing Committee, the Swedish Aikikai Grading Committee, and the Swedish Budo Federation Board. He has practiced aikido since 1972. Presently he teaches aikido and iaido at his dojo Enighet in Malmo, Sweden, and at seminars in Sweden and abroad. He is also an author, artist, and historian of ideas. He has published a number of books in Swedish and English, both fiction and non-fiction. Among the latter are books about aikido and aikibatto, also a guide to the lifeforce qi, and a Life Energy Encyclopedia. He has written a Swedish interpretation of the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching, and of the Japanese samurai classic Book of Five Rings. In the history of ideas he studies the thought patterns of creation myths, as well as Aristotle's Poetics. He has his own extensive aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido