I have returned from my yearly, two week hiatus from all work in Negril, Jamaica. Those two weeks are my time to genuinely relax, reflect and look forward. I am very thankful to be able to spend time together with a myriad of people who come together to represent the expressions “one world”, “one love” “one order”. We come from all walks of life, from the locals to places far away and we become that “Jamaican family” that we all look forward to every year. Those moments re-affirm for me why I have chosen to become a professional martial arts instructor.
It has been very disappointing to watch the US become a collection of disconnected groups of people who are unwilling and unable to work together for the greater good of our country. This process is a reflection of what has happened to our political system, which has become simply a bunch of self-serving prostitutes to “big money” concerns at the expense of the citizens. One simply has to consider that an elected official spends 70-80 percent of his/her time collecting money in order to get re-elected. God-forbid those whores actually have to work and be beholden to the citizens…..
Aikido is a form of budo. The true aim of budo is to protect one’s own community. In order to best accomplish this goal, we need to be able to create a strong, connected, caring, loving community that is capable of genuinely being able to protect it’s integrity. This community needs to recognize and respect the differences amongst it’s members in order to benefit from the unique mix that everyone creates by working together. I spent two weeks in Negril talking about how the United Nations should be headquartered there! How is it that a laid-back beach in Jamaica can create a caring community (yes, it has its problems as well) and we fail in so many ways….. Let me outline some areas that we, as an Aikido community, can function as an effective model that exists in our communities as large.
Awareness of Ourselves in the World Around Us: Aikido training should help us to gain a greater awareness of how we experience ourselves. We should be able to increase our awareness of our thoughts, feelings and states. This increased self-awareness should directly lead to a greater awareness of these experiences in those people with whom we are in contact with. We should then be able to link these areas together so that we can gain a greater sense of how others impact us and how we impact others. Let us compare this with some recent, real-world failures. Recently the former head of the New York City Police department (NYPD) expressed puzzlement of how the citizens in the city’s poor areas should harbor animosity towards the police since those areas have seen the greatest amounts of decrease in violent crime rates. Community activists in those areas were incapable of expressing any awareness, let alone appreciation for how much safer those areas were as a result of increased police presence. Should we believe that those two sides are that “blind” to each other? Maybe those two groups should take some Aikido classes together to gain some better awareness of how each side is perceived by, and impacts the other side…….
Moving Together: Our goal in Aikido is to be able to control the attacker in such a manner that the attacker does not perceive “control”, violence, or conflict. The attack is neutralized in a manner that appears as though it is some type of cooperative or collusive process. We hopefully remain safe while the attacker experiences the consequences of his/her initiated violence being “returned to sender.” This is a remarkably difficult goal to achieve. It should not be mistaken for a repetition of collusive dojo training. It should not be mistaken for crazy idea that the attacker becomes neutralized as a result of our genuine connection to him/her (sorry folks! No Kumbaya sing-along by the campfire fantasies). What we do should be remarkably effective and efficient ways of handling conflicts and violence without exposing ourselves to unnecessary risk and injury. Let’s take this goal into the failed positions that I discussed in the previously. Imagine that the NYPD takes an active role in the creating and sustaining citizen patrols whose job it is to help create safer living conditions and to report problems and crimes to the officers who work with them. Imagine organizers in those communities inviting the officers that serve their community to spent time with them over a meal, a game of checkers, etc… Each side is “controlling” the other is a manner that makes it safer for that side, without the other side fighting back.
I hope that we do not keep our Aikido training experiences locked within the walls of the dojo. If we can allow these lessons to guide us in how we interact with the world around us, we can make some positive differences in our lives, while helping the world around us as well. We should all ask ourselves “What can I do today to help make the world I live in a better place for me and those around me?” The commitment to positive change in ourselves will make the world a better place, one person at a time.
Marc Abrams Sensei