Why is Aikido commonly known as the Art of Peace and Harmony?
First of all, we need to come to a level benchmark of what ‘Peace’ and ‘Harmony’ looks like, which shouldn’t be hard. Peace is the lack of violence in any form, period.
How difficult can that be?
Well, wait till you try it on the mat, on the dojo, with an unwilling partner, against orchestrated resistance, then all of our concept and romanticism of peace falls apart, we get disillusion, struggle and then take the very easy way out, resort to violence, anger and hate. ‘It’s his/her fault he didn’t cooperate!!!”
Now that I am taking a class regularly, I begin to see a deeper struggle, as teaching fellow Aikidokas becomes a challenge for my mindset. How do I teach, the waza that leads to a conflict resolution? It can lead to something deadly as well, I can show ‘killer’ moves, or one strike moves that will ‘neutralize’ the attacker. But all this means nothing if I cannot demonstrate peace, or I ‘kill’ my attacker.
So what is peace to me?
Being flexible, empathetic and see things from a variety of angle. We cannot be fixated with one way of doing things, that will lead to ‘your’ way and ‘my’ way which will cause a gap in opinions. and everyone will think ‘my’ way is better than ‘your’ way, and fight it out to find out who is left standing.
Of course as beginners, we only learn to do things in one specific way; ‘Aikido rolls like this.’ ‘We don’t do kicks in Aikido.’ We indoctrinate the new joiners with the dogmas of Aikido. because as a school, there is a style, curriculum and pedagogy. That is fine as we build the structure and form for our new Aikido students to learn, and become proficient in. It is a start, but it cannot be that way as we advance into the years or decades of Aikido practice, we must become more open to other forms, accept our limitations and humbly learn that we are not perfect, no matter how suave our moves are.
Also begin to adopt other forms, and use other styles, so that we become formless, and therefore, disenfranchise someone to attack our ‘form’. When we become formless, we are able to take on our attackers’ form and therefore we become our attacker, and our attacker will no longer have a form which they can attack.
This is the ultimate definition of peace.
So as I start to teach, the deeper lesson I learn is to make sure I impart the movements that gives us options, to not fight, and to be flexible so that we have a way out, and our partner have a way out. We need to really treasure peace, love and non-violence deeply. While we have enjoyed decades of peace, that deep dark thoughts of violence is just skin deep under our placid surface. We must do more to understand the evil in us, so that we can choose not to use them.
For peace to prevail, we must have options, choice and alternative. It is a blatant lie when one decides on a violent path and say ‘I have no choice.’ ‘You leave me no options.’ ‘I’m forced into this!’ There is always a choice, and we need to have that courage, and clarity to choose, bravely decide not to take physical harm as an accept course of actions.
That dialogue needs to happen in us, there is plenty of violence happening around us, and we cannot talk ourselves into thinking it is ok. We cannot resort to violence to stop violence. The hardest part for us to do is to talk and negotiate away from violence, discuss, and see the other person’s point of view, while keeping ours. We don’t lay down and die, nor do we fight to the death, we have to choose that fine middle path to make sure both prevail, especially in violent situations.
We can do it, as long as we continue our training in earnest, without malice or willfulness. Every time we train, we must always give our partners an option, by having options in our own movement. That choice allows us to resolve a difficult situation with both belligerents’ integrity, pride and ego intact. Peace is about no one having to lose, or win, big; life is a matter of compromise, that is no win/win, it is all about give and take.