Let’s look at a common scenario these days.
For the more law abiding members within the population, how many of us entertained thoughts of berating people who do not wear masks during the heights of the COVID19 pandemic? Feeling like punching them in the face for not putting on the masks?
How often have we scoffed at people getting their comeuppance? Or we gleam at the opportunity being the one who delivers the punishment?
Tit for Tat, anyone?
Aikido is not Attritional
When we are on the mat, we are not keen to display our superiority and overpowers our opponent. We are not keen to show off that we are better than our partners, nor are we keen to put up a good show.
It doesn’t add up to anything good.
Being inconsistent is an attribute of being a human, we cannot keep up a façade of excellence 24/7/365. We will falter, we will mess up. And when we do, we will need help and support from our fellow humans, friends and even strangers. By pretending that we are better, puts us at a stand-off distance, and alienates people who are in a position to help us.
A false sense of superiority also triggers a competitive instinct in our partners, as they will feel put down by the feeling of being less superior to us. When this comparison starts, the whole dynamics will become a duality, good to bad, superior to inferior, win/lose and swinging back and forth creates an inefficient imbalance which will destroys the harmony we need to achieve our goals.
No chance for destruction
Harry sensei’s style of Aikido lacks a large repertoire of Atemi, which is a kind so ‘soft’ strikes that helps us break our opponent’s balance or distracts them from the actual waza we are doing.
While he has never clearly explained why he doesn’t do much atemi, the understanding is that atemi can invite atemi. When we strike, our opponent can strike back, which will change the whole dynamics of how we want to practice Aikido, by ending things amicably. Striking can potentially escalates the tension and build more conflict, even when we are successful in our strikes, the hurt from being hit is very acute and it can invite retaliation.
How often has we argued with our uke in the principles of MAD? Mutually Assure Destruction’; “I can hit you from that spot! I’d say. And in turn my uke showed me that I can be hit, in exchange of hitting. And because Aikido is such a close quarter art, we will risk being hit, while we engage in hitting people.
Turning dissipates aggression
Aikido is circular. cyclic and cylindrical, even when we do not see it. When violence or aggression occurs, it is often directed, at someone, or something, which means it has a linear energy, it needs to get out, from point A to point B.
“I am hurt (Point A), so I will hurt the perpetrator back (Point B)”
“You punch me (Point A), I will hit you back (Point B)
It draws us back again to a duality where there is one winner one loser.
We want to circle that negative energy so that it can dissipates, and we can absorb it to neutralise the aggression. We do not want to use our own body to absorb that aggression through hard training and conditioning, again, there is only so much punishment the body can take before capitulating, so it make more sense to direct any force outwards, than to use our body to contain the blows.
One Good Turn
Given our volatile world, we need more purveyors of peace, by not fighting, not stopping the aggression with more aggression, instead, using our skills to ‘bleed’ out the negative pressures, we give the situation a chance to deconflict and deescalate the tension.
Aikido’s circular motion means that our opponent’s oncoming energy has a course to run, in a way that is harmonious to both of us. We take away their ability to hurt us, and also hurt themselves. In a move like irimi-nage our uke’s forward motion is turned away from its original path and circled to a location where we will be in a better position to end his/ her energy naturally.
Coax not overpower
This is a higher order skill that is very difficult to achieve, because we have to completely forget about our own stances, and self, and fully immerse into our opponent’s being and intention. Only when we are able to dissipate our image in front of our opponent, then we can have a chance to turn his aggression around, and coax them into a position safe for everyone.
Surely we can overpower our uke, once we are in a superior position, and once our opponent feels that they are being over powered and loses the fight, they will find a way to over power us and win back the fight. What’s the whole point in that?
Project Peaceful Intentions
We often invite the trouble we hope to avoid, and until we can find out why, troubles will continue to follow us. Coming to the mat to practice helps us better understand our own aggression. and puts us in a more pleasant, and joyful state. How often have we come across a person whom we don’t like simply by the way he/she stands? Somehow that manner of postulation simply invites a sense of arrogance or bigotry.
So we need to avoid being picked up as a target for violence or aggression, not by being belligerent, nor by being pacifist. We need to remain neutral in our stance and stay open when we are engaged in a stressful situation, always seek out a better way of making sure all parties involved walks away without a sense of retaliation, only then can we attain the peace we all strive to have in our lives.