Aikido is often call the art of peace. Here's an article by Joel Lindstrom, Sensei explaining why.
It seems like an oxymoron to call a martial
art peaceful. Martial arts are usually about fighting. But what I’ve learned from aikido is how to become more peaceful
and in harmony with the world around me. Life isn’t free from conflict, external or internal. In the world there’s
always been violence, aggression and stress. Conflict is part of life. Aikido is peaceful because it teaches ways to resolve
conflict without violence.
Here’s an example from a typical
aikido class. Imagine standing on a large resilient mat facing someone. She’s your aikido partner. She raises her arm
to strike at you, slowly, because you’re a beginner. But still she strikes with force and intent.
At that moment, millions of years of evolution
kick in, unbidden. Your reptilian brain tells you to run, to cower or to block the blow, to retaliate, to return violence
on your attacker. At that moment you have no thought for consequences. Your ancestors’ survival depended on this instantaneous
response. But you don’t live in the world humans evolved from. Too often, inborn behaviors that worked for millions
of years now cause unnecessary violent conflict. So, because you’re studying aikido, you do something different. You
move with the attack, redirect the blow so your partner loses her balance. You blend with her motion and bring her smoothly
down to the mat.
This is the essence of aikido: peaceful
conflict resolution. You were intentionally and physically attacked. Ignoring your instinct’s cries, you responded by
blending with the attack. You joined with your attacker and were able to lead her in the direction you desired. You didn’t
run. You didn’t fight. But you did defend yourself from harm. You dissolved your opponent’s aggression peacefully
by entering into it and fluidly exerting your will.
Aikido is an effective martial art. It’s
proven itself in physically violent situations. It’s been taught to the U.S. Special Forces. It’s used by various
Japanese police departments. Aikido works because an aikidoist has an essential advantage in a conflict situation. When someone
attacks, he becomes focused on his particular line of attack. He commits himself to one certain direction. But an aikidoist,
committed only to harmonizing, has available all other lines. The attacker has closed himself. The aikidoist remains open
and fluid, as adaptable and powerful as water.
Staying open and flowing when being attacked
is a difficult skill to learn. It takes much training to effectively defend yourself and remain relaxed. The idea of returning
violence with violence is as deeply ingrained as children fighting in a playground. Violence often seems like the only possible
response. War is rooted in this idea. It takes time, too, to come to believe that learning to relax and flow in stressful
situations is a learnable skill. Tension seems natural. Relaxation seems counterintuitive. But remaining calmly balanced and
centered is the essence of being a peaceful person.
In aikido, I train to be peaceful. I train
to remain relaxed in stressful situations, situations as simple as conflicts with the students in my high school classroom,
my teen-age daughters or physical conflicts that could be life-threatening.
Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba,
believed that if everyone learned aikido, there would be no more war. Aggression grows from lack of balance. Aikido teaches
body and mind to remain balanced. The more people who learn to keep their bodies and minds at peace, who train themselves
to feel safe and calm in conflict, who learn to diffuse aggression without becoming aggressive, the more peaceful our world
It’s a long, slow process to retrain
instincts. As my sensei said, you must practice, practice, practice. And then practice more. As humans, instincts are also
at the root of our tendency for violence. But our strong desire for community, our empathy, and our altruism are also instinctual.
We’ve survived by being a social species. If we’re to leave our children a more peaceful world, we need to consciously
retrain our aggressive behaviors. Through aikido, we can learn to harmonize, to effectively defend ourselves, and to resolve
conflict situations peacefully.