The peace warrior

If we are to put down all answers that exist so far, on the question “what is Aikido?” and choose one, it is Steven Seagal’s answer that is the best ever spoken, by far! When he was asked by an Aikido student he simply replied “Got a couple of years?”
One might say, that this is more of an… evasive maneuver than a direct answer, but you see, this is exactly the point!
There is no possible way to do this otherwise… since two years of practice is just about right in order to put the puzzles together. And I only hope that nobody thinks two years of… constant talking would do the job.

In human history man never stopped hoping to find a way to end all wars and achieve global peace. And during that time, philosophers, sociologists,  scientists, politicians, historians, artists, poets, people from all walks of life that one can imagine, tried to pinpoint a way on how this could become a reality.
And while these people read and study the past, write theories and explore the discoveries of modern science (and how it could be of service in this direction) Aikido is an Art light-years ahead on this!

The nature of the universe is such, that destruction is always easier than creation. If we had a society, that could make total peace an absolute form of measure for its actions, it would take one man, and one man only, to defeat that society and bring it under his rule, by totally disrupting its system.
Let us keep in mind that it could take only one man, in order for him to invent, deploy and put in use, a weapon of mass destruction.
In theory, but mostly in practice, even if you’re only to defend yourself from such an attack, the result is “being prepared for war”, which more or less puts us back to where we are now. Thus, total peace of humankind (as some dream it) is impossible to be achieved.

We are now on a phase of constant controlled wars, which means that for now we are “lucky”. But I cannot help and think that my great-grandfather (whom I had the honor to meet) was not that lucky, since he lived and fought through both world wars. Can you even imagine what kind of life that was? And it gets even worse. Since I am of German origin that makes us two world wars on the… loser’s side!

Very much like today, there have been periods in history when man did try to control wars to a minimum. The Roman Empire is a well known example, when it did declare its famous Pax-Romana (Roman peace). And the system was successful for a long time, but only under the use of constant threat of… war!
Something similar was Japan’s golden era, the Tokugawa period.

Nevertheless, it is most frustrating to intelligent people, which continue their runaround and torture to the following thought:
If we can have total war (piece of cake, history is full of it) why can’t we somehow flip this upside-down and have our desired total peace?

Though the term “Peace warrior” became famous… elsewhere, there is this tiny Japanese man, who has it written all over him like no one else ever did.
Aikido, as given by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, suggests winning no victory on an attacker. On a practical level we do not retaliate, we do not fight back, we do not even resist an opponent. And (if the level is high) we could neutralize an attacker without harming him and then sit on him until his aggression is gone. I have the greatest respect on many Martial Arts, for their abilities and performance, but there simply is no other Martial Art that can achieve that level of harmony between an attacker and a man who defends himself. Correction! You don’t even “defend” yourself, you harmonize with your attacker and neutralize his attack.
This practical application of achieving peace through a Martial Art has no equal.
And if we have indeed discovered the means of how to deal with this, what would it take to propel this into a larger scale?   

We live in a world that is constantly promoting the idea of antagonism. And we are so much in it, we are so much “married” to this idea, it becomes impossible to escape it, even if someone would leave an alternative exit open.
Antagonism might be the ruler of this world (for now) but it still is the furthest concept, to have anything to do with true civilization. Antagonism is childish, simplistic and destructive, because it always comes to a dead end that eventually leads to war (or something equally destructive). Antagonism survives because it is easy to understand and even easier to train people in to. It teaches us to be “better than others” make more money “than others” look “better than others”… and if you deny in any way to keep up with it, you’ll soon have to give way “for this spot you stand on, is occupied by others”
In order to antagonize you need “others” to step on. If you would leave a person that knows nothing else (than antagonism) on his own, he will probably not know what to do with himself. Antagonism needs others in order to promote its own ego, and no wonder, it teaches us nothing about ourselves…
Imagine a person that does not travel at all. At the end of the day he might think that his village is the world! In a similar manner antagonism has become a great mind-wall that blocks the view of other ways of thinking.
So, what else could be, outside antagonism?
Other ways of thinking, especially creative thinking, need mature minds in order to grow and the complexity of an environment that will not neglect intelligent thought.
It is said, once too often, that via antagonism the outcome will produce him, who is “the fittest”. This can be true for… animals, but in the case of civilized people there are other kind of measures, in order to produce the same result. It is called emulation!

Aikido, as given by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba (allow me to insist), has nothing to do with antagonism. Yet, most people who practice Aikido do so with antagonism on their minds. Their Aikido still works, but only until they reach a certain point, a point long before excellence that is!
Being better than yourself is a game where you keep emulation on your mind, not antagonism. This slight degree of difference of attitude, between antagonism and emulation, makes all the difference and ends up being another journey altogether in the long run…
When I was a young Aikido student, one of the things that my Sensei taught me from early on, was not to keep for myself anything from what I have learned. The moment you feel that you have progressed even a little, give your Art away to anyone below your skill, don’t keep it for yourself.
If you “give away” your Aikido, then Aikido flows easier through you, and you become even better for anything you give away. This happens because Aikido is a non-antagonistic Art. Ironically enough is, that due to the habit of being antagonistic, Aikido remains the most open secret Art.

When I state that Aikido is “an Art from the past ahead of us” it is not another “nice” phrase in my writings. It was put there as a challenge to overtake, and I would happily… give it up or wipe it out! One of the problems in the “Aikido community” is that too many sophisticated and good ringing to the ear words, are being spoken. And on the practical level nothing much is done. Aikido and Aikido Dojos are treated as pastime places, not far from the attitude of a gymnasium. If memory serves, Dojo means also “a place for enlightenment”. The point is that “utilizing” Aikido’s potentials to the fullest, as an aim to improve the world, is still far away!

Fighting is something deep in our instinct and nature. War is an invention that steps beyond that. Even if we could have a well trained Martial society, that doesn’t mean we have to go to war with each other… An Aikidoka can understand that better than anybody else… 
Global peace, as it is dreamed of, will take another society, which will completely prioritize its needs, and put them into a different level. For the failures toward peace, we usually blame the corrupt politicians, the blood sucking weapon industries, the system, the neighbor, the boogieman…
But we fail to see that all of them are people, and it is people foremost that we need, to pull us out of this and into a new era for mankind that will be permanently free of war…
…said the man who oiled his sword just about an hour ago…

                                  "…the problem is not with the people who started this.
The problem is with us, who do nothing”

Robert Redford in “Lions for Lambs”

February 29, 2008