“Aikido and the Paradox of Violence: The Instructor’s Dilemma” by David Birt

“The name Aikido means “The Way or Harmony and Love,” but teaching Aikido as budo, The Way of The Warrior, involves the difficult task of reconciling Harmony and Love with violence. This “difficulty” reflects a universal paradox best exemplified by the carved wraithlike apparitions that “guard” houses of worship world wide. Why such terrifying specters (some frightful beyond description) surrounding sanctuaries of peace and serenity? They offer a simple message: before entering the tranquility of the inner sanctum, the supplicant must look upon and reconcile to life in ALL its aspects. Heedful of this wisdom, a good teacher realizes that some teaching situations require the student traverse a path of violence before entering into the way of Peace.

This understanding of Love as a process involving violence and death often puzzles students whose sentimental and dualistic thinking leaves them unable to reconcile such incompatible categories. Thus they reject the harsh and violent aspects that attend to the study of Aikido as budo and quit. Most serious students pass beyond sentimental understanding and come to an intuitive but not intellectual understanding of the paradox of violence. I remember a student in Albuquerque that successfully foiled a rapist who grabbed her and attempted to force her into his car. At first she expressed surprise at how calm she remained throughout her ordeal; then she reflected for a second and told me that after all I had put her through she wasn’t about to lose her composure to some hoodlum.”

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  1. Yes! I hope that she had loosened his shoulder up a bit before the police arrived to take him into custody…

  2. Harmony and love are not magical rainbow and butterfly words. Harmony is strong. Love is tough. We are not yet, and may never be in the world of Sandra Bullock, Sly Stallone, and Wesley Snipes as portrayed in the well-done movie, “The Demolition Man.” Although the samurai are physically gone, but not in idealized spirit, tough love is necessary to not only an individual’s survival and enjoyment of life, but for society as a microcosm or whole. Aikido is the Power of Peace, and also designed defense against misguided people we meet often. The most special aspect of Aikido, when compared with the other budo, is that huge extra step in attempting to at least somewhat correct a physically, mentally, or spiritually violent heart, thereby making society better, one enter-blend-diffuse at a time. A properly guided Aikidoka has the ability and confidence requisite in getting THE MESSAGE across according to every different situation. This goes for physical connections, mental connections, and spiritual connections. With no martial protection, a person cannot because he or she is preoccupied with his or her own survival. A dedicated Aikidoka is part of the great mission that even plenty of non-martial artists act towards. This is not some secret mission. Aikido is not a secret society. An ignorant person once told me it’s a cult. It is not. Some people might disagree with Aikido, but there is nothing there to disrespect or hold in contempt. Aikido is absolutely beautiful. I never met O’Sensei, yet still I know he was beautiful. This is great stuff, this Aikido. It is about a wonderful, sublime cleansing of ourselves and society…not through force or violence, but rather through a powerful harmony, and a great love that can often be tough.

    Drew Gardner

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