“The Attitude Behind Conflict – Restoring Harmony,” by Nev Sagiba

Imagine this scenario. You are on the battlefield. The enemy is strong, well armed and advancing.

Suddenly the general calls a meeting. The minutes reveal something like this.

“Well, sir, I didn’t like the way you barked an order the other day and you really hurt my feelings.”

“Captain, I’m so terribly sorry. I don’t know what got into me. I must have been having a bad day. Will you accept my sincerest apology…”

At which point a Commander interjects with, ” I really have a need to express myself here..”

The enemy is advancing closer and closer and are wondering at what brilliant strategy of inaction these have in place. They slow down a tad, in case there is an unseen trap..

“The Commander expresses his “feelings,” whereupon all the officers go, “Ohhhh..” most soothingly and a Warrant Officer interrupts and suggests they all have a group hug, followed by a circle holding hands, where they will chant prayers that the enemy will receive their invitation to all talk nicely with each other and have a debate instead of fighting. And invite the rank and file to join them in a chat, fondue, cheese and dips and perhaps a drink or two. It is proposed to conclude the meeting with a nice lecture on how bad violence is and how it shouldn’t exist.

Of course the general benignly expresses himself in a soothing tone of voice (so as not to upset anyone) by voicing what a wonderful idea that is, when the Officer Cadet, moved by this show of, new age sensitivity, bursts out weeping about a painful childhood memory, and everyone lines up to hug him in turn , caress his hair and tell him how much they understand.


Context and perspective. Horses for courses.

Ridiculous and idiotic is an understatement.

I mean, why is it that such truly genteel warriors don’t seem to exist. Perhaps the other army decided to advance on the defenseless feelgoodfest and slaughtered them and that gene pool is long extinct.

A fluffy-duffy view of harmony is a fantasy akin to a gym with no weights and an expectation to pump air ands still develop muscle.

Or falling into deep water and expecting to not have to swim. Or that you can press a button and it will all be done for you.

And yet I keep hearing all these great martial artists decrying the value of conflict! And showing immense concern when it arises.

Conflict is good for you. We are hard wired to thrive on attrition. If we don’t break we awake. It’s called life. Life is the opposite of stagnation.

Conflict is an opportunity to deal with it with skill.

Aikido without conflict would not exist because there would be nothing to HARMONISE!

Without a serious properly aimed, intentional and skilled attack there is nothing to practice.

Hakama is uniform, not skirt! Please let us not get our priorities, values and perspectives all muddled and mixed up.

Life, by definition is a series of challenges interspersed with relative quietude but only following a period of intensity dealing with the adversity.

We need to get out of the delusions about them and us, god and devil, someone to blame and things to whine about. Things are as they are, most usually we have brought them on ourselves. There is a lesson to be learnt.

We need to drop the delusions about “escape” and start finding ourselves.

The Aikido attitude is one of welcoming conflict, challenge and adversity so you can practice HARMONISING.

Adversity is a gift. Conflict a sign you are alive. Change, the indicator that life on earth is still possible. All good.

In any event life requires it and it is inevitable.

Learn to HARMONISE it.

Without conflict there would be nothing to harmonize.

Many seek a rest or an escape, even inventing other realms they want to believe that will “go to” one day. No such animal. Adversity is here to stay. It is a gift of the universe and a sign you are alive. An opportunity to exercise the real Nirvana muscles, those that harmonize the discordant. In the thick of it. Where else?

Sounds like work? Yes, you lazy so and so, it is work. Navigation is not a rest and the universe is an ocean of many currents.

Try this experiment. Record your voice and listen to it. Get someone to film your behaviour and watch yourself. Make your own evaluation.

In the field of battle, autocracy is essential for high-speed chain of command functionality. Otherwise nothing gets done. And its easier and less effort to simply do the job at hand than it is going to extraordinary effort doing more work than takes to avoid work. Duty.

In a dojo, where rank is mostly meaningless, autocracy is essential to maintain safety, a high standard of excellence and to stop the dojo from becoming a political rabble of effete manipulators.

And rather focus on the PURPOSE – WHICH IS TRAINING!

Welcome conflict. It is a message from the universe that you are still alive.

When under real and physical attack you will have to harmonize like all bleep.

The best pumpkins and other plants grow best in poo, manure, compost. So do we. Learn how to best use the raw material for the implementation and restoration of real harmony. Without it nothing of value will grow.

It’s not the smell but what you do with it that makes the difference. Learn from nature’s aiki.

Conflict, like fire, cannot sustain indefinitely. Our ancient instincts know at the core, that in order to sustain, some form of relative harmonious stability must prevail. Simply waiting will not obtain result. It requires work of some description, rearrangement that will make harmony prevail.

A vacation is not harmony. It merely feels good because you are getting a rest from drudgery. But there is a right time and place for everything, as the hopefully fictional theorists described above discovered the hard way.

In menial circumstances, where no imminent, hard violence is a threat, conflict is a really rich opportunity to put theories about harmony into practice and see how well they work.

Then to refine the technique and to influence the world for greater good. After all what else is there of greater importance?

And if you are a warrior and not a wimp, you will have the heart, the backbone and the integrity to face anyone, with a benign heart, and also be prepared for anything, then RESTORE HARMONY as harmoniously as possible. Or whatever it takes.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Nev, the intro to your piece… did you get that out of the New York Times? …some prominent personalities on how we shouldn’t be all upset by a few religious extremists from the Middle East?

    (although, candidly, we lose more than 10x the number of 9/11 casualties every year on the highways, and probably 5x the number in the so-called War on Drugs. so, what’s the big deal?)

  2. Brett Jackson says:

    I can blend with that; add some aiki to it. Thaks for the opportunity! Indeed, the parody aptly captures the zeitgeist of the age. We are caught up in it like the stage of an actor’s performance. That stage is hilarious when described so directly and openly. If we didn’t laugh we would have to cry! The feelgoodfest is arguably ok to be played out in private on a physchotherapist’s couch. However, it’s evolved well beyond that, like a cancer overtaking the entire hospital (or theatre), saturating the collective spirit of the age.

    The political correctness of the feelgoodfest is the new standard the real soldiers are held up too, as witnessed by the trials against soldiers for alleged crimes in the field, on the one hand, and for suicidal tolerance of potential enemies within, on the other hand. The last thing we want to do (this is the zeitgeist –the way we currently are together in the world) is hurt anyone’s feelings or give the press some ammunition against us in their next sentimentalist write-up.

    The cure for this cancer is what? A paradigm change deep within the way we comport ourselves. Conflict is not to be seen as the enemy.

    “Welcome conflict.” The welcoming is the aiki of the conflict. That’s the comportment that says an obstacle is a challenge and embraces the resolve to play the hands we are dealt as well as we can. That’s not to say we go looking for trouble; looking for trouble is not “welcoming conflict” but asking for trouble. There’s more than enough conflict already here. We don’t have to seek it out. When conflict finds us then, then we welcome it in the sense that we lead it and blend with it in a way that we resolve it as best we can. And I like the closing remark: “Or whatever it takes.” Exclamation mark.

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