What we can learn from Aikido.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Dear Baby,

we have spent the past week learning about Aikido (合気道), an embodied way of practicing peace. Sounds surprising to you, as you see pictures of people flying around, seemingly fighting for life and death? You might have felt the very opposite as we learned and practiced some basics of Aikido. 

Aikido and elicitive peace work have more in common than a first view implies. In the past week, we looked at the trinity of Ai-Ki-Do – a trinity of conflict transformation in practice that consists of three forces, intertwined, mutually dependent and equally important for transformation:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 8.44.00 AM

How moving was it to practice very simple techniques of Aikido on the mat that carry so much meaning for interpersonal life. No need for deep, complicated peace theories that are hardly understood by anyone, nor super academic language for experiencing basic peace skills. This trinity basically implies three simple rules / aspects:

  1. It all begins with contact (Ai)
  2. it all expands to life (Ki)
  3. it all depends on transformation (Do)

How simple could life be if we didn’t make it so complicated from time to time?

We have experienced this embodied contact, during Aikido class when we faced a partner and reached out to their heart, while in return accepting them reaching out to ours as well. A constant back and forth of seeing and being seen. Is that not what we are here for? Relationality? Connection?

And it is natural that sometimes, contact turns into unification, inclusion, confluence; at other times into differentiation, exclusion, conflict. So how are we going to deal with these oscillations of life, these varieties of encounter?

We learned about some types of strategies in Aikido to deal with an attack, metaphorical for any confrontation or conflict. It is about attunement, knowing how and when to respond. Not to react, but to respond. So many vicious circles of conflict have been created by us merely reacting, yet failing to respond. Someone hurts us? We react by hurting back. Or by running away. Someone betrays us? We react by cutting contact, yet never really looking for the motives of the other. Reaction comes easier than true response.

Another of these strategies lies in reframing the situation. Is an attack really an attack, or might it be the attempt of the opponent to be noticed, to get your attention? Is that not often what happens?

Then the literal fight that we observe in Aikido, is not just a fight, has nothing to do with violence, but rather with nonviolence.  It is not about taking the attack and turning the face in anticipation of being beaten on the other cheek, but about redirection of that energy to a nonviolent state.

In order for this to work, we need to be centered and stable. What if we are attacked by someone and lose our balance? In the literal and metaphorical sense, that is often among the roots of peacelessness. Grounding, standing tall and strong, is a quality we need not only in embodied practices such as Aikido, but also in our full-time jobs as peacemaking mothers.

So  that not every disruption, not every little earthquake can bring us to fall, but that we are able to stay grounded despite anxiety, despite stress and worries. Embodying and physically practicing this by grounding and settling down in the pelvis is a powerful tool to visualize the grounding on an energetic level.

Ki, the web of life, is in Aikido, then the combination of grounding through the pelvis and extending with the arms. It was lovely to learn about the interpretation of our facilitator, who identifies the three levels of centering, an interpretation that has a lot in common with Chakra philosophy. A simplified version of what we learned is illustrated below.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.41.57 AM

So how does transformation (Do) takes place?

We transform our selves by practice, a wise and diligent practice of internal and external spheres. This is probably at the basis of conflict transformation: self transformation. Ultimately, we can choose the path of the warrior, one that is receiving the gift of life and establishing life everywhere (Ueshiba). Sounds like pregnancy? Oh, yes it is. Yet, it is not pregnancy by itself that makes us mothers and mothers-to-be warriors. It is the integration of life, love and light.

  1. Embracing life instead of just merely existing
  2. Loving, and affirming life and light
  3. Enlightening life and love.

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May we choose to be these warriors, for ourselves, and new generations, and especially for you.

Your Mum

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