Written by Kevin MDR
I guess it is human nature to doubt. We train daily and trust that we are getting something tangible in return for our dedication and discipline. Yet, most of us will never have an opportunity to resolve this doubt. Today, I am happy to answer YES to the oft asked rhetorical question, Does Aikido Work?
Last week, I was driving down Dundas Street and observed a verbal confrontation escalate into a physical fight. It would have been easy enough to drive on by, but instead I stopped in the middle of the street and intervened (as did others). Luckily for all, the outcome was positive: a lopsided physical confrontation ended, continued hostilities were mitigated, and the encounter resolved without the aid of police.
As an aside, the formal intervention by police would have continued the hostilities, as one party would have been charged against the other; perhaps, unjustifiably so. Both parties were aggressors and both were victims; depending on the timeline of the fight under investigation. I feel 9 out 10 would have seen the person on the ground as the victim, but his negligence led to the initial verbal confrontation and his physical assault against the other led to his beat down.
Back to the reason I am writing the dojo. I want my dojo mates to understand that Aikido training does have positive outcomes that under certain circumstance can deliver as promised; a path that leads to the peaceful resolution of physical conflict. The training afforded me by my peers at Naka Ima Aikikai and communicated by our talented instructors provided me some very tangible realizations that I wish to share with you.
Confidence. Perhaps, playing with wooden swords helped romanticize the role of peacemaker. Or perhaps, Aikido taught me to accept responsibility for the wellbeing of others in the community. Or maybe, it was something I have always had within myself. In any case, Aikido gave me the confidence to intervene in a conflict that had grown imbalanced. Much like the referee who must arbitrate the escalation of conflict, I felt compelled to resolve this imbalance. Without the knowledge of and confidence in the application of Aikido techniques, I would have lacked the courage to intervene. Instead, I would have sat as a spectator and ogled the abilities of others versus taking this social responsibility upon myself.
Calm. At one time or another, you have likely experienced the nervous tremors associated with ‘fight or flight’. I am talking of that uncontrolled nervousness upon which our bodies rely for survival. While it gears you up for life saving measures, it also dampens conscious thought. To our benefit, conscious thought is replaced with instinct. Knowing the aggression was not directed at me, I was able to remain calm throughout the entire event. Probably a total of five minutes passed before I returned to the car. Others were trembling and shouting during the confrontation. I was calm, alert, and without any mental preconceptions; a state I liken to mushin. Stationed between the two persons in conflict, a place I liken to the spark gap where lightening can strike at any moment, my calm served as an insulator preventing one from striking out at the other.
Competency. Of course, in such a dynamic circumstance, imperfection is the norm. I was unable to stay perfectly positioned between the two persons in conflict. When they faced each other, conflict would reignite. This occurred five or six times. None was more violent than a moment when one sought to kick the other in the head as the latter bent forward to gather his material possessions from the ground. Luckily for all involved, the kick would miss its mark. To the untrained, it would appear I jumped in and pushed the aggressor down. But he and I know that it was more than that.
I was able to enter irimi and extend my ki placing unbendable arms against the aggressor’s shoulders. Ever so light was the contact between us. I could barely feel his weight against the base of my palms. Still, the momentum of his intent off-balanced the aggressor. When he tensed to regain his balance, he was thrown to the ground … both feet rising up for an instant. He fell to a seat upon the ground. As he rolled forward from his back to stand, his intense gaze shifted to me as a potential threat. With his attention upon me, potential counters to possible attacks rolled through my mind in response to his body positioning. Of course, we will never know if any of these ideas about his attacks or my responses were valid.
Aikido delivered in those few minutes its promise as a Path to Harmony. With a sense of competence developed from years of training, I did not have to stand idle in observation. Instead, I can testify that many self-doubts have been erased with respect to Aikido’s effectiveness. I am also happy to report that Aikido has erased many self-doubts about myself. I left this weekend encounter confident and proud of the training I received at Naka Ima Aikikai.
I thank you all for your dedicated practice and your willingness to share the mat with me.