Posted by: aikithoughts | March 28, 2014

Accepting Reality

As the chief instructor of Aikido Kokikai South Everett, I am often asked questions regarding how “effective” our style of aikido (and, for that matter, aikido in general) can be. Usually, these questions are thinly-veiled attempts to ask the more direct question: “How good is aikido in a fight?” However, the real answers to this question move beyond self-defense into something far more practical and meaningful.

Of course, after 15 years of being an instructor, I’ve become adept at having fun with this question. “Is aikido good in a fight? What kind of fight? In a gun fight, it’s not so great. In a knife fight? Still not ideal. Why? Are you getting into knife fights? Oh…you mean fist fights? Depends! Are you fighting in a ring? Or on the street? Against one person? Thirty? Why are you fighting so many people? What do you DO all day?” Most students or potential students see that I’m trying to be humorous, and realize that their question is somewhat ridiculous.

After my initial attempt at humor is over (there are usually more attempts later), I then get to the answer that means the most to me: Kokikai Aikido is effective. Not only from a physical standpoint, but from a mental perspective, a philosophical one. One way I choose to look at it is this: With Kokikai Aikido, you learn how to accept reality.

Here’s a mundane example. You are driving home, but you are stuck in traffic. How easy it is to get angry at the traffic, to rail against the fact that you’re not getting home fast enough. I know I’ve felt this way more times than I can count. When I apply what I learn in Kokikai Aikido, I find that I’m much more accepting of my situation. Instead of crying out: “Why is there traffic?” I think: “There is traffic.” No amount of anger will dissipate the traffic that’s between me and my house. I can, however, choose to accept the fact that the traffic is here, and decide what to do about it. Perhaps that means taking a side street. Perhaps it means pulling off at an exit and getting something to eat. Perhaps it means just waiting it out. But whatever action I choose to take is taken more calmly and with more understanding. I may not get home much faster, but I definitely feel better.

Let me give a greater, and more personal example. My wonderful son, who is five, was diagnosed a couple of years ago as having ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder. Go online, and you can find all sorts of parents of children with autism who blame a variety of causes for their child’s situation. Some blame pollution. Some blame a medical treatment that was or was not given at the right time. And, yes, still others blame vaccinations. I read these blog posts and articles, and rarely do I find someone intelligently and calmly addressing an issue in a meaningful way. Instead, I see people who are scared, angry, and frightened. They are unwilling to accept their reality, and so choose to fight against it. Since there is no way to fight against reality, they are forced to revert to expressing their fears in the hopes that they can find or convince others to be afraid too.

In my case, I have been fortunate. The principles I’ve studied in Kokikai Aikido have helped me accept my son’s diagnosis. This does not mean that I have given up on him–far, FAR from it. His mother and I, along with his older sister and younger brother, work with a team of educators and therapists to help him be happy and reach his best potential. (For those curious, he’s doing very well, and is scheduled to go to a public school kindergarten program!) What I do NOT do is spend my hours and days trying to find something or someone to blame. Even if I found someone to blame, it would not change my son’s situation–so why bother? Instead, I choose to accept reality, and work within it to provide him the love, education, and happiness he so richly deserves. True, there are hard days and frustrating days, but these are rare. More often than not, there are simply days: filled with good times and challenging times, just like any other parent and child might experience.

When people ask me if Kokikai Aikido is effective, of course I can answer honestly that it will help keep them physically safe. But I am also quick to tell them that it does much, much more. It teaches you to see the world around you more clearly today than yesterday, and more clearly tomorrow than today. When you see the world around you clearly, without fear, you can act calmly, instead of reacting rashly. You can accept reality and, as a result, navigate your way through life in ways more effective than you ever thought possible.

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Responses

  1. Instead of crying out: “Why is there traffic?” I think: “There is traffic.” This is so true! Instead of looking at the problem with a biased mind, Aikido taught me to let go of biases and finger-pointing. Then can we look at the entire situation as it is and deal with it. No use getting worked up for something you cannot change. Thanks for this post!

  2. It seems natural to link martial arts to self defense so that it is also quite natural to have people wonder about how effective is the martial art they have chosen; but it also seems that martial arts have taken the concept of fighting to its broadest meaning: the fight understood as the struggle for life. They are a school, an education system mostly relying on the acquisition of forms .And I think Aikido is the most illustrative example of this since it is all forms and no competition. The forms carry principles and wisdom upon which you would rely in case of a fight or to solve a problem; just like you cannot expect to make real life business on the basis of mathematics school exercises you cannot expect to fight using the Aikido forms as you learned them in the dojo. The strength of a fighter rests on his or her ability to put principles into practice. I found the fundamental principle taught in Aikido is the Tao as in the interplay of the Yin and the Yang. Aikido is “Yin and Yang in motion” to quote the title of a film made by Henry Kono. There is a French proverb translated as “Man proposes and God disposes”: as creatures and not creators we have to adapt ourselves to the perpetual “aggressions” of life, the way an Aikido form always begins with Tori being under attack; but at the end of each and every form, the aggressor invariably ends up being harmlessly thrown or pinned down. Aikido forms are just so many teachings on how to turn the tables, how to make the best of a bad bargain. Aikido teaches us that there is a bright and a dark side to everything and that we should hone our skills to move from the dark to the bright side of things. In order to become real winners, let’s observe, while training, how the tables are being turned in the forms instead of flexing our little muscles to beat the crap out of a willing partner. Aikido is closer to guerilla tactics than to great battles fought on an open field.


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