Martial Arts, Aikido and Peace? by George Ledyard

“Every technique in Aikido involves setting up a communication
with the attacker and a complete acceptance of his attack.”

The one thing that is absolutely assured in this world is change. Change is constant, unstoppable. The entire Universe is in constant flux. At each instant structures are being created and structures are passing out of existence. And yet, nothing is separate, nothing exists in isolation from the Totality. The fundamental problem for mankind is that very few people ever actually get to truly understand this fact. The ones who do are called “spiritual”, “saints”, or Enlightened Ones. The rest of us go through our lives stubbornly acting “as if” we were really separate individuals. We have a love of what is known what is stabile, what is predictable. We don’t mind a bit of change as long as it isn’t rapid or too drastic.

But fundamentally human beings consistently show a preference for the belief that what they have and what they know is somehow permanent; that it has some reality. This is one of the essential causes of conflict. We want to protect what we have, we want our view of the world confirmed because the very idea that what we think we believe and we “know” may not be real in some fundamental sense would open up the doors to chaos. If what we believe isn’t necessarily true, then one’s very sense of one’s existence is challenged.

Mankind has shown over and over that it would rather slaughter each other in vast numbers, to cause the most unbearable hardship to itself, rather than accept this fact. Protestants and Catholics have murdered each other in untold numbers over issues that most people today couldn’t even recount. Today, some Shiites and Sunnis, while ostensibly sharing the same faith will butcher each other over differences that first came to light more than a thousand years ago and no one outside their faith finds the least important. We will do each other in over the color of our skins, over the slightest perceived injustices, over the vaguest perception of a threat.

What is at the heart of this violence? Fear; pure and simple. No matter how complex the reasoning is behind some individual fight, societal conflict, large scale war, the basic cause can always traced to fear. Fear of what one might ask? Fear of everything, really. If we essentially cannot come to terms with the nature of reality, then almost every aspect of that reality can cause us to be reminded of what we are trying so hard not to acknowledge.

As a culture we worry that we won’t maintain our position as the richest nation in the world. We are willing to kill our fellows, spend more on war than education, spend more on rebuilding what we destroy than on our own health care… We would rather make war to protect a way of life that everyone acknowledges is unsustainable than make the adjustments required to flow with the inevitable forces of change. Why? Because of fear. The rich fear that they may lose their riches. The poor fear that they may get poorer. We see something someone else has that we want and we fear that they will be somehow “more” and we will be somehow “less” if we don’t have it.

The crucial thing to realize about the nature of the universe is that there is a fundamental balance of the whole. Change is constant in that everything within the system is in a constant flow but the whole has a balance. On an energetic level, if some element of the system goes to one extreme, there will be another which goes precisely to the opposite extreme. In fact they create each other. It is at the center where one finds balance. Although the location of the “center” is ever shifting, there is always a balance point within the system. If one is interested in understanding how to live with as little conflict as possible, in having as much harmony in one’s life as one can attain, it is this “center” which one needs to find.

One of the essential truths revealed through millennium of spiritual experience is that the microcosm is a direct reflection of the macrocosm. All of the conflict we see in the world today exists inside of each individual. In fact, it is the conflict inside the individual members of the collective that produce the conflict ones sees in the world. If people understood how to find that “center” within themselves that allows them to know where they are and who they are no matter where the winds of change would blow, there would be no conflict, there would just be flow.

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