Dealing with a bully is much like overthrowing a dictatorship. Both the dictator and the bully attempt to intimidate, terrorize and undermine confidence at a physical and/or emotional level. The one operates at an individual level while the other seeks to manipulate the masses.

Interestingly, the grass roots shift toward liberation and social transformation seen in the world in recent decades (e.g. Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Latvia, Poland, Philippines, Serbia, Egypt, etc.) has, for the most part, not been the result of violent uprisings, but of peaceful resistance. It is the same spirit of non-violence and cooperation that forms the heart of Aikido which is helping to bring positive change to the world.

Aikido challenges us, not to beat someone up, or to win a competition or even to only defend ourselves in a limited sense. The challenge of Aikido is the constructive transformation of violence through non-violence. Our path runs parallel to that of Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and many others who showed that to solve the problem of violence, responding with violence is not only less humane, it is less effective.

Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei understood this fact as well when he created Aikido. In his words, “If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through them and avoid their attacks. And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth. There are no contests in the Art of Peace. A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within ourselves.” The core concept of philosophical nonviolence is love of the enemy, and the realization of the humanity of all people. The goal of this type of nonviolence is not to defeat the enemy, but to win them over and create love and understanding between all.

The thoughts of O Sensei are echoed in the words of Scilla Elworthy in her presentation below on “Fighting with Non-violence,” where she says, “And what I need to develop is self-knowledge to do that. That means I need to know how I tick, when I collapse, where my formidable points are, where my weaker points are. When do I give in? What will I stand up for?” It is this lifelong journey toward understanding ourselves, rather than some external prize or victory, that is the goal of our training. The pursuit of personal glory and victory are not very worthy goals compared to the deeper purpose of our practice.

Is Aikido possible? Is it realistic? It is like asking if creating peace and happiness in the world is possible. Yes, it is very possible, but there is more to it than this. It is our duty to ourselves and to humankind to strive toward these goals in spite of the difficulties we might face if for no other reason than because the alternative is unacceptable. We must understand that the problem of violence and suffering is not solved by adding more of the same to the world.

As an Aikidoka, a student of Aikido, you represent a fundamental philosophical view of the world which is completely opposite to the direction of martial arts in general. Aikido is not merely the physical techniques that we practice. It is the pursuit of the kind of heart and character that will make such techniques possible.

~Philip Greenwood, Sensei

P.S. If you’re curious about Elworthy’s reference to Gene Sharp of The Albert Einstein Institution’s book here’s a pdf of a public domain copy: From Dictatorship to Democracy