Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Peace and Conflict


Sensei Paul Linden

Source: aikiweb

I
 was just re-reading an issue of Asian Martial Arts (Volume 20 Number 2, 2011). In it, there’s an excellent little article by Paul Linden, an Aikido Sensei and body-awareness educator. He’s the founder of Being in Movement mindbody education. (It’s online under that title if you want to check it out).

In this article, Sensei Linden touches on a topic dear to my heart – “the fight or flight response”.

As I’ve mentioned before, the martial arts have tried in various ways to deal with the negative aspects of this response – overreaction, fear, freezing up, stress, etc.

Aikido practitioners do particularly well in coming to terms with the “fight or flight response”. When confronted by conflict, Aikido-ka do the exact opposite: they relax.

One of the maxims that Sensei Linden introduces in his article is – in order to fight well, you have to feel gratitude toward your opponent.

Incredible. How am I going to feel gratitude toward someone who is trying to rob me or take my life?

He suggests a simple exercise to prove his point –

1.   Have someone poke you. Block the poke with a simple inward block while saying out loud: “Don’t touch.”

2.   Now have the same person poke you again. But this time say: “Thank you.”

Notice how “Don’t touch” is accompanied by stiffness and tension. And how “Thank you” makes your block smoother, easier, faster, and as he says, more effective.

Aikido constantly strives for this on the mat – and in life. Harmony with the attacker.



Reduce the level of conflict - or defend at the height of your abilities

Source: zenhabits.net


He raises some other points in the article, about clarity and space, all of them important.

(One of my students recalls training at an excellent Kung Fu club in his youth. One of his instructors used to smile, chuckle and say: “I don’t worry much about an attack. People just bounce off me!”)

The instructor was talking about his internal power…his relaxed internal power with which he was able to accept and redirect an attacker’s blows.

If we take Sensei Linden’s advice out into everyday life we can see how it would work in dozens of conflict scenarios or high stress situations. And (the big point here) the same strategy would go a long way in reducing the level of conflict and/or avoiding conflict altogether.

I’ve found that when I’m attacked and I react with “fight or flight” I immediately panic and stiffen up. My thinking either seizes up or turns into the “tunnel vision” kind. My heart rate rises uncontrollably and my breathing becomes laboured. Years of training can fly out the door in a heartbeat!

But if I do the opposite of “fight or flight” and relax, there is no limit in what I can do. If the attacker becomes “my friend” –

1.   I can prevent any escalation using peaceful, relaxed body language and a clear, calm voice

2.   Or – I can reply with relaxed power (stronger than stiff power); rely on internal power not blocked by tension; have 1,000 techniques at my fingertips (no fight or flight tunnel vision); “bridge” to his body with sensitivity and flexibility; be aware of every part of his body (breathing, old injuries, pressure points, etc.)

If you use Sensei Linden’s method in your training, you open up your training. It becomes limitless. If you tense into your training, especially through “fight or flight”, your boundaries are limited, and remain so.

In the future, I’d like to follow up this post with some applications to everyday life!





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