Luckily real life is not an action adventure movie and we are able to walk though our daily life with few instances of ever needing to use our skill in Aikido. True Aikido practitioners perceive the world in a different light, noticing the subtle shifts in people bodies as they walk down a hall or change their balance to open a door or other seemingly mundane activities of day to day life. It is luckily rare that we ever have to draw upon our skills to actually intercede in a situation that may require us to make physical contact with somebody, allow them to break their own balance and have gravity take over. In the real world conflict is possibility never as clear cut as we see in the movies, two opposing army’s knowing that they are about to have a confrontation. Instead it is a subtle build up, then violence seems to explode out of it without any one exactly sure how it even escalated to such a point.
I was at work and was running back to my car to retrieve some paper work and right as I was about to exit the building a coworker grabbed me and asked me to make sure I walked out and witnessed what was seemingly about to happen. A nice older lady from work was being followed into the parking lot by another driver for at the time reason I didn’t know. Of course this was one of those little old ladies every offices has, and who couldn’t hurt a fly if she tried with all of her might. The man in the car had blocked her in a parking space and was honking his horn at her waving his fist and making every rude gesture you can think of. Knowing that something had to be done I calmly but deliberately walked straight towards the offending person’s car.
At points like this a thousand different thoughts roll through one’s mind. I need to help my friend especially one that cannot defend herself. Am I going to be in a physical conflict? Does this person have a gun; are they crazy, on drugs, just pissed off because of their morning commute or a fight they had with their wife? Just as important what are my actions going to be. Do I lose my temper and express my outrage to him, violently or verbally? As all of these thoughts washed over me in what seemed like a ten mile walk toward this person’s car. I thought back to my training and not just my training but the philosophy, concepts, and ideas that I have spent the last three years trying to cultivate and incorporate in my Aikido, and through it my daily life. My mind cleared and I suddenly found my calm just like as if I was in the dojo about to start randori or other practice. I made eye contact starting zanshin letting this guy know that I wasn’t going to tear him limb from limb but was also not going to allow him to pick on a much weaker friend and coworker.
As soon as the eye contact was made he realized immediately that his situation had changed. His aggression towards someone much weaker than him was unacceptable but it wasn’t that this was unacceptable it was also that he was wrong. Being able to change someone’s balance not just through touch but state of mind and informing them that their actions will not be tolerated is as powerful as any throw. If I had run out there at full speed and been the aggressor I believe in my heart that things would have escalated even further. As an Aikido artist there is the fine line between interceding in what could become a physical conflict and actually being the one that tips it into becoming a physical conflict. Tools such as zanshin (connectedness) and metsuke (gaze) allow us to control a situation without crossing the boundaries of physical contact.
Eye contact made, the driver got back in his car and drove off. Hopefully he reflects what it must be like to pick on a little old lady because they came to close to each other in a parking lot, something that was more than likely both their faults and not her fault or his. Hopefully he will take a couple of minutes and realize that it could have been a worst day for both of them and more importantly a better day for the both of them.
In today’s society where law officers become involved and coming to someone’s aid could get you arrested just as quickly or even be sued, using the mental principals of Aikido are just as important if not more useful. I have always believed that martial artist of all types have to be the ones with restraint, using their art as a last resort. It sometimes seems very contrary to even be practicing martial arts if you work to avoid a physical conflict. But alas, paradox is at the essence of budo.