By Carl Frederick
For as long as I can remember, I have been involved with the martial arts. I connected with it, and like a musician to his instrument, I seemed to have a talent which I was able to tap into. I remember my master in Tang Soo Do, very early on in my training, explaining to me the power of martial arts, and in particular Tang Soo Do. He stated that what we are learning was meant for one thing, and one thing only: war. The techniques we were learning were tried and true battlefield tactics, and were meant to kill. But we don’t live in feudal Korea; we live in a world that prefers movie flash to real tactics. The fact remained, however, that what we were learning was deadly, warlike, and chaotic.
Today, martial arts are a form of self-defense, meant to be used only in the most dire of situations, and not to be taken lightly. I am equally amazed and scared by the things that I know. But something that I have realized in my time in Aikido, was that my Tang Soo Do master was right. Everything I knew was chaotic. My attacks caused injury and pain, and possibly even death. Even my ability to block incoming attacks had a chaotic motive. Like an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force, there was no harmony or balance in what I did. It was simple: defend myself against an attacker, and never take a life unless no other option was feasible. Even then, I should try to find a way.
This is what draws me to Aikido. I have a choice whether or not to cause injury, pain or death. In this sense, Aikido leaves you no choice, its intent is harmony and non-violence. There is no chaos. I also like it in the practical sense of my career–it would look bad for a police force to have a cop roundhouse kicking felons. So I like the immobilizing, passive defensiveness of the art. But also, it makes me realize that I don’t need to cause injury to defend myself.
Granted, I still like my “harder hitting” style. And yes, any time there is a technique on the mat that seems more brutal, I get a gleam in my eye. Although I don’t believe in the whole idea of “bringing uke back into harmony, and making them one with the world,” when a sociopath is willing to kill me so much as look at me, I still believe in the principle of non-violent solutions.