Self-defense: defense against one’s self
by Lynn Seiser
Recently at a seminar at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in California, editor and entrepreneur Stan Pranin, made many interesting points. He stated that self-defense was the defense of life, liberty, and property. He asked, what were the chances we would be attacked by a trained karate person? Pretty slim to none. So, he continued, what were the biggest threats to our life, property, and liberty? I answered all three questions the same way. The biggest threat to my life, liberty, and property was my own stupidity. Pranin Sensei pointed out that the biggest threat to our life was not taking care of our health, the biggest threat to our property was not being financially responsible and paying our bills, and the biggest threat to our liberty was doing illegal acts that would land us in jail.
O-Sensei believed that true victory was victory over the self, not others, and that Aikido could provide a means or cure for a world of chaos, confusion, and conflict. Perhaps what he meant was to use Aikido training as a tool to overcome our own self-centered ignorance. One of the elements or concepts of Aikido I like is the moving of self rather than resisting and attempting to move or change the other person. By focusing on our own movement, the other person can choose to follow along or disengage of their own free will.
We are our own worst enemy. This is a common expression and an equally common reality. As a counselor and psychotherapist, I can attest that most people treat themselves far worse than they treat others, especially people they care about. I guess that is a good thing. Sure, there are people who think it is all about them and treat themselves very well while other people are just a secondary thought. These people deserve our understanding and compassion so we can avoid getting into any major relationship or business deal with them. They deserve our compassion because these people usually end up unhappy and alone. For the most part, I am glad we do not do unto others as we do unto ourselves. In fact, if we treated ourselves as well as we treated friends and loved ones, we might be a whole lot better off.
One of the first things we learned in Aikido is to relax the body and calm the mind. To get the most out of training, we do not deny the uke is attacking and we do not tell them how they should attack. The Aiki way is to greet the attack, accept it, and blend with it. We redirect rather than resist. We take balance with finesse rather than by force. We attempt to control the situation and do no harm.
How do we defend ourselves against ourselves? Einstein said that the type of thinking that creates a problem is not the type of thinking that solves it. Many times our worst enemy is a belief in scarcity. We believe that we are not rich enough, powerful enough, handsome/beautiful enough, smart enough, and there certainly is not enough time so we want everything right now. All of these reflect judgments. All of these tend to lead to anxiety and depression. Our minds appear to be our worst enemy. If we identify with the mind we think this is just the way we are, the way reality is. When we accept and blend with these thoughts, we stand outside them and see that we simply learned them along the journey. Perhaps we learned them from people and society that really believed them. However, these beliefs usually do not bring them much joy either. Accepting that they are simply learned thoughts begins to take their balance. Redirecting allows us to change our minds.
If your mind were your training partner in the Dojo, you would accept its positive intention. You would practice entering and blending with it. You would begin to take its balance and redirect it. You would gently control it. If something does not work, rather than resist or get angry, perhaps it would be easier to simply learn from our mistakes and choose again.
Aikido is a martial art, and the real demons we face and fight are self-judgment and self-punishment. Perhaps the best self-defense is self-acceptance. Self-acceptance means to accept full responsibility and accountability for who we are and the consequences for the choices we make.
Thanks for listening, the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now, get back to training. KWATZ!note: this article was originally posted as a blog