Featured: “An Aikido Solution to Hamas Rocket Attacks” by Corky Quakenbush

A rocket is fired from Gaza towards Israel Photo Credit: Reuters

A rocket is fired from Gaza towards Israel
Photo Credit: Reuters

As an Aikido practitioner, I always look at conflict from a perspective that includes the principles of aiki.  Of particular interest to me is how the principles of Aikido can be manifested in government and international relations.  One issue that screams out for the principles of nonviolent conflict resolution is the Israel Palestine conflict.Recently, rockets fired from the Palestinian Territories have rained down on Israel.

Aikido is meant to deal with deadly attack so this should be a condition that is ripe for the application of Aikido principles to help bring about a lasting peace. The answer is really quite simple and easy to institute. But for fear, peace could be created in a matter of days, if not hours, after the initial rocket attacks.

To be fair, this solution, though effective and simple and as easy as it really is, may face difficulty in being executed. Most people involved in conflict resolution view the process as achieving peace when the opposition relents and finally agrees with them. The inability or lack of desire of most people to practice an art of conflict resolution in which satisfaction for all parties involved is the main priority, reflects the self-preserving nature of ego, whether expressed by an individual or by a group.  The ego intentions of individuals or groups of like-minded individuals often reflect the desire to win, if not to have more than one’s adversary at the end of the interaction, reflecting a loss of something of the adversary, then to have what one desires despite the desires of the adversary.When an individual or group wants to come out ahead at the expense of the other, it is impossible to operate in a state in which aiki will manifest from the actions of that individual or group.

Aikido requires selflessness to work as it is intended.  For many, this kind of selfless approach is foreign and frightening.

A Palestinian youth walks through a crater after an Israeli air strike in a residential neighborhoos in Gaza. Photo Credit: Getty Images

A Palestinian youth walks through a crater after an Israeli air strike in a residential neighborhood in Gaza. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Reflecting on the requirement of selflessness, the fear of it is largely the idea that selflessness means subjugation to the other party. However, any solution that requires one to “lose” is not a manifestation of aiki, as true aiki never creates a winner and a loser.   Therefore the aiki answer does not include “losing” to create peace.

If Aiki is present, neither party will feel disadvantaged in any way.

This may sound strange when compared to the way Aikido looks when an attacker ends his action on the ground, but when Aikido manifests out of beneficent intention, the attacker does not feel defeated by this path to the floor, but taken care of.  The connective properties of ki expressed to another naturally feel good to both participants, even in the midst of the physical expression of an attack.

In our Aiki-Lab practice, we work from ukemi.  That is, uke’s attack is meant to energetically pierce the central core of nage and continue to do so throughout the interaction.  Practicing this way instead of by technique emulation gives one a wholly different perspective of how much we, as nages, get into the way of aiki manifesting because of our fear responses.

In our Aiki-Lab way of practicing, the only thing that is going to produce an aiki-resolution (what others might call a fall or throw) is if uke continues his authentic attack energy flow to nage’s center and if nage does not counter attack, defend, or withdraw, but rather responds from a place of beneficent intention, thereby creating a flow of energy that supports uke as uke follows his attack’s path to the ground.

One of the things we learn from this kind of practice is that the greatest connective properties of a flood of ki from nage to uke is inclusiveness.  The sincere attitude of “we’re in this together” creates an energetic bond between partners that is deeply satisfying, and it gives the attacker the ability to give up the attack without repercussions.

Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei performing irimi or the principle of "entering".

Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei performing Irimi or the principle of “entering”.

In the practice of Aikido there is also a principle of “entering.”  In one sense it pertains to the movement of irimi, or moving into a close proximity that makes it bio-mechanically impossible for the attack to have an impact.  But in another way it means to take action as soon as the intention to attack is forming in the mind of the attacker.  Since the goal is not to win but to unify, the entering is not about taking an early advantage but about addressing the problem before it develops into something more destructive.

With those two principles in place we can see an instant solution to the rocket attacks.  The rocket attacks from Hamas originate in detectable positions but rain down randomly upon Israel.  Since the Israeli defenses know where the rockets are coming from, Hamas populates the area with civilians, making counter attacks from Israel fall inevitably on non-combatants.

This practice puts Israel in an unfortunate position from a military perspective because it will have to kill innocent civilians in order to take out the rocket launching positions.   The Palestinian death rate is far greater than that of Israel’s thereby making Israel’s response look overbearing and promoting greater animosity toward Israel by the Palestinian populace (outside of Hamas).

If the population of Israel could operate within the principles of Aikido as expressed through the properties of entering and inclusion, they would put an end to the rocket barrage in a day and actually make the steps toward lasting peace from a solid foundation.

The way this would be accomplished is by opening the borders and sincerely welcoming Palestinians into their land, into their homes and businesses, and into their lives.  This cannot work if the attitude motivating this action is anything but inclusiveness, that is, Palestinians must be treated as guests and as family.  When the population of Palestine is completely commingled with Israelis in Israel, any rocket launched by Hamas would be landing on Palestinians as well as Israelis.

With sincere intention that peace be attained without winner or loser, the heartfelt desire to share would bring these so-called Palestinian “human shields” into shields against aggression.  Should Hamas be seen as indiscriminately killing fellow Palestinian countrymen, women and children of their own in their pursuits of an overthrow of Israel, their support among Palestinians would disappear and they would be seen to be ineffective at best and more likely detrimental to the Palestinians as a whole.

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Aikido.

From an economical perspective, it is far less costly to host new friends than it is to fund a standing army always ready for battle at moment’s notice.  The social cost of learning to appreciate the differences between cultures is far less than the pain of coping with constant fear of the other.

By transcending fear, trust comes about naturally.

In Aikido we find that entering with an open heart, rather than making one vulnerable, as the ego would have us believe, gives the Aikido practitioner unfathomable power to bring about the nonviolent solution.  This courage, practiced by the good and loving people of Israel, will reverberate throughout the Middle East, and if they can, in the face of onslaught, maintain their openness and inclusive attitude in the hopes that Israelis and Arabs, who share the same basic needs as all human cousins, will be satisfied in equality, they will be loved as brothers and sisters throughout the world, and peace will come quickly and with minimal cost.


This article was submitted exclusively to Aikido no Sekai by Corky Quakenbush Sensei. All rights reserved. You can also submit Aikido or Peace related articles to Aikido no Sekai via email: aikidonosekai@gmail.com.

corky quakenbush aikidoCorky Quakenbush Sensei

In December 14 1983 (O’Sensei’s 100th birthday), Corky Sensei, based in Los Angeles, California, began practicing Aikido. Initially a student in the Mitsugi Saotome Sensei’s lineage (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) and then in Koichi Tohei’s lineage through Seidokan, Corky Sensei was awarded the rank of Shodan in 1994 by Don O’Bell Sensei.

Corky Sensei  benefitted from training with various teachers, particularly the late Kanshu Sunadomari Shihan before abandoning technique practice in 2004  to develop a martially sound yet truly nonviolent, ukemi based teaching model he calls “Aiki-Lab.”

Using authentic attack energy rather than collusive ukemi, Corky Sensei has designed Aiki-Lab to bring beginners and advanced practitioners to Takemusu Aiki through the embodiment of beneficent intention.  Takemusu Aiki is Aikido that  spontaneously manifests without set forms, and was said by O’Sensei to be the highest ideal of the art of Aikido.

At present, Corky Quakenbush Sensei is the chief instructor of Kakushi Toride Aikido.

(Please also see: “Should Aikido be Effective?“)

Musings on Psychology: the Onion, the Book, and the Window

Would you prefer to be compared to an onion? A book ? Or a window?

I have been brushing up on a few basic Psychology 101 comparisons regarding people and their psyche. We can be compared to onions, books or windows. I am assuming, of course, that most of us are familiar with these tools but for the sake of those who are not, let me review them anyway.


  • The Onion

People and situations are compared to onions because of its layers. When we look at the structure of the onion, it is comprised of layers. On the outside and surface of the onion we see what the elements have done to it.

We see dry flaky skins or skins with a healthy looking shine to them. When we choose onions for cooking, we choose them based on what we see outside. We look for good color, unblemished or uncut and well hydrated surfaces. Ever notice that the flaky onions in the grocery boxes where we can pick and choose are the ones mostly left behind? But sometimes, even an onion with a flaky dry exterior still has a perfectly flavorful and totally usable interior. (These onions are a misleading lot!) Anyway, a person is sometimes compared to an onion because of its layers. The more we get to know a person or a situation, the more we peel away from the surface of that which we see, towards the heart of the matter, which we don’t often see.

Red onionsMy officemates know nothing about my contributions to this blog, or the things I do on
the mats, for Aikido and peace work. They are my co-workers. We work well together, I like them and they like me, but they can only see what I choose for them to know and see. That’ s all. I could safely estimate they probably know only a very small aspect of who I am, even if they know I can be trusted and depended on all the time, anytime. That’s the way I like it. But the closer we grow together, another aspect of our person and character are revealed. And another layer of our onions is peeled away as we move through our job together.

In Peace and Conflict Studies, one of the approaches to difficult people and situations is by understanding the model presented by the onion. We have to keep opening up the layers to be able to dig deep into a person’s motivations and intentions or a problem’s underlying causes so that we will be able to deal with them comprehensively and competently.

  • The Book

pagesIn the book model, however, we have no layers. We have pages. There is the top and outer cover, which may or may not be indicative of its contents; and there are pages upon pages to be read and understood before you finally get to the end of the story or the book and finally have a firm grasp of the data contained within its pages. The further you progress in the leafing and reading through the book, the more comprehensive your understanding. You have to be patient and keep on reading until the very end.

  • The Window

And then there is Johari’s window. The window is another tool and another theory towards understanding yourself and others. It is divided into four parts.

windowThese four parts are:

1. The Known Self
(you and everybody else know who this is, for example: everybody knows who likes to wear leopard print leggings)

2. The Hidden Self
(Only you know about this aspect of yourself, it is your secret self, for example: the kind who likes to dance to Wham’s Buttercup song in the shower)

3. The Blind Self
(The person the others know and see, but you don’t, or maybe you deny it, refuse to acknowledge its existence, for example, your self body image is fat but others know you are voluptuously deliciously curvy)

4. The Unknown Self
(The self you and others still don’t know about but might discover later on: enter the PhDs, the analysts, hypnotist, psychic and medium)

These three are just some of the most common tools we employ to try to box and classify people and situations in our quest for more understanding, so we are able to work with them. Have you ever consciously applied any of these tools towards yourself, something or someone?


 I have a beef with these tools. I don’t want to be compared to an onion, even if its approach seems effective. Neither do I want to be compared to reading a book, even if it fosters patience and tolerance. And I don’t want to be compared to anybody’s window. Or be an onion on a book framed by a window. Nah.

It is good to remember that we have these tools on hand to try to gain an understanding and maintain harmony and peace among ourselves and the world around us. Psychology gives us a workable platform to deal with the known and the unknown of a person’s psyche. (Did you know that in some schools there exists two Psychology programs? One is the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the other is the Bachelor of Science in Psychology. )

But, I believe we can never be totally and accurately analyzed. Yes, some agencies might be able to draw up a psychological profile on us, but we are people. We evolve everyday. The human spirit cannot be contained or quartered into sections of a peel, a page or a windowpane.

If I had the choice, I would choose William’s comparisons.

the clover tooWilliam Shakespeare compared Juliet to the sun rising in the East, and Romeo to a rose. And then, William Wordsworth compares Lucy to a “violet by a mossy stone, half hidden from the eye. Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky”

I digress. But, what I’d really like to know is where our Bills belong. In the science of psychology, or in the art? And yet, they are poets, not psychologists or profilers. They’re very eloquent to fully capture in verse how being human is totally complicated, very prismatic and ever fascinating. I believe they can capture the human spirit much more easily than an onion/ book /window model can.

So, what are you going to compare yourself to? An onion? A book? Or a window?
(A sunrise? A violet? A rose? or a star?)

An exercise in “W”

w

What War does not wreak havoc
on this World of men
Wantonly wanting more space, more water, more land?
What war leaves widows wailing on the parched sand,
Blood-stained by husbands, brothers, daughters and sons?

What War leaves wandering orphans
Waiting for parents who will never come home?
With Wondering eyes no longer innocent,
But old and tired and robbed of Will?
What Written Word can Wrest a Peace from War-torn kingdoms
Shred by Greed and Evil-ness, indeed?

Forge on ahead, grieving widows and wives,
The Woman is the key to land and home.
Lay Waste a World of War and choose, instead,
By sheer force of Will, a World of Peace.

(Please also see: “Youth“)

The Sword of the Tongue

StopWords are powerful aren’t they? Especially if they come from people important. Be it good or bad, sensitive or tactless, pleasant or spiteful; there is a lot of meaning in words, especially if they are true but even if they are not. No one can really see minds and hearts if the mouth is silent. All that can be done in silence is to predict, assume, or let go. The only way our intentions come across are through what we express. It has been said that actions speak louder than words. Still, this doesn’t mean words don’t speak at all.

 I can tell anyone anything and they can choose to believe me or not. However, when the words that come out of my mouth are hurtful swords, they can slice through flesh and heart and bone; regardless of their truth. There’s nothing anyone can do about words when they are spoken like this precisely because they are words- the quantifiable expression of the mind and the heart that can be understood by anyone. They become clear as day.

What hurts most are sword words that are laced with poison.

In themselves, they pierce the heart, but along with the immediate sting, they also carry a slow and deep burn. These words carry the poison of insensitivity, of condescension, of betrayal, of untruth. Poison eats and kills from the inside. The disdain that a person can drench his or her words with can turn even the sturdiest of hearts into rubble, pulverizing each attempt to reason with words heard because the clarity in the tone and tempo upon which they are spoken betrays any hope for misinterpretation. What has been said can never be unsaid.

In lashing out before thinking, we can accuse guilt on the innocent. We can spit on the face of the other. We can pour filth over the pure. Even if the words we say are true, it doesn’t mean saying them is right. Hurtful words, insensitive words, malicious words, even the absence of words when they matter– these can really hack through the heart; especially if they are spoken by someone we trust and love. These words can crush the soul.

wordsWhat words will you choose to say?

Words can kill but they can also bring life.  There is great power in the tongue.  Should we speak to butcher hearts or to mend them? Will we declare words to put others down or to lift them up? Will we use our tongue to kill or to bring life? The way we choose our words matter.

Self-control begins and ends with the mouth. If you have been bullied, it doesn’t justify you bullying others as well. That would be like poisoning others because you have been poisoned once before.

We can speak to destroy or to build.

I hope people start listening to what they will say, before they say anything. Words can wage war or bring about peace. Blessing and cursing is within the power of the tongue.

___________________________________________

“They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows… The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” -Bible

(Please also see: “Idealism and Reality: On Falling Short and Cherishing our Humanity“)

Iwato Biraki: The Story of Amaterasu

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  • Amaterasu and Susano-O

Long ago there was a beautiful goddess named Amaterasu. For her kindness and compassion toward humanity she was known as the goddess of the sun and spread her light over the entire world, warming it and giving it life. Her father was Izanagi and her two siblings were Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the god of the storm, and Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, god of the moon.

Susano-O, who is known to be a wild, jealous, mischievous God, is also the God of Budo. Susano-O had been given the mission of developing materialism and purifying the karma created in that process, but he refused and was banished from Taka-ama-hara, the heavenly realm. Upset,  Susano-O got drunk and went on a rampage. He stomped all over Amaterasu’s rice fields, filled her irrigation ditches, and threw feces into her palaces and shrines. When Amaterasu asked him to stop, he ignored her and instead threw a skinned horse at her handmaidens while they were peacefully weaving. The splinters from their broken looms pierced their bodies and killed them.

Enraged, Amaterasu hid in the Heavenly Cave and sealed it with a boulder. Without the beautiful goddess’ light, the world was plunged into darkness and began to wither and die. Many gods, or kami, gathered in front of the cave and wracked their brains for a way to lure Amaterasu out into the open once more. Their plan was simple…

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Ame-no-Uzume, the well endowed goddess of merriment, did a bawdy dance showing her breasts and lifting her skirts. All of the kami roared with laughter and cheered her on. From within the cave Amaterasu heard their laughter and merriment and wondered what could be going on to make them laugh so.

Curious, she peeked out of the cave to see what was happening. When she did so, a mirror that the kami had hung on a branch at the mouth of the cave caught her reflection. Amaterasu had never seen herself before and was mesmerized by her own beauty. Having lured her out of the cave (Ame-no-Iwato), she was caught by Tajikara Wo no Kami, a great god of strength, who pulled her back into the world. The other kami pushed the boulder back in front of the cave, sealing it once more. They convinced Amaterasu to return to the Celestial Plain and give light to the world once more. She did so but armed herself with a bow and arrow against Susano-O’s future antics.

(This story was related by Masako Beecken, a professor of Japanese at Colorado State University in Fort Collins)

O’Sensei said:

“Aikido is the second opening of the Ame-no-Iwato (Iwato Biraki).”

Let us first remember that Amaterasu was not brought out of the cave because of brute force. Although when she went out of the cave and was mesmerized by her own reflection in the mirror, and even though in the end she was caught by Tajikara Wo no Kami; it is not brute strength that led her out as she opened the door and went out of the cave.

  • The Second Opening

Aikido is not a martial art of brute strength. It is through technique and different maneuvering that one triumphs in a martial situation. These may be through the physical techniques , maybe even more.  The best way to win a fight is not having to fight at all. And this requires wit, a deeper sense of maturity and a lot of self-control.

It is easy to punch and kick, it is hard to subdue without injury to either party. This is the second opening: during a martial situation, the world has darkened and Amaterasu is in hiding. Aikido is the way to open the cave again.

This may be done through the different waza we are taught, but let us look at the myriad of other things at our disposal. Like the other gods, the way of Aikido is the way of creative non-violence.We have our speech. We have our movement. We have our mere presence. All these are part of the sequence. A clear mind to act with wisdom is the most important thing.

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Let us be serene amid the tension in our everyday situations. Let us be calm amid the storm. Let us not get caught in the darkness but instead draw the light (Amaterasu) out. O’Sensei continues on this topic:

“Iwato Biraki is to create a society in which the body is used as a means to accomplish the mission of the soul and spirit. Establishing orderliness in your breath, bring your ki under control, and plant your feet firmly on the path of self realization. With this foundation, practice the techniques of takemusu aiki and bring the actual body of the universe into your breath.”

When the light of love and wisdom, “Amaterasu”, is in hiding, Aikido, the dance of the gods, should bring the light out back into the world and become a power for peace.

 

(Please also see: “Aikido: The Sword of Life and Death“)