In April, my family invited a new puppy to come and live with us. As expected, the cute, furry, little bundle of energy was basically just a wild animal who chewed things up and pretty much did whatever she wanted. The question was quickly raised, “How do we get her to behave?” This is a reaction that many of us have when faced with someone or something that doesn’t conform to our expectations. It’s also a reaction that practicing Aikido is intended to overcome.
So what’s the alternative? The alternative to trying to change someone else’s behavior is to look at ourselves and change how we’re behaving. Those familiar with the youth classes at Aikido Olympia, may know that we’ve considered making their slogan: “You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself!” As we’ve been helping the puppy learn how to live in a home with people who have behavior expectations for dogs, it turns out that the most important changes we make are to our own behavior. Furthermore, we’ve all realized that the real learning lies in becoming consistent with those behaviors and with our expectations.
We come to our dojo to train so that we’re better able to apply the principles of aikido in our daily lives.
Aikido or Aikijujutsu? Our practice at Aikido Olympia revolves around an idea that Aikido is “A way of being in harmony with the energy of the universe”. On the surface, that sounds like we are applying harmony in a martial way. However, there’s an important nuance when we say “a way of being”. Our art is about how we, as individuals, interact with everything around us. To put a finer point on this, our practice is about how we behave differently and lead our lives better, not about how we make others behave.
Considering the martial arts world, there are ways we can organize practices. In our specific martial lineage of Aiki – “being in harmony”, there are basically two main approaches. One is the “Do”- the way, and the others are “jutsu” – the arts or techniques. What is not always apparent to students of these marital arts is that in Aikido, our techniques and training are designed to change ourselves. Alternatively, in Aikijujutsu the techniques and training are designed to help the practitioner more efficiently affect another person’s behavior. Both use similar principles and even look similar, but intent differs.
In the martial arts world, some contend that practicing martial arts is only valuable if it focuses on building one’s ability to dominate others. Others take a perspective that martial arts are primarily for self-improvement. Our contention is that these practices all coexist, and that people should do what they believe will help them be the best person they can be. Personally, I don’t have a lifestyle that brings a lot of violence my direction. However, I have a high-stakes career that requires me to embody integrity, humility, relaxation, centeredness, and intent while facing a continuous stream of demands, challenges, struggles, (sometimes law suits) and opportunities. So, for me, training diligently in Aikido adds substantial value and as we all develop together, I hope we can continue to help each other find the way through our practice and become even better versions of ourselves.