Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Don't want a response? Don't give a stimulus.

Henry Copeland blew our minds (as usual) when he posted his list of principles that make aikido work.  I'm going back through this list, seeing what I can make out of it some years later.  Henry's second principle on his list is Mutual Benefit, which he divided into several ideas, including:
  • Transcend victory and defeat
  • No un-necessary harm
  • Uke provides honest responses
I get the feeling that Mutual Benefit is largely just a lip service thing in a lot of clubs - sort of a nice, comfortable general idea about being nice to our training partners - almost a social fiction that we like to mention before we get down to the nitty gritty of trashing bozos!  But Henry made this Mutual Benefit central (almost the first idea he talked about) and he even extended this idea to include the enemy in the circle of mutual benefit!
This is not just a lovely moralistic ideal either - it is a pragmatic, tactical principle that makes aikido more viable than it would otherwise be.
If you set out from the beginning of a self-defense encounter to coerce the enemy into a certain behavior by harming him as grievously as you can, then you are forcing him to try to defend himself against you.  Then you have to defend more vigorously against his reaction, which provokes him to an even more vigorous response.  You are pushing a violent situation to an even higher energy state.
But if you were able to diffuse the attack without harming the attacker any more than you have to, you would be refusing to add energy to the system, which might just let this high-energy situation degrade to a lower energy state.
So, Ueshiba's mumbo jumbo about loving and protecting the enemy - maybe it wasn't crazy talk after all...

"If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries,
you can see right through them and avoid their attacks."

"To injure an opponent is to injure yourself.
To control aggression without inflicting injury in the Art of Peace."

Patrick Parker

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