Friday, August 31, 2012

Compassion integral to aikido?

For the past several days I've been watching an intriguing series of videos by LA aikido teacher Corky Quakenbush (do a search on YouTube for "kakushitoride" to find his channel).  My first thought was something along the line of "hippie nutjob," but the more I watched the more I moderated that opinion to something like, "Sorta cool, but I wouldn't like to do that sort of aikido."  But funny thing - I can't stop watching it and thinking that there is something significant there that I am not understanding.

I think part of my negative gut reaction is some of his terminology.  He talks a lot about "beneficient intention" and "connecting" and "loving" and "giving" and "caring,"  and a lot of that strikes me as code-words used by aiki-charlatans who can talk a nice game but can't do the bu.  I don't think this guy is a charlatan, but some of the language just sets off my BS meter.

But then I got to thinking about, what is it about me and my own psychology that makes me flinch away from talk about beneficient intention?  I mean, as Christians, we're supposed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Mat 5:44). So why is it such a stretch to think that a martial art that I know as efficient and effective and pragmatic can also include as one of its prime characteristics, compassion?

I remember reading many years ago some of the standard propoganda about SMR Jodo that said that jo was an art of chastising rather than killing.  I remember thinking, "That's a nice idea.  Kinda wimpy and flaccid, but nice," and then proceeding to do jo for years imagining cracking and breaking and stabbing and smashing.  Then I went to a seminar recently in which Sensei Corey Comstock discussed and demonstrated why jo was supposed to be a restraining thing rather than a destroying thing.  I was impressed because Sensei Comstock was the first person that I'd seen both articulate this idea and actually show how it made jodo work better than it would as a destroying thing.  Comstock's restraining, compassionate jo was obviously more effective than any destroying jo that I'd ever seen.

There is also a story about Jigoro Kano taking a trip on a ship and being chalenged by a Russian sailor.  Kano, so the story goes, grappled and threw the sailor decisively, but then fearing for the sailor's life if he were to hit the deck, protected the sailor's head as he lowered him to the deck.  We (I) don't usually think of the "gentle" aspect of Ju this way, but there is an element of compassion in judo, without which judo would not be as effective.

Then there's our great buddy, JW Bode.  He was a Law Enforcement Officer for many moons and ended up making hundreds of felony arrests without ever being hurt - but what he is more proud of - without ever hurting anyone.  The story goes that he developed such a reputation for his efficient, effective, safe, and compassionate handling of subjects, that frequently, people would find out that there was a warrant out for their arrest, they would call him to come get them so they wouldn't have to get beat up by some other yahoo.  I can attest, having laid hands on JW, that he is always in complete control of the situation, and that a big part of that control feels like love or compassion.

I bet, given a couple of hours I could come up with several more examples of how compassion is an integral part of pragmatic martial aikido - true budo.
So why do Sensei Quakenbush's discussions and demonstrations of "beneficient intention" make me flinch?  That's why I told several of my buddies a few days ago that I would really like to lay hands on Sensei Quakenbush so that I could feel his feel.
Patrick Parker
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...