You may have recently seen or heard of an incident where a Seattle law enforcement officer punched a 17 year old girl. The video is all over the Internet. I am not so interested in discussing if this officer was justified or not but instead what about our society has led up to this incident happening at all.
The police are a reflection of our society. This action takes place in one fashion or another daily in one city or another in this country. The law enforcement officer is reacting according to the norms of our society. We are increasingly willing to react with overwhelming violence when confronted with a problem. This is a reaction of being in fear. We are afraid to lose what we have or we do not have the tools to give us options when confronted.
What does this have to do with Aikido? On a very simple level the officer if trained and proficient in Aikido would have been able to apply a simple wrist lock technique to the first young lady rather than hand fighting with her. This would have subdued the situation quickly. Secondly when the second girl shoved him he would have been able to either throw her to the side or control her without having to resort to punching her in the face.
On a higher level, before this episode got physical, training in Aikido and awareness would have allowed the officer to not even get into the situation that was bound to become volatile. He put himself in a dangerous position to do what???? Hand out a ticket for jaywalking? Could he have better de-escalated the situation?
What of the young women? What would have brought this violent behavior toward the officer? What about our society teaches these young women and men to behave in this way. This violent, reactionary, disrespectful, disregard for people is instilled in us through out our lives in the media, games, competitive sports, our language, schools, business practices, and gangs.
I recently spoke with a gentleman who was inquiring about Aikido class for his son who had trained in another art for a short time. When I mentioned that we do not teach punching and kicking as a self defense but rather how to control the situation with body movement, throws, and joint locks the father went silent. When he regained his composure he was unable to conceive of defense without punching or kicking. This is the society that we live in. Again the police are a reflection of our society.
Aikido teaches us a way to live in peace and without judging others or engaging in needless, meaningless competitions that amount to pissing matches that often turn bloody, and demanding of vengeful attacks of retribution.
As disturbing as the video of this incident is to me, equally disturbing were the comments that supported the violence and encouraged the next officer to do more than throw a punch if confronted with this situation. Again the police are a reflection of the norms of our communities and of our society.
How do we change this? Train our law enforcement officers better. We teach Aikido both physically and philosophically to them. We use Aikido training and peace training to encourage people to work together rather than competitively. It will take generations to make the changes so we need to get started NOW! We are very good at using the primitive lizard brain. It is time to make the most of our rational thinking brain the neocortex.
James P. Landry
Roshinkan Aikido Dojo