The siren song of modern culture inveighs one to shipwreck upon the rocks of the blood sport, where opponents are trash talked after being destroyed. Such problem solving is partly borne from the fear of inadequate conflict resolution, where colliding forces produce collateral damage to not only body, but mind and soul as well.
However, aikido teaches one to embrace and blend with conflict! I am forever amazed at Landry Sensei's accounts of working in dangerous situations, where the safe application of technique and a calm, "are we done" was the remedy for gentle conclusion. Even my 10 year old son safely applied sankyo to a playground situation. No trash talking, no bloody noses; just a unique reminder of appropriate rules of conduct.
This takes sophistication and emotional intelligence. Aikido is as beautiful as it is ironic and countercultural. Ironic, because aikido teaches our power and balance comes from center, a useful metaphor for the fraying civil society that Yeats might declare whose center does not hold. Ironic, for the "Art of Peace," a thinking person's art, whose sublime techniques bring safe closure, is banned from the modern blood sport of MMA due to its ability to powerfully harness the explosive energy that particular form of combat exhibits.
I once served as a platoon leader during a tough army deployment to Iraq and for a short time worked as a Las Vegas police officer. My heart is weary from war, violence and loss. Isolation and situational avoidance were once inadequate forms of coping. Aikido is a positive constant of etiquette in unstable times and a valid means of helping me reintegrate with civilian life. Roshinkan Dojo is a safe place to be vulnerable and learn technique without fear among people who care about the imperfect Greg Ridgley. It is also a place where I can further cement the loving bonds of father and son.
Landry Sensei offers tough training but is imminently fair, whose tutelage is tailored to the individual. He would enthusiastically attest to how far I've come. Connecting mind and body, and becoming more proficient with technique has given me the confidence to embrace the chaos of personal, professional and scholastic life in order to prepare for and pass increasingly tougher kyu examinations. At one time this would not have been possible, but the countercultural loving atmosphere of aikido, where I was not beaten down for being new, but embraced as an integral part of a community, has replenished a sense of human dignity that war and violence once torn asunder, and I could not be more grateful!