World Peace. “Uh huh. Yeah, sure.” World Peace is that ephemeral dream that every Beauty Pageant contestant, hippie, or idealist hopes for. It seems an impossible and antiquated concept to most people, a vain token of outdated utopianism. In our modern world of police state violence, “war against terror,” racial and ethnic strife, growing economic disparity, global warming, overpopulation, etc. the idea of world peace sounds (at best) —distant.
The “Tipping Point”
Being both an ex-hippie and idealist, I cannot admit defeat on achieving world peace. As we learned in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point,” it only takes a small percentage (less than 10%) of the population to create a fundamental shift in what we label as reality. It was with this understanding that Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the Martial Art, Aikido, advocated training in Budo Arts (“warrior arts”). He taught that if a core group of women and men train in the Martial Arts with a purposeful intention to create harmony and peace in their hearts, their bodies, and in their lives, then this peace would radiate out into their families, communities and ultimately into the world. This meaning his marital art, “Ai–Ki–Do” literally means, “The Way of Harmonizing Spirit.”
While not all Martial Arts place as much interest in cultivating world peace as does Aikido, the effects of training in boxing and other Martial Arts tend to have similar results upon those who train seriously over time. Something begins to erode in one’s puffed up and contentious ego by constantly being reminded of your weaknesses, vulnerability, and limitations. You learn you are “mere flesh and blood” when you get hit and are pushed to your physical and mental limits. Continually fine tuning and disciplining the hosts of errors you commit while training in a Martial Art reminds you of your humanity. This helps one to empathize with all the weakness your fellow humans carry. The psychic “baggage” of humanity becomes an easier load for you to share. You hate others less. You leave your anger there in the Dojo in a pool of sweat.
Trust Another White Man?
Having studied for my Master’s Degree in “Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding,” taught me that there have been numerous paradigms of achieving concrete peace in both interpersonal and global conflict over the centuries. Yet, working with young men of color in Los Angeles, many of whom knew violence far too intimately, I often went back to those tools I had learned in the Dojo training when I needed something concrete to help them see a different path. Simply having the presence of mind and courage that comes from Martial Arts training would open doors of connection and trust with men very different than me. Men who had no reason at all to trust another White man trying to enter their world and “teach them about peace.” I had a ludicrous sales job.
Fighting as “Sacrament”
Yet, no matter how difficult the challenges of my work, or how troubling and chaotic my own my personal life could become, stepping in and bowing at the door of a Dojo was a sacred act of centering for me. Banging body parts against others, facing a grown man trying his best to beat my ass on a Jujitsu mat, avoiding a swing of a club or wooden knife attack, these acts became a physical sacrament; a communion to my soul— like the bread and the wine of Christian tradition.
Calm in the Storm
Having gone through two divorces, numerous layoffs from jobs, health and money problems, parenting four sons into men, family deaths, and even battling depression at one point—-all of these challenges were balanced by training in Martial Arts. It was my center point, my axis in the midst of life’s chaotic storms. This metaphor was a physical reality for me on the Jujitsu mat. Multiple opponents would rush at me with weapons, I would spin around in the center, tossing them away, in a called “Mushin” which in Japanese, means “No-Mind.” Thoughtless action, free from anxiety, logic, fear, worry—just pure breathing and movement; a sacred calm in the center of the storm.
1. Self-Defense Skills Are Extremely Important and Necessary
Crime statistics remain steady, or are growing across the country. Violent crimes, particularly in major U.S. cities have never been statistically good. Higher unemployment, a weaker economy, and a contentious political climate makes people angry, frustrated, and willing to take out their anger on strangers. Do you expect the cops to be able to “save you” in every situation? Doubtful. Police are understaffed and never there when you really need them. You take your insurance policies for every other life contingency, correct? We need to take responsibility for their own personal safety and learn a street effective martial art. Your number one fundamental responsibility is to be able to preserve your life. Without that, everything else goes down the toilet.
2. Your Dojo or Boxing Gym Becomes Your New Positive Family
Experts in personal development and business achievement all say that you can only rise to the level of those around you. In other words, the social circle you keep is the social circle you rise to. In the 33 years I have been actively training in various styles of Marital Arts, I have consistently worked with the highest caliber of women and men. They regularly pour their heart, soul, and sweat into striving for excellence. I have met a wide range of people of various background, ethnicities, ages, professions, genders, etc. But they all have key characteristics that they share. They are focused, kind, generous, humble, confident, successful, and willing to do what it takes to excel. Whiners, complainers, lazy and negative people do not stick around in Dojos and training halls.
There is also a deep comradery (very similar to those who serve together in the armed forces) that comes from brothers and sisters going through hell with each other and pulling one another along to succeed. Dojos and training halls are extremely supportive and healthy social circles to plug into.
3. There Are Martial Arts to Fit Every Type of Personality so it Stays Enjoyable
Martial Arts are as old and diverse as humankind. From the beginning, people have been training in how to defend themselves and their communities. Every nation of people has its own unique martial art. Each nation’s martial art has its own unique feel and flavor, so there is something for everyone. For example, Boxing is an excellent and popular European martial art that is very street effective, and one of the best cardio workouts in the world. Jujitsu and Judo come from Japan and are very effective, with demanding rigorous workouts. Brazilian Jujitsu focuses on ground work, and the training regime is legendary. Krav Maga comes from Israel, is easy to learn, very street effective, and places tremendous emphasis on physical conditioning. I have trained in all of these and more. Each one has its unique flavor, personality, and physical demands. The bottom line is that there is a martial art for every personality and body type. Once you find yours, you will feel like you are “home,” because it fits. You enjoy it. Or, you may love them all and go on to earn eight Black Belts, like action actor Michael Jai White. When you find a physical activity you like, you will stick to it, and get lasting results.
Fighting for World Peace?
In 2011 I trained in the Favela’s in Rio de Janerio with “Fight For Peace,” an NGO that uses boxing and martial arts to reach troubled youth to get them out of street gangs. to ex-gang members for “Homeboy Industries” in Los Angeles. I have tried to use my Martial Arts skills to make this world a more peaceful place, so that other young men would not have to experience the violence I did as a youth.
I truly believe world peace is possible. I honor and respect these Arts as a path. Martial Arts have taught me not merely how to fight; it taught me how to live. As Morihei Ueshiba said, “When life is victorious, there is birth; when it is thwarted, there is death. A warrior is always engaged in a life-and-death struggle for peace.”
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