Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Has Aikido ended the al-Qaeda business model?

Sometimes it is valuable to view a situation through a different orientation, something out of "left field" if you will and will excuse a sports metaphor. I would like to show some connections here between the "Arab Spring", Al-Qaeda, and the Japanese Martial Art and Philosophy of Aikido. Hang on, give me a moment or two, and hopefully perhaps, you'll see what I mean.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, may lead Al Qaeda now Usama bin Laden has been executed

The goal of al-Qaeda is to evoke change through fear and intimidation.They claim followers because what they do, seems to work, and it simply feels good to disenfranchised individuals. But actions speak louder than words.

John Miller has interviewed Osama Bin Laden many years ago as a journalist. He recently stepped down from his position at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the President's principle intelligence adviser. Recently Miller has said:

"Hyman alzarwai, al-Qaeda's current leader, personally spent twenty-three years of his life trying to overturn that very regime in Egypt: Hosni Mubarak. And, a bunch of kids with smart phones and a good understanding of social media, did it in three and a half weeks. One would say that that, rather than blowing up a building, blows up al-Qaeda's business model. Because every young person was thinking maybe I'll follow the word of the terrorists, because that's the only way to achieve change [is] through violence. Had to second guess that and say wait a minute, this other thing may work better, much better, with less bloodshed, and faster."

So what has this got to do with a Japanese Martial Art called Aikido, known to many as "The Art of Peace"?

The thing is, what the Arab Spring is, naively and basically, following the philosophy of Aikido. What am I talking about?

Rather than attack head-on or using terrorist's ways, Aikido reorients, and sends opposing forces along on their way. The term "Spring" as used in this context, comes from the European revolutions of 1848, at that time, coming to more common use (among those who would discuss such things) when historians dubbed the springtime of the peoples or spring of nations. It also, more recently, beckons to the Prague Spring of 1968. But the Prague instance was short lived as it gave the Soviet Union a reason to "spring" into action and send in troops to quell the uprising.

Also, according to the site: "From 1848 to 1968 to 2011, the social movements given the spring label have shared a hope for liberalization in the face of oppressive regimes."

In Aikido, there is a movement, I won't bore you with the details, but it exemplifies Aikido's outlook. When another wishes to practice with you in the World (when you are attacked by a stranger, for instance), they will not know they are practicing Aikido with you, but such is the view of the Aikidoist (or more properly, an Aikidoka, or Aikido practitioner). What most would call an opponent and an attack, Aikido sees as a partner and practicing. And as indicated, one does not need to know that they are practicing Aikido. So the comparison to the Arab Spring actually fits better than at first it would appear.

I believe that John Miller's comments above, are very important to consider. Because, al-Qaeda and their types are on the way out. Finally.

It would be nice if there were some better way to share what this philosophy is that has been working so well for the Arab youth, and their unknowingly professing and following of it in ignorance and out of simply doing what feels right. In sharing with someone a more structured and well thought out form of Philosophy, it completes their struggle in trying to see a path to their goals.

The founder of Aikido, Morohei Ueshiba, called "O'Sensei" by his followers, said decades ago, that if Aikido could be taught to the world, if everyone practiced it, World Peace could be achieved.

It's a positive thought in what has been appearing lately to be a rather negative world.

The movement (or attack) to which I refer, is when a movement is taken toward the Aikidoist, who then put themselves behind the person moving toward them; they spin the person around, deflecting the negative movement into a neutral movement, thus neutralizing their attempt to damage, at which point the Aikidoist can more clearly see what the other person's point of view is, as they are now both looking in the same direction. Also, if you can't see the other's point of view, and/or they can't see yours, it is beneficial that you both simply see a same point of view, as a base to move forward from, hopefully into a new world, together.

At this point, the partner who initiated the movement (or attack) is confused and unable to recoup, or react. The Aikidoist then continues the force and direction that was initially aimed at them, and send their new and hopefully anonymous partner along on their way. If done appropriately, this can either allow them to move along like the wind with no affect to either party, and hopefully, to let the partner know that they may have made the wrong decision in moving against the Aikidoist.

The situation (or conflict, if you wish) can then end in any of several ways, all depending upon what is desired or intended by the Aikidoist, as they can also add or properly redirect movement, thus changing the situation to where the opponent can be either temporarily, permanently, or even totally disabled. If the others intent is to kill, then the most peaceful movement the Aikidoist may be able to make, is to kill them. But the fundamental orientation should always be to seek peace and harmony for all.

al-Qaeda's actions over time have been much like the partner mentioned above. They use gross, destructive actions to gain attention and change the flow of the international rivers of opinion and action. But the youth involved in the Arab Spring, have sidestepped this theory of change (Terrorism) and used instead a movement passing along the powers against them and still coming out the other end victorious. This is an excellent example of how technology has enhanced Human Societal dynamics to where violence may have become greatly unnecessary, or simply neutralized.

There may always be a need for the policeman, or soldier, to take down those forces who believe that attrition is the only way to affect change. But for the most part, perhaps those like Gandhi were correct. Although, over the years since Gandhi's victories his philosophy have perhaps been incorrectly proven dysfunctional; perhaps this perception was because of the changes in the world since Gandhi's time, so that some kind of enhancement was needed to support efforts of change so that the same end could be achieved.

And so we have situations now like how the Arab Spring came to be victorious. Ssurely however, not for all, but for many and perhaps over time, for all; but this has yet to be seen, and the ensuing years or decades may prove this to be true.

O'Sensei said:

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

During a 1976 interview with O'Sensei by two reporters in a Japanese language text:

Interviewer: Then what is the spirit of Aikido?

O Sensei: Aikido is Ai (love). You make this great love of the universe your heart, and then you must make your own mission the protection and love of all things. To accomplish this mission must be the true Budo [the spiritual foundation for martial arts; the ethical code on which martial arts are based]. True Budo means to win over yourself and eliminate the fighting heart of the enemy... No, it is a way to absolute self-perfection in which the very enemy is eliminated. The technique of Aiki is ascetic training and a way through which you reach a state of unification of body and spirit by the realization of the principle of heaven.

Second Interviewer: Then Aiki is the way to world peace?

O Sensei: The ultimate goal of Aiki is creation of heaven on earth. In any case, the entire world must be in harmony. Then we do not have a need for atomic and hydrogen bombs. It can be a comfortable and pleasant world.

Maybe what we need IS a very different way of looking at how we affect change. Aikido is not the only way to look at things, but something different needs to fill the gap left by our old world ways of thinking about how to have a revolution. Gandhi gave us our first glimpse and perhaps the Arab Spring, have given us a newer glimpse. One could only hope we have finally found a way to change the "unchangeable" without violence.

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