The Meeting of Opposites
When confronted by an attacker, the aikidoist doesn’t strike, push back, or dodge.
This week we are exploring some of the ideas from George Leonard’s terrific book, The Way of the Aikido.
When attacked, the aikidoist “enters and blends.” George tells us: “He or she moves toward the incoming energy and then, at the last instant, slightly off the line of attack, turning so as to look momentarily at the situation from the attackers’s viewpoint. From this position, many possibilities exist, including a good chance of reconciliation.”
The art of blending is seeing the situation from the attacker’s viewpoint without giving up our own viewpoint. Note: after blending, it is also possible to strike. A successful blend almost always creates an opening for a throw or a pin.
George provides guidelines for the art of verbal blending:
1: Blend from a grounded and centered stance. Put our attention on the soles of our feet and on a point an inch or two below our navel.
2: Do not over blend. It’s not: you’re right, I’m wrong. We honor our perspective while also seeing the situation from our attacker’s perspective. The idea is to seek harmony through reconciliation that honors both perspectives
3: If we are going to blend, do it wholeheartedly. Our goal is a true understanding of the other person’s intentions and feelings. We aim to empathize and feel “from the heart.”
4: Practice! We begin by listening carefully and sympathetically to everything people say. An attorney who attended one of George’s workshops said, “I blended with everything (the opposing counsel) said for an hour, at which point, they conceded my point.”
5: Embrace the idea that harmony springs from a meeting of opposites. George writes: “Blending is an expression of love, of a willingness to embrace even the strongest attack and bring it into a circle of concord that somehow connects each individual to the essential unity and harmony of the universe.”
George shares a story about what happened after he had delivered a talk on a college campus. During the Q&A, one of the attendees aggressively questioned what George had said.
He responded: “That’s a good question… I worry about that myself. What you’re saying is that this new technology is very expensive.”
“Yeah, right. And not only that, the computer capability you’re talking about doesn’t exist yet – and we’re not even near getting there.”
Yeah, that’s true, too.
My questioner paused. There was a change in the emotional climate.
“But you know,” he said, “computers keep getting cheaper all the time. And the increase in computer memory and speed is exponential.”
“Right. I’ve heard that a generation in computer technology is now about three or four years.”
“Well, maybe it could happen – if we had the will to do it.”
“Right. If we had the will. Thanks very much for bringing it up.”
George writes: “I had blended with his energy, acknowledging his point of view without giving up my own. And it ended with him making my point.”
Reflection: What is my go-to response when I am challenged? How well is it working for me?
Action: During a heated conversation, experiment with seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.