I have a story that was just published today online. You can find the story here. This story was written a few years ago after a night out with some friends. It was written as an exercise in “what if’s”. The actual event has been a teaching story of mine in aikido classes for the past few years. I tell the actual story with the actual ending and then ask students to think of alternative ways to handle the problem. I won’t tell the story here, but the basic gist is “how do you get a drunk and aggressive person to ramp down?” The reality is that there is no great solution and you never know if what you’ll try will work or not. The point of the exercise, however, is to get students to think of non-escalatory methods of distraction. How to not create a fight with someone who is drunk and belligerent, but you feel you need to intervene quickly. The idea is to think of confronting force without force, which is at the basis of aikido and tai chi chuan. This idea works better if your mind is already thinking along those lines. Does this sound like a naive idea in a violent and dangerous world? Maybe, but training in aikido, or as a civilian in any martial art for that matter, doesn’t mean that you live your life amped up to fight at the drop of a hat. And it doesn’t mean ignoring injustice or wrongs happening around you. It does mean being aware of danger, thinking about a way to engage without it exploding in your face, and being ready if it does explode.
After years of training, I’ve learned that how we think is more important than how we train because it determines how we train. You can train your body for non-escalatory engagement in your dojo or training all you want, but if your brain is only primed for fighting, that will be the only solution you will ever come up with, on the street, in the office, or in your home.
This story here was me thinking about if things went bad and then got worse. It may not be a great story, but I’m glad its out there so I can also talk about this as well. A fool is always paid in full, but you don’t always have to be the fool.
On another note, this is one of two publications for me coming out today. Stay tuned this evening for a new poem, the first where poetry, fatherhood, and aikido have come together for me.