The Spirit of Aikido in the 21st Century

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The circumstances that gave rise to aikido in early 1900s Japan may seem far removed from our fast-paced, 21st-century ways of living, but the principles that aikido is founded upon are still not just relevant but extremely beneficial to those who can follow them.

Like many of the most lasting martial arts, aikido is not a way of fighting so much as a way of keeping peace. Fighting is a last resort, and aikido trainees are encouraged to view violent people with compassion and understanding. One who has mastered aikido seeks to harmlessly deflect attacks, rather than to do harm to the attacker. Adopting this approach to combat encourages spiritual growth and a unique, peace-oriented understanding of the world.

All of these features make aikido the perfect form of martial arts for modern times. We now live in an age where we can’t just close ourselves off to the world. We learn about events on the other side of the Earth within seconds, and we are constantly affected by images of disasters in countries that we rarely think about in our routine lives. Over time, this situation can lead us to become a little callous. After so many news stories about violence and disaster in foreign countries, the stories begin to have less impact

Meanwhile, many of us are no longer impressed by the diversity and mystery of the world. The global media’s wide penetration gives us the feeling that we know everything and that there is nothing new out there to discover.

The paradox of this situation is that the more we think we know about other people, the less we care to empathize with them. This is at the root of many of our modern conflicts.

Aikido, through slow training, conditions its adherents to have compassion for all other people, even those who are hostile towards us. In today’s world, hostility is too often met with return hostility, and this results in an escalation of grievances until there’s nothing to do but fight or go to war.

And with numerous hostile entities threatening global peace, the powerful countries of the world too often meet hostility with violence, which just leads to more hostility. If we could all act in the spirit of aikido, and if we could show our enemies that violence is a moral failing that we all can overcome, then the world would be better off. That is what the spirit of aikido can do.

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