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by Joseph de Rivera

There are tools for defense that nonviolently protect us against assault.

Ideally, we live in communities that have peaceful norms that discourage violence, and if necessary, a community police force that is uncorrupt and under civilian control. We are ultimately dependent on the strength of our community. However, many of us do not live in ideal conditions, and even in relatively ideal conditions some violence may occur. Rather than carrying a gun, hiring a body guard, or confining our living to a guarded community, we may want to learn how to defend ourselves in a nonviolent way. Certain martial arts such as aikido and tai-chi, are quite helpful.

Although most of us will not be formally practicing Aikido, it is useful to understand its principles and to attempt to reflectively apply them in everyday life. One might say there are three such principles:

1. When attacked, either physically or verbally, we have a tendency to stiffen and resist. In so doing we let our adversary have the control of our actions. By contrast, aikido urges us to not get uptight and resist, but to welcome the attack by stepping into it, and turning with it so we take control of the force and redirect its energy.

2. The ability to do this is helped if we do not take the attack personally but to realize that the offender is disturbing the balance of the universe and one simply needs to act to restore the balance. That is, if one has behaved justly, one simply needs to draw on the forces of the universe.

3. Of course, this is more easily said than done because to do what is required one must stay loose and not tighten with fear. There are several simple exercises that may be helpful to practice: One may have a partner walk directly at you and push you out of the way. Rather than resist, thereby participating in a collision, simply step aside and pat your partner on the back. When this becomes easy, you can ask your partner to run and swear at you. You can simply turn aside, pat him or her on the back as they wiz by, and say “go to it”. This may also be done with verbal assaults. Rather than responding to the words with a defense, turn the words around to assert what you believe.

Or one may place an arm on a partner’s shoulder and ask the partner to use both of his or her arms to steadily push down on your arm. First, try resisting the pressure by pushing up against the superior force of the other’s arms. You will soon be exhausted and your arm will be forced down. Now, rather than resist, imagine that the energy of the universe is coming from the ground up through your legs and out your arm so that your arm is filled with that energy the way a hose is filled with water. If you concentrate on this imagery rather on trying to resist you will find that your arm is more flexible yet continues outstretched. There is nothing magical about this—and if you remain in the same position the other’s force will still eventually push your arm down, but now you may find yourself unconsciously moving towards your partner so that the leverage is more in your favor, and since your attention is no longer on resisting you will be free to consider other options—such as using your free hand to tickle your opponent.

Of course, such exercises merely illustrate the principles that are involved. To successfully use this sort of self-defense in everyday life one must practice and work to avoid the fear that is our main enemy.

[Reference: Terry Dobson and Victor Miller, Aikido in Everyday Life]

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