The Japanese sensei who developed Aikido described it as the art of tapping the energies found in any life situation as a means of finding innovative solutions.
When I came across a YouTube video of Aikido master Richard Moon, I felt captivated by the smooth, almost effortless movements he used to redirect an opponent without doing harm.
As he explains, Aikido isn’t a series of techniques for winning a fight. Instead, it’s peace in action. “In our metaphor,” he says, “the attack represents the energy of change.”
Inspired by his words, I felt driven to learn more about the philosophy at the heart of this powerful yet calm practice.
Three simple principles for peaceful engagement
What I find remarkable about Aikido is that harmony, not strength or skill, is the crucial resource in redirecting conflict.
The three core principles of this martial arts practice are:
- Presence: our ability to feel where we are; bringing our attention to focus on what we’re experiencing
- Harmony: our capacity to sense the energies of the situation; listening rather than forcing an opinion
- Creativity: our willingness to share who we are in pursuit of answers
Richard offers these principles as insights into the gentle, yet decisive movements seen in his video – but also as essential guidance for living. (If you’re feeling intrigued, check out “Life in Three Easy Lessons,” his free downloadable book.)
These principles seem important not only for couples in conflict or in the midst of change, but also for us as we lead them into creative solutions, new behaviors, and different ways of relating to each other.
I value having new avenues to reach couples, new ways to describe their inner work. Aikido has been around for about 100 years, and other martial arts have been practiced much longer. I can imagine lots of couples who can relate to these ideas. I especially like how the first two principles – being present and being in harmony with the situation – point towards the creative solutions. And note that being in harmony doesn’t mean agreeing or shutting down. It means listening rather than resisting. It means not forcing an opinion.
You have surely noticed in your work how much clients’ attitude affects outcomes. Here is a discipline that invites an attitude of presence, strength, and openness. All these attributes point towards better outcomes for you and your couples.
I also like seeing how these ideas fit with the Developmental Model framework. Once again, the Developmental Model proves to be an ideal structure for change, welcoming and integrating new ideas in a way that supports couples at every stage.
How do you view these concepts? I’d love to hear your thoughts
I was struck by the parallels between Aikido and our work as couples therapists. Our efforts to redirect the energies within conflict, meet aggression in a mindful way and help couples turn toward each other all come to mind.
But more than anything, I’m interested in your thoughts. Do these principles resonate with you? Is there anything inside Richard’s message that you find especially inspiring?
I look forward to reading your comments. Thank you for being part of our extended community and contributing to our shared growth.
Speaking of community, an extra thank you goes to community members Lauren Ostrowski who gifted me with Zen in the Martial Arts (Joe Hyams) and Midge Lane who shared this video. Both have inspired me about the parallels between therapy and the martial arts.
Take Action Now
- Leave a comment below to start off the conversation.
- And to learn more about the Developmental Model, check out this free training series that starts January 23.