Being accepted into training, – not automatic.


Recently a friend of mine related to me an incident that occurred at his dojo, two young lads had visited the dojo and had taken some of the free introductory classes. At the completion of the classes both of the lads indicated that they wished to become students of the dojo. To their surprise and perhaps to the surprise of some of the students at the dojo, their applications were rejected informally, or simply the Sensei told them that they were “unsuitable candidates for training” as he felt that they both had a poor attitude and clearly wished to use the training for fighting. Upon learning that they were not going to be allowed to train, they returned home and brought back with them their father who angrily demanded to know from the Sensei why his sons were not going to be permitted to join. This man was then told the same, that his sons had an unsuitable character for martial arts and it would probably be helpful if both of them woke up to themselves and simply learnt to stop acting like idiots. The father and his sons left suggesting to the Sensei that no doubt a rival dojo would quickly take them and they could not care less and so on.

I suspect the father was right in that the dojo down the road, probably would take them both, as any McDojo likely would. In one sense it is a sad tale that people are often too thick to wake up to themselves and do in fact go along to martial arts / MMA dojo’s, take some lessons, believe that they have what it takes to beat someone up, then get into a fight and get the living suitcase beaten out of them, because they have no comprehension of what they are doing. Yet on the other side of the coin, I think it is also a good thing that there still are dojos that are not afraid to tell unsuitable candidates that they are unwelcome to train there. I for one do not wish to train with dickheads, it is as simple as that.

Dojo owners should be encouraged to tell these people that they are unwelcome. In one sense I can see people wanting to get as many people as they can into training classes, yet at the same time, idiots spoil it for the rest of the group and can soon lead to people leaving to go train elsewhere. When I trained in Krav Maga, there was one idiot there that had hit three people on different training nights causing injury and faced a situation that when the class went to pair up that no one else in the class was willing to train with him, so he was left to go look for new students that did not know him to train with him. The Dojo owner could have done everyone a big favour by simply telling the person not to come anymore. But how many Dojo Owners / boards really will have the courage to do that in the modern age of the McDojo? It is my view that if you want your Dojo to grow, you have to be prepared to make the hard calls as my friends Sensei did, irrespective of what they or their father or anyone else thinks. It should rightly be viewed that it is a privilege to train in a martial arts dojo and not a right.

Inclusive Aikido


Below is the post I put up on AikiWeb recently about Gender Inclusive Aikido classes. I was more than a little surprised to see that it went for several pages and had a number of emotive response made for and against. The topic was eventually moved and buried in the “other” section of the forum. I think that is a shame because I feel that when people get into a disagreement like that, sometimes the best way to deal with it is to openly address the issue at hand and let the group come to resolution and to let people have their say. Gender Inclusive Aikido is clearly not going to go away as an issue, perhaps even if people don’t agree, discussing it in a manner of friendship might be a good start!

Anyway, here is the post,

I noticed the other day that an Aikido site listed a Women’s introductory class and beneath the advertisement pointed out that this class is trans-inclusive – Brittania Ki-Aikido –

Perhaps I am naive, but I figured that any Aikido for women classes would be open to trans people if they wished to attend? My hope would be that an Aikido dojo would be the last place that anyone would find discrimination based on race or gender, especially if we take the founders philosophy on Aikido being the art of peace for all people? 

Good on them for advertising that they are inclusive of all people though, I hope people do not feel that they have to hold back from attending training at an Aikido dojo because of a race or gender issue. If that is the case them perhaps more dojos should take their lead and seek to address it?

Aikido for Children.


Should your child train Aikido? – Is Aikido a suitable martial art for children to learn?

Recently I came across a dojo where in the hour before the adults train, they run an Aiki-Kids class. –

What I have found is that in many cities, dojos that have training for Children in Aikido are often few and far between. In my city and I suspect not unlike yours, Karate and Taekwondo are clearly the most popular martial arts for children with relatively large numbers of training centres and different denominations of those martial arts available for children to train in. Often training is in the afternoon after school with adults classes that follow into the evening. Interestingly there are dojo that train in Judo, but no longer at anything like the numbers that Karate and Taekwondo dominate in. It has been suggested to me that Judo has been on the decline in numbers since the 1980’s in Australia and whilst I don’t have figures that prove it, my general observation suggests that may well be the case.

Personally I am a fan of most martial arts systems. I have no desire to prove to anyone that Aikido is what they should train it, its always been my view that different martial arts can be suitable to all kinds of different people and there is no one superior martial art to another. Yet I will say that on reflection I do have some reservations about teaching martial art atemi striking to children. I am well aware of the McDojo movement and the fact that we have people that like to be called Sensei that know little about martial arts and who got their qualification by an online order over the internet based on a resume created and turned in to that authority. It does concern me that some of these people then teach striking patterns to children with little insight or regard for how the founding masters of these systems taught people and their teaching on non violence and the use of Marital Arts as a last resort, not the first. I think of the great Sensei’s that taught and teach “there is no first strike in Karate” and I wonder how many of these McDojos go in taking that on board before letting loose on what they teach impressionable children.

It is my view that if you want to start your child into training in Martial Arts, that Judo is a great way to get started. Being sports orientated for children it is carefully guided with a number of rules to try and prevent injury and has a strong focus on taking what you have learnt and doing that in a competitive environment. Whilst it may be competitive, it is no different to Soccer for children having a similar competitive element that is fun at the same time. The advantage that Judo has is that there are likely to be dojos that can be found and the staff are experienced and able to work with children in martial arts.

Still, I also think that Judo for children provides a very good pathway into Aikido later on. Many early Aikidoka were often Judo students and even dan grade black belts in Judo at one time. Its my view that Aikido tends to focus on the outer extremities of the body, whilst Judo is often in closer. In terms of spatial awareness and muscle development I feel that Judo is more suitable for younger children and Aikido is better taken up for older children, I also think that if we want to teach Aikido to younger children we need to be prepared to do so with a modified programme and that gradings once elevated into the standard syllabus of Aikido should be repeated with pure Aikido content.

Do you agree, disagree of have another opinion all together? Please feel welcome to post below and share your thoughts with us!

Will Aikido training protect you in jail?


Do you have some time coming up to serve in Jail? Follow these simple tips and look after yourself,

1, Before you enter the jail, be well aware of what the rules are, don’t break any of them.

2, If you have any length of time on the outside before going in to serve your time, use it to take as many self defence training classes as you can. If you have no experience in Martial Arts, Krav Maga is likely your best option. Whilst there are many Aikido techniques that can and will help you, you may not have the relevant time needed to learn them. Its best to ask your instructor to teach you knife defences in case you encounter a shiv inside. At the same time hit the gym and the weights hard and bulk up on protein.

Upon Entering Jail,

1, Learn to hide your emotions quickly, do not show emotion of any kind. Those that do will become the first targets once their weaknesses are established with the other inmates.

2, Do not ever stare at another inmate for any reason. When you talk to someone practice the Ki Aikido training of looking past their shoulder. Do not stare into another inmates cell. Both acts are considered an invasion of privacy and can get you bashed very quickly. Staring can also be a sign that you may be showing sexual interest and can get you the same response.

3, Do not ever ever, mouth off abuse or put downs to the warders because you think it will make you look good in front of your cell mates. The prison warders are there to protect you – if and when they feel like it. Mouthing off to them can ensure a stagnant response should you need them.

4, Jails are not politically correct, if you are, get over it. Get to know people of your own race first and then once you have established those relationships you can branch out to build friendships with people of other races.

5, Do not ever lag (snitch) on any one for any reason. Being caught will ensure that you become an immediate target for attack. Do not speak with the prison staff for any longer than is absolutley necessary. Often simply being suspected of lagging is enough to make you a target.

6, Resist the temptation to join a gang, if you do, you will have to pay the piper and you will likely end up serving more time for acts of violence or being caught couriering contraband.

7, Don’t agree to be someones bitch because you think it will buy you protection. Likely they cannot protect you anyway and once the other inmates find out you will be targeted for more of the same.

8, If you have any training in Aikido or similar martial arts, be very aware of your personal space and do not let people enter your circle. If at meal time another prisoner wishes to reach across your plate, do not allow it, it is an instant sign that you can be walked over and targeted.  If an inmate wishes to shiv you, you cannot rely on them telegraphing their attack. If you feel that an attack is imminent be cautious to not let your attention be taken to the hand that the inmate has closest to you.

9, When you shower go in with a larger group of inmates ideally around 20, wear your boxer shorts.

10, Do not make complaints either in the lunch area or to anyone in the jail about the quality of the food. A number of inmates work in food preparation and this is often taken as personal abuse and can get you bashed accordingly.

11, Learn to use verbal Aikido, be polite to other inmates and staff alike. Do not say anything that could give anyone any reason to take offence. Do not discuss religion, politics or racial issues, do not discuss another prisoner or their family members / friends for any reason. Words are often examined after conversations are held and if its felt that disrespect has been given, it is generally the catalyst for a beating as inmates have little else to ruminate on in the cells overnight.

12, If you have Aikido training, use it to keep out of the personal space of others and to keep in the background. Remaining on the side at a slight distance from people as opposed to the front is good advice. Often there are people in prison that have low intelligence, have a chip on their shoulder or are just genuinely nasty people. Always allow those people to be in the spotlight of the other prisoners.

One of the things that quickly becomes apparent in jail is the sheer boredom that is the experience of being there. One of the purposes of western jails run by the Quakers was that people might use the opportunity to reflect on what they had done and get to a point where they could accept what they had done and take responsibility to attempt to put it right. If you have reached the point where you are serving jail time, its pretty obvious that you have more problems than you likely know how to deal with. Learn to reach out to people like the prison chaplain and get help. Learn to take responsibility for what has happened. try to learn to stop blaming others for the way your life has turned out. If you can learn compassion for others and can get to a point where you can take responsibility for your actions and are prepared to go and make apologies and recompense to people there is every chance that you can turn your life around and make this the last time you ever end up in a place like this.

Small Circle Aikido for Self Defence.

Interesting incident here on this train, the aggressor continues to harass the other chap who clearly wants none of it. The point occurs when it becomes aggressive and the chap has no choice but to apply an Aikido technique to end the confrontation. What I liked about this video was both the clear restraint of the person being abused by the aggressor and then once he has completed his technique, his refusal to go on with it and beat up on his attacker.

Aikido and Parkinsons Disease.


Pictured here is Sensei Brian Scott aged 49, several years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

When interviewed and asked about his experience, Sensei Scott had this to say “It hasn’t really affected my martial arts practice; in fact, I feel best when I’m on the mat. That’s when I’m least symptomatic. The smooth movement and cross-body experience is neurologically good for me.

My main experience with Parkinson’s is pain and stiffness. There is shakiness, but that’s not a concern to me. I can’t move in the morning. It takes 20 minutes to get out of bed. (Laughing) It’s like when a character in “Ocean’s Eleven” asks Brad Pitt, “You ever feel suicidal?” and he says, “Only in the morning.”

Q: So your martial arts practice is virtually unaffected.

A: I’ve done it (aikido) so much the muscle memory is deep. It’s easy for me to move on the mat. I’m used to it and know what to expect.”

There is mounting evidence that physical training may be of some benefit to people that suffer from Parkinson’s and other age related diseases. Resistance weight training has also shown up in several studies to give patients positive outcomes in some cases in relation to managing the symptoms of these diseases. The exact reasons of why training in Aikido or physical activity or training may have a positive impact remains unknown,

Congratulations to Sensei Scott for sticking at it and continuing to train, I hope that many others may try Aikido and have a similar experience!

– For the full article read on at

O’Sensei’s religion of Oomoto.


As one studies the life of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the influence of his religion – Oomoto becomes quite apparent. Yet outside of Japan relatively little is known about the Oomoto religion.

As a brief timeline we see the following turn of events in respect to religion and religious study,

At the age of Six, O’Sensei was sent to study at the Jizōderu Temple, but had little interest in the rote learning of Confucian education. However, his schoolmaster was also a priest of Shingon Buddhism and taught the young Ueshiba some of the esoteric chants and ritual observances of the sect, which the Ueshiba found intriguing. 

In 1903 – 1907 O’Sensei served in the military in the Russo-Japanese War. He was discharged in 1907. He marries his wife before his enlistment and in 1911 they had their first child. 

in 1919 O’Sensei set off for Ayabe, near Kyoto intending to visit Onisaburo Deguchi the spiritual leader of the Omoto religion. Ueshiba stayed at the Ōmoto-kyō headquarters for several days. Within a few months, he was back in Ayabe, having decided to become a full-time student of Ōmoto-kyō. In 1920 Deguchi asked Ueshiba to become the group’s martial arts instructor. 

From this point on we know that O’Sensei remained a member of the Oomoto religion until he passed away, to this day Oomoto priests oversee a ceremony in Ueshiba’s honor every April 29 at the Aiki Shrine at Iwama.

So what then are the distinctive of the Oomoto religion? From their website, here is what the Oomoto people have to say,

Q-How is Oomoto like Shinto?

A-The importance of harmony among nature, humans, and gods is a key belief of both. Oomoto’s rituals, architecture, and vestments are based on the ancient original practices that became known as Shinto.

Q-How is Oomoto different from Shinto?

A-Shinto is polytheistic, believing there are many gods – or kami. Oomoto teaches that many kami do exist, but they all come from the same Supreme God of the Universe, so in effect there is just one God. When Oomoto followers pray to a particular kami by name they understand this is just one manifestation of the single God. Even the name “Oomoto” emphasizes this point. It translates as “Great Source” or “Great Origin.”

Q-Is this different from Biblical monotheism?

A-Oomoto is monotheistic but not exactly like Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Religion scholars often describe the Biblical religions as “exclusive monotheism,” meaning the religions believe there is only one God and all others are false. Scholars describe other religions, like Oomoto, as “inclusive monotheism,” meaning the religions believe many gods may exist but all are essentially the same and come from one source; therefore it doesn’t matter under which name or ritual God is worshipped. Oomoto teaches that all gods, religions, prophets and messengers throughout time came from the same source – the Supreme God of the Universe. This teaching is one reason Oomoto is active in interfaith efforts and partly explains why it does not have a strong missionary goal to win converts.

Q-What is Oomoto’s basic doctrine?

A-God is the spirit which pervades the entire universe, and man is the focus of the workings of heaven and earth. When God and man become one, infinite power will become manifest.

Q-What is the essence of Oomoto beliefs?

A-God, with the help of humans, is working to purify and reconstruct the world. When this task is accomplished, God, humans, and all of nature will exist peacefully on earth and in the spiritual world.

Q-What are humans expected to do to help?

A-They should live according to four teachings and four principles. These are fundamental to the Divine Plan and applicable to the lives of all humans. Oomoto also teaches that God gives humans freedom of choice; they have freewill to decide whether to follow these teachings and principles.

Q-What are the teachings?

A- They are: 1) Harmonious alignment with all life and the universe. 2) Revelation of celestial truth and its lessons. 3) Innate patterns of behavior for man, society and the cosmos. 4) Instinctual creative drives.

Q-What are the principles?

A- They are: 1) Purity through purification of mind and body. 2) Optimism, specifically believing in the goodness of the Divine Will. 3) Progressivism as a way to social improvement. 4) Unification or reconciliation of all dichotomies (good and evil; rich and poor; humans and nature; humans and God, etc.) The four can be thought of as a code for right living. By practicing them, humans can live in harmony with the universe and lead a heavenly life in spirit and flesh.

Q-What are some of the things Oomoto followers do to live by this code?

A-They try their best to live a spiritual life on a daily basis. This means taking the broadest view in any situation and trying to understand its essence; turning the heart toward the Divine Light, or Wisdom; trying to understand the will of God; exerting their utmost in all things and all moments; ultimately trusting their lives to God. More concretely, Oomoto followers pray twice a day and conduct a monthly service in their home shrines; usually attend a monthly service at their local branches; read a bit of scripture each day; and try to participate as much as possible in Oomoto’s many activities—pilgrimages, arts, and special rituals.

What I find interesting is that Aikido is all about “the art of peace” and O’Sensei’s goal and vision that Aikido would be central to bringing about this peace. When we we look at some of the texts of Oomoto, they have a very strong focus on “a   reconstructed world where there will be no political or religious strife or competition, all will work for the same goals of peace, harmony and prosperity for the planet and all its inhabitants”. 

I often wonder if O’Sensei would be encouraged or discouraged by the state that our modern world finds itself in today? My feeling is that he would probably be encouraged, Violence and killing was around in his day like it is ours, yet his movement of pacifism is being embraced by millions around the world. Oomoto has a following of around 170 000 people suggesting that it is a relatively minor sect. Yet the Seventh-day Adventist church, a Christian denomination that shares O’Sensei’s views on Pacifism has over 18.1 million current members and is the second fastest growing denomination behind the pentecostal movement. Adventists show no signs of slowing down and are actively doing the work to promote ideals about Pacifism that I suspect O’Sensei would be very much encouraged by.

There is a great deal more to learn about O’Sensei and his Oomoto religion, yet I hope this introduction may prove to be of some help to give us some initial understanding about what his motivations were both in his religious beliefs and how those beliefs shaped and influenced Aikido.

Aikido and Judaism


It is interesting to see how popular Aikido is in the nation of Israel, a quick search shows that this small nation has 46 Aikido dojo’s. Along with the Aikikai, Yoshinkan, Seidokan and Kokikai are also represented.

Israelis are no strangers to Martial Arts, military service is compulsory and Krav Maga and Kapap are taught to those undergoing training in the combat form. Krav Maga incorporates several Aikido forms in its syllabus relating largely to holds and locks, although Iriminage is a popular move in Krav Maga.

According to a fellow poster on Aiki-Web, there are a number of religious Jews that practice Aikido and often together with people of various other religious backgrounds – Christian, Islam, Bahai and so on. I am told that there are also Aikido Sensei’s that are also Rabbi’s – Dr. Rabbi Isaac Lifshitz being one name mentioned.

It is interesting to me that in the spiritual home of Krav Maga, Aikido is so popular. I feel that this could be for several reasons. The training in Krav Maga often opens peoples eyes to Martial Arts in general and it is not uncommon for people to train in Krav Maga for between 6 months to 2 years and to at some point move along to something else. Krav is a great system, yet it requires a very high level of physical fitness to be done effectively and the training is often far more intense that what is trained for at a standard martial arts dojo. Along these lines there is also a strong amount of focus on “maintaining the rage”. Which is hard to keep up for high intensity sessions over extended periods of time.

Still going deeper into the topic, it is inescapable that Krav Maga is taught as a killing system. The end moves if you like in a number of cases are strikes that will take the life of your attacker. This is not exclusive to Krav, many other marital arts system teach students these moves at an an appropriate time. Yet in terms of the Jewish religion, it is unlawful to kill, but at the same time it also represents un-holiness. Modern Judaism is based around Holiness before G-d, killing, hurting people even for good reasons are seen as behaviour to be avoided if at all possible. Judaism has as a part of its central focus, ritual cleansing and purity as its cornerstone.

It is my view that the motivations of O’Sensei to promote pacifism and Aikido as the art of Peace are in agreement with the teachings of purity and holiness as taught by many modern day Rabbi’s. Of all the Martial Arts, there is clearly a case to suggest that Aikido is openly compatible with Judaism for this reason.

Clearly Shinto clapping and bowing could be out for some Jewish Aikidoka, others may well reconcile these things differently if they come up at all in the dojo, that is something that each of us whatever our background have to reconcile also should we wish to participate in Aikido.

Aikido has as its goal the peace of all mankind, to see Aikido dojo in Israel where Jews, Christians, Atheists, Bahai, Muslims and so on can train together suggests to me that it works and that O’Sensei’s vision and dream for Aikido may well yet be realized. May Aikido continue to grow and prosper both in Israel and the rest of the world accordingly!

A poem for O’Sensei


In his book “Aikido for Life”, Gaku Homma writes this poem in gratitude to Osensei. It is truly beautiful.


With thanks for having known you living in the Way.

O-Sensei, you once asked me,
“Why haven’t you practiced today?”
“I had to cut the grass, Sensei,” I replied.
You smiled and said,
“You can cut the grass any day,
but this old man won’t be around forever
to teach you.”

One beautiful afternoon you told me,
“Go mail this package, and then we’ll practice.”
You taught me suwari-waza
in your everyday kimono.

I watched you on the train
as we travelled to Headquarters in Tokyo.
You bought a box lunch and some fruit
for a little girl who sat across from you.

Later, at home in Iwama,
in the quiet dojo
after all the students had left,
you sat facing the direction of Headquarters
and expressed disappointment
in the high-ranking students there.

Some men call you divine, a superior being,
but I don’t think that is right.
You were a great martial artist,
but at the same time,
an ordinary, kind old man
when not in the dojo.

That’s why I try to follow,
only because it is the way of Aiki,
to which not a god, but a man
opened the door.

Soon, your memorial day will come
and I write this poem in gratitude.”

Gaku Homma.

The Train Story


This is my favourite philosophical story from Aikido

The Train Story,

by Terry Dobson, Direct student of Ueshiba O’Sensei

THE TRAIN CLANKED and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.

At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer’s clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that she was unharmed.

Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that on of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.

I was young then, some 20 years ago, and in pretty good shape. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of Aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I like to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of Aikido, we were not allowed to fight.

“Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”

I listened to his words. I tried hard I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chimpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.

This is it! I said to myself, getting to my feet. People are in danger and if I don’t do something fast, they will probably get hurt. Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized a chance to focus his rage. “Aha!” He roared. “A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!” I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.

“All right! He hollered. “You’re gonna get a lesson.” He gathered himself for a rush at me. A split second before he could move, someone shouted “Hey!” It was earsplitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it – as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he suddenly stumbled upon it. “Hey!”

I wheeled to my left; the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.

“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. “C’mere and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly. The big man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, “Why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.

The old man continued to beam at the laborer.
“What’cha been drinkin’?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest.
“I been drinkin’ sake,” the laborer bellowed back, “and it’s none of your business!” Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.
“Ok, that’s wonderful,” the old man said, “absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she’s 76, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree had done better than I expected, though especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!” He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling.

As he struggled to follow the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. “Yeah,” he said. “I love persimmons too…” His voice trailed off.
“Yes,” said the old man, smiling, “and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.”
“No,” replied the laborer. “My wife died.” Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got no wife, I don’t got no home, I don’t got no job. I am so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of despair rippled through his body.

Now it was my turn. Standing there in well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was. Then the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. “My, my,” he said, “that is a difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it.”

I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.

As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.