July 22nd, 2006

Dance

Touched

So Thursday. Here we go.

Thursday evening my dojo hosted a workshop by Jamie Zimron and Manar Azriek. Jamie Sensei is a professoinal golfer, Wisconsin native, aikido sensei, and dual American/Israeli citizen. Azriek is a native of Palestine and is in her seventh year as the national women's judo champion of Israel.

The first hour and a half was basic aikido workshop stuff: new techniques I hadn't seen before (actually very little of that) and new ways to approach techniques I already knew (quite a lot of that and very helpful). It was useful and instructive but not particularly world-shattering. Then Azriek took over and did half an hour of judo which I enjoyed a lot Collapse ) but once again typical workshop stuff.

Then they did a presentation. Jamie Sensei is a member of a group called Aikido Extensions and, with Azriek, started a group called Training Across Borders. TAB is a group devoted to promoting peace in the Middle East via martial arts. Martial arts are actually very popular in the region, albeit mostly karate, but training is very isolated by culture. Israelis train with Israelis, Arabs (meaning Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, etc.) train with Arabs, and that's it. Training Across Borders takes kids, ages 10 to 15 though they're looking to expand that range, brings in teachers from abroad, runs workshops and seminars that bring both groups together.

I cannot express how amazing I find this. This is exactly the way you make peace in that region, by getting both sides to meet each other, spend time with each other, and start considering each other people rather than "the enemy." This is using martial arts for peace, for good, not just to protect people but to promote love. It truly is being a warrior for peace.

Heaven, earth, humankind,
United in the Path of harmony and joy,
Following the Art of Peace,
Across the vast seas,
And on the highest peaks.

*

The Art of Peace is medicine for a sick world. We want to cure the world of the sickness of violence, malcontent, and discord – this is the Way of Harmony. There is evil and disorder int eh world because people have forgotten that all things emanate from one source. Return to that source and leave behind all self-centered thoughts, petty desires, and anger. Those who are possessed of nothing possess everything.

*

Practice of the Art of Peace is an act of faith, a belief in the ultimate power of nonviolence. It is faith in the power of purification and faith in the power of life itself. It is not a type of rigid discipline or empty asceticism,. It is a path that follows natural principles, principles that must be applied to daily living. The Art of Peace should be practiced form the time your rise to greet the morning to the time you retire at night.
The Art of Peace, Morihei Ueshiba


Those are from the core philosophical text on aikido. The appropriateness of aikido sensei being involved in this program (most of the teachers are aikido senseis, but they've also had karate, tai chi, and others) is not lost on me but this goes beyond aikido. Still, this is the perfect expression of the art. One translation of "aikido" is "the path of love." This isn't why I started aikido but it is why I'm still with it. This is what I've wanted to do with aikdio but didn't know how.

So:

After the workshop I spoke to Jamie sensei. For many years I have been part of a program called Passport to Israel which pays for young men and women to go to Israel to learn about their culture. Some of their programs are little more than vacations, some of them are volunteer projects, some of them are about living in the country and seeing what Israeli life is like. The point is I have funds to go over there at some point in the next eleven months as if I don't use the funds by the time I turn twenty-four they're lost. Next year I will have ten days of paid vacation. The plan is to start talking to both P2I and TAB now so that next May I can go to one of the TAB dojos as an uchi deschi, a live-in student, for two weeks and be a part of this.

And eventually? I don't know but this is something I want to be part of my life.