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ATTACKING WITH PEACE: THE RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT

As appeared in “ACResolution” the international magazine for dispute resolution Professionals

“ATTACKING WITH PEACE:
THE RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT”

By Jerome Allan Landau

 

As a skinny teenager in an all-boys high school in the Bronx, I found life in New York City to be a rather dangerous place.  After “limping home” one more time suffering from the embarrassment and pains of a bully’s blows, my father realized that this bullying had to be stopped before any remaining self-confidence might be “lost in battle.” Boxing classes, then studying the martial art of Karate helped me to fight back physically; yet I was still suffering “inside” from a lack of self-confidence, along with a young man’s sense of fear, anger, and imbalance.

Thereafter I discovered “Aikido”, a non-violent martial art that is based on the principles of harmony and the peaceful resolution of conflict.  My first Sensei, while I lived in Manhattan, was Yoshimitsu Yamada Aikido, a direct student of Aikido’s Founder, Morihei Ueshiba.  After I moved to Arizona my direct Sensei was Shihan Peter Ting, and I was also privileged to study at many conferences with Master Rod Koboyashi.

I came to recognize, and then understand, that Aikido is an art that has no techniques for “attacking another”—all the techniques are defensive. When attacked (physically, verbally, or emotionally), the Aikido practitioner’s resolve is to (1) receive the “attack” if with an “embrace”, even if only as a thought; (2) “get off the line” (stepping aside) so as not to be in front of the attack (even if merely knowing that the emotional assault is not truly aimed at me), (3) “blending” with the attacker’s energy (and body) in a loving spirit (s/he must have a problem, why should anyone want to attack me?); (4) blending energy (ki, chi) with the energy of their attack so that I can (5) physically, with words and/or merely by the power of my presence and thoughts, guide their mind and body in a physical and/or emotional direction to a “place” where they can no longer hurt me, another or themselves. This “Place” physically might be “the ground”; emotionally could be a state of “calmness”, guiding the “attacker” to a state away form his/her personal storm to a one of peacefully “letting go”. Often a place where that person feels “I am being heard.”

The study and practice of Aikido helped to release insecurities and fears and awaken a deep and calm inner-self.  I slowly recognized that each of us is on this same path, in our own way and for our own lessons, with the goal of all actually being the same  – finding peace and harmony within, and serving to open the space for this to come without.  As I progressed on the path of Aikido, I began viewing my shortcomings as important parts of my personal path that could be used as touchstones for me to recognize, embrace and move beyond my perceived and actual limitations.

In practice, two Aikido students will train together to learn/practice a technique; taking turns as to who will be the attacker with the other using a specific (defensive) technique (this could include a throwing techniques or a wrist lock.)   The attacker actually “lends his body” to the other, trusting that the defender will treat it with great respect and without ego, and will practice the technique with sensitivity and grace. Injuries in Aikido are very rare because of this respect.

In time, I gleaned an understanding that everyone in life with whom I interacted could be regarded as “lending me their bodies and actions” so that I could learn to “live” the type of life to which I aspired. As I encountered aggressive people in court, in a mediation or my other activities, the aggressor / attacker no longer awakened cellular memories of fear and insecurity from my childhood. I was able to recognize what I did not recognize when I was younger—that bullies also have fears and insecurities, no matter what their age. Surprisingly, this realization in turn manifested a sense of compassion for them; after all, they have to live with themselves and with the results of their bullying actions.   After many years of practice, I was awarded the rank of Sandan (third degree Black Belt); this too had become merely another “sign-post” along the continuing path we all traverse.

As one always attracted to the practice of conflict resolution, I find myself constantly drawing on the wisdom of Aikido, which itself is merely another expression of true nature, balance and harmony.  In my interactive workshops for conflict resolution professionals, and others, I share basic Aikido principles that can help create a peaceful resolution of conflict. For example, it is important for a mediator to project a sense of calmness and positive thinking, while at the same time being ready for any unexpected action. The mediator must maintain a neutral, non-judgmental and centered position. Try to witness what is happening and listen to both the words and the energies behind the words. Reassure clients that you have “heard” their concerns and show compassion (sensitivity) for their struggle. And most importantly, remember that the following guiding Aikido principal serves throughout all of life: True victory is victory over oneself – mediator / arbitrator – endeavor to “heal thyself” before attempting to heal the conflicts of others; be peaceful within and it will induce peace without.

Jerome Allan Landau, Sandan
Ting Ki Aikido; Seidokan Aikido

Jerome is a Professional Mediator, Arbitrator and Group Facilitator, serving parties nationally and internationally.  He conducts national and international trainings training programs for other professionals in the field, corporations and other organizations, always integrating the philosophy of Aikido in his programs.  A Member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals, the International Mediation Institute, multi-Panel Neutral with the American Arbitration Association, Jerome has twice been invited to present his programs at the United Nations.