Every few weeks, it seems, there's a new example of street violence that jumps to front and center of the national media and sparks another round of controversy and debate. But I've seen way too many of these tragedies, and I believe that the world we live in would become significantly less violent if more people -- both civilians and cops -- incorporated martial arts, yoga and meditation into their lives.
These practices all blend with and complement each other -- offering a variety of practical, invaluable benefits, some of which are immediate and obvious, and some of which present themselves over time. Further, the techniques and teachings offered by martial arts, yoga and meditation are profound and far-reaching; their impact goes way beyond your time striking the punching bag or balancing on the yoga mat.
An interdisciplinary approach to these practices will maximize and broaden the benefits, which is why, at Warrior Bridge -- the school and community center I recently opened in lower Manhattan -- we offer classes in Aikido, Tai Chi, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, yoga and meditation. At Warrior Bridge, it is my mission to teach men and women how to be strong, wise and compassionate modern warriors.
So, then, what exactly does it mean to be a "strong, wise and compassionate modern warrior"?
My understanding comes in large part from my over 30 years of training in Aikido, a modern Japanese martial art that teaches coordination of mind and body and offers a self-defense system that does not rely on muscular strength. As a form of self-defense, Aikido is both effective and ethical; its techniques aim to disarm an attacker without harming them. Moreover, Morihei Ueshiba, who founded Aikido in the early 20th century, believed that martial arts could be "vehicles for the cultivation of life, knowledge, virtue and good sense, not devices to throw and pin people." He believed that "the real way of the warrior is the art of peace, the power of love."
The Art of Peace, the biography of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba by John Stevens, explains:
... Morihei understood that continued fighting -- with others, with ourselves, and with the environment -- will ruin the world. 'The world will continue to change dramatically, but fighting and war can destroy us utterly. What we need now are techniques of harmony, not those of contention. The Art of Peace is required, not the Art of War.' Morihei taught the Art of Peace as a creative mind-body discipline, as a practical means of handling aggression, and as a way of life that fosters fearlessness, wisdom, love, and friendship. He interpreted the Art of Peace in the broadest possible sense and believed that its principles of reconciliation, harmony, cooperation and empathy could be applied bravely to all the challenges we face in life -- in personal relationships, as we interact with society, at work and in business, when dealing with nature. Everyone can be a warrior for peace.
Below is a breakdown of the word "Aikido," which roughly translates to "The Way of Harmony with Life Energy":
"Ai" is harmony, or balance. Aikido teaches us how to balance idealism with realism, fighting prowess with a belief in non-violence, talking with listening, and an individual's needs with the needs of others.
"Ki" is our life energy, which is at its best when we are in our strongest state, a physical stance and frame of mind that my teacher, Sensei Shuji Maruyama, calls our natural, happiest and most relaxed state. Aikido teaches us that the best, most effective way to deal with stress, conflict and danger is by remaining calm.
"Do" is the way, or the path -- which is a commitment to practice and growth over time. Today, my commitment is not only to the practice of Aikido, but it is also to Tai Chi, Jiu Jitsu, yoga and meditation. And it is to all of my students who have also dedicated themselves to these disciplines.
Recently, I appeared on HuffPost Live to demonstrate a few self-defense moves and discuss how martial arts, yoga and meditation heal the mind and body. If you're looking to make a positive change to your life, and to the lives of those around you, then I highly encourage you to consider taking up these disciplines.
Let's commit ourselves and our collective energy to a path that will make the world a more peaceful place.
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