Punishment, and the concept of “right or wrong”

1. Introduction

I hope that many of you are enjoying the World Cup. I got interested in “football” for the first time during the last World Cup, and was very impressed with the intelligence, creativity, toughness, and stamina necessary to perform at a high level.

May the best team win!


p.s. Will someone please write and tell me who the best team is!

2. Punishment, and the concept of “right or wrong”

A lot of the best learning I received as an Aikido student came when we were outside of the dojo with sensei. We could be having a cup of coffee, or occasionally having a drink, and at some point it would become clear sensei had a message to deliver.

Once we were sitting in a coffee shop waiting for a train in the countryside.
Seemingly out of nowhere, sensei said, “I think there are many people in the world who act in a confrontational manner, and thus I wish more people understood the Aikido principle of non-dissension.”

“Instead of spending so much time and so many human lives quarreling over who is right and who is wrong, I think the world would be a better place if we spent more time exploring how both sides are both right and wrong.”

Myself, and the other two students sat there and said very little, knowing sensei was just beginning to get warmed up.

“You see,” sensei said, “In Aikido we learn to refrain from engaging in confrontation, but that does not mean we shy away from protecting ourselves. It always intrigues me when new students attend a class and ask, ‘How can Aikido really be a martial art if you don’t attack or retaliate against your opponents.’ By this time the three of you have heard my reply many times over. In Aikido we have no attack form because we have no desire or intention to harm our adversaries. Instead we strive to bring hostilities to a conclusion that is respectful of all involved.”

“If my opponent has never harmed me, never struck me, never hurt me, then why would I want to hurt or punish him? Do I want to punish him simply because he has thought about hurting me, or because he has made a weak effort that was easily rebuffed? You see, even in a court of law, you can’t charge someone with murder simply because they thought about murdering someone. Attempted murder and actual murder are two very different crimes. When I am relaxed, aware, and fully present in the moment, then my adversary will have little opportunity to successfully attack me. Since he hasn’t hurt me, since he hasn’t truly threatened me, I have little desire to punish him in any way. His own thoughts, and the negative results he achieves in the world will be punishment enough.”

“Related to punishing someone, is the idea of someone or something being either right or wrong. In Aikido, we learn to refrain from believing one path, or one way of thinking, is inherently superior to another. We also learn to refrain from engaging in thinking that any one point of view is the opposite of others.”

“When we think in terms of opposites and disagree with someone else’s opinion, we begin to oppose the other person’s point of view. And this is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to resisting, combat, antagonism, and an overall disrespect for our perceived adversary.”

“In Aikido, we do not attack, but we also do not concede or give up. In every day life the same can be true. Without attacking the viewpoint of others, without conceding or giving up our own viewpoint, we can still maintain ourselves, and continue to act in a way that is consistent with our beliefs.”

“Keep that in mind,” sensei said as he looked across the table. “More than once I’ve heard you arguing with other students, trying to prove your viewpoint was more correct than theirs. When you act like that, not only will you fail to convince them that you are right, and they are wrong, you’ll also wind up losing them as friends and allies.”

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