We uphold solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the belief as Dr. King has expressed, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice"
O'Sensei said, "The purpose of Aikido is to build a heaven on earth, by bringing people together in friendship and harmony. I teach this art to help my students learn how to serve their fellow beings.”
Please read some of our members' reflections.
Understand our narratives and how we practice Aiki in daily life to overcome systems of racism and oppression.
Aikido of Berkeley embraces the building of a diverse martial arts community enriched by all members regardless of race, age, ability, culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status. We are committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment free from discrimination in which we support each other in practicing the way of harmony and peaceful resolution of conflict.
Personally, the recent resurgence of BLM has been very powerful for me. I was challenged to watch the movies, read the books, and let the BLM perspective sink into my body even more than ever. I am desiring to feel into it more and more. What's this have to do with aikido? Often, over the years, I've wanted to bring up the conversation around race with my black and brown friends, but either didn't know how to, did it in a way that wasn't appreciated, was awkward or that came out ignorant. I've learned a lot over the years, but I still have trouble. So the result is I feel a divide, a separation between me and my black and brown brothers and sisters, because there are words that aren't spoken, there's a part of my and their story that is unexpressed. Aikido dissolves that separation, temporarily stops the mental blocks, and allows us to feel into the other. Ultimately, we connect and find the spirit of takemusu creates something new that is "more than the sum of its parts". We blend with one another's unique bodies/energies/hearts and become something uniquely whole together. From that place, I have a relationship, and from that place, there is trust -- from that place, deeper conversations can emerge. That is why I want more diversity in Aikido: to weave a greater tapestry of uniqueness into a greater whole, and build a more integrated world.
In the virtual world, it just requires us to go straight to the heart of aikido, to look at the principles and see how they manifest directly between one another. I would love to hear POC's and non-POC's perspectives, stories of racism, and in the spirit of musubi really bind with one another, feel the madness of the world together, and then train ourselves in the Art of Peace.
We have grabbed each other's arms and touched each other's skins knowing that when we fall and rise again we breathe the same air and exhale our common humanity.
Aikido as a de-colonizing practice:
During the Occupy Oakland movement eight years ago, one group of people within the movement asked for the name to be changed to Decolonize Oakland. Their proposal was pushed aside in the General Assembly process of the Occupy movement. “Decolonize Oakland” sounded too awkward, too far out for a movement that used “occupy” as the unifying catchphrase for a diverse protest movement. But "occupy" is a colonizer-word. It is not coincidental that the first Anglo map of Oakland is called the "Squatters Map," through which whites gained legal claim over land as property in the city.
What does it mean to decolonize?
We could attempt to answer this question with a list of fixed goals. But the problem with an end-goal approach is that there is no ethical way to determine the “we” who would compile that list. A totally different way of answering this question is to challenge colonial practices: racism, exploitation, marginalization of anyone who is a misfit. However, challenging these practices—in ourselves and in people we care about—requires some difficult confrontations. These confrontations are ethically necessary, but how can we engage in conflict in healthy ways?
O-Sensei believed that confrontation is inevitable, and that we must engage in it in a positive way. From the outside, Aikido seems to be a “martial” art because it starts with the most apparent form of confrontation: engaging with physical violence. The physical techniques are difficult to learn because the intent is to prevent harm to both yourself and your attacker. Creativity is always more difficult than destruction; but creativity is how we live.
Through Aikido we begin to face internal opponents that are far more difficult than external foes. When we practice mindfulness, we begin to listen much more to ourselves and to others. We listen to words, but also what is unsaid. Here we can see more clearly the microaggressions and subtle disparagements of racism and other prejudices. This is a hard struggle, but it is the work we must do in order to be fully alive.
Since 2003 I have worked on several projects for the government of Afghanistan. In Kabul, colonization is obvious every time an American military convoy would rumble through the streets without asking any permission from the locals. But it also taught me a lot about the subtler ways that colonialism works every day in the East Bay: house foreclosures, unfair work conditions, patterns of air pollution, and denials of credit. We need to train to fight this. But it is not a fight in the outward sense: the battlefield is our souls. For this kind of struggle, we need a very different kind of training; a different path to follow. Aikido was designed specifically to challenge violence through engagement, not through withdrawal or false politeness.
Just like Japan after 1945, America today is struggling with a moment in which we must face ourselves: what we take for granted; what we think of as ‘normal;’ what is embedded in our language and in our assumptions. Each misconception and presumption adds up to a widespread denial of rights and respect.
We have been poisoned by racism. It is an outgrowth of a colonial mindset. How do we fight it? How do we de-toxify? One breath at a time, yes. But also through active engagement in our community, as a community. This is no promise of a quick fix. We cannot even imagine what a de-colonized world will look like. But we can see injustices and challenge them. Aikido is a way to make us ready to engage this struggle with compassion.
On the day I moved in next door to the Croatian family, it was early summer and hot. I was moving boxes and sweating when I heard a woman’s voice from over the fence say; “Want some help?” I looked up at the smiling face, and said in my independent American way, “No thanks, I’ve got this.” Immediately she replied, “Oh please, let us help you. We are neighbors, and when we need your help, we will ask!”
I was persuaded, and with extra hands my boxes got moved pronto. Soon my turn came when their car broke down; “Can you drop off the kids at school on your way to work?” Of course, I said, and helped out for a couple days until their car was fixed. Weeks later, while chatting out front, I watched their toddler take her fist thrilling steps, but the real honor came when a grandmother died back home. I was invited to the family memorial and welcomed as a stand-in for those from Croatia not able to attend. The living room scene was strange yet familiar with family photos on the mantle bathed in warm candlelight, and though much of the ceremony wasn’t in English, and their Holy Book near the photos looked different; the love, laughter and tears were universal and so touching.
Now many years and a few neighborhoods later, I still remember to ask as my special neighbors taught me: “How can I help?”, knowing that the circle of life is stronger, safer and richer when we are connected!