Conflict Resolution

Standing, waiting for evening keiko. A question is overheard. Sensei asks the youth class, just ending, “What do you think is the cause of conflict?”

One young Aikido student volunteers that it happens with people saying “yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no…” to each other, without end. This insightful comment produces the images of “yes” pushing against “no” and “no” pushing back at “yes.” These two sides “yes” and “no,” are so busy pushing, and staking out their position, that resolution of conflict never has a chance to begin.

We all learn the art of conflict very young. As we grow up, we learn that conflict and competition require that we “prevail.” Too often, to “prevail” means to leave others in our wake as we move on in our quest. This process often is driven on a steady diet of negative energy. It can permeate us, from the individual to the conduct of nations, completely avoiding a chance to implement resolution of conflict.

When we step into the Aikido dojo, we practice verbal Aikido by lowering our tones and bow in and practice, we begin the remarkable process of learning not only about conflict, but about resolving conflict in a constructive manner.  Verbal Aikido learning includes resolution of both physical and verbal conflict.

Is this a smooth process in which answers presents themselves like a string of road signs along the highway? Not at all! The ability to resolve conflict in a constructive manner, for reasons described above, runs counter to years of conditioning. But we learn it by participating in practice after practice in which Sensei reinforces these ideas, and all students help each other to hone the skills needed for the peaceful resolution of conflict. In any discussion of conflict, subjects like pride, ego, arrogance and too much “look at me,” can be explored. But the key to learning this method of conflict resolution is to practice, in the dojo, under the guidance of those who have gone before you in the art of Aikido.
- Ed Lemons

For most of our lives we have been taught a single view of conflict: that it is bad, and that it demands a winner and a loser. But this is really not the case. Conflict is neither good nor bad, it simply is. Conflict is common to almost every life process, and people need to learn how to respond effectively and appropriately to conflict situations by implementing conflict resolution skills effectively.

We have always been a nation dedicated to winning, based on the concept that anyone can win, and on the belief that there is something wrong with being the loser. Well, there is nothing wrong with winning, provided what you are winning in a contest. But you can’t view everything as a contest.

You can use the same principles we study in the physical side of Aikido to also resolve the non-physical conflicts you may have with friends, co-workers, family members, and even complete strangers. This is known as Verbal Aikido. By using these conflict resolution skills, you will learn to look at the conflicts in your life in a different way. You will understand that there doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser. You will see that these conflicts can be resolved so that each person can be happy with the outcome. It will help you to reach the root of a problem and be able to deal with it effectively. By using the principles of Aikido in your daily life, it will help you to remain centered and balanced as you handle all of life’s conflicts.
- Greg McMurray