Once upon a time, I saw Joseph Nye talk about soft power and suggested that he practice aikido in order to get the concept of soft power into his own body. Later that day, I bought him a copy of The Art of Peace, a collection of sayings by the founder of the art, Ueshiba Morihei, and left it for him at his office. It was a poor substitute. Seeing him some months later, I asked him whether he had read the book. He said yes but reading is not nearly the same as experiencing the way a master practitioner can control your center with their own center, integrated throughout their whole body and extended into and beyond you.
PSCI 16 Political Aikido-Persuasion, Inspiration, and Strategic Dominance
The most effective strategy for victory is that which leaves the least opposition in its wake while using the minimum of resources. This is true for political conflict as well as armed combat. While the Powell Doctrine may correctly call for the use of overwhelming force in war as a way to minimize opposition and prevent lingering struggle, the political equivalent is rarely available in a multi-party democracy. Long-term success in politics--both international and domestic--is much more likely with persuasion than coercion. and when the rhetoric and tactics used emphasize shared values rather than divisive stances.
Aikido is a Japanese martial tradition that combines the samurai arts of sword and grappling with the philosophical desire to manifest harmony in the face of conflict. As such, it addresses situations of conflict that manifest themselves physically, but also offers insight into how to prevent or redirect the energies--social, political, or psychological--that might otherwise become conflict in one or another aspect of our lives. As a martial art, Aikido teaches more than simply how to survive; it also teaches us how to physically express our noblest intentions--our compassion--in movements that protect not only ourselves but the attacker as well. Put another way, Aikido is ethical persuasion made physical.
This course will have both physical and academic components. The physical training (two hours daily on mats in Currier Ballroom) will improve each student's strength, balance, posture, and flexibility. Everyone will also learn how to throw their friends across the room. About 25% of training time will be devoted to sword, staff, and dagger techniques. Some of the mat time each week will be shared with students of the other WS Aikido course taught by Thomas O'Connor Sensei, and some will be on our own.
The academic component of the course will engage with how the physical training resonates with the tactical practices of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and will review the martial arts-influenced literature on Politics (Sun Tsu's Art of War, Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings) as well as Gene Sharp's The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Discussion sessions over lunch will provide students the chance to articulate what their bodies are learning in a way that does not interfere with the primacy of the uncognitized physicality of the training sessions themselves. Particular emphasis will be placed on Aikido's contribution to the virtues of calmness, centeredness, and creativity which allow a practitioner, or a politician, to catalyze significant change with what seems like minimal effort.
Additional relevant experiences, such as meditation practice, misogi, Samurai films, and a chance for the bold to try live-steel tameshigiri will be an integral part of the course.
Students will be evaluated on the quality of their participation in both physical and intellectual course components, and a final project equivalent in scope to a 10-page paper. Students interested in the course should visit http://www.aikidokids.com/... before registration begins.
Prerequisites: same physician's approval on file as the school requires to participate on sports teams. Students do not have to be especially athletic, and in Aikido women train as equals with men. Enrollment limit: 25.
Cost to student: approximately $100 for uniform and wooden training weapons. $35 for books.
Meeting time: Aikido sessions 2 hrs/day (10-12), Monday-Friday. Discussion groups will meet at least two hours each week with the instructor, typically over lunch.
ROBERT KENT '84 (Instructor)
Robert Kent '84 spent 3 years in Kyoto, Japan earning his Sho Dan (first degree black belt), directly after majoring in both Philosophy and Religion at Williams. He currently holds a Yon Dan rank (Fourth degree black belt), having studied since 1991 at Aikido West in Redwood City under Frank Doran Shihan, where he helped run the youth program for 18 years. He is currently President of Aiki Extensions, Inc, a nonprofit that supports programs that bring the strategic insights and practical wisdom of Aikido into non-traditional settings. He is founding coordinator for The PeaceCamp Initiative (a scholarship program that seeks to use Aikido principles to heal the Israeli/Palestinian conflict a few kids at a time, for which he won Ben & Jerry's 2008 Peace Pioneer Prize). He earned a Masters degree in Philosophy at Claremont Graduate School in 1993, writing his thesis on the Ethics of Authenticity. This will be the fifth time he has offered an Aikido-based Winter Study course.
Aikido in Daily Life http://www.dailykos.com/...
Terry Dobson's Aikido Journey http://www.dailykos.com/...
In Search of the Warrior Spirit http://www.dailykos.com/...
The Lone Samurai: A Life of Miyamoto Musashi http://www.dailykos.com/...
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