Happiness is…learning from Aikido

Happiness is…learning from Aikido

Every Monday morning The Happiness Institute delivers a free eNewsletter packed full of happiness tips and stories, updates on positive psychology and strategies for living a great life. Here's some of yesterday's mail out…

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as "the Way of unifying (with) life energy" or as "the Way of harmonious spirit." Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on. This requires very little physical strength, as the aikidoka (aikido practitioner) "leads" the attacker's momentum using entering and turning movements. The techniques are completed with various throws or joint locks. Aikido can be categorized under the general umbrella of grappling arts.

Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, but began to diverge from it in the late 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba's involvement with the Omoto-kyo religion. Ueshiba's early students' documents bear the term aiki-jujutsu. Many of Ueshiba's senior students have different approaches to aikido, depending on when they studied with him. Today aikido is found all over the world in a number of styles, with broad ranges of interpretation and emphasis. However, they all share techniques learned from Ueshiba and most have concern for the well-being of the attacker.

How is Aikido relevant to happiness? 

What struck me when I heard and read about this were those few phrases and lines that have been highlighted in bold text above. Just to reiterate, they are –

…to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury

…redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head on

And it struck me, what would it be like if we were able to do this when confronted with psychological or emotional "attacks" rather than just physical ones? Could we use the same tactics to reduce or minimise harm to ourselves and others if we applied a similar approach psychologically and if so, would we enjoy more happiness?

I couldn't help but answer YES!

So next time you feel "attacked" try not to fight back "head on" but rather, give some thought to whether there might be ways to "redirect" the attacker's force and/or to protect the attacker as well as yourself. See below for some thoughts regarding some practical strategies…

So let's now get down to the nitty gritty! What would psychological Aikido look like if it were designed to boost happiness? Well, here are a few ideas we hope you might find helpful…

  • firstly, this is about defending yourself so make sure that you're health and wellbeing are looked after first. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself

  • secondly, consider whether there's anything you can do to take care of your "attacker". Is it possible and would it be best not to respond in any way? Would you calming down help him/her to calm down?

  • Thirdly, would appropriate humour "redirect" the tension and/or aggression? Is it possible that distraction or changing the subject might be worth trying?

  • Could you practice empathy? This doesn't mean agreeing with them or accepting inappropriate behaviour but often times, trying to gain some understanding of the other person's position can be very helfpul and can diffuse many a troublesome situation

  • Listen to the other person and to yourself; be mindful of what they're really saying (not necessarily what their words are saying) and be mindful, also, of what you're saying to yourself…and whether or not it's helpful!

I know you will have some more and probably some even better ideas so let's share them around! Have your say and post your comments HERE