Akido and The Jesus Way

August 24, 2012
Cheryl Woelk |

Akido is sometimes described as a nonviolent martial art. At the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute in Hiroshima, Japan, I had the privilege of learning a bit from a Japanese Mennonite professor and akido practitioner. I remember a few key points that seemed a fitting metaphor for following Jesus' nonviolent way. 

Our sensei (teacher) talked about the need for centredness and moving from the center. Although it might look like we are swinging our arms around, all actions actually come from the center of our bodies. Our center is what keeps us from acting on impulse, what keeps us balanced and stable and what keeps us from tiring. For followers of Jesus, our center is Christ. When all our actions come from our focus on Christ, violence is not an option. We remain rooted in the love of Christ and trust in God's saving power, regardless of the outcome.
We also learned that focused energy is very powerful. Just by concentrating on the energy in the space between our hands, and slowly moving our hands away from us, even beginners could make our sensei fall over when he grabbed our arms. It took very little movement to result in a major change in the situation. I thought of the connection to our focus in intercessory prayer. Even though it feels like our prayers are too small and will never have an affect on the violence we see in the world, the focus of the community of followers of Jesus has more impact than we realize.
Finally, in akido the purpose is to "defeat" the opponent or attacker by redirecting her or his energy, rather than fighting back. This is also modelled through Jesus in his questions, statements, and actions that always took people off guard and made them think in new ways rather than play the game of "I'm right and your wrong" which creates "us" vs "them." Jesus' ultimate redirection of energy was his unexpected choice of death, rather than fighting back or avoiding, which in turn transformed the whole situation. Jesus' death on the cross defeated those who killed him by exposing their system as unjust and powerless against the transforming power of loving community.
Although it may not be a perfect metaphor, but perhaps observing learning from akido can re-energize and focus us in Jesus' way of nonviolence.
Author Name: 
Cheryl Woelk
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