The election process is in full swing with both political parties’ candidates filing the news reports daily. This cacophony of political verbiage can be, well, both daunting and overwhelming.
The question is, how does one decipher what is fact, from fiction? What is hot air, and what is truth? What is something that we should pay attention to as opposed to a candidate’s stump answers?
Aikido and other martial arts can offer us insights, a key if you will, into making intelligent informed sense of this sea of information being thrown at us daily. This “key” is the same one we use on the mat when training.
One of the first things we learn when we begin training in any martial art is how to listen. We listen to our Sensei or instructor, and the senior students we train with. This type of “listening” can be daunting in the beginning. We are so used to causal listening, meaning listening with less than full attention given.
On the mat, one develops the ability to listen with our whole attention, with our whole body. In a sense, we learn than listening is something that involves not just our ears and brains, but our soma as well. We learn to listen with our whole body, our whole being.
Okay, now, how does this apply? Simply, how do you react when hearing a candidate speak? Does she or he demand your full attention? Do you want to give that person your full attention? Or, do you simply find yourself classifying what you’re hearing as background noise?
But oh, there is a second part to this listening. It is of course, the body. When attending a martial arts class, we are (or at lest should be) drawn to the Sensei’s words by how we see this person standing in the world (or on the mat in this example). We are drawn into, invited into their world with both their words and how they deliver those words by their presence. Not by shouting or being overtly demonstrative. Rather, by their being.
They are there standing for something. This is not themselves but something more. In this case, the long tradition of teachers and those who have gone before and perfected the Art. And this can be transmitted, sensed. Great politicians and public figures have this. We call it by many names: charisma, presence, magnetism, appeal etc. It is something that can’t quite be defined. If you strip away the overlay of money, sex appeal and fame, there is this elusive something else there.
How do we see or experience this? We can do this by watching the candidate’s facial expressions; how their bodies move; how they interact with the public and especially the press; how they deal with questions they can’t answer or when confronted with situations that are unplanned or unscripted.
One of the pleasures this writer has had over the years is watching President Obama act in situations like this. He acts and moves and reacts in many instances like a trained martial artist. When dealing with hecklers, he stays centered and looks directly at his adversary. Other candidates recently have attacked or put down opposing opinions or awkward questions verbally or even with misogynistic remarks.
Ultimately, this listening and watching can be a key to seeing who is real and who is not. By “real,” I mean simply speaking truth and standing in this light of truth with the words that are being spoken.
As William Shakespeare wrote in Henry V, (Act I, Scene 2) all this should be as clear “as the summer’s sun.” And one’s martial arts training should help brightly illuminate intelligent and informed decisions about one’s choice for a candidate in the upcoming electoral process.
There is obviously a lot at stake in this election. So please don’t leave your training on the mat. Here is an opportunity to use it and hopefully make it work for the betterment for our country and the world.