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Being In Control
Dojo-Cho Essay

What does it mean to "be in control"? To many people, I think to most people, being in control means having control or power over others. This is wrong! Maybe this is where most conflicts in our relationships and interactions with people arise from. I think we have the wrong perception of control. In the martial arts, particularly in Aikido, we talk about and practice the concept control. But this control refers to control over ourselves. Our senseis try to teach us that we must first learn control over ourselves before we can hope to control the actions-attacks of others. So in training we are supposed to strive to grow and to become better people by learning this kind of control. Why is it that we do not make this connection when we leave the dojo? Actually this misconnection is even apparent in the dojo. When we feel pressed or pressured or when we feel we are being challenged for some reason, this misconception of control reveals itself. In these situations we try to dominate or in the extreme case even try to hurt our challenger to show them and ourselves that we are in control of the situation. Isn't this strong evidence of our lack of control? Should we be proud of our behavior?

Why is it so hard to understand and learn this concept of being in control? Is it insecurity? Is it ego? Is it fear? From an intellectual angle, it makes a lot of sense to first control what you can control, this being yourself; your body, your mind and your emotions. So why then is it so difficult to actually accomplish? I guess for a lot of people the question would be "why ask the question?", it's worked for me all my life so why should I change now? I would answer that question with several questions. Has it really work for you? Are you happy really with the direction your life is going? Are you happy really with yourself? If you are, than why do you need to train in Aikido? If you are, you don't need Aikido.

Is domination really control or is it an indication of some deep-seated weakness, fear or flaw in ourselves? Why do we try to dominate? Is it to make us feel superior to the other person, to show us and everyone else that we are somehow better? Why do we need to show anyone anything? Is it so important to our self-esteem to be viewed a certain way be others? If I am true to myself and my beliefs, if I try to live by values I believe are good, than why do I care what others who may not really know me think of me? Am I to judge myself by how others judge me? For me, instead, the questions always come back to myself. If there is something wrong, I ask myself, does it begin with me? Is it my actions or my reactions to a situation or a person that have brought me to this "unhappy" place? Is it so hard for us to really look at ourselves as critically as we look at and judge the people around us? It may be a painful experience but ultimately it is very liberating, and after awhile, it's not a big thing.

Change, that's what we should be striving for in our Aikido training. Change in ourselves; to improve ourselves, to be in control of ourselves. How can we even think to control others if we can't control ourselves? We try to control others because it's easier. Easy path, but not the best one for anyone involved. We touch many people in the course of our lives. Even a brief brush with them will leave an impression of ourselves on their lives. The more time we spend with them, the greater that impression and the greater our impact on their lives. So shouldn't we be on our best behavior, shouldn't we show our best side to these people we touch? We have a great power to influence people, and with that power a greater responsibility to be a positive influence. To do this you cannot try to control someone else, you just have to be yourself.

So many questions, so much confusion. My fear is that I will stop asking myself these questions. What are your fears?

Calvin Koshiyama, April 7th, 2006, Aikido North