16 January 2015

There is power in paradoxes

"Spiritual Warrior" by Rita Loyd. See more at
"I think you should come up with another name," said my friend Nick, when I told him about my plans for the Dream Warrior Training workshops. "I don't like the trend toward militarization in contemporary world culture. You should find a better word than 'warrior'."

I explained that in other languages the word for warrior doesn't necessarily refer directly to war. "Well it does in English, doesn't it?"

I thought about this for a while, and although it conjures difficult images, I decided to stick with the name. Not in spite of the problematic nature of the title "warrior", but because of it. It's a paradox that needs to be embraced.

There's power in paradoxes.

Let me give you an example.

In the art of aikido, along with the empty-hand techniques -- consisting of joint locks and throws in reaction to a physical attack -- we also learn how to fence with wooden swords shaped like the traditional Japanese samurai sword. These moves be can reproduced with no weapon in the hands, and are still amazingly effective in influencing the motions of another person, either throwing them or locking them in a pin.

"As opposed to true contradictions, paradoxes only "seem" to cancel each other out. Instead, they are a fruitful marriage of opposites."

Once, when I was attending a workshop taught by Koichi (Larry) Barrish, he described these empty-handed motions that imitate sword movements (called aiki sword) as "the sword so sharp it cuts things back together again." Logically, it makes no sense. But for me, this paradoxical statement perfectly captured the ability of these techniques to resolve conflict without perpetuating disharmony.

I noticed the power of paradoxes in my early twenties. Ever since, I've been on the lookout for things that seem to be contradictions, but actually act as a mask for a profound truth. As opposed to true contradictions, paradoxes only "seem" to cancel each other out. Instead, they are a fruitful marriage of opposites.

It makes me think of the time a friend stated, "The martial artists I know are some of the friendliest and kindest people in my life." I contemplated that remark and realized it was true of the people in my life, too. (And, yes, the few asshole martial artists I know are the exception that proves the rule.)

I am a warrior. I am a man who lives from the heart and seeks to express love in his actions.

I am a paradox. I embrace that.


Alexander Svitych said...

I really enjoyed this post! By the way, 'warrior' in Russian is also related to war.

The subject of paradoxes is very interesting. Actually I noticed the same some time ago - that paradoxes reflect the duality of life, because it is never just black or white.

One of my favorite examples is this. Every human being seeks comfort. Every human being needs quest. Paradox? At first sight yes. But we do need a sense of stability and safety AND the feeling of growing and venturing out at the same time.

Theo Huffman said...

Indeed! We don't need just one or the other. We need both. Comfort can't be appreciated unless you've been out there on the edge of existence having a tough time and not knowing what the hell will happen next. And you can only have the strength the go out on adventures if you have a safe, comfortable place to retreat to regularly.

Daniel said...

Reading the blog one of my favourite books came into my mind. It's title is: "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior". :)

Just thinking about aikido, it's full of paradoxes. For example we should learn to move people by neither pushing nor pulling - or pulling and pushing at the same time. Or that the most powerful techniques are born if I don't use my power. And there are countless others.