(This post was written by a senior student at Vermont Aikido.)
I am a crisis outreach worker as well as an Aikido practitioner. I work on a team, and we go into the homes of people experiencing mental health crises. Our job is to work with them to help them get through their crisis at home so that they don’t have to go to the hospital. I do my best to take my Aikido off the mat and into the homes of the people I work with.
First and foremost, Aikido is about connection, spiritual and physical. When uke grabs nage’s hand, for example, and nage extends in order to carry out an effective neutralization of the attack, she is creating a bridge to the person’s center – both the hara, or center of gravity three fingers below the navel; and the spiritual or energetic center, where a place of peace resides in all of us. In this way, uke feels that while their intent to initiate conflict has been thwarted, they are protected and cared for by their partner, and have been saved from cutting their connection to the divine through violence. Uke attacks because they are in great distress and suffering in some way. Our loving redirection through connection helps alleviate this suffering.
In much the same way, effective crisis work is about connection. When I meet with someone in great distress I see my job as meeting them where they are, so that first and foremost they know that they are not alone. I have seen severely suicidal people emerge from this place of pain in the space of an hour, just through the sense that someone is with them, and committed to connecting to them as a human being.
In Aikido, if you stay connected, spiritually, emotionally and physically, a transformation will happen. Conflict will be transformed into love.
In crisis work a transformation can also happen: a sense of hope and well-being can emerge from despair through authentic connection to another.