Zombies and Aikido

If you caught last night’s episode of The Walking Dead (“He’s Not Here”), you got a pretty good look at some of the truths about aikido (and not many answers to plot line issues). The self-sacrificing mentor uses aikido as a therapeutic tool to both equip his student with self-defense, but also to face his inner demons and change who he is and ultimately becomes. And this is a truly beautiful thing about the art.

Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba explains the philosophy behind the art: “Regardless of how fast or slow my attacker advances, I will not be taken off guard nor defeated. This is not because my technique is faster than that of my opponent. Fast and slow are of no consequence. The contest has already been decided from the beginning, merely by having the intention to fight with one who embodies the universe, my attacker has fixed his mind on violating the harmony of nature itself. In other words, the moment my attacker fixes his attention on fighting with me, he has already lost.” The aikido practitioner is in harmony with nature and the universe. This isn’t just a matter of mastering speed, balance, strength, and agility. This is an inner discipline that requires constant attention and practice, much more so than the physical training.

To become as one with nature and our surroundings, we come to terms with ourselves first. Morgan, in The Walking Dead, overcomes his own rejection of moral principles during his aikido training to arrive at a place where he is at peace, though his new lifestyle is immediately and sadly put to the test. We may not have walkers to conquer, but our own lives are imbued with challenges to harmonic existence that must be grappled with on a daily basis. Aikido leads us down a path of protection and potential benefit for all, rather than the zero-sum outcome of other conflict-management methods. If we can bring ourselves and our opponents to a place of contentment, Aikido has succeeded.