As an avid watcher of the Walking Dead, I was pleasantly surprised to see O Sensei's book The Art of Peace pop up in one of the first episodes this season. Last Sunday night's episode featured the character Morgan and explained how he returned to sanity with a new outlook on life.
Morgan was suffering from a mental breakdown after losing his wife and son. In his grief he became obsessed with killing anything, everything and everyone. Only after he met and was defeated by a person using Aikido and O Sensei's philosophy of peace did he return to sanity.
It is kind of funny how only on TV can one's evolution be played out in 60 minutes. Most students don't come to Morgan's level of understanding or realization for 10 or 20 years.
To understand this it might be helpful to look at how one's own philosophy evolves over time in terms of jutsu an do and how one changes into the other.
In jutsu (術) students are only concerned with outside accomplishments and the physicalness of the art. This is the stage that all beginners start in where they are concerned with questions like, "Will this work?" or "Is it effective." Winning is the main goal at this time. Many are concerned with winning or losing and how it factors into their self-worth. It is not uncommon for this stage to be very physical and it is even more common for people to go overboard such as Morgan did when he lost his family. Some become so obsessed with winning, beating others or killing that it becomes addictive. They only feel good when they win or dominate and any other outcome or hiccup causes them to suffer. Sensei once talked about how some swordsman becoming so obsessed with live blade (shinken) work that they begin to yearn to kill.
In do (道) we start to see the progression or maturity of students as they become more "human." At this stage their self-worth is less associated with outside accomplishments and more toward inner understanding or mastering the self. Sometimes we have to fight until there is no one left to fight to realize that the only true opponent was ourselves. It is here where Morgan finds himself and like him we have a realization about life and come to understand the preciousness of life and the compassion for it. As we learn, we learn that all humans are inherently flawed and that to some degree it is not their fault. We, as in all of us, are ignorant to ourselves, not perfect and inherently flawed and that we too deserve kindness, compassion and forgiveness. In order to get it, and because we too want it too, we must in turn give it to others.
Now here is where the rubber meets the road. In order to get it, we must have the strength to give it. In order to get the strength to give it, we must train ourselves.
Aikido is the physical manifestation of this understanding and compassion. We understand, as the Dalai Lama stated, "that all humans suffer and all want to be happy." Because our lives are precious so then becomes all life. We can destroy others, but we choose not to and that doesn't make us weak. We understand that to destroy others is to destroy ourselves. It takes a tremendous amount of inner strength, integrity and character to choose the difficult path. O Sensei understood this and that is why he designed the techniques the way the are today so that we can practice everyday literally giving people compassion physically. To give compassion or to do true Aikido takes training and with every technique we are one step closer to being able to do it on our own when the time comes.
In the Walking Dead, Morgan is given a copy of The Art of Peace with the inscription, "Aikido means not to kill. Although nearly all creeds have a commandment against taking life, most of them justify killing for one reason or another. In Aikido, however, we try to completely avoid killing, even the most evil person." Cultivating inner strength requires three things: a philosophical structure, repetitious training and the desire to change. Morgan found a way out not only because he found Aikido, but because deep down inside he wanted to.
Here is a preview of the character Morgan and the video below you can see O Sensei's book at 00:39. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va1UPrFXHKA