Coronavirus — A Long Road Ahead

Because the coronavirus situation is changing so quickly, and because people may read this months from now, here’s a bit of context:

Today is Monday, 16 March 2020. The coronavirus pandemic is ramping up in the United States. Because of inadequate testing we don’t know how bad it is, but we can see it’s spreading quickly and has the potential to sicken millions, overwhelm hospitals, and kill hundreds of thousand by summer. Our most effective strategy for minimizing harm to ourselves, others, and the healthcare resources, is social distancing — staying away from each other.

Starting today (if not earlier), schools and colleges across the country have closed as least for the next few weeks. Meeting are canceled, pubs are closed. Many restaurants are offering take-out or delivery only. Apple, Nike, REI, and others are showing leadership by closing their stores.

The current understanding is that people who are not showing symptoms (yet) can transmit the virus, so “I feel fine” is not justification for being around others. Things are evolving rapidly, and we are understanding things better hour by hour.

Most Aikido dojos have taken their training online now [16 March, 2020]. Many teachers are creating or sharing videos, holding dojo teleconferences, and diving into deeper study, beyond just physical practice. A few are meeting in the park for weapons practices at a safe distance. Some are just taking a break as things settle down.

Image of a road going into the distance
There’s a long road ahead of us. We’d best start walking.

#StayHome #CancelEverything

A few teachers, however, have been announcing that they aren’t going to give in to a “bad cold.” One said he’s training his students to be warriors in life, so they aren’t stopping. They are posting photos of their students training, hands-on, or posing for a group photo all standing shoulder-to-shoulder. This is irresponsible — and does not represent the spirit of Aikido.

Sometimes the brave thing, the smart thing, the warrior thing, is to keep those to whom you are responsible safe. Needlessly leading your students (and their families) toward harm isn’t even part of some movie version of “warrior.” It’s unwise, and a betrayal of their trust. I hope they will rethink their decisions.

Even O Sensei moved aside when swords were swung at him.

If you are still thinking of keeping your facility open, and training together in person, I encourage you to read what Josh Gold of Aikido Journal says, in his excellent editorial Age of Coronavirus: A Time for Leadership and Unity. Note this point in particular:

“We can avoid putting our students in conflicted situations. Practitioners in dojos that remain open may feel pressured to go to classes so they don’t disappoint Sensei, and then when they are there, they may feel anxious or worried about exposure. At worst, students who continue to practice together may unknowingly transmit the virus to others, We should not create conditions that put our students in compromising positions, or turn them into people who may carry with themselves for the rest of their lives, the regret and pain of harming others- even indirectly. “

Josh Gold, Executive Editor of Aikido Journal
Age of Coronavirus: A Time for Leadership and Unity.

Deepening our practice, expanding our community

In just the past few days I’ve seen the Aikido community sprout new branches. As we do on the mat, when one path is blocked, we move seamlessly in a new direction.

For some ideas on what we can each to keep our dojo communities together, see my earlier article, Don’t panic. Do Act. — Aikido in a world with COVID-19. Note that it was from 6 March, and our understanding of some things has changed since then.

This can be an opportunity to broaden our understanding of Aikido. I have put together a collection of Aikido Videos, Online Aikido Courses, and Aikido DVDs for home study and training. Some are technical, but many are in-depth discussions or interviews, so if you don’t have the space or inclination to train at home these can be an excellent resource. NOTE: Some of the normally paid subscriptions have been made FREE for now, as a gift to the Aikido community. I will be updating that post with information on those ASAP.

And finally, watch this positive, inspiring, 90-minute community call with Miles Kessler Sensei of The Integral Dojo. You’ll hear creative approaches that dojos are taking to keep training when we can’t be together in one place. It’s heartwarming to see dojos around the world joining together.

Source for the above numbers

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