Aikido On The Good Fight

Finding Balance In Times Of Crisis

Confession time: my wife Maya and I are fans of “The Good Fight”, a drama series on the life and times of Chicago lawyers, now in its second season on CBS All Access. This series is a spin-off of the popular series “The Good Wife” that ran for 7 seasons (we were also fans). As an Aikido practitioner and teacher for close to 35 years, you can imagine what a wonderful surprise I had a few weeks ago to find Aikido on The Good Fight.

There are several reasons I enjoy watching The Good Fight. Like it’s predecessor series, it has compelling characters, the great writing, totally believable legal battles, and it gets the law and legal process right. But perhaps the reason I like it the most is that they deal with social and political issues that are currently touching us all.

Each and every show addresses relevant issues that many of us regularly wrestle with. Issues of gender, ethics, identity politics, social media, fake news, data protection, gun control, 2nd amendment, bitcoin, freedom of speech, hate speech, consensual sex, me too, immigration, DACA, Russian collusion, pee pee tapes, and yes, even porn stars.

In grappling with these issues The Good Fight regularly walks the line between the black and white rule of law and the uncharted territory of where the rigid law meets the rapidly changing reality of today’s world.

The Good Fight Reflecting Aikido

Perhaps this is exactly where I’ve always felt an affinity with The Good Fight. Even though it has a politically left-leaning, socially progressive and liberal narrative which I share, the writers do not shy away from representing the truths of opposing worldviews… the best, and worst arguments of both sides of an issue. A representation which is generally (but not always) fair.

The effect of this is that the writers hold the space for opposing worldviews in the same way an Aikido practitioner would hold a conflict. Fully engaging the conflict, overcoming the fear instincts, staying centered, staying open to and connecting with the other, responding to the arising energy, and acting when the creative resolution emerges.

The heroes of the series are legal warriors who hold to their truth, present their cases before the law, fight the good fight, all the while allowing for the truth to unfold.

The Good Fight As A Higher Path

The term “martial arts” in Japanese is “Budo”, which is made up of two Japanese kanji characters, often translated as “martial way.” But the kanji “Budo” is a bit more nuanced in meaning. The first character “Bu” means martial, but with the clear implication of ending conflicts (literally “stopping the spear”). “Bu” is fighting for the greater moral good.

The second character “Do” means path, but it is not an ordinary path. “Do” has the implication of a higher path of mental, physical, moral, and spiritual discipline. So for the sake of this blog post, we could totally translate the term “Budo” as The Higher Path Of The Good Fight.

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Aikido As The Way Of Conflict

The martial art of Aikido is particularly unique in the world of Budo because of it the only 100% life-affirming martial art. “Aikido” is translated as “The Way Of Harmonizing With Life Energy.” But the fact is, harmony is not the purpose of Aikido… it’s the result. Aikido happens in the field of conflict.

All martial arts are zero-sum. Even the more gentle, or philosophical martial arts have an end result of a winner and a loser. Aikido, on the other hand, is the only non-zero-sum martial art that is still fully martial but with the intention of coming to a win/win result. This is expressed in both its philosophy and practical application.

“Conflict” can be simply defined as two opposing forces trying to occupy the same space at the same time. When these two opposing boundaries rub up against each other it creates friction, stress, and conflict. Aikido endeavors to meet and stay with conflict while skillfully working towards its resolution, and the restoration of wholeness.

An Aikido practitioner strives to fully meet the conflict and fight the good fight, but at the same time maintains their commitment to non-violence. This delicate combination of engaging conflict from non-violence (and of course a good amount of martial skill) are the precise conditions necessary to transform conflict into harmony.

That very transformational process IS Aikido. And holding your intention to transform conflict into a win/win resolution IS THE GOOD FIGHT.

The Good Fight As Aikido

The main character of The Good Fight is Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), a high powered Chicago lawyer who is regularly at the center of the show’s conflicts.

Diane is an experienced law firm partner who has had her fair share of professional near-death experiences. She regularly finds her self on the front lines and she isn’t afraid to scrap it up, whether it be in socio-political space, the courtroom, the boardroom, or even the bedroom.

Of the many “good fights” being worked out in the “Aikido Episodes” (to date there have been 3), our main character Diane Lockhart is struggling with two big issues in her life. Both of which play out in juxtaposition to her Aikido awakening.

The Aikido Of Challenging Relationships

First, is whether or not to get a divorce from her husband Kurt McVeigh (actor Gary Cole) from whom she is currently separated. They have great chemistry and are a great match at a very basic level. Their worldviews, however, are often at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Kurt turns Diane on to guns, sparking a fasination with the sense of power it brings.

She is a city girl, and he’s a country boy. She is liberal, he’s conservative. She’s a Democrat, he’s Republican. She’s for gun control, and he is 2nd amendment all the way. They met in court where she was the defense lawyer and he was an expert ballistics witness. Despite their differences, they succumbed to the attraction and the sparks flew.

Their unfolding love allowed them to suspend their judgment of each other’s worldview and they got married. However, their relationship did eventually face hurdles that were too much to overcome and they ended up getting separated.

Now Diane and Kurt are struggling with the dilemma of re-committing to the marriage or moving on.

The Aikido Of Self Security

The second dilemma Diane is facing is her own personal security. Part of the storyline is that there has been a serial killer targeting lawyers in the city of Chicago. Diane’s own law partner was shot which rocked her world.

For her own self-protection, Diane started carrying a gun. A gun incidentally, that she received as a gift from her husband Kurt (the pro-gun ballistics expert). Feeling empowered by the gun Diane gains a sense of security that comes from packing heat… but not entirely.

In the middle all of this, Diane happens to stumble into an Aikido class (see first clip above). This immediately sets up a contrast between external and internal causes for a sense of protection (see how she places the Aikido flier in her purse on top of the gun).

Upon watching the powerful and natural movements of Aikido, Diane is drawn-in. She begins her training and in doing so also begins on the journey of creating her own internal sense of security, rather than depending on the external security of her gun to feel safe.

The Good Fight, Aikido, and Resolution

Daine’s Aikido journey takes her through an internal transformation while facing her life dilemmas (albeit superficially… but it is TV after all). Parallel to her internal journey, her main external dilemmas also become resolved.

The shooter of Daine’s law partner is captured, and her partner fully recovers. Through Aikido, Diane gains her own internal sense of security and is no longer dependent on external protection. She completes her need to explore the world of guns, and thanks to her husband she came out of it with a greater appreciation towards firearms.

Even so, after seeing the destructive violence that a gun inflicted on her law partner she comes to the decision that she wants nothing more to do with guns and subsequently has her own gun destroyed.

Love and The Good Fight

As for Diane’s relationship dilemma, the final hurdle is passed when she confronts her Republican husband Kurt with her red line issue… everything hangs on whether he voted for Trump, or not… and as imperfect as his answer may be, love prevails. An imperfect resolution is still a resolution.

Finding Balance In Times Of Crisis

Polarities exist in every aspect of our lives. When out of balance we will experience conflict. Fighting with the opposite always results in winners and losers, and is always zero-sum. But boldly confronting opposing perspectives, holding to a higher principle, and searching for the unifying truth is a fight worth having.

Indeed fighting for the greater whole IS the good fight.

Question: How do you hold opposites and find balance in times of crisis? Or, if you’re a fan of The Good Fight let me know what you thought about the Aikido episodes. Please write your comments below!

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