Masakatsu Agastu, The Cyber Bully, and Silence
trigger warning: this piece includes content that is graphic in language. it is threatening, abusive, hostile. Identities have been protected, it is reproduced to illustrate a point.
In everyday life, we are faced with different conflicts. Most of these situations require us to respond, and depending on our response, we are faced with the consequences of our actions. Sometimes, we go low, but hopefully in most situations to quote firstly lady, Michelle Obama, we go high. In all situations of conflict, the consequences are subjectively categorized as either good or bad, or winning or losing, or victory or defeat. This has become the nature of our times. Who will be victorious?
The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei once said: “Masakatsu Agatsu… True victory is victory over oneself.”
I have been thinking a lot about victory. When I received nidan, or second degree black belt in Aikido, I obtained a scroll from my teacher that simply said, Masakatsu Agastsu in hiragana. While I had tested and qualified a new rank within USFA, there was no 'certificate of achievement' instead a lesson in the process. It seemed as if the lesson was to defeat ourselves.
The common understanding of Masakatsu Agatsu is to be able to control the self as true victory. Are we to fight ourselves? Why are we fighting ourselves? How can we be victorious if we defeat ourselves? What does it mean to be victorious over ourselves? What does it mean to control ourselves, and from whom? From what? What is the “self”?
According to the Zen teacher Dogen, he once conceptualized this perceived ‘victory’ similarly:
“To study the way is to study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others.”
Other wisdom traditions align similarly. Christianity offers from the book of Romans, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” similarly, “…behind every good boy one may find a spiteful brat.” observed Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Psychology.
Here within is this implication of a battle within ourselves or a common denominator that the “self” is indeed “self”-ish. In order to triumph over the “self” must acknowledge a shift within moving from “self”-ish to “self”-less? That was the lesson in nidan- being “self”-less we can find our true self, the person we truly are, the soul within fully expressed in the body. Ultimately, the more advanced the rank the less self we are.
Recently, I found myself in a situation where I commented on social media about right relationship and being collaboratively supporting colleagues. This situation quickly spiraled. The person whose comment I called into question quickly became a abusive and I choose silence when insults and threats were hurled my way. I was seen by this person as weak and “soft.”
In our culture of toxic masculinity, he saw silence as unmanly because I choose not to fight back and defend myself. I had in his eyes 'called him out"- and "trolled" him and who was I? He used insults to provoke me in ways that seemingly should work. This is a common tactic of men. Yet in truth, as things escalated I returned to the mat- because in conflict situation, Masakatsu Agastu can be applied.
Here is the opportunity to instead of acting in the duality of winning or losing, or ‘stepping out” or “manning up”- as he provoked, I chose to move beyond that dynamic and move away from the who is more superior platform. This platform is realized when we understand that in any conflict, to look at the differences is to aggravate the situation and reinforce the dualism of winning and losing.
What I observed in my colleague assaulting me, both publicly and in private messages was unmitigated pain. What I observed in his own pursuit to tear others down was suffering, and a desire to lift only a select few up was a deep need to find inclusivity and be seen. When have we not all all felt those feelings- that need to be seen. That is when we must meet confrontation with compassion, to not see the difference but see the commonality.
This is the essence of moving through a situation with silence, respecting the opposition, and adapting to change with compassion. Even in the martial techniques of Aikido, this concept of kindness should be instilled in performing all waza; understanding that the intent is not to harm, but instead live together in harmony. I think this is what O’Sensei meant by Masakatsu Agatsu.
O'Sensei meant for us to get over ourselves. He meant for us to not be part of the conflict but instead part of the solution: to be instruments of peace and of love. This was the lesson coming out of nidan, to master the techniques not out of the intention to injure or “win”, but out of the intention to reconcile which is true victory. And, in living our lives, let us respond not out of selfishness but out of love. This can only be done by digging deep, and removing the barriers that prevent us from loving.
Masakatsu Agatsu is love and compassion. It's always giving and not taking. Always directed outward, to the other not to the self. Masakatsu Agatsu means: Victory over selfishness is the true victory which is to be selfless. Only then can we practice budo with compassion.
Cyber bulling is a crime. Stalking and harassement aka, 'trolling' through the Internet is known as Harassment in the Information Age. State and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying, and specifically protecting children.
Bullying, cyberbullying, and related behaviors may be addressed in a single law or may be addressed in multiple laws. In some cases, bullying appears in the criminal code of a state that may apply to juveniles. Comprehenisve resources are available for free at www.stopbullying.gov.
Click here to find out more about your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies and which of the key components they contain.