Aikido and Activism Against AIDS
Conflict resolution and peace building techniques from the Japanese discipline of Aikido are being used to build leadership skills among young people in Ethiopia. Action for Youth and Community Change (AYCC) in Hawassa, Ethiopia is a community outreach effort of the Hawassa Children’s Center, created in 1998 to provide care and support to 100 children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
As the only Aikido training facility in Ethiopia, AYCC offers a unique opportunity to introduce a new generation of Ethiopians to an alternative strategy of responding to conflict based upon Aikido principles of nonviolent resolution and unflinching pursuit of peace.
There are more than 100 students, ages 7 to 25, training three to five times per week. In partnership with the Fetzer Institute, a standardized educational curriculum has been developed and implemented and regular visits from Aikido teachers, or sensei, have been established.
“It is exciting to consider the ways that love and forgiveness can be communicated through the body – Aikido techniques – and through the reading and discussions are planning for their curriculum,” said Fetzer Advisor Wendy Palmer, who has worked to build self-reliance globally through Aikido teachings. Palmer added that through AYCC’s multiple forms of outreach, participants “will be touching thousands of lives offering concrete alternatives to fighting violence with violence.”
The Hawassa Aikido Dojo, which was founded by Aiki Extensions, has six senior students who have assumed responsibility for daily technical instruction. They have all begun preparation for what will be the country’s first-ever black belt examinations in Aikido, scheduled during an Inaugural Ethiopian Aikido Seminar n November 2014. Video interviews will examine the role that love and compassion play in students’ learnings from Aikido.
Another program of AYCC, the One Love Theater blends dance, theater, music and gymnastics to disseminate HIV/AIDS awareness, to promote gender equality and to call for an end to harmful traditional practices of female circumcision and abduction. Performances are free and have reached audiences of almost 200,000 people across Ethiopia in schools, marketplaces and refugee camps.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Sport & Embodied Spiritual Practice.