Asked how I justify my values with non-violence, I replied that I am first a martial artist. Non-violence does not mean pacifism to a martial artist. I don’t believe in “absolute pacifism” which Sam Harris describes as ultimately immoral. “Pacifism,” he said, “is merely a willingness to die — and let others die — at the pleasure of the world’s thugs.” I cannot accept inaction, even it offends my spiritual sensibilities.
Martial art is disciplined activism, even in the very Aikido philosophy with which I have fought in MMA and submission grappling. I describe it as physical confluence: with deeper practice comes greater responsibility to minimize harm and maximize help. This of course has been influenced by my Sambo/Judo background as I am a direct 3rd generation student of Jigoro Kano, who promoted Jita-Kyoei: “Mutual Welfare and Benefit”.
Non-violence to me, or “ahimsa” in my yogic background under my teacher from India, means something entirely different than inaction. It is righteous action to end the violence visited upon innocence, even if that violence brings harms to me, physically, mentally and emotionally. Some pacificsts wrongly assume that everyone who would be willing to move toward violence so others could be safe from it, must have violence in their hearts. Non-violence for me is the absence of the DESIRE for violence, especially if one must move into its harmful path.
I do not judge pacifists, or those who would not act as I would and do. I feel grateful that others exist who do act upon the violence, for it creates the freedom to be pacifists (and survive and thrive) without being violated for their lifestyle beliefs. I feel grateful even when “absolute” pacifists harshly stigmatize me and others like me as a perpetuators of violence for being willing to step into harm’s way so that they have the right to object with my activism.