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Aikido in Action with David Lukoff: An addendum to his encounter with the APA

David Lukoff at Two Rock Aikido Dojo
Photograph taken by Paul Rest

David emailed me a few days later. He decided to flesh out the story and give additional background information that he thought was important as this all unfolded.

In reading what David wrote, it became clear to me that there was much more at stake and involved many important people, centers of learning and martial artists in the Greater Bay Area community.

David wrote,

“The decision of the American Psychological Association (APA) to withdraw the approval of the Spiritual Competency Resource Center (SCRC--the name of my continuing education business) was based on SCRC cosponsoring the Embodying Joy workshop with the internationally renowned qigong instructor Mingtong Gu and Debra Chamberlin-Taylor in December 2012 at Spirit Rock.

“For the past 10 years, SCRC has also been cosponsoring programs with the San Francisco Zen Center, San Francisco Shambhala Institute, Institute for Health & Healing at the California Pacific Medical Center, Marin Mindfulness Institute, Mindful Education Institute—about 20 different centers mostly in the SF Bay Area--with presenters including Jon Kabat-Zinn, Rick Hanson, Tara Brach, Mark Epstein, and Sylvia Boorstein. The loss of their ability to provide CE credits for their programs would have been devastating to these mindfulness centers, which is why I felt it was important to mount such a strong defense of these practices.”

And here is something I know Aikido and other martial arts traditions have run into from time to time. One recent occasion occurred with a workshop being held at a summer retreat camp owned by the conservative Protestant denomination. Someone observed the group bowing in and out and decided that this was a religious practice. The group was uninvited the next year. In essence the complaint was that what is being practiced was a religion.

David continues,

“The charge that qigong involves ‘theological or religious teaching’ was due to their uninformed view of qigong as a religious practice rather than as Chinese Medical Qigong which is an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has a strong evidence base. During the appeal I cited several meta-analytic reviews that confirmed the anti-depressant benefits of qigong.

“My aikido practice provided me the grounding to go through this 14 month ordeal which involved hiring a lawyer, compiling the evidence-base of research on qigong, and presenting my case in a 2 hour adversarial appeals process to a committee. I adopted George Leonard’s maxim ‘Take the hit as a gift.’ From 24 years of training with Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei, I had learned and did practices for staying centered and facing the source of conflict that were invaluable throughout the 14 months. On my Ocean Beach jog at 6 am before the appeal hearing, I faced into the brisk ocean breeze in a hanmi position and let the universe in. Then knowing I would be defending this ancient practice, I did some qigong. All I can say is that I felt the lineage showing up in my body to guide me in this encounter.”

This is such a great example of tapping into to something bigger and bringing that energy forward into the moment. Something we all work on doing daily in our own lives as we bring that ki that happens on the mat into who and what we are in our daily lives. What David did was perfect.

“From Robert Frager Sensei, I knew how to come to a conflict from my heart and not create any enemies. Despite this protracted conflict with the APA, I am still active in the association and have received invitations to present at the annual conference and to write an article for their new journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice—while this conflict was in full swing. In both the article coming out in July and in my presentation at the conference in Washington DC in August, I will address the issue of using qigong and other complementary and alternative techniques in psychotherapy. Last year I presented at the APA conference on incorporating aikido into psychotherapy training.”

And here’s the core learning in my opinion of David’s experience. That he was able to view this conflict from his heart and not from a position of anger of it being adversarial. I think O Sensei and the other great teachers on The Path would all smilingly nod their heads in unison with what he did.

David concludes,

“I don’t consider myself a qigong teacher but took my first course 40 years ago, and teach mindfulness practices including qigong, aikido, and walking meditation in my graduate psychology courses, and believe embodied mindfulness practices such as tai chi, qigong, yoga and aikido will be the next wave of mindfulness interventions to be widely adopted as mental health interventions. So my hope is that the reinstatement of the SCRC will promote continued training and exploration of these embodied practices. Stay tuned to this column to learn about the next Aikido and Psychotherapy workshop!”

Thank you David for making a difference and speaking and acting from both your center, and perhaps more importantly, from your heart.

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