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David Lukoff – Putting Aikido into action off the mat

Photograph of David at Two Rock Dojo
Photograph taken by Paul Rest

David Lukoff, featured here before, recently had a situation arrive in his professional life where he was able to put his Aikido skills to the test off the mat.

But first, a little background about David. He is shodan who trains at Two Rock Aikido where he has been a student of Ricahrd Strozzi-Heckler, 6th dan for over twenty years. David also trains with Robert Frager, 7th dan, at the Western Aikido Association’s home dojo at Sofia University during the months he teaches there. He is an internationally respected expert on spirituality as it intersects psychotherapy. He studied at the University of Chicago (Don Levine, the Founder of Aiki Extensions was his Professor there). He is a Professor of Psychology at Sofia University.

David also teaches courses and workshops with other experts and teachers in the field of spirituality, meditation and mindfulness. For many of these courses, he arranges continued education credits for those seeking this for their own professional careers. A little over a year ago, he received a notice that these courses, specifically one with a widely respect Qigong teacher, was under question.

Not only was it under question, his ability to give continuing education to all of his programs would have been withdrawn. The argument thrown at David was that Qigong was a religion and therefore not a valid area of study within the field of psychology.

To defend himself, David need to hire an attorney (this was just like a trial in a court case) and amass as much data as possible to support the position that Qigong was not a religion and the person he was sponsoring the workshop with was not doing this as an adherent of a religion. In addition, almost like the Inquisition, David had to present his case but up until the last moment he was not privy to the “charges” again him.

It all came down to a hearing. David and his attorney were attending via a conference call. The other parties included the attorney for this professional body questioning him, and a group of his peers who would render judgment.

Here in David’s own words is how his day began:

“So [in the] morning 5 am, I packed up all the appeals materials into my father's old Mexican leather briefcase (may 12 actually being his birthday), drove to Ocean Beach by Golden Gate Park, and jogged for 40' stopping to do some Qigong along the beach, [and] then parked in the Sofia [University] parking lot with my papers spread around the van and me on a headset starting 9 am, [making myself] quite comfortable for 2 hours. On the call APA (American Psychological Association] had 2 lawyers and 6 members of the Continuing Education staff, there were 3 appeal committee members, me, my lawyer and a colleague who I invited as part of my ‘legal team’ as a researcher and expert on spirituality in psychology.”

And here’s what David said afterward:

“I do feel I got my ‘speaking truth to power’ moment. As I had planned, much of the appeal time was spent on the issue of Qigong and of joy as appropriate topics for ce [Continued Education] programs for psychologists. After I spent 20 min[utes] establishing the validity of Qigong as a form of traditional Chinese medicine and a mindfulness technique, I read quotes on Qigong from the denial letter that were pretty derogatory toward this empirically supported form of complementary and alternative medicine (as acupuncture yoga etc. are considered). The denial letter described Qigong as a “religious practice" and described the Qigong teacher as having ‘religious training’ and in another place ‘theological training.’ What he actually has is decades of training including at a famous Qigong ‘medicine-less hospital’ in China where Qigong is viewed as a science. He has absolutely no theological training. His cv [Curriculum Vitae] was submitted to the [American Psychological Association] as part of my original application, so I asked the appeal committee to pull out and review his [C.V.] with me which was in their packet.”

David later said it was like a randori. He just had to stay centered and focused and not lose your balance as the attacks came in. And he also said he remembered to breath.

David was told her would hear back after a decision was made. Well, this week David heard back. The verdict was in his favor!

Here is the official response:

“While the CEC [Continuing Education Committee], in its response to the sponsor's appeal, expressed concern that the instructor had religious or theological training, the training entails application of healthcare practice widely used in Eastern medicine and throughout China. As the field of Psychology expands to incorporate Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Practices, Master Trainers for these practices may be appropriate trainers for Psychology CE. The practice of pairing a Master Trainer with a psychologist for the offerings intended for the professional Continuing Education of psychologists is a good one and we encourage the Sponsor to continue this practice… the information provided in Section D of the application provide a sound basis for offering this CAM training to psychologists as a continuing education offering.”

I think if David had become adversarial the outcome would have been different. But by staying centered, he was able to maintain calm and focused and blend with what has happening.

This incident in David’s professional life is a perfect example of how one can use what they are learning on the map in a crisis situation.

Thank you David for setting this wonderful example for all of us.