In answer to my questions, Jamie responded with this update about her activities:
“I have a dual American-Israeli citizen, co-founded the 'Middle East Aikido Project' (MAP) through Aiki Extensions, an American non-profit applying the universal principles of Aikido in many areas of life around the world. The mideast project was born from my dream of 'Salaam-Shalom Aikido' (the words for 'Peace' in Arabic and Hebrew). Living in Israel at the time of the Olso Accords and the Israeli-Jordan peace treaty, I envisioned 'Arabs and Jews meeting on the mat, grabbing wrists, harmonizing and having fun together.' Today I am leading MAP in building bridges of friendship and hope throughout Israel, Palestine and the Middle East.
I realized the role Aikido could play in what she terms 'Citizen’s Diplomacy work,' especially when I traveled to the former Soviet Union during the 'Glasnost' years. Helping to introduce Aikido to the Soviet people, I found stereotypes and fears dissolving. This changed me as and evolved into understanding how new relationships develop when perceived enemies decide to meet.
I have also been an Advisory Board Member of the 'Compassionate Listening Project' since the mid-1990’s when I joined several two-week delegations to the West Bank and Gaza. These provided rare opportunities for a Jewish-American-Israeli woman to be with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. I wrote, 'These experiences greatly opened my mind and heart. I was able to gain close-up, in-depth understanding of the Mideast conflict from both sides.'
MAP now sponsors or partners with a number of people and projects who share a common vision. These include Robert Kent’s 'PeaceCamp Initiative' (profiled in last week’s examiner.com feature); Danny Hakim’s 'Budo for Peace,' Miles Kessler’s 'Aikido Without Borders.' and the 'Ethiopian Awassa Youth Center.' Joint trainings have already been held with Iraqis and Jordanians, and I hope that more Arab and Jewish Aikidoists will become willing to meet on the mat.
Last summer, a young Muslim karateka from Nazareth selected for PeaceCamp could not get a visa from the US State Department due to his name. With the aid of my brother, California State Senator Mark Leno, and US Senator Diane Feinstein, I saw to it that the visa was granted, quickly raised needed funds, and the boy made it to camp!
In Israel this March, I helped select Christian, Muslim and Jewish boys and girls involved in 'Martial Arts for Peace for this summer’s PeaceCamp program in Pennsylvania. There, I introduced Aikido at a 'Seeds of Peace' gathering in Ramallah, and taught at a school, an orphanage and the main dojo in the West Bank. Together with Miles Kessler and his Mideast-based “Aikido Without Borders” non-profit, MAP is supporting the development of Palestinian Aikido practitioners and instructors.
My activities include my role as a LPGA Golf Professional, Sports Psychologist and Body-Mind Fitness Expert. I am the creator of “The Centered Way” and 'KiAi Golf' and that has made me an internationally recognized leader in holistic sports and life education. I tend to view myself as an all-round athlete and instructor. Many students and professionals have remarked positively about my dynamic teaching style and infectious energy. I work with individuals and organizations to, “play and be their best!”
I am clear that my mission is from Morihei Ueshiba, also known as 'O Sensei,' the Founder of Aikido, who saw the art as ‘a great Way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family. I know that the Mideast conflict will not end overnight, but have seen through my own experiences that 'each step towards mutual understanding and trust is a big one, with important ripple effects in every direction.'
You can visit me at www.aikidomideastpeace.info or www.kiaigolf.com to find out more about my unique work and learn ways you can get involved, or contribute financially. The Mideast site also provides information on how to bring this vital work to churches, mosques, synagogues and other organizations."
Jamie Leno Zimron is a 5th degree Aikido black belt, is successfully working to bring Israelis and Arabs together, across national and ideological borders, through the Japanese 'Martial Art of Peace.'
Jamie is an inspiring and tireless advocate for peaceful co-existence. She is a martial artist truly making a difference!