From all the posts on social media by local Bay Area martial artists and the mentions of his name at the beginning of class(es) at dojos, it is clear that Nelson Mandela, like Gandhi, O Sensei and other warriors for peace, had a profound impact on the Greater Bay Area Marital Arts Community.
My exposure to him and the African Liberation Movement was indirect. My first year of undergraduate school my roommate was from what was then Southern Rhodesia. Until then, I knew little of Africa except what Hollywood gave me during Saturday afternoon matinees. From magazines, such as National Geographic, I knew that diamonds came from mines deep in the earth in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. And our local Philharmonic conductor spent the “off season” (summers) conducting another orchestra somewhere in South Africa during their (winter) season.
That was it.
Suddenly, I found myself in a small dorm room with a young African male who spoke the Queen’s English with a crisp accent and who politely smiled at my ignorance of African politics, and then laughed softly when he informed me that the winds were changing and home rule would come to his country and others in the Horn of Africa—especially to South Africa. This was something I found hard to believe at first seeing how deeply entrenched white rule was in those countries.
But then change was beginning to happen in our own Deep South…
That same year, 1963, my freshman year, was when Nelson Mandela was first sent Robben Island. In Indiana this attracted little notice with the student population. But to my roommate, he announced that this would be the beginning of the end for Apartheid in South Africa. And although it took decades, and more struggle and loss of life, he was right!
CBS Night News brought home the point in its broadcast Friday night that Mandela had every reason to want to extract revenge for the harsh treatment he received from the hands of the South African authorities. Yet, he chose the road of non-violence, forgiveness and co-existence.
I am in touch with many from South Africa through my social media connections. No matter what color or social class my friends come from in South Africa, Mandela was called “Madiba,” a term from his tribal background and one of intimacy and affection. Perhaps if, our politicians would begin doing this with each other, it might ease some of our own lack of political harmony?
On Thursday night, before kyu and dan tests at Two Rock Aikido, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, 6th dan, invoked Mandela’s name as a true warrior for peace. I thought it fitting that his name should be mentioned at that time, especially since Aikido is often called “The Art of Peace.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-2014) – a martial artist and warrior who made a difference