Understanding and Resolving Conflict Peacefully

As you have seen in today’s world, there are bullies everywhere – at home, at school, in offices, among nations. There are ongoing attempts to stop the fighting, stop battles, and stop wars, yet they still go on. As we proposed in previous exhibits, we need to ask not only our students, but also ourselves: “What creates these battles? Is the cause outside myself – with whom I perceive as "the enemy"– or does the battle begin in my brain?” Once we understand how a fight begins, where it starts – we can stop it.

When we see that we are the source of conflict, we need to not put the responsibility to understand this on other people – but on our selves.

As we have said, the only way to prevent wars from happening is to begin inside ourselves – to actually see the cause of battle in our brain in the way we have been conditioned to think, for it is the prejudicial conditioned images of the “enemy,” due to the divisively destructive nature of ethnocentric superiority, that create war.

As we have observed, the source of this conditioning comes from our primitive brain’s reaction to feeling a threat to its survival.

As previous exhibits have pointed out this impulse, or compulsion to bully, is biologically and genetically based, built into us for survival — to protect ourselves from a person or group we believe is a threat to us. We therefore are conditioned to see bullying as paradoxically necessary for our survival – survival of the fittest. Also, anyone within the group who seems weak becomes a threat to the survival of the group and is perceived as someone who needs to be eliminated — or bullied — out of the group. We shun, we intimidate, we bully all in the misguided name of survival. What will free us from this compulsion of the survival of the fittest?

What is of upmost importance is to see that conflict created by conditioned thinking emanating from the biological brain is identically the same in all human beings. In other words – conflict is conflict – war is war. It is essentially the same in everyone since the human brain is fundamentally alike structurally. It works alike for every person. The content is different in each one but the brain is anatomically similar in all human beings, thus what happens to me happens to us all.

Self-understanding is understanding the whole human race, for we are the world and the world is us. And this fundamental maladaptive drive to survive has been going on since humans started their journey on this earth, trying to stay alive in world that was harsh and threatening. Humans have been at war with themselves in this way since the start, having biologically inherited a brain with an inborn hard drive that is driving the human race to its destruction. As an old saying goes, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

It’s not knowledge that will free us but rather seeing the actual movement of this compulsion within ourselves in the way we have been conditioned to think in this divisive way, for it is knowledge, motivated by the primitive biological brain, that separates us and creates conflict.

We now need to ask, “Is it possible that the Martial Arts can address this fundamental source of human conflict? If we see its importance, can we then create an environment of inquiry that will introduce young people to the bully within? Or is this too intellectual and therefore only for the “experts”?”

Teaching conflict prevention skills to young people is vitally important. Yet it is almost totally overlooked. If we are truly concerned about our children's welfare as they grow up, we must take the issue of understanding conflict seriously. If we want to bring about a safe and peaceful world, we must help them develop alternative methods to our instinctual primal reactions to fear. The terrible violence that is going on in the world today, the thousands of years of wars we've suffered, as we have seen, is stimulated at least in part by our primitive fight or flight animalistic behavior.

This can be addressed in the Martial Arts by teaching young people how to defend themselves so that they don’t have to fight, because they have also learned to avoid and resolve conflict by nonviolent, alternative means as their first two lines of defense.

We must help young people understand and creatively, nondestructively deal with conflict. We educate young people in math, science, language, history, sports, and a multitude of other subjects. Why not in understanding conflict? A few concerned adults who have addressed this issue of teaching young people how to cope with conflict have made good beginnings. Some have tried to show young people intellectually how to get out of conflict. For example, some teachers have demonstrated ways of talking one's way out. Others have taught children to defend themselves physically in the hope that this would deter a bully's attempt to hurt them.

We have rarely combined the two - the mental with the physical. Together they provide a complete approach to solving conflict. Many people resist teaching young children to physically defend themselves since they think that violence only breeds more violence. If we teach only self-defence, then the outcome may well be only violence. But if we also teach young people nonviolent alternatives to conflict (through role-playing), then children will be capable of coming up with more creative ways of dealing with potentially hostile situations.

Undoubtedly, the effects of these skills taught in youth will naturally have an effect on adult life. Understanding the fundamental causes of conflict, as well as learning to avoid, resolve and manage conflict at an early age, will also increase the chance of young people entering adulthood with a more intelligent and nonviolent understanding of relationships. A young person taught to understand and deal with conflict knows that violence is not an acceptable way to resolve the problems of relationships.

Martial Arts training can be a unique and successful way to deal intelligently with conflict provided that both physical and mental skills are taught together. As a parent, I want my children to learn these skills to intelligently and humanely protect themselves from harm. As a Martial Arts teacher, I know that these skills can be incorporated within the daily operation of a Martial Arts school. I have taught this approach for more than 40 years and have seen it work. Having been a school administrator, I know that programs combining a healthy discipline in Martial Arts training, accompanied by developing nonviolent alternatives, can be incorporated into the overall school structure. Parents know that children can be taught to successfully cope with violence in nonviolent, creative ways, because they have seen it happen in the many Martial Arts schools that are teaching Mental Martial Arts along with physical self-defense training. And that is why these schools are successful – because they are meeting the real needs of society, to help young people understand and resolve conflict peacefully—the ART of the Martial Arts.

In order to do this, we need appropriate materials to teach these skills. In the resources that follow we focus mainly on psychological conditioning originally emanating from the primitive brain in its misguided intent for survival. It is at this level in conditioned thought that the conflict is best recognized and more readily dealt with.

Martial Arts for Peace


Ancient Warriors