In early 2013 I was invited to teach two joint one-day seminars, together with my friend - Aikido teacher Miles Kessler. One seminar was scheduled for Tel Aviv and the other one in Bir Nabala, near Ramallah. Miles Kessler Sensei is the founder and director of Aikido Without Borders (AWB) and senior teacher at the Integral Dojo in Tel Aviv.
The Integral Dojo is the heart of Tel Aviv’s emerging Integral Practice Community. It is the home of Integral Aikido and Integral Meditation, as well as host to a variety of Integral Practice gatherings and workshops. With ongoing daily classes in Aikido, movement and meditation, the Integral Dojo offers top quality guidance led by Miles, together with his team of talented instructors, who provide a quality experience for those on the path of practice.
As the only martial art that is 100% life affirming, Aikido offers a path of practice that develops the capacity for conflict resolution, self-empowerment and the continued realization of one’s higher potential. There are daily classes for all levels covering the techniques, principles, and spiritual aspects of the Aikido path.
AWB is a registered non-profit organization that combines the practice of Aikido conflict resolution, community, responsibility and youth leadership. Aikido is an excellent medium for bringing youth from opposing sides of a conflict to build community and forge lasting friendships. By systematically teaching young people on both sides of the conflict concrete and positive replacements for violence, hatred, and aggression we give clear and valuable non-violent alternatives to crises and conflict. Furthermore, by bringing these young people together to have joint trainings in Aikido and conflict resolution, AWB is creating new and lasting connections that provide prospects for a more peaceful future.
On a Friday in early March we rented two cars and drove to Ramallah to conduct the first one-day seminar. 25 students attended, mostly local Palestinians, plus a few guest foreign students. The seminar was very well appreciated and following midday prayers in the local mosque, a traditional chicken/rice lunch was served. It was wonderful to see how grateful the students were to share in the joy and brotherhood of this communal Aikido event. Driving home later in the evening we saw the conditions on both sides of the parting walls and the stark reality hit us as to the real problems Israelis and Palestinians are facing, which must be overcome through joint effort.
Bjorn and Miles at the AWB Aikido Seminar in Bir Nabala
The next day, Saturday, Miles and I jointly held a day-seminar in his dojo in Tel Aviv for his Israeli and foreign students. This was well attended and I managed to video film most of it so I could show my own students back in London, UK, when I returned a few days later.
Kids class at the Tel Aviv dojo
To complete my visit to the Holy Land, Miles had arranged for me to teach an evening class on Sunday at the Jerusalem Aikido Aikikai dojo, where I met both Israelis and Palestinians training together. What a joyous evening! I have made many new friends on both sides of the wall, all sharing the same smile and comradeship. Aikido is such a neutral ground where conflict ends naturally. And this is the whole ethos behind the art of Aikido itself; Aikido is the art of Love in action.