Conflict Done Well for the Cadets of the UC Berkeley ROTC program

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I hope you will join me for training that will help you to meet your goals as an ROTC Cadet. This page is both an orientation to the principles we will be practicing at that time, and the beginning of an argument, a case I will make for a particular kind of conflict training I believe everyone needs in order to:

  1. Balance and deploy from a position of strength while under stress, including the stress of being a student
  2. Plan strategically and execute tactically as part of a team striving for excellence
  3. Transition between roles and assignments in a way that makes sense, for instance, between command and control environments and civilian life.

You have a limited amount of time. Some essential skills get enough training to make a good start, but many necessary capacities get less attention than they deserve. In my experience, the one essential skill that gets the least training is how to do conflict well. To be a part of any team, you need to be able to engage in conflict on purpose while under stress, staying relaxed, balanced, and ready to choose the options likely to work best for everyone involved. The only way to learn this is to practice it until you can embody it even when under attack.

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A martial art called aikido was created to make this training possible. It's purpose, from design to execution, is to use the physical self-defense techniques originally found in jujutsu to suggest the skills enumerated above and change how conflict works - the rules of engagement. For instance, a well known aikido and leadership professional, a Marine named Richard Strozzi-Heckler, wrote "In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciples to the Military" after working with Special Forces for an extended period. They learned that conflict is somatic, involving the whole person as one system, which is very different from the idea that efficiency follows increasing control of the body by the mind. They learned that physical and psychological practices are different ways of understanding and adjusting the same dynamic system, and incorporated increasingly subtle exercises in their elite training to increase their individual effectiveness and coherence as a team.

So that they can apply these practices to their learning, leadership, and longevity, after getting aikido started, my students move beyond the physical movement into real-time conflict practice that is also verbal and systemic. In this way, physical and psychological modes work together. Body-mind-spirit-soul move in concert to shift conflict's rules of engagement from habits of automatic fight/ flight/ freeze to responsive, natural movement toward solutions that work in the real world.

If you want to be truly ready when duty calls, to lead and follow well, get your balance back when you lose it, and do well in whatever you choose, then the way to get there is through practice. What you do with your limited time is, finally, up to you. Train to be ready to do conflict well.

Many thanks to the UC Berkeley ROTC leadership for this opportunity!

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