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 meet your educational and service goals. This page is both an orientation to the principles we will be testing, and the beginning of an argument, a case I will make for a particular kind of practice, 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 and service member

  2. Plan strategically and execute tactically as part of a team striving to both meet requirements and excel

  3. Transition between roles and assignments in a way that makes sense, for instance, moving between command environments and civilian life.

Everyone has a limited amount of time. Some essential skills get enough training to make a good beginning. Many necessities 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, especially in a conflict environment, 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 under the worst circumstances.

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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 shift 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 simply follows increasing control of the body by the mind. They learned that physical and psychological practices are distinct but inseparable ways of understanding and adjusting one whole, dynamic system, and incorporated more subtle exercises in their elite training to increase their individual effectiveness and coherence as a team.

After getting aikido started, my students move beyond the physical movement into real-time conflict practice that is also verbal and systemic so that they can apply these practices to their learning, leadership, and longevity. In this way, physical and psychological modes begin to work together. What before seemed separate is connected: body/mind/spirit/soul moves 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. Please train with us, so you can be ready to do conflict well.

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

Brandon Williamscraig Ph.D., Aikido 5th dan


Brandon Kendogi lateral