Commonalties in The Therapeutic Process and The Practice of Aikido

A Personal Experience

As both Aikido instructor and practitioner, I am often amazed at the commonalities between the practice of Aikido, and the therapeutic process.  The objective in Aikido is to join one’s personal ki (energy) with universal ki to achieve harmony (ai). Aikido stresses working with a partner, rather than wrestling or fighting against an opponent while blending movements and breathing which physically creates harmony from conflict. Aikido training emphasizes form, mutual cooperation, awareness of others, and the coordination of the body’s movement with a calm state of mind while working to establish access to a psychophysiological state in which one can respond quickly, precisely, and calmly to physical attacks, including those by multiple attackers.

In Aikido training, challenges are seen as opportunities, the attack is a gift and a way of joining in mutual problem-solving. We do not attempt to meet force with force or confrontation. Instead, we work to blend without resistance to guide the force of an attack in a more positive direction or peaceful outcome. This humanistic approach to problem-solving eliminates the concept of there being an enemy.  Concepts of entering instead of retreating or freezing, blending instead of resisting, breathing, focus, self-awareness along with awareness of your partner and your surroundings are only successful if you can create and maintain a connection.

Aikido and the Therapeutic Process

In therapy, many of these Aikido philosophies help me see my client’s as a person first, not as their diagnosis/disability. My partner or challenger if you will, is the client and I must enter into a mutual problem-solving process with the client in which all interactions are seen as opportunities. Blending with the energy my clients give provides flexibility; where I accept the energy of my client to guide them toward their exploration of more productive thinking and/or behaviors. This blended maneuvering is done with the intent to help my clients produce constructive change. In other words, I use what they give me, as much like in the practice of Aikido, and counseling approach, rigidity to a specific technique limits my ability to accept the client’s own problem-solving style, likely resulting in no client progress. As a therapist, I try to always remain aware of my need to accommodate my therapeutic techniques and language to that of the client. It is in this way a relationship of mutual respect and problem-solving is created.

A competent therapist needs to deal effectively, powerfully, and caringly with their clients, often in potentially volatile and highly charged emotional situations. Because Aikido deals specifically with conflict and peaceful resolution, its philosophy and practice methods are helpful in keeping me grounded, centered, and connected within myself while simultaneously being more sensitive and aware of my clients.


About Bradd Buckingham, M.A., LPC-R; Resident in Counseling: 

Bradd is currently a resident in counseling providing counseling services at our Fredericksburg location and is actively pursuing his license in Professional Counseling (LPC). He is a recent graduate of The University of the Cumberlands with a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, having completed a demanding internship working with individuals and couples at Fredericksburg Counseling Services.   Bradd specializes in working with individuals with complex trauma, personality disorders, anxiety, and depression and can offer a safe environment for individuals and families in the LGBTQ community, as well as individuals with a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. 

Bradd brings a unique skill set to his residency including military service, over a decade of work in the defense industry, experience working in the community as a substitute teacher, as well as being a teacher/mentor for at-risk children and adolescents. In addition to his work as a therapist, Bradd is an Assistant Instructor (2nd Degree Black Belt) at Aikido in Fredericksburg. 


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