Our interview with September COMPASSION speaker, Judy Ringer - Author, Aikidoist, and Owner of Power & Presence Training in Portsmouth NH.
PKX: So what is Aikido for those that don’t know. And tell us about your journey with it.
Judy: I like to start things.
I have that start up, creative energy.
A lot of it.
So for me to have continued in this work for 24 years, it’s saying something.
I have to re-invent every little while, otherwise it gets repetitive.
First of all Aikido is a martial art. If you go to a studio like Portsmouth Aikido center, you’ll see people attacking. Throwing people around - and having a great time doing it. Most of the time people are smiling, because the difference is that instead of locking and punching back, your goal is to enter the line of attack and re-direct the energy. The goal is to disarm without harming. Major difference.
The first thing you learn in Aikido is how to fall down really graceful and bounce back up again. You fall down and get up about 150 times a session.
You learn how to roll with the punches.
How I got into it. I used to sell real estate for 13 years in the 70’s & 80’s. And I had conflict, like with any business. I had to learn how to do it by myself. I took a course out in Colorado showing how to use this Aikido metaphor - using Aikido OFF the mat. Blending and re-directing. I got excited about it and it took on a life on it’s own. I stopped selling real estate in 1992, took some time off, and gradually took Aikido myself up so I could understand how this works from the ground up.
I started teaching the principles of Aikido as a path toward conflict resolution:
- how to get out of the way of the attack
- how to blend with it
- how to join the energy
- how to re-direct it in ways that we can use verbally
I’m using Aikido technique when someone says “That is a stupid idea” and I say “Wait, what do you mean? Why don’t you like it?” As opposed to just saying “No it’s not!” So that is a simple example of Blending, Acknowledging, Re-directing.
I use it when I’m listening to someone too.
Instead of judging them, I’m using Aikido when I become curious instead, because that is Inviting Energy.
Now, I’ve painted an interesting picture, but can I show you?
PKX: Yeah, sure!
Judy: So you notice how I’m pushing you, right?
Judy: So that is the nature of conflict, right?
PKX: I see - yes.
Judy: But if you get out of the way, blend, join, and re-direct you can resolve conflict.
It’s a way to deal with everyday conflict and it’s human nature.
PKX: What do you say when someone asks you what is your profession?
Judy: I do still teach Aikido “on the mat,” the actual martial art, dress up in all the gear and all of that. But mostly what I tell people what I do is that I teach conflict and communications skills using principles of the martial art Aikido. My company is called Power & Presence Training.
In a nutshell, I help people regain power under pressure.
If you noticed, I didn’t ask you to do anything when we did the attack - I just changed myself. The main principle of Aikido is that you can’t make anybody else change.
But when we change ourselves everything changes.
So that’s the beauty of it.
Sometimes I say I’m a corporate communication skills trainer. I’m also an author. And in terms of the seacoast and how other people know me - I’m a singer. I give concerts every year.
I sang the national anthem at Fenway this year on July 31. It was incredible.
PKX: So our slogan is Everyone is Creative. Everyone is welcome. What inspires you as a creative person?
Judy: Connection. Whether I’m singing, practicing Aikido, teaching the principles - it’s about connecting with people. That’s why I liked the idea of doing something at CreativeMornings.
We have to learn how to be more creative with conflict.
We keep doing the same thing over and over again. So what inspires me is just to keep putting it out there: “hey, here is a different way.”
And it’s fun! Conflict doesn’t have to be so hard and heavy.
We can actually enjoy being compassionate and creative with something that seems so hard.
Our patterns are so ingrained around difficulty, around difficult people, that we keep enacting the same things.
PKX: How does the topic of compassion speak to you?
It feels obvious to all of us that compassion is sorely, sorely needed in our world. Anne Lamott says that “we are all in the emergency room together, some of us need more help than others.”
So it’s up to the ones of us who can see that, to do the helping.
If you call what I do helping or teaching or connecting - it’s all the same thing - it’s about compassion.
How to stop our initial reactions to judge, to fight back, to hit, to harm, and go “wait a minute? is this really me?”
One of key skills I teach in my workshops is a concrete idea of what “centering” means - to be able to center ourselves. Take a breath and decide if what I’m going to do next is going to be helpful, or not. I call that compassion.
We have to learn to be compassionate with ourselves in conflict.
Sometimes we just have to believe we did our best. And maybe next time we’ll do it different.
PKX: If you could open up a door to any place past, present, or future - where would you go?
Judy: The first person that jumps to my mind is Abraham Lincoln. I’d like to meet him! He was really smart person, and he knew how to use diversity so well. And talk about compassion - he really knew how to use it. I’d like to watch that happen.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak - real, imaginary, live, or deceased.
Judy: I would to go Abraham Lincoln again! Please fill me with your wisdom! What were the hard moments, how did you get through them? I would go for the Dalai Lama too.
We would go for the Dalai Lama too Judy!
Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Kurt Danielson, Founding Organizer & Head of Design of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.