What Is the Purpose of War?

It is easy enough to join the chorus condemning war. Why is it, however, that throughout its history Man has never been able to do without it? Taken from André Cognard’s “Living without Enemy“, the latest publication by Aikido Italia Network Publishing, here is a brief look at why war and violence have always been our most trusted companions


Apart from a few lost souls who are unaware of their cynicism, no one approves of war in absolute terms, since everyone can see the suffering, the losses and the lacerations it causes.

However, before we all join in a great and intense chorus of condemnation, we should first of all note that violence, and the arbitrariness it implies, are apparently the only means Man has found to resolve conflicts that cannot be resolved through diplomacy, common sense, empathy between human beings, or time. We note here that, when faced with conflict, we touch on the limits of human thought. It is history, then, that forces us to accept the idea that war is a means of maintaining the world’s balance.
As long as a man thinks he can exercise a right to just violence, war is an accepted relational pattern. Hagakure tells us about tsujigiri, a tradition that consisted of testing swords or trying one’s hand on the condemned.

Yamamoto Kichizaemon was ordered by his father Jin’-emon to cut down a dog at the age of five, and at the age of fifteen he was made to execute a criminal. Everyone, by the time they were fourteen or fifteen, was ordered to do a beheading without fail. When Lord Katsushige was young, he was ordered by Lord Naoshige to practise killing with a sword. It is said that at that time he was made to cut down more than ten men successively.
A long time ago this practice was followed, especially in the upper classes, but today even the children of the lower classes perform no executions, and this is extreme negligence. To say that one can do without this sort of thing, or that there is no merit in killing a condemned man, or that it is a crime, or that it is defiling, is to make excuses. In short, can it not be thought that because a person’s martial valour is weak, his attitude is only that of trimming his nails and being attractive?
If one investigates into the spirit of a man who finds these things disagreeable, one sees that this person gives himself over to cleverness and excuse making not to kill because he feels unnerved. But Naoshige made it his orders exactly because this is something that must be done.
Last year I went to the Kase Execution Grounds to try my hand at beheading, and I found it to be an extremely good feeling. To think that it is unnerving is a symptom of cowardice.

It is but a question of culture, and in a feudal system where lords had the power to be judge and executioner, our narrator is right. The point is another. Which culture do we want to live in? What difference is there with the executions ordered by the country that claims to be the champion of democracy? None, violence is the law. It’s just a matter of habit:

A man who had cut off fifty heads once said, “According to the head, there are cases when even the trunk of a body will bring some reaction to you. Cutting off just three heads, at first there is no reaction and you can cut well. But when you get to four or five, you feel quite a bit of reaction. At any rate, since this is a very important matter, if one always plans on bringing the head to the ground there should be no mistakes.”

The development of sophisticated machines that inject poisons during the execution of death sentences is remarkable progress towards that “no mistake”. This is what civilisation is all about…
War and violence are inseparable and we will not answer the question of the utility of the former without understanding how the latter is produced, developed and spread. All hatred is an engine of violence and is justified by a system of thought that is doubly linked to the question of identity. All hatred is legitimate according to personal, group, ethnic or social culture, since it is always strongly rooted in the surprising idea that defending an individual or collective identity, even through violence, is normal.

The idea of just violence is also linked to a belief in the truth of identity. We would each be the expression of some kind of truth about ourselves, and our culture would be the expression of a just view of the world. This subject of the world, the object of our consciences, is widely shared by men and constitutes the archetype of every creed. The dogmas that have created the most violence are those that have aimed at a universal value through a universal outlook. They all defended justice and peace, in the name of the right to well-being and happiness, whose corollary is the possibility of living without violence. They all resulted in violence. The benevolent speeches about love have ended. Or, they are still being uttered by some with weapons in their hands. They all had in common a vision of man based on the right to enjoy peace, as if his nature was good and he was only a victim of conflict.

Believing in the right to the truth about oneself actually expresses doubts about being, and wars are fought over the way of being. Reassuring oneself about being: this is the object of all combat, and even conflicts over territory or power, revolve around the occupation of inner spaces abandoned to doubt. (…)

Read more on the topic by purchasing “Living Without Enemy

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André Cognard – Living Without Enemy
The Budo Classics #1

In this philosophical essay steeped in body practice, Aikido teacher André Cognard discusses Eastern traditional martial arts by exploring his own history, perceptions and emotions.
Cognard dwells in particular on the areas concerning the relationship with others and the conflicts that inevitably arise with them. In a direct and effective way, the author does not present us with “the object of a sudden revelation, but rather the fruit of a slow evolutionary process due to a laborious, humble practice, studded with failed attempts and repeated with a doggedness that sometimes defies reason”.
André Cognard tells us that “Living Without Enemy” is possible and that the way to reach such a state through martial arts is through the awareness that they have evolved and continue to do so.
André Cognard analyses conflict, present and past violence, the inner enemy, bodily identity, friends, enemies, and hatred. Explaining the pivotal words in martial arts, he offers us a decalogue for learning to serve and be free, to respect, acknowledge, accept, thank and love.
The author explains how essential is the concept of transforming energies within oneself: anger, anxiety, fear can indeed be fully mastered and lead to new and potentially enriching circumstances. It is therefore necessary to know how to work on oneself: this book effectively shows how to manage our fears of the unknown. Because our first enemy is within ourselves!
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