Martial arts and personal development: conflict from thread to a source of wisdom

When I first heard about Aikido, I was fascinated by the concept of reversing the energy of the attack to the attacker, defending oneself without needing to be particularly strong. As a woman I have always been fearful when walking in the city, alone, at night,  and I regretted not having started Aikido 40 years before I actually did. It is a fascinating discipline and has – at least – helped me to not being afraid of falling.

What has Aikido to do with Integral Theory? I was attracted to both, but only lately I fully understand the connection.  I found out that, in several places of the world, advanced Aikido practitioners have created “Integral Dojos” where they combine both practices. Miles Kessler in Israel and Patrick Cassidy in Switzerland and other places in the world.

“Evolutionary Aikido”, practicing Aikido in an advanced mindset, is the secret. Traditionally martial arts are taught in an authoritarian way, which was one of the reasons why I stopped my practice. But when we liberate the practice from the dust of tradition and explore the “higher stages of development”, it becomes clear that it is much more than a mere training in martial arts. It becomes a means for self development; for personal and spiritual growth which includes body, mind, spirit, intuition, creativity, aesthetics,  the whole spectrum of beingness.

Patrick Cassidy is a full time Aikido teacher of a very high rank. He is connecting integral thought with the discipline and cross fertilises both. From the Aikido framework he has derived a convincing model for the levels of development which, in my opinion, excels the usual ones as presented by integral theory or spiral dynamics. It is very descriptive in the labels (e.g. “fighter”, “soldier” etc. the basic beliefs at each level are understood immediately, as well as how conflict is experienced at the respective levels. But the very best feature is the arrangement of the levels in concentric circles which makes very clear that there is not “Higher” vs. “Lower” (which often is understood as “better vs. worse”, but that all these levels are permanently present and included in the next higher level. A genius move which resolves the constant criticism and which deserves to become main stream in integral circles.

I am glad that Patrick accepted my invitation to talk with me about his developmental model, inspired by Aikido. Do take the time to listen to the whole conversation! If you prefer to pick certain parts: I have provided time stamps for you where you can read where in the video we talk about what. enjoy!

In the  ONLINE SALON of “Integrales Forum”  July 17th, 2019


0:00 Heidi introduces the topic “Evolutionary development of our identity with conflict”

1:00 Patrick introduces himself: Aikido and Martial arts since childhood: theme: how do we face conflict on the physical level. Living in Japan, meditation, yoga, tea ceremony. The Dojo in California as full time Aikido teacher, then moved to Switzerland, dojo in Montreux. 

3:50 “Evolutionary Aikido Community”. Aikido as catalyst for human evolution. Human development and spiritual awakening.

6:00 Crisis is a stimulation for evolution. We can chose how we wont to evolve to. How we evolve as individuals, social structure, humanity. The reason for the map we will be talking about.

7:04 Heidi about the integral models, her experience with Aikido, which should be taught in school. The naming of the levels of development in Patricks map is inspiring.

8:45 Patrick starts to explain his model. Primary relationship with conflicht<. The vision of the “SURVIVOR”. Primary question: Life or death. The fundamental ground of conflict.

11:12 Heidi: when being attacked: the impils is driven by the survival state.

11:40 The larger circle accompasses the surval level. Possibility to relate to conflict in a different way: Evolved conflict which allows us to win or lose instead of survive or die. FIGHTER. Possibilizy of sports, channeling the energy in different ways deal with confliuct without killing each other = important step in evolution.  Value: win or loose

14:30 Heidi: Don Beck and Loraine Laubscher in Southafrica, preventing civil war.

15:00 Patrick talks about a study done on rats: releasing trauma by releasing it. When it is not possible, cancer is developed. Creative ways to process trauma instead of keeping it in the system. We need to understand what we are doing and not just pass on the trauma to future generations as we have done throughout history.

17:00 Going on t: Value structure of the fighter can prevail on that of the survivor: Being committed to win which can override the survival instinct: Honored as heros. Heidi: also parents with children. 

18:40 Patrick: we often override our own health for achieving skills or competition. Needs of physical and psychological health can be overriden by the determination of the ego to win.

19:50 Heidi: The ego expression is the fighter? Patrick responds. Being successful in competition is a place for the ego in a good way.

21:15 Dealing with conflict: not only protecting the physical body, but protecting our self image, our story, our identity as a culture, nation, nlot truly associated with our physical health.

22:25 The third circle: evolution of the fighter into the SOLDIER. Value structure, beyond needing to win, but being part of a larger structure where I fit and get connected with the power of that structure. The soldier knows his place, is here to do his job. Values: right – wrong. Duty tells what I need to do, not the individual need of a fighter. Solders do things where they know that they may not win and not even survive.

26:40 Here martial arts began to be not only fighting techniques, but an artform.

27:50 Heidi: since when is Aikido in the present way? Patrick responds. With a brief history of martial arts.

28:30 Heidi: parallel to spiral dynamics? Successful approach to solder: Rome, not clear if there is a correlation. Did Aikido originate in survival/ fighter mentality? Evolution from lower stages

30:30 Story of the founder of modern Aikido. He himself evolved through these stages. Spiritual insight brought him to a shift in consciousness which transformed his relationship to conflict (expressed in the next circle) which then became Aikido and which then dropped down and  became organised down at the soldier level. Creativity now can come in only at the masterÄs level, before traditional and right way of doing is key.

36:15 Similarity to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Arriving to the needs of the whole, individuals take responsibility of their actions: value: true or false, appropriate and in relationship to moment and the systems I am existing in? Level of the WARRIOR. Somebody independent in their discernment and developing capacity to handle conflict on a more subtle basis. Sacrifice their lives when in special relationship. Accessing the space beyond their personal needs.

40:00 Creativity. Going beyond right and wrong, cultural norms. New ways of relating to systemic challenges. “True for US, (not only ME)”

44:50 Heidi: Art and Music: first follow the rules, then step up and embody your art.

45:45 P: timing of the need to step up. Waiting for permission is still out of right/wrong. Som etimes you need to do the step before you feel that you are ready.

47:30 Example: writing Poetry

48:40 In US: people want to go into creative stage and skip the soldier stage. Limits the capacity. Importance to digest the intelligence of ALL levels.

49:50 warrior: True or false? Next level question: Is it whole or incomplete? Have I left something out? What is the biggest picture? Systemic perspective. “The Integrator/ Healer” 

52:50 The Evolver. Need to integrate the whole question: is the system evolving? Movement into the unknown. Birth of a new form of life, of consciousness, of function. Spiritual recognition, manifests in integrated state. Unless the integration is complete, evolution cannot take the whole system into the next level.

55:55 Heidi: can we consciously evolve?

Patrick: Soldier: repeating the past. Evolving means moving into territory which you do not know yet. Suspend the need to know. When integrated the whole structure/ perspectives, we can evolve. Need to access the intelligence of the levels. I.e. climate change needs intelligence of the survivor. We normally address these topics on a different level.

1:00:15 Heidi: Integral practice. Aikido is special and ideal, includes so many capacities, integrated. Patrick’s system: Integration body intelligence, emotional, cognitive, relational intelligences. You and I =we, which is part of who I am. Different dimensions and align with the new territory: potentially practiced in Aikido.

1:05:20 Relationship with conflict can change: threat>problem>challenge>opportunity>source, catalyst for growth. > source for wisdom

E.g. Climate change from “Thread” to source of wisdom: to embrace to find a relationship to it!

1:05:15 Where we are today? Still human tendency to create another group as being the problem. Always somebody else is the problem. Integral perspective: that is just LIFE trying to figure itself out. As long as others are the problem, enemies,  we create division and get stuck. We need to see the topic from all levels! Not only survive, but evolve.

1:10:00 Heidi: solution of the problems: depends on our individual growing up.


About Patrick Cassidy

Patrick Cassidy founded the Conscious Practice Institute in 2011. 30 years ago, after 4 years studying Aeronautical Engineering in California, Patrick spent 7 years in Japan learning the art of Aikido fulltime.  During that period he also included meditation, yoga and the art of Japanese Tea Ceremony. After Japan, he spent a total of 4 years travelling through India, Nepal and Tibet, deepening his understanding of Yoga, Meditation and Spiritual practice.  His travels led him to studying with many of the foremost spiritual teachers in Asia. The next step led to founding his first Aikido, Yoga and Meditation school in California.   During his time in California he created conflict resolution, centering and health programs for the California State University, Pacific Insurance, Sandia National Laboratory, and other institutions.  After California, he moved to Switzerland to open with his wife Dominique, his second Aikido, Yoga and Meditation school.   After opening, they created the Conscious Practice Institute, which features the program, Conscious Conflict Resolution.  This program is specifically designed for caregivers in psychiatric institutions facing conflict and aggression in their daily work lives. Since Patrick’s arrival in Switzerland he has created team building and vision programs for Credit Agricole, Phillip Morris, and Swisscom.  He has worked with the University Hospital in Geneva to create a comprehensive violence management program for the whole staff.  The Institute has also offered Conscious Conflict Resolution programs with the Foundation Claire Magnin, Foundation Domus, and Haute Ecole de Sante, Valais (HES-SO).

He is currently working now with the Center for Psychiatry in Neuchatel, Foundation Nant and the Hospital in Valais, Monthey providing the program of Conscious Conflict Resolution for their caregivers. Besides being the Director of the Conscious Practice Institute, Patrick is currently a 6th degree black belt in Aikido, professional Yoga instructor, Meditation facilitator, personal and corporate coach, as well as a supervisor teacher of 19 Aikido schools worldwide. (from



About the Author:

HEIDI HORNLEIN is the leading force behind the Association “Il Paradiso Integrale”. She has lived for more than 30 years in Umbria, Italy. She works as a coach both online and in the Paradiso Integral. She runs the Wisdom Factory´s live webinars alone or with other co-hosts after her husband and collaborator Mark Davenport passed away in 2018. She enjoys talking with people who want to share their experience, knowledge and wisdom with the world.

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