Budo for Peace

The Budo for Peace Association (BFPA) promotes inter-religious and inter-ethnic tolerance and understanding.  BFPA is intended to instil self-confidence and inner harmony in young participants; to teach them how to break down barriers of hatred and distrust; and, as a result, help them develop into young ambassadors promoting the values of peace.

50 BFP members from Jaffa, Jerusalem,  and Abu Quidar  for web

Background

In the Middle East, where mutual suspicion rules, Danny Hakim had a vision: dismantling each group’s negative perceptions by arranging meetings between Israeli and Palestinian youths.
Well aware that circumstances in Israel and the Palestinian Territories present scant opportunities for peaceful meetings, Danny, a 6th dan karate do, maintained his steadfast vision because it included budo. It’s a Japanese word which, although can be loosely translated as ‘martial arts’, literally has a more resonant meaning: ‘the way of stopping conflict’.

Budo (which includes the arts of karate-do, judo, aikido and kendo) has an appeal for both boys and girls, fostering self-confidence, discipline, mutual respect and cooperation. It emphasises physical endurance, strength and flexibility, agility, hand-eye coordination, balance and timing as well as improving an individuals self-awareness and self-confidence.

And so Budo for Peace Association (BFPA) was born, a non-profit organisation promoting inter-religious and inter-ethnic tolerance and understanding. BFPA is intended to instil self-confidence and inner harmony in young participants; to teach them how to break down barriers of hatred and distrust; and, as a result, help them develop into young ambassadors promoting the values of peace.
In the dojos (training centres), students are encouraged to regard one another not as opponents, but as equal partners, with guidance encompassing the notion of positive peace (more than simply the absence of war, it includes respect, harmony and self-control).

BFPA runs three different projects during the year, all interconnected: an annual international event (held outside Israel), open to young Budo practitioners from conflict areas around the world; a training programme and the Twinned Dojos Programme, funded by One to One Israel.

The Twinned Dojos Programme

kiryat gat gojo 2

In this sense, ‘twinning’ means pairing dojos in areas divided by conflict, and are established in Jewish and Arab Israeli towns and in Palestinian villages. Participants are local youth who have never previously learned martial arts. Funding contributes to the instruction fees, dojo rental and purchase of mats and training uniforms. Each dojo is led by a sensei (instructor) and senpais (senior grades), who  are members of Budo for Peace, with special training to impart budo principles to students. In addition to their budo training, youth from twinned dojos are brought together every few months to participate in joint budo and conflict resolution games and activities.

Since January 2005, Budo for Peace, in partnership with One to One, have successfully established three dojos in:

  • Bueina-Nujeidat, an Israeli Arab village near Tiberias, attended by 24 Israeli Arab students;
  • Al-Essawaya, a Palestinian Arab town in East Jerusalem, attended by 20 Palestinian Arab students;
  • Be-ersheva, attended by 18 Jewish Israeli students.

The launch

kiryat gat gojo 3

The project’s inaugural event was held on Tuesday, February 8, 2005 in Ra’anana, Israel, attended by karate instructors and students from the three dojos, as well as representatives from One to One Children’s Fund, the Japanese Embassy and Ra’anana’s Mayor. BFPA’s Danny and Paul Hakim led a series of joint karate training and fun social activities.

Bi-monthly training events for the twinned dojos

While the teaching of karate skills is an objective, it’s not the main objective. The fundamental aim of the project is to develop ‘peace ambassadors’ open to joint endeavours between Palestinians and Israelis. Karate is the medium through which students can identify with concepts of coexistence and co-operation, while undergoing an educational programme including the study of a language. Accordingly, participants are graded not on sporting skills but on overall character and acceptance of peace values.

Bi-monthly training events are held at the Wingate Institute for Sport and Physical Education near Netanya, attended by all 60 of the Twinned Dojo students and their senseis. Participants arrive early Friday morning and sleep overnight at the hotel in mixed rooms, returning home on Saturday evening. Events, including a broad range of martial arts and peace activities, are attended by guest instructors and facilitators from a number of different fields including karate, other martial arts and Japanese art forms, such as calligraphy. Joint team games and conflict resolution activities play a large part in the weekend’s programme, building confidence and instilling feelings of mutual respect.

Next

Jaffa, January 2006: BFPA opened the first of a planned series of mixed dojos situated in mixed ethnic communities areas in Israel, where both Jewish and Arab students will train and learn together as partners. Further centres are being established in Galilee, the outskirts of Jerusalem and in the Negev region (plans envisage 12 dojos catering for 250 students by the end of 2006 and considerable expansion beyond, part-funded by One to One Israel).

The plan is to evaluate all dojos and the educational programme in 2008 and to plan further expansion in the light of the evaluation.

We believe this kind of interaction at grassroots level can make a contribution to peace in the Middle East. If our belief is confirmed by evaluation we hope to extend this unique programme by opening additional dojos in other countries in the Middle East.