By Katelyn Gendron
HOLYOKE – When Thomas Osborn returned home from fighting as a member of the elite Special Forces A Team in Vietnam in 1966 he believed he was a 20-something ex-military stud. Little did he know his biggest battle would be with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Almost 50 years later, Osborn, founder of the nonprofit Keganin No Senshi Aikido, and author of “Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Holistic Approach,” is attempting to bring his philosophy of healing for veterans to the nation via a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. The $54,000 he’s hoping to raise would fund the expansion of his Aikido program beyond the Veterans Administration Center in Florence to veterans’ services officials nationwide.
“The purpose of every other martial art is to defeat someone but the purpose of Aikido is to deal with an aggressive situation and ensure that you’re in control,” Osborn explained to Reminder Publications
. “Aikido is the art of peace. You can’t bring peace to the world if you can’t bring peace to yourself. It only works if you’re relaxed and you’re calm. Then you take the energy of the aggressor and you don’t use it against them like other martial arts, when you settle your energy and blend it with their energy its brings you centered. It sounds silly and slightly absurd but when you watch Aikido practice you see what I mean.”
Osborn noted he has been practicing Aikido three to four times per week throughout the past 40 years. Having studied Karate while stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he was looking for a similar outlet upon is return to the U.S.
“When I got home I was still this young, you know, I thought fairly cool ex-GI young stud but family, friends who knew me then tell me that I was actually a particular bastard. I can remember there being pretty severe bouts of depression; crying jags for no purpose, really explosive anger for little or no reason. I had a couple of uncles who had served in combat in the Second World War who would tell me that combat fatigue and canon shock, all that kind of stuff, they said that’s bull. This is what happens to you when you come out of combat,” Osborn recalled.
Upon his retirement from the workforce several years ago, Osborn began to explore the possibility of helping other combat veterans with PTSD through Aikido, which is why, he said he penned his book and began teaching classes.
“One of the things that I find in common with most people with PTSD, is forgive the term, what I call ‘The Sh*ts’: This negative tension, energy, anger frustration that messes up you entire being. And one of the things you have to do to make Aikido work is you have to be able to take your energy and you have to be able what’s called center it. It’s a physical center of your body as well as an emotional, mental center for your body,” he said.
“Being able to explain to the vets to take that energy and relax it and move it down into your center and then to move through life from a relaxed position and then you’ve got this nice battery here full of energy. Now I’m going to show you ways to state to use it constructively, positively to deal with negative situations,” Osborn added, noting that often “the thing they’re [combat veterans] most afraid of is themselves.”
When asked what will happen if he doesn’t reach the fundraising goal by April 7, Osborn replied, “We’ll just keep chugging along like we have been.” Eventually, he said, the organization will raise the funds, which will be used to teach classes and train future Aikido instructors as well as provide them with an instructional DVD and other resources.
To make a contribution and to watch a video chronicling Osborn’s journey into the world of Aikido, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-healing-art-of-aikido-for-veterans-with-combat-related-ptsd
To learn more about Keganin No Senshi Aikido, visit www.keganinnosenshi.org