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Meet Lord BlackSword

  • Joseph Caulfield in his martial arts studio, or dojo, located in his home in Lyndeborough on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Abby Kessler/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Joseph Caulfield in his martial arts studio, or dojo, located in his home in Lyndeborough. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Joseph Caulfield in his martial arts studio, or dojo, which is located in his home in Lyndeborough.  Courtesy photo—

  • Joseph Caulfield performs an aikido move on Jon Beyer in Caulfield’s martial arts studio, or dojo, which is located in his home in Lyndeborough.  Courtesy photo

  • Joseph Caulfield during a recent trip to the Philippines. Courtesy photo—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, May 04, 2017

Tucked into the back section of attorney Joseph Caulfield’s rambling home in Lyndeborough is a room called the dojo.

The room’s floor is covered in a red-and-black mat, and a long mirror, Japanese calligraphy, and wooden swords hang from its walls.

It’s the room where Caulfield practices aikido, a form of martial arts.

On a recent Wednesday, Caulfield – who is a practicing lawyer, mediator, online professor, magician and aikido teacher – picked up one of the wooden swords from the wall and started performing a series of martial arts moves.

Dressed in his full lawyer attire, Caulfield moved from one position to the next wielding a practice sword. Even though he was a distance away, it was evident that with a few swift movements he could effortlessly put you in some kind of hard-to-get-out-of lock or even pin you to the ground.

“I can gently bring someone down, I can bring someone down harder, I can pin them, I can break one finger, I can break a wrist,” Caulfield said. “I have that option with aikido.”

Aikido is a practice that originated in Japan and combines a dynamic range of movements, philosophy and religious beliefs.

It focuses not on striking an opponent, but redirecting the opponent’s energy to gain control over them. Caulfield said you never meet force with force in the practice.

“It’s all about evasive body movements,” he said likening the practice to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, a duo of characters from the Looney Tunes, where the coyote is always attempting to catch and eat the bird, but is never successful.

That being said, you can still inflict a fair amount of pain using aikido if necessary. He said the practice has helped him physically get by in the world, and while he said he has been in fights before, aikido has been more helpful in more common occurrences. Times like when he was at Disney World, slipped, and took a fall that could have cracked his head if he had landed wrong. Caulfield said he was able to avoid the situation through movement similar to that practiced in aikido, which saved him from being seriously injured.

More, he said, the same aggression you see in the physical world, you may see in the verbal world.

As a mediator, he sees this all the time. He gave a generic example of a couple going through a divorce and fighting about who should have custody of their child on the weekends. The parties may come in thinking that they’re fighting over custody, but Caulfield said that’s rarely what it’s about — it’s generally about control.

“I’m able to look beyond what the people say and figure out what their true needs are and move them from what their true needs are to a period of reconciliation,” he said. “Just as if it were a physical attack I would try to move it to an equilibrium. With mediation I try to do the same thing, I try to move the parties to equilibrium.”

On a recent business trip to the Philippines, Caulfield was invited to train some of the corporation’s employees in self-defense. About 20 people, most with no prior martial-arts experience, took advantage of the opportunity. Some women told Caulfield they had previously felt helpless because of their size, but after the 90-minute session, felt more confident that they could defend themselves. 

Jon Beyer, who lives in New Ipswich, has been practicing aikido with Caulfield since 1993.

He said he got into the practice knowing a little bit about martial arts, but not much about aikido. Beyer said he was filled with anger as a young person, and knew basic brawl moves when he started aikido.

But, like Caulfield, he said aikido became more than that.

“What happens is as you continue, it transitions from physical, to mental to spiritual,” Beyer said.

In the mental stage, he said, you become aware that what’s happening in the physical world can be applied to the verbal world.

“Most people scream back in a verbal argument, but you learn to listen to what people are saying and redirect their actions to a better solution,” Beyer said.

He said he’s used those techniques in everyday occurrences, from interaction with co-workers, to people at the grocery store, to dealing with your own road rage.

Later on in the practice, Beyer said, aikido becomes a spiritual self defense.

And that is what sets Caulfield’s practice away from others. Beyer said many forms of martial arts never go beyond the physical.

“This is a lifelong journey,” he said. “You never get to the point where you can’t learn any more.”

Caulfield added that he has also gained courage from aikido.

“I’m incredibly shy, people don’t realize that about me, but it requires a lot of energy for me to function in the world,” Caulfield said. “Before aikido, I was useless in the courtroom, I was too afraid. But I think through aikido I developed that presence and that calmness and that courage.”

It’s hard to imagine that the statement could be true, especially when Caulfield is cloaked as his alter-ego Lord BlackSword, who performs magic in front of live audiences. He especially enjoys mystery dinner performances that can include Victorian, Jack-the-Ripper, or Titanic themes.

His father – who was a well-known lawyer in Boston – performed magic when Caulfield was a child. Later in life, he became interested in the medium as well.

He said magic is an art form, and one that has largely been lost. Caulfield said he’s more interested in evoking emotion than receiving a thunderous applause from his performances.

“What I’m trying to do is bring other emotions out of my audience, maybe sadness. Maybe they remember a lost love, maybe freight, maybe joy, maybe they remember the birth of their first child or something like that,” he said.

Caulfield said he strives to make it look like the magic is happening by itself, and when the audience is surprised by it, he likes to share in that transcendent moment.

It’s a human moment, a connection. And that’s part of his purpose in addition to teaching, helping, and fighting for people.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.