Ai-ki-do. (Harmony – Spirit – Way).
What is generally practised world wide as ‘Aikido’, is in fact not really Aikido per se. Rather it is a mixture of ‘techniques’ gleaned from various martial arts (depending upon the individuals experiences). These are performed under what the individual perceives the translation of Aikido principles to be.
O’sensei (great teacher) Morihei Ueshiba was a brilliant technical martial artist, proficient at a number of arts. But, and here is the man’s genius. He moved from this technical ‘doing’ stage, (the stage where technique is performed and the opponent is physically defeated by force and technique); forward to the ‘feeling’ stage where he attuned to the flow of energy, the vital importance of space, time, form, movement and rhythm. Also, that ‘thing’ beyond anticipation, which when tapped, enables an individual to blend with and in advance of an attack, to facilitate the attacker to defeat themselves. Even to the point of ‘merging minds’, as it were, to sense intent, even before it is formed.
(Sen No Sen).
Any individual who initiates an attack, or even thinks aggressive thoughts, has in fact already committed themselves to imbalance, in both mental and physical energy.
O’sensei and one or two others who understood and were attuned to this, could blend with this imbalanced energy and guide it to dissipation i.e. Lead the attacker to throw/defeat themselves, using no more than ‘zanshin’ awareness, space/distance, form and movement (minimum/transitory or no contact) – no ‘technique’ at all.
Traditional instruction must be based on technique, a structured core of defined and structured movements. This is essential to establish a basic knowledge of principles, performance, ability, effectiveness and movement through the ranks.
But, some/most people, especially those who become adept and maybe receive kudos for their technical abilities, lose sight of O’sensei’s message and continue to amass an even greater repertoire of techniques. They get stuck in the convention of what they perceive the art to be, they drag an ever increasing ‘baggage’ of technique along with them.
You can learn too many techniques. So when the time comes to act, you have too many choices. This delays or interrupts your natural flow, your head becomes ’engaged’ and your natural instinctive actions are compromised.
To succeed in combat you must be in a state of Mu Shin - ‘no-mind’, this is not possible with your head full of techniques.
It was O’sensei’s wish, that when technically proficient, the basics learned, all students of the art should aspire to take up where he left off; to ‘feel’ Ai Ki and use it as a ‘way’ or ‘path’ by which to live; to rise above the mundane/technique, however pretty and spectacular it seemed; to recognise Ai Ki in all things and to travel along the true path of harmony with all things.
‘Free your spirit, feel your art’.
Leave that heavy baggage of technique/convention behind.
It will still be where you left it when you need to go back to query/reflect, which you regularly will.
Aspire to be a swallow amid the chickens, but always remember you have to land occasionally for sustenance. And try if you can to encourage the chickens to fly, or at least look up!
The following was on an ‘Aikiweb’ post (Aikiweb.com) –
‘It’s easy to squash a bug, it’s much harder to pick it up and let it go’.
Says it all really!
I have used Aikido as an example, but the message is true of all martial arts as well as all areas of life. Try to fly – or at least look up! Learn the basics, then, let them go.
Sensei Shoji Nishio said, "We are Artist's... using the tools of destruction to develop a peaceful way to express love and harmony within ourselves and others."
This chapter though describing a martial art, parallels with all other areas of life – learn the basics then using them as a base - explore, push the boundaries. Don’t be afraid of challenging convention and changing the basics if that is what you need to do.
© (P Seth 03).