“The Challenge of Not Competing” by Stefan Stenudd from aikiweb.com

“Aikido is non-competitive. That’s easy to say. The practice is not about defeating an opponent, but about both participants being victorious by finding a truly peaceful solution and growing as human beings in the process. That, too, is easy to say.

Still, there’s a lot of competing going on in aikido. Numerous aikido students hurry along the way in an effort to surpass their fellow trainees, in skills as well as grades, eager to take a teaching role when working with whatever partner, reluctant to learn as equals.

But it doesn’t stop at the individual level. It happens that dojos compete as well, to attract more students from the streets, maybe even hoping to lure some over from the other dojos. And the rings on the water widen. Groups of dojos, connected by little more than a common organization or by their definition of a style of aikido, might also show the hostility of a porcupine towards other groups or the outside aikido world as a whole, insisting that none is closer to the truth.”

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  1. Alister Gillies says:

    Stefan paints an accurate picture of the Aikido world – ‘Divine techniques’ practiced by human beings!

    The difficulty here is no different from the dilemma presented at all levels in human society and at all times in our cultural history: how are we to live in harmony with each other?

    Is Aikido just another atempt at resolving our all too human condition, yet another sect that claims to resolve all our difficulties? For some it undoubtedly is, and all of the characteristics we commonly associate with cultism are often painfully evident. But we should not despair at this.

    This is the human condition: the conflict ridden, the narcissitic, and the confused populate our dojos. The dojo is after all a microcosm of society at large. How can it be different? Aikido does not give you a free pass, and does not, if you are awake, locate you on some exalted level of consciousness. We should not be surprised by what we find in the dojo, but we should be careful about what we bring to it and what we take away.

    In Aikido the subjective and the objective collide – often with illuminating results. Techniques, regardless of stylistic considerations, function like koans (public cases). Kata (objective)is designed to elicit understanding (subjective). Attributing absolute status to our undersatnding gives rise to rigidity and fosters egotism.

    How we recognise this, break the cycle, and move on is a matter of practice. If your practice is unreflective, dogmatic and the ‘only’, ‘true’ way, then your practice will reinforce this attitude.

    You are what you practice. Whatever is in your heart/mind will have an objective manifestation. If competition is at the heart of your practice, then you must be prepared to accept the consequences and experience what Shakespeare describes as “nature preying upon itself”.

    Aikido offers us the opportunity of living in harmony with each other; contesting with disharmony seems counter productive. What are we to do?

    The founder of Aikido often said “I look behind me and I don’t see anyone practicing Ueshiba’s Aikido”. Perhaps we should ask ourselves: what am I practicing?

  2. What’s interesting is to think of the dichotomy between purely following your idea of aikido principles/practice, and paying the rent in America. I must represent a minority view of aikido because I only have two students. I’ve closed every dojo I’ve opened and now train in the park when not benefiting from the generous hospitality of my neighborhood hapkido school. But my students never miss a class.

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