This may come as a surprise but Morihei Ueshiba never, “Did Aikido.” What he did “do” was to synchretise everything available, all Budo, to efficient action, the ergonomics of combat interaction, if you will. And to act appropriately for any given moment, no two moments being the same.
That he named this, “Aikido” following several other labels, takes nothing away from the sheer genius of his approach.
If we are going to do something, let’s do it well by taking away the forcing, the clumsiness and inefficient movement. This requires clarity. A great deal of it.
He found the commonality in many and varied “systems,” pared away the excrescences of form and effortful effort; and honed these in practice until noticeably efficient, primary characteristics stood out.
This work had already been begun by the exponents of the Daito-Ryu Aikijutsu and this is why the techniques revealed to him by Sokaku Takeda, “Opened his eyes to Budo.”
But this is nothing new since it is the adaptive principle of evolution itself that does this in nature and throughout the universe. Entropy forces adaptation that is more efficient than the previous expression.
When you are too tired to continue to get it wrong, you will let go, and begin to tend to get it right. This naturally follows periods of extremes and privation such as the attrition of the feudal system of Japan which saw many other jutsu’s evolve, among them the various but similar ju-jutsu’s. And I’m not talking about laying down to fight. That’s not jujutsu, but wrestling.
The “Ju” of the jutsu being the salient feature of any of the true “ju” jutsu’s. Hence ai-ki which defines “recoil” at a primordial level, but implies more at other levels.
I recall clearly when in the 60’s and 70’s, the dojo being full of young males, top heavy and strong and wasting energy, forcing things. Sensei and seniors more effortless in their practice. And much more efficacious as a result. From time to time Sensei would get us to jog to Moore Park, around it ten or so times, back to Pitt street, up several flights of stairs and then he would command: “One in the middle, five attack.” Believe me, we had to INVENT Aikido because we had nothing else left.
This is a concurrent scenario of the true battlefield where following periods of extreme privation, you are set upon and attacked, by newer, fresher, stronger and well rested opponents. Seldom less than two of them. Usually more.
You HAVE to find efficient ways, JU-jutsu, otherwise die by giving up mid fight. Or strive to use force you do not have, weakly. You have to find “soft” ways of getting result simply because you have nothing left wherewith to get in your own way.
And you can not afford to contend with the extra opponent: YOURSELF.
Getting out of your own way is what Aikido is all about. Coming to terms with yourself. At peace with yourself. In harmony with yourself.
Unless you first find all this IN YOURSELF, you can not expect to harmonize anything external. You have to HAVE the harmony before you can extend it. Hence the Way to the attaining of Aiki: Do: Regular training.
You have an opponent. Or more. Why then fight yourself as well? Let the opponent do all the work and HELP him express the intensity of his ki, but get out of the way and preserve your integrity in so doing.
Play acting is one thing but the real deal is something else altogether. Anyone can pretend to “harmonize” by colluding with a pretend opponent who then “sells” the techniques much like a conjurer’s assistant. By disingenuously jumping gratuitously. But this is not real magic. Merely deception.
Today, I see people “trying to “do” aikido.” Let me explain. “Trying” or striving will defeat you because you are using excess to get a result. Too much energy is self-defeating. By analogy, using a sledge hammer to drive in a tin-tack. Energy wasted that must be kept in centre to maintain balance in motion.
Even merely mimicking a conjurer is impossible unless you have, know and understand the props and how to work them. This is still not real but it looks good to those being deceived.
As for “do”ing. There is nothing to “do.” The opponent is doing the doing. All you need to “do” is to get out of the way in an effective manner. It is more akin to un-doing, such as in a ball of string. R-E-L-A-X! Herein the real magic and the real ki, the aiki, noticing that which is, as it is, in motion. And musubi, connectedness, essential to reconcile a dynamic accord.
“Aikido.” This is the biggest misnomer of them all. And “style.” There is no such thing as “aikido.” A mere label which imprisons the mind. Or frees it. Depending on you. And more so “style.” Your opinions about what you “think” is Aikido, count for nothing in the face of real and dynamic attack. That’s why so many people are falling into the trap of faking it. Faking it is a good method to teach beginners and warming up, but should not become a career move. Clayton’s Aikido is no Aikido at all.
(For non-pub crawlers, Clayton’s is a non alcoholic drink that looks like an alcoholic drink. I don’t know if it still exists. It was at one time advertised as, “The drink you have when you’re not having a drink.”) Clayton’s jujutsu and aikido are all too common in today’s worlds.
How many authentic fighting arts have all but disappeared and all that’s left are dances barely resembling anything but a dance. The dancers having forgotten the origins and real application.
Ueshiba’s Aikido, I refer to Morihei, was not Clayton’s, but the real thing. It was not his opinion about what he thought Aikido should be. Nor was it a collusive dance display. Rather, it was what worked best.
Why this? Because he had the courage to test in training. This entails the risk of failure and yet discovery.
He had no-one to impress and certainly was not trying to mimic anyone. Rather, ruthlessly honest research and development emerging from within, and this with a critical and questioning mind aforethought.
Such training brings forth the myriad possibilities of the real Aikido. The other stuff is just a nonsense.
Real aikido HARMONISES real conflict, real adversity and real attacks. If you can not harmonize a real attack, you do not have Aikido, merely lots of self- deception. Something Aikido exists to get rid of.
Ueshiba proposed the: “Learn and forget,” technique. What did he mean by this? He meant learn the basics well, very well. Then have the courage to throw them out. Yes, throw them out and use them as steppingstones, indeed springboards or launch pads to discovery through exploration by intuitively departing the basics. FEEL the technique! FEEL the exchange!
He did not mean go off and manufacture your own arbitrary “style.” The work had already been done for a thousand years or so. The basics already discovered and refined, he meant REFINE THEM FURTHER by training intelligently, thoughtfully, critically, diligently questioning and making them applicable to real attack and defence situations.
Come up with new challenges. AIKI THEM! Find the way to do so. Keep at it until you do. Then move on.
Then go back to basics before exploring again. If it is real, Aikido will defeat any attack from any method of fighting whatsoever, as well as random uncoordinated violence. If not, you are lost in opinions and “styles.”
Aikido could be defined as finding the effectiveness of effortless effort whilst under challenge.
The genius of Morihei Ueshiba was that, dissatisfied with the rough edges, he sought to continue to refine the techniques as well as the application.
The method was refinement. Ergonomics. Fine tuning. Clarifying. Efficiency. Economy of motion. By analogy what can take 200 pages of html can often be achieved in one line of php better. This requires firstly experience in practice, then understanding, then insight gained from lots of experimentation, trial and error, research and development. Questioning. Analysis. Critique. Healthy skepticism. Trial and testing. Editing. Evaluating and self-correcting. Repeated testing. Repeated self-correcting. Science.
The energy savings of such a method translates into immense gain. In daily life, you will need the gain of refined efficiency to handle challenges, but in the adversity of combat, or self-defence, more so. Much more so.
This way of training correctly is not “doing aikido” as such. Nor is it a mere idea you may have about what you think Aikido is, or should be, or could be, or may be.. nor is it some kind of fluffy and faked set of mimicked dance forms conducted as an end unto themselves and which go nowhere.
This IS Aikido.