“The best skill is to arrange the environment, your relationship to it and whatever else necessary in advance so that no violence can occur. This is the true and ultimate Aikido.”
Long, long before the notion of the googol (a number equal to 10 to the 100th power, or a number with 100 zeros from which the word googlebot is derived) had arrived in the mind of man, a form of algorithmic distillation was already taking place in Nature.
The memetic bots were out searching for the most energy efficient genetic functionality and pushing these to the top. The other 90% of our DNA is not “junk” but survival adaptation stored reference DNA which has to be accessed and rewoven in order to adjust to new conditions. But it takes frequent and manageable exposure to the new adaptation stresses to take effect.
The inefficient, the obdurate and the unadaptive became, or made themselves extinct. It is the nature of entropy that Universal trajectory seeks out the optimizing of efficiency.
That the most viable energy efficient models tend to rise in the food chain and the less efficient get eaten or broken down to be recycled as raw substance is the nature of existence.
It was only natural that physical combat methods gravitate towards jujitsu or a modality of increased efficiency since these work better, conserve energy, are less predictable and tend to capture the energy output of the opponent. They tend to match the universal model of optimization to survive. While intense energy is natural, overt destructiveness that attacks and threatens the holist integration of life and its support systems therefore constitutes a disease. Harmony is the nature of the existence, the Universe and the preferred outcome as described in the statement, “The meek shall inherit the world.” Matthew 5:5 But not the weak meek, or the fake meek, rather the dynamic and wise meek with the long term good for all as the primary goal.
The T Rex defeated itself in its inability to adapt to new conditions. Perhaps something very small such as a virus put paid to the big lizard/birds. Otherwise, it did adapt and is now found as the humble chicken. (The arrogant one became extinct.)
How Did The Aikido Techniques Come About?
One thing is most certain: They are not the result of an arbitrary opinion, but hard tested experience in the attrition of the killing fields.
What gives the Aikido techniques their distinct difference?
In reality, they are not that much different to any number of jujitsu methods including European ones.
The definer was that they were to be utilised in a battlefield where various hand held weapons were involved. So were fatigue, starvation and dehydration making the combatants weaker with the passing of each hour. It was also found that with a little adaptation these techniques and their variables work the same whether weapons are present or not.
The other definer is that no fight is “fair.” It will mostly be “asymmetrical.” In other words the opponent wants to surprise you with the unexpected so he can get the upper hand. He’d have to be a fool not to. On this basis, more will not be better, rather greater precision.
There are attitudes and dispositions present, inventive ones that form the basis of strategy. Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido also is a strategic art, but one with an ultimate strategic basis: To make conflict impossible to happen.
Regarding the doctrine for asymmetric warfare:
Military Review, July-August, 2003 by Clinton J. Ancker, III, Michael D. Burke said,
“Any discussion of doctrine and asymmetry must begin by acknowledging the tension inherent between the role of doctrine and the nature of asymmetry in warfare. Doctrine should succinctly express the collective wisdom about how U.S. Armed Forces conduct military operations. In 1923, historian J.F.C. Fuller wrote that “the central idea of an army is known as its doctrine, which to be sound must be principles of war, and which to be effective must be elastic enough to admit of mutation in accordance with change in circumstance. In its ultimate relationship to the human understanding this central idea or doctrine is nothing else than common sense–that is, action adapted to circumstance.” While asymmetric warfare encompasses a wide scope of theory, experience, conjecture, and definition, the implicit premise is that asymmetric warfare deals with unknowns, with surprise in terms of ends, ways, and means. The more dissimilar the opponent, the more difficult it is to anticipate his actions. If we knew in advance how an opponent planned to exploit our dissimilarities, we could develop specific doctrine to counter his actions. Against asymmetric opponents, doctrine should provide a way to think about asymmetry and an operational philosophy that would take asymmetry fully into account.”
None of this is new. It, and more was known to any warring tribe worth its salt from before the days of before prehistory. The raptors knew this well. Perhaps it was they who survived to become chooks.
Mr. Burke correctly quotes Mr. Fuller when pointing out,“..this central idea (of asymmetry) action adapted to circumstance.. is nothing else than common sense…” Perhaps in much of today’s world, our reliance on labor and thinking saving devices, common sense may have atrophied somewhat through lack of use as a result of insufficient necessity demanding its invocation. If common sense becomes too uncommon, then we are a species doomed.
One method of maintaining the common sense well stimulated and active is regular and serious Budo practice with a questioning mind, where appropriate response skills to the element of surprise may be honed and refined in relative safety.
The element of surprise and predictability being prime factors in everything but never so much as in combat survival, this is where such sayings as, “Expect the unexpected,” come from. Conversely, when there is overwhelming power and resources, a form of arrogance may set in that it is OK to telegraph intent in war. This usually has disastrous recoil effects, unless it is deployed as a conscious and deliberate strategic untruth. However it cannot, where common sense is present, be deployed as a bluff where no real backup exists. In such a case, were the enemy to call the bluff, the bluffing party would have no recourse.
Be that as it may, the most surprising thing to a mind riddled with contention is accommodation. It cannot cope with agreement when seeking dissent. But to gain the upper hand the accommodation must be skilled. Not that of a victim. Accommodation training not only augments predictability for the defender and unpredictability for the attacker but no resources are necessary other than the skill to let the attacker waste his energy in futility and do the bulk of the work; whilst you get out of the way. Much like stepping off the track for a train to pass or making a serpent eat itself tail first.
Morihei Ueshiba a man of comparative short physical stature took the processes of energy resolution in the face of asymmetric agression to the full circle. Instead of getting stuck on contending with conflict he took the power of harmonizing to its fullest logical conclusion. In so doing he encapsulated and made it possible for a new paradigm to enter into human consciousness.
This is a small but vital beginning.
A Protracted Fight Is Unskilled
The movies drag fights out to entertain the ghoulish and unintelligent. In reality, there is nothing “entertaining” about surviving a murder attempt.
When I tried out boxing, both the stable master and the crowds at exhibition bouts would chastise the best fighter in the place. He was a fast knockout man. A true fighter.
But the mentally retarded crowd, shades of the Colosseum, would boo and yell, “We paid to see a fight.” Unskilled and alcohol riddled, they had failed to see the true skill. It was too “fast” for their dull eyes and minds. Truth be told, any fight that goes for more than 10 seconds is a farce. Not only that, the risk factor multiplies every second that passes.
The best fights are over in three seconds.
The longer a fight drags on, the more it starts to resemble a contest, and the more does the risk of injury increase. There is nothing more unfair and oxymoronic than an “evenly matched,” “fair fight.” And nothing more protracted and mutually destructive in the case it is a real situation without controls. By definition any form of violence has to be “unfair” in order to exist.
Timing being of the essence, the first second belongs to the event per-se. The second is for evaluation, zanshin, OODA, whatever you want to call it. And the third is to terminate or finalise the discordant situation. The fourth second should be to reclaim maai. Seconds two, three and four can only be capitalized upon by the properly practiced. Otherwise the attacker claims the day, if not the life of his victim.
I can hear the wafflers, the what-iffers, the gunners, the once-used-to, the dunderheads and the bs artists verbalizing into the fray. But frays are not for talk but action.
“The fight is over before it has begun,” Morihei Ueshiba
Training is what provides the ability and the predictability wherewith to deploy the ability. Not talk. Training provides PREDICTABLY and ABILITY. These two form an almost immutable synergy that not only wins fights; but also everything else in life.
Catch-up is the skill of fools and it’s common. Retaliation of even greater fools because it spawns vengeance, reprisals and the escalation of violence.
When predictability is finely honed you can stop an event from happening, and most people will not notice anything was out of place. No violence need take place. Simply skilled rearrangements that control the opponents minds. Most people sleep. The true warrior may at times be uncomfortable to be around but that’s just the movement of Hikari making disturbances in inertia by the ongoing and deliberate adjusting nuances of maai.
The inert, the rote habituated, the opinionated and the somnambulistic are not warriors. Attire does not make the warrior. Skill accrued is life discipline, Do or the Way.
The Yoga of Aiki
The word Yoga, from the Sanskrit, means in fact: SKILL IN ACTION
It is kindred in connotation to the Japanese Aiki.
In the Bhagavad Gita text, on a battlefield, Krishna speaking for the Supreme Being, is said to have said, among other things to Arjuna the archer: “Enter into battle without equivocation.” And “The true yogi is the favorite of the Supreme Being.”
Why is entry so important? And why is a skilful doer “the favorite” of the Universal Essence? Why is there merit in becoming a warrior-yogi?
Could it be because skill in action requires the repeated overcoming of inertia in order to find paramount function? Through countless persistent attempts we become enabled.
It is the process of EVOLUTIONARY CREATION as well as LEARNING consolidated in time to appear sooner than what it takes Nature. It embraces CHANGE instead of resisting it. Indeed it TAKES CHARGE OF CHANGE WITH FORESIGHT, VISION, INTENT and SPIRIT.
For example: It took Nature millions of years to make the eye. Man made photography in a few hundred years and it is still being refined. From ear to radio much the same. Whilst compost in Nature can take a thousand years by accident, we can, by juxtaposed arrangement, understanding the ingredients, recipe and process make it in 3 weeks; and so on. Same with anything. Mind when used can make. God creates from subatomia, but we can arrange and rearrange nothing more than solid matter and therefore in part, somewhat participate in co creating with the Divine, seeming to make something out of nothing. Thereby perhaps, accrue some measure of alignment with The Supreme by association in extending our creative faculties.
The Vaishnavas say, “Even God works. If The Supreme stopped creating for an instant, all of Creation would disappear. God serves us. We are obligated to serve in return for the gift of existence. All life forms are designed to render service in some way. Those that refuse begin to die..”
In the terminology of old Yoga, Tamasic beings are lazy, habituated and their mantra just before giving up and not even attempting is, “I can’t.”
Shakespeare’s comeback was:
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again. If you do succeed in first attempts be very surprised. It was a fluke. Pride precedeth the fall. Repeat. Keep repeating. Persist. Never give up.
Rajasic beings are fiery, determined, assertive and explosive.
Sattvic beings are balanced, can do, or not do, as required. They don’t stress, but settle into EFFORTLESS EFFORT which is true Mastery. They overcome Tamas with Rajas and find equilibrium though awakened consciousness.
These three gunas coexist but predominate in accord to the habits we choose.
“The 3 Gunas of Nature: Sattvic, Rajasic, Tamasic
In the philosophy of Yoga, all matter in the Universe arises from the fundamental substrate called Prakriti. From this ethereal Prakriti the three primary gunas (qualities) emerge creating the essential aspects of all nature—energy, matter and consciousness. These three gunas are tamas (darkness), rajas (activity), and sattva (purity).
All three gunas are always present in all beings and objects surrounding us but vary in their relative amounts. We humans have the unique ability to consciously alter the levels of the gunas in our bodies and minds. The gunas cannot be separated or removed in oneself, but can be consciously acted upon to encourage their increase or decrease. A guna can be increased or decreased through the interaction and influence of external objects, lifestyle practices and thoughts.
Tamas is a state of darkness, inertia, inactivity and materiality. Tamas manifests from ignorance and deludes all beings from their spiritual truths
Rajas is a state of energy, action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work.
Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the guna that yogis strive towards as it reduces rajas and tamas and thus makes liberation possible.
Yogic practices involving the whole person, body and mind united, progress a unique balance known as sattva. By practicing skill-in-action and leading a balanced lifestyle it strongly cultivates sattva.”
The Delphic injunction at the Temple of Apollo in ancient Greece, γνῶθι σεαυτόν=“Gnothi Seauton;” that is to say: “Know thyself,” and μηδὲν ἄγαν=“Meden Agan,” meaning: “Nothing in excess,” or “All things in moderation,” enables the Roman adage of, “Mens sana in corpo sano.”= “A healthy mind in a healthy body,” to take effect. Self knowledge and moderation being also the jewels of Taoist sentiment.
This is a vital beginning. An empowered person at balance with themselves tends to extend balanced courtesy in social interaction and all dealings thereby weaving an harmonious thread into the weft of humanity.
Such is the Yoga of Aikido.
Reducing To The Core Simplicity
Let us never forget, the root origins of Aikido were in the killing fields during some of the most brutal combat periods in history where this research cost thousands of lives!
The very first Aikijutsu techniques arose naturally and spontaneously in cornered, bone tired, intuitive men fighting for their lives and to protect their loved ones from the atrocities that would be visited upon them in the event they failed to protect them. As they dug deep into dwindling energy reserves, seeking simplicity and effectiveness, they did not have time to think or to be flowery whilst surviving on the ground. In so doing, even then they fought with soul and intention beyond what a worn-out person usually can. The survivors did pay attention and observe what naturally arose. They then took these predispositions home to refine and to study.
How many techniques are there? Well, I have heard numerous claims ranging from one hundred and something, to several hundred, to many thousands.
In fact there are no techniques! And yet there are infinite techniques. The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba or O’Sensei as he is often reffered to, called training techniques:“Those playthings of the dojo..”
To encapsulate the principles of refined efficiency there are a mere handful of core basics than can be varied and extrapolated. And which some become attached to. Why is this?
First the human body is as it is with certain defined predispositions, limitations and preferences in movement.
Second we have two arms, two legs, one torso and one head. Not more. Not less.
Third there are only two stances possible, ai or gyaku hanmi.
Fourth you will most often not get time to “take a stance” but knowing the two you will immediately recognize the relationship you are in, if training regularly.
As for your hand positions, they can only be ideally above your head, in front of your face or hanging naturally. I suppose you could contrive one up and one down or swing both behind yourself if time permits.
Then we may or may not be armed, outnumbered, on even or unstable ground and endless other possibilities and combinations of environmental factors.
As for action, we are not playing, but want to disrupt the centre of the attack to survive quickly. This works best when the opponent has armour, for example the full body blow.
Military logistics form a core skill, the moving of matter effectively, in this case ordinance and troops, requiring a depth of understanding. The principle is no different with mano a mano combat. A proper command of timing, spacing, mass and energy are required in order to prevail. Get this wrong and there is no strategy and it all falls apart.
For example, the body blow will mostly emerge as koshinage which is the core of all the other techniques. The first variable to emerge from the full body blow or koshinage entry is iriminage which may flow through into tainohenka hence gyaku iriminage, kotegaeshi or aikiotoshi. Then aikiotoshi will tend to emerge when rising is stopped but kotegaeshi when iriminage fails. Shihonage is always available from most failed other techniques and kaitennage for following up and stopping blades when the opponent absorbs tenchinage to counter it. Gyaku-iriminage when kotegaeshi is blocked. Sumiotoshi is a variable of tenchinage from in front but great elbow breaker from behind. Jujigarame and gokyo are related and available most of the time regardless what the opponent does. Yonkyo a great leader of ki. Sankyo possibly the best arrest and restraint is mostly offered by the attacker. Attacked from front or back, sankyo will fall into your hands. If you are aware and you identify it, you can then capitalize. Ikkyo and gokyo being hiji-jime variables of each other, as with ushiro sumi otoshi or shihonage as well which is initially a hiji-jime or kansetsu waza before it aikies into the shihonage technique. With nikyo any time the opponent grabs you, or tries stop a thrust a variable can be deployed. When the stops are out, obiotoshi serves well if conducted as originally intended and when the opponent blocks it, it will open up the possibility for most of the other basic core techniques.
Corresponding predispositions exist in feudal troop deployment. Training regularly, mindfully and attentively reveals many fundamental strategic principles of body-mind connection interaction.
Entering forcefully is paramount for survival in both manual combat and troop deployment, but it must be instantly followed with a pivot the majority of times, or other oblique methodologies to capture the rear or available blind spots, because forceful entry is not the all of it but part one. Hence it alone will not always succeed to overwhelm the opponent in first instance. The pivot in close-quarter combat enables the magical spiraling effects of centrifugal and centripetal energy to unleash. This is known as taisabaki, the enabler of kuzushi. Its primary basic practice for the dojo is tainohenko.
The most powerful technique is no technique, based on a complete understanding of the fullest repertoire possible. It may sound like a paradox, but is not. Good quality initiative comes from this. There is no time to think when survival necessity is upon you. The time to think is during training and in between. The more you train, the more your body-mind connection integrates neuronal adaptation as reflex preconditioned responses.
The best skill is to arrange the environment, your relationship to it and whatever else necessary in advance so that no violence can occur. This is the true and ultimate Aikido.
As for those basics you know and believe to be “the” basics: Practice!
And learn to slow down and to love life as it is, whilst taking charge of the day.
Harmony Into The Future
If humanity is to have a future, the distribution of resources must be relegated to constructivity as a choice and “economy” will need to be more than a word based on mass destructive exploitation, rather the true economy of all gain, value added sustainable efficiency.
Since the dawn of time wars and conflicts whether large or small, have been expensive. Each war, contentive expression or family feud that passes, causes not only immense losses for the whole globe but destroys the economies of the perpetrators of violence and aggression as much as it does their victims. The last few wars cost multiple trillions which are unrecoverable. The same amount spent constructively could solve most of the problems of human want, privation, manufactured lack, and the stresses of anxiety and the effects on the now escalating mental health issues that infect populations world wide. Sick attitudes tend to becomes self fulfilling downward spirals which tragic habituation cry for more war. Wars are never won, they merely run out of resources and force a capitulation when resources run out. That’s why theft and pillaging is part of war management. I think they give it another name, but to the victims it smells the same. In the end, both sides lose. Long histories reveal that the destructive “winners” fate is a protracted decline.
The interesting thing is this: Morihei Ueshiba took all this to the next level and beyond by seeing a Divine connection in all things and absorbing the revelation that, “The true purpose of Budo is God’s love for all beings. My creative Budo exists to harmonize, care for, nurture and protect life.” The intense sincerity of his quest gave rise to many changes. It was as if Ueshiba had reached out into the future and brought back with him the essence of a healing attitude that is a solution to destructive contention. This he injected into the evolution he was to eventually name Aikido.
War cannot solve the problem of war. Peace can! But it has to be an enlightened, dynamic and skilled peace, not merely a wish.
The implications are immense. By taking energetic expression and reconciliation of conflict the full circle, Morihei Ueshiba demonstrated pragmatically that the consciousness of energy exchange as a positive and fruitful, all gain paradigm could be expressed as cultural exchange, where immense energy is released, but this constructively for all concerned.
There are no “losers” in constructive exchanges. Everyone wins or at least gains.
When you free people from the panic of hunting, gathering and chasing a dollar they will never catch, and provide opportunities and time for education, art, science, and the developing of new skills, a new Universe opens up. One that augments the levels of gross national skill.
The risk to predators is this. Where skill abounds, lack disappears.
When you allow people to exchange ki in all its forms creatively, abundant life becomes possible such as will require a review of our present use of the word “economy.” True economy does not manufacture lack in order to artificialize value. The idea of lack and the fear of it, is what causes aggression, unlawful activity, crime, disruption and other war fostering attitudes.
When a conundrum is resolved there is no need to contend. Whereas the diseased mind seeks contention gratuitously, the sane mind finds creative options wherewith resolution, even of conflict. This then starts to resemble the Kami no Hikari of Creation itself.
To make conflict impossible to arise, it is imperative to learn how to relax in all conditions, to notice alternative possibilities and to harmonize and keep on harmonizing every which way you can. No matter what! There are more options available than what at first sight may appear to be.
Otherwise you will tense, stress and struggle and like quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you will sink into all-lose exploitative scenarios which bring about hell on earth adding to disease, death, pestilence, poverty, injustice and crime.
We have done this experiment of mastering how to fail. It has not worked. The condition of the planet is testament to this. Notwithstanding, in so many areas we have come a long way as a humanity. In many pockets on the planet, relative peace, productivity and humane facilities are at a good standard. In others not. There is much work to be done in myriad unawakened potentials for viable new industries that are non-destructive, indeed restorative in nature and intent.
As with the many meditation arts, unless the advent of Aikido succeeds in serving to shift our attitudes and values, it will remain just another fighting art, and a poor one at that. We already have too many fighting arts and none of them has served for much at all than sinking humanity further. Unless Aikido succeeds in flourishing as a significant art of peace, then the mission of Morihei Ueshiba was a failed one.
We stand at the crossroads of either a great meltdown or an ascent into a wiser way of being and living with each other. I believe that we can and will make it. It is now time to look at the viable options so we can take the next step.. up.
It begins with the Masakatsu Agatsu that “those playthings of the dojo…” can evoke, when practiced with true sincerity. The all-win Spirit of Aiki that enables you to choose the world you want and to contribute to making it happen!