“Ageru,” the art of giving by Francis Takahashi

“The awesome Spirit of Ueshiba Aiki, and of “ageru”, was wondrously demonstrated by the Founder when he visited Hawaii in 1961…”

A “gift” may be “something that is bestowed voluntarily and without any thought or expectation of compensation, gain, or return”. It may also be “an act, right, or a power of giving”, an independent act of generosity wholly and unselfishly initiated by the giver. The act of unconditional giving is totally free from any expectation, requirement, or need for reciprocity on the part of the recipient.

Whenever we perform a favor, or simply share something of value, we may well have any number of reasons or purposes to choose from. The intentional act of giving without any hidden or unrevealed purpose, may well represent the highest form of respect, regard or genuine affection of one person for another. Such a gift then becomes priceless.

In discussions with other folk, whether in person, email, or on an online blog situation, we can come to truly appreciate how well we understand the spirit of gifting to one another, affording the full opportunity to allow for a more complete explanation, and perhaps an actual demonstration of the original intention. I am reminded of “jam sessions” in music, where each contribution is accepted without judgment, prejudice, or arbitrary application of rules. What can result is an easy and joyful atmosphere of simply enjoying each other’s gift of spontaneity and the originality of each others’ company.

Arguments certainly do have their value, and are usually governed by clear guidelines and established standards of tone, structure, design and overall purpose. Still, the simple gift of allowing each contributor an opportunity to deliver interesting perspectives is appreciated by all who honor such moments.

Even the seemingly simple gift of folding the hakama for another person can afford yet another magical opportunity for the giver, irrespective of who the lucky recipient may be. In that case, it becomes totally irrelevant as to whether it is the hakama of a sensei, a sempai, or a complete stranger. It is, after all, fully in the power of the giver to decide. Voluntarily folding a hakama for someone you like and respect isn’t such a big deal, now is it? Can you think of other simple tasks or favors you may want to do for those in your respective spheres? After all, courtesy has many facets, forms and faces.

In the course of regular Aikido practice, equal time and a uniform emphasis on skills development may be based on an easy agreement of both nage and uke, to actively develop such skills, avoiding any risk of injury or intimidation. Nage agrees to perform the technique fully, and with reasonable regard for the Uke’s well being, while the Uke agrees to follow Nage’s lead, and allow for every opportunity for Nage to complete each movement without opposition. This mutual exchange of respect and restraint forms the basis for progressive and safe development of useful skills for both Uke and Nage.

The awesome Spirit of Ueshiba Aiki, and of “ageru”, was wondrously demonstrated by the Founder when he visited Hawaii in 1961, for the formal dedication of the new main dojo facility in Honolulu, Hawaii. After the formal ceremonies were completed, and with the assistance of a Shinto priest, the Founder then began to pour sake for each and everyone in attendance. His was a humble gesture of generosity, but also an important lesson in how an accomplished master “walks his talk”. He was smiling, and congratulating everyone in attendance, thanking them for their welcome attendance, and for making the occasion a truly successful one, and by enjoying himself immensely.

In terms of the truly unique and selfless gift of training with one another, the attitudes and expectations we bring to the mat may well influence the quality and the outcome of the practice. It can also serve as a foundation for the continuing growth of interpersonal relationships as well. Let us not forget that partners, not opponents, practice the Art of Aikido.

Being physically prepared for the rigors of training is one thing, and having the correct frame of mind, and equanimity of spirit, is another factor entirely. Even as we strive to remember to wear clean gi’s, and to bring washed bodies to practice, let us not forget to also have honest intentions and transparent motives as well, even as we train. This is Aiki in action, and it is not necessarily defined solely by the quality of the techniques demonstrated, or effectively executed. Let us preserve the dojo environment as a true proving ground, for technical excellence, for etiquette, and for the joy of training.

Isn’t this is what the Founder, and the late Kisshomaru Doshu both advised us to strive for with each succeeding practice?

From Hawaii, we call it the “Ohana” Spirit, where the ideal family architecture strives to give each member the opportunity to be safe, to be treasured, and to be encouraged in their respective growth towards their respective destinies.

And, from Jim Elliot, “No fool he, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” It is only by freely giving, do we gain the capacity to receive.

Click here to visit Francis Takahashi’s “Aikido Academy USA” website


  1. I wonder if the usual assumption that cooperative practice is safer is actually correct?

    It seems to me that if you look at injury rates, normal Aikido practice usually falls somewhere in the middle of the range for martial arts, both cooperative and non-cooperative. Further, the type of injuries incurred in Aikido tend to be of a type (i.e. joint injuries) that is more debilitating than that incurred in many martial arts that, nonetheless, practice in a less cooperative manner.



    • peter meluso says:

      Since I am very interested in statistical analysis could you let me know what source you are using to review injury rates for various martial arts?
      Pete Meluso

  2. O’Sensei had indeed a nice gift for everyone attending at the formal dedication of the new main dojo in Honolulu, beside his great gift of his visit to Hawaii and his bigger gift of his creation for all of us.

    I agree with you that Uke is gifting nage in every training letting him his body to practice safely, so that both partners are gifting each other. I also think that a good, wise, honest sensei is also gifting his students with his knowledge although they pay a monthly fee, but if he is as described he will try to teach his students even to become like or better than him and that is priceless too as it may include a caring relationship.

    Thank you, Takahashi Shihan, for this great article, but also being so far away, so that you can not teach me aikido directly but you are giving me another wonderful gift: your confidence, allowing and trusting me to write in your interesting Web site Aikido Academy USA and by encouraging me with phrase such as “Your writings have lots of weight, emotion and wisdom, and I am sure are appreciated as such.” Mahalo Francis Sensei.

  3. Brett Jackson says:

    Stanley-san, thanks for editing/filtering this website so well that you have created a space where pure, honest, and deeply won aikido reflections can be shared with the rest of the aikdo world free from gratuitious assauts or sabotage.

    Thank you also to all the wondering teachers who share their insight, experience, and life’s learning with us on this website. I might just add that in my opinion the worth of an article/blog is not in an way determined by the number of comments it receives. Many a beautiful and insightful series of reflections and sharings elicit few to no comments. It’s mainly the easily accessible and highly controversial pieces that elicit large numbers of comments.

Speak Your Mind