“The habit of excellence,” by Francis Takahashi

There is nothing in nature that does not belong. Nothing is “unnatural,” as long as Nature gives its approval to exist or to happen. Nature does not have to “practice to get it right,” in anything.

Humans curiously find it imperative to constantly “do better,” striving to reach arbitrarily envisioned heights of accomplishment, and for goals of dubious importance that, the vast majority of them fade from memory faster than a rainbow after the rain. It is almost as if the human race was preordained, and was both empowered and obligated to improve on Nature’s design whenever and wherever possible. Verily, that was our job description from day one it seems, and nothing will make us happier than accomplishing these self fulfilling goals. This is why we were born. This is why we now exist, correct?

Nature, as far as we can perceive or conceive it, seemingly belongs to us, to serve as the template on which we make our marks, constructing, reconstructing, replacing and ever improving the original design of anything we see and encounter. Weren’t we, after all, made in God’s image, and isn’t that how He behaved in the first Seven Days of Creation? Now, isn’t it our turn, to make good on this gift of Original Entitlement, to continue the righteous and necessary work of improving and finishing His Grand Opus?

So far, so good, if only any of the above had any chance of being remotely accurate or true. If true, there would be no need to fret over our missions in life, our noble callings to achievement, or for providing any proof of the necessity for our participation and role in Nature’s Grand Design. If only……

But what if none of the above is true? What if there is no way to prove or substantiate any authentic claim for the human race’s pre-emminent role in managing that Grand Design? What if our research comes to prove the very opposite, that our puny and shortsighted efforts are simply being absorbed by Nature’s infinite capacity to adapt, and “naturally” being incorporated in its ever changing design, and not necessarily to our liking? What if we realize that no matter what we do, we could never do anything “unnatural,” or to significantly or appreciably disrupt or alter any Grand Design by God or Nature, and that whatever we do, IS, and always WILL BE a part of that inviolate plan.

Once we can fully accept that we are inexorably and indelibly a part of greater schemes that we may never appreciate fully or know well enough, we can then relax and perform in the manner for which we were wonderfully designed. We can then resolve to be lifelong students of this Grand Design, and find our way to be in harmony with its purpose, and happy in its execution. This is what I genuinely believe the Founder discovered in his search for meaning, and called this Grand Design, Aiki. In due course, his manner of acknowledging the power of this design was to create his gift of recognition, which we now call Aikido.

As to the notion of excellence, opinions and literary positions do indeed vary. Perhaps we can keep it simple, and refer to this statement of principle, not as an arbitrarily determined goal to attain, but as an ever evolving reminder, to both applaud sincere effort, and to encourage it’s constant pursuit on a daily basis. In this fashion, the honest pursuit of excellence indeed becomes a daily habit, not with “success” being the ultimate goal, but for the satisfaction of doing one’s best for that day, and in anticipation of even more productive tomorrows. Thus, may we be assured of an endless promise of excellence yet to be realized, primarily because it became a habit. No, we do not have super powers, or the right to interfere with Nature’s Grand Design. Yet, we can make a habit of excellence in all that we do, and truly be in oneness with the existence we share with all things. This is my Aikido.

Contact Aikido Academy USA


  1. Joe Peterson says:

    I appreciate the most from “Habit of Excellence” is the Asian thought at looking at the habit of pursuing excellence. An idea the Japanese really have made into a living art form, and a large part of the definition of being Japanese, and what defines them. No one does it better. A very old and traditional attitude that has influenced all that makes the Japanese remarkable. We see it in every thing they do, and who they are. The habit of excellence is what built modern Japan and gave way to the modern concept of Kaizen. What is remarkable about the Japanese is their ability to build upon the past, not discarding it, to erect a new future. If anyone is to practice Aikido in the most purest form, they would have to understand and apply whole heartily what it means to have a “habit of Excellence.”

    A caveat is that I think the idea of the pursuit of perfection, as I was told to understand it as, isn’t what most people think it to mean. The habit of excellence is a far better representation of polishing your character, your practice, doing the best you can possibly achieve. Being in a mind set, that makes the right decisions, the right path you never stray from. You are refining and polishing your spirit, your character, and you work hard and long at it, no matter how long or difficult the road is, you don’t give up, ever. It is a habit of excellence- agreed.

  2. Francis, I want to keep reading this article over and over. I don’t think what you have insightfully said here can be improved upon. I think we as a species exist as caretakers and whilst the maintenance process can be refined it does not alter creation. But in the present era we mostly tend to be distracted with chasing after dreams of the impossible.

  3. Although I translated it, but every time I read this article I find it even better, I agree with you Takahashi Sensei that we should fully accept that we are just a insignificant part of the Grand Design, we should respect it, learn to protect instead of harm it and live in harmony with it, just as the founder showed us.

    I would like to share the words of Kisshomaru Doshu in The Spirit of Aikido, Strength in living with Nature, The joy of practice:” We live in changing seasons, in heat and cold, on clear days and rainy days. To truly experience nature is also to be our natural selves and know joy and anger, happiness and
    sorrow. When we resist or ignore nature, we find ourselves unable to truly experience the range of human emotions. This is part of the depersonalization and dehumanization that afflicts us all. We must return to nature, accepting it as it comes, and recover our natural selves and bodies.”

    And in searching for the habit of excellence, doing always our best will give us the good feeling of a peaceful and joyful living.

  4. Great Article dear Francis Takahashi Shihan, Thanks to Greg O’Connor and Stanley Pranin to share it on Facebook.
    I’m finishing a paper on a close subject: “What does the concept of “Excellence ” means in Aikido? My way to get in will be applied philosophy as usual.

    I give you a hint: We watch the beautiful Aikido of Christian Tissier, and we think that’s excellence! But we see the third dan of Molly Sacco Hale and we have a tear in our eye of respect, and we think: that’s excellence too. For the people not knowing Molly. Molly had a car accident and was paralyzed, with her strength, spiritual help, her husband’s help Jeramy, she took her third dan, lately in a wheelchair. When I saw picture of the third dan, and other, and the movie about Molly: Moment by moment. I had tears in my eyes of love and respect.

    I’m not going through abstract concept as Nature and so on, it’s too vague for me, if not defined first. Nature is also death earthquakes, hurricanes and so on. I just use practical examples and go on as a walking “down to earth” philosopher through the paper. Thank you dear Francis! Can I mention and quote you? In oneness!

    Daniel Lance

Speak Your Mind