“Even though we should be training as if preparing to go to war tomorrow, the reality is that Aikido is not for war but for finding peace within oneself.”
I recall in the mid 80’s, a woman joined the dojo, trained one session and then became briefly famous in that small country town for daily boasting, “I’ve done a bit of Aikido…” If it was a bit she was referring to, then it was a very, very little bit indeed.
I recall the class content of that fateful day: We talked, I conducted a brief orientation on the history of Aikido, we warmed up, did jumbi-taiso, bowed out, enjoyed cups of tea and went home. It was a light and preparatory introduction.
Another, a few months later, haughtily demanded a refund for a seminar I had inaugurated to introduce the art and to subsidize the cost of mats. Asked, “May I have your reason?”, the reply was, “I’m high up in the aikido world. I have a shodan. I don’t need to practice ukemi.”
I happily gave her her money. If that was the price to find out her characteristic attitude and let her exclude herself from future classes, it was well worth it.
Indeed that particular introduction was all ukemi because most attendees were raw beginners and my dojo policy is safety first.
“A bit of aikido.” “High up.” What do these sorry statements mean?
As for the “bit,” that’s not what Aikido is for. Even though we should be training as if preparing to go to war tomorrow, the reality is that Aikido is not for war but for finding peace within oneself. It is a Do, Path or Way of self transformation. It is not the only one. But as a Do there is no arrival. It is a journey that makes you a better, truer human being as it gradually enlightens you over time.
As O’Sensei states in his 6th Rule of Training: “The purpose of Aikido is to train mind and body and make an individual sincere.” In this case, the word “sincere” is loaded with many connotations.
Whilst there are many Ways and Paths that enable a person to face up to themselves and to bring forth their immense potentials, none are overnight affairs, but can only be embraced as a Way of Life. Aikido has the added benefit of harmonizing, uniting body, mind, spirit and other attributes in that it teaches to do so under duress, under attack.
The immense value of effectively harmonising of discord begins here. There is no such thing as, “a bit of aikido.” It’s all or nothing. Embrace the universe or self deception. Budo training is for the dispelling of self deception.
Since life on earth is mostly a challenge, the sneakiest enemy of them all being complacency that leads to stagnation, Aikido’s two edged blade deals with both the attrition of attack and also stagnation, achieving increasing balance over time, the middle way to generating real harmony.
On this basis, basics come first. There is nothing more basic, fundamental and essential than ukemi. If you stick with it, it can teach humility and may even cure you of being “high up yourself.” But more than this it will teach you flexibility of mind, it will make you safer and it will teach you adaptivity in service to others helping them with their ukemi.
And ukemi enable an attitude, one that no matter what life throws at you, to get up, dust yourself and resume the battle.
Surely that’s got to be worth something?
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
Philo of Alexandria (c.20 BC – c. AD 50)