“I’m not teaching you how to move your feet; I’m teaching you how to move your mind”
Morihei Ueshiba ( 1883 – 1969 )
What is Aikido? Is probably the most insightful question most students of the art will attempt to answer; due mainly to our changing perception, as we journey along the way. Consequently, it is inevitable that any attempt to explain or describe the art in its entirety has the potential to mislead. Not withstanding this what follows is a brief description of the art form.
Aikido, is a relatively modern marshal art (first publicly disseminated in the mid 20th century); although its origins stem from the ancient Japanese traditions of Bushido. It was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969) after a lifetime of study of the traditional arts. And, today is estimated to be practiced worldwide by over a million people.
As aikido originated from within the Japan’s cultural heritage, there is emphasis placed on etiquette and mutual respect, with classes conducted in a similar way to those in more traditional times, e.g., following the Budō tradition all Aikidoka wear the keikogi (white practice suit), while the more senior students also wear the hakama (over trousers).
Aikido, initially appears to the novice as collection of highly complex movements or techniques, many of which can also found in various other disciplines; the founder was a recognised master in many Budō forms prior to formulating aikido. In-time the dedicated student begins to appreciate that the practiced form has little or no intrinsic value on its own, but yet key to the understanding of a deeper universal truth.
As the student progresses beyond an avid compliance to form and begins to explores their own natural movement, they become aware of the endless possibilities within their practice. They are able to move with harmony and spontaneity, without attachment to a potential aggressors harmful intention.
To appreciate the deeper perception of O’Sensei’s art ( Ai ( harmonise ), Ki ( breath or life-force ), do ( the way ), i.e., the way of harmony with the life force, requires a commitment to relaxed, collaborative and generous training.
After a number of years of dedicated practice, the Aikidoka may recognise a stability within their movements which was not previously present, coupled with the ability to maintain a stillness of mind whilst enjoying vigorous practice. Their movements become spontaneous and have an open, natural, and uninhabited manner. As the true ‘beginners’ mind manifests every practice becomes unique and ultimately fulfilling, and the practitioner becomes appreciative and grateful for the legacy left us by Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei).
To study the way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.
To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others.
Zen Master Dōgen (1200 – 1253)