“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 a profoundly difficult question to answer, not least due to our perception changing as our practice develops. Therefore, any attempt to describe the art in its entirety has the potential to mislead; not withstanding this, what follows is one individuals interpretation.
Aikido originated from within the Japanese cultural heritage. Consequently, the emphasis is placed on etiquette and mutual respect, with classes conducted in a similar way to those in more traditional times. Following the Budō tradition all Aikidoka wear the keikogi (white practice suit), while the more senior students also wear the hakama (over trousers). It is a relatively modern marshal art, first publicly disseminated in post-war Japan in 1948. It was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969) after a lifetime studying the traditional arts and possibly as a result of spiritual awakening experienced in his early forties.
Initially, Aikido appears to be an assortment of complex techniques; many of which are similar to those found in other marshal forms. However, the committed student soon realises that the practiced form has little intrinsic value by itself, yet is key to the understanding of a deeper universal truth. As he or she moves beyond the avid compliance to the technical form and begins to explore more natural movement, they become aware of the endless possibilities within their practice; and as their desire to achieve proficiency diminishes their movement becomes nature and spontaneous.
To fully comprehend the founders art, translated as the way of universal harmony ( Ai – Ki – do ), requires an ongoing commitment to collaborative and generous training. Then after a number of years of meaningful practice the Aikidoka begins to notice a stability within their movements which was not previously present, along with an ability to maintain stillness of mind whilst enjoying vigorous, energetic practice.
Then, as the true ‘beginners’ mind manifests the practice becomes open, natural, uninhabited and ultimately fulfilling. Whilst at the same juncture there is a profound appreciation of the legacy left by Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei).
In essence aikido is a means to study the “self” through the disciple of the Budō. In many ways similar to yoga, zazen (seated meditation) and other spiritual traditions. It is without question a lifetime pursuit for the dedicated student.
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)