Tuesday, April 21, 2009
What is Aikido
Tonight in class I was asked at two different times by two different people "what is Aikido?" and I didn't have a satisfactory answer. Not satisfactory to me I should say. A little history lesson (and please correct me if I'm wrong): When O'Sensei was passing away, his son and the head teacher of the Hombu dojo at the time, Koichi Tohei had different ideas of what Aikido was or should be. Tohei thought Aikido was more a breathing meditative excercise and required less physical practise. Ueshiba (O'Sensei's son) wanted to carry on the teachings of his father in the same way he was taught. Until tonight I thought Tohei was crazy taking the emphasis of movement out of Aikido. While I still disagree with that generally, I think I understand the idea better. Allow me to elaborate: Aikido has always been there for my good days and bad days. Whether it was raining, or flooding, or a drought, or hot, or cold...the dojo was always there. We still dressed in our gi's, the mats were still blue, the sweat still came, the movements still came. The Aikido I do, is the same martial art my teacher learned in college, that his teacher's teacher learned decades ago, the same my kids will learn one day. It's a timeless tangible thing that makes me forget for the duration of class any problems I might have had that day, or worries of things I need to do after class. That itself is the greatest asset Aikido has been in my life. The odds are I'll never get into a gang fight against guys carrying chains and knives, or use it against the bully quarterback and end up with the cheerleader like in a Hollywood movie. I'll use my falling practise when I slip on ice or trip over a coffee table corner, but I'll use the stillness and calming effect it has on me every class I teach or attend. That aspect of Aikido, the stillness, is just as important to me as any throw or joint-lock. I think THAT is was Tohei wanted to capture and focus on exclusively and I don't think it's a fruitless endeavor. That's also the hardest concept to get across to people. I don't like describing Aikido without including that part. That is partly what Aikido is to me, but how to do explain THAT part to other people?