There has been a big push recently on social media in Aikido circles, with many experts (some are, many are not) in the field asked to comment on various topics.
One item in particular peaked my interest, specifically speaking of the martial aspect of Aikido.
Those that know me know I have always pursued a martial understanding in my movements. I have trained this way since the beginning. I would not say that I was uninterested in the spirituality, on the contrary, I believe I have an understanding and grounding in spiritual philosophy, it’s just that I believed one could not be reached without training through the other.
Just as Christians would argue that God gave us freewill to choose between right and wrong to test our spirit and resolve, I would say that the same philosophy applies to martial spirituality. While love is a great ideal, when in an altercation – “being tested”, it’s having the ability to produce a lethal response, then executing the choice not too – this shows the higher spiritual understanding.
Anything in true harmony, and following true universal principles, is balanced through opposition. Light does not exist without darkness. The study of Aikido, truly harmonious Aikido studies both the lethal and non lethal in equal measure, then chooses, based on spiritual elevation, which path to pursue.
“Just as bujutsu (martial techniques) teach shiatsu understanding, destructive intent teaches Aiki healing intent. One teaches wisdom about destroying and healing the body, the other teaches wisdom about destroying and healing the spirit. These concepts and wisdoms are intertwined, and together they bridge the physical training aspect of Aikido to O Sensei’s vision of healing the world.”
If we look at the students that the founder produced(not the students that were products of the “organisation”) we see a group of students that were amazing martial artists, Shioda, Shirata, Saito, all products of the founder. All had to physically “prove their ability, and all believing that training hard, martially was imperative to any Aikidoka that aspired to teach.
Maruyama sensei has said that the difficulty lay in transferring this mentality, the founder’s mentality to the west, where, when he asked people to train in a particular way, when he first started out in this endeavour to “spread the gospel” so to speak, was met with comments like “westerners don’t need to train that way”, as though we already knew better, or at least thought we did.
What we ended up with was a group of people that believe they understand the founders intention, even though they never knew him, that are more than happy to tell you what he meant based on their Aiki experience, an intellectual experience, where the Aiki that the founder created was anything but an intellectual experience.
Misogi Harai, purification through Tanren, forging the body was what his Aikido(and therefore all Aikido) was supposed to be. In his lectures, the amount of times he mentions physical austerity, or Shugyo(arduous physical testing) is actually quite the eye opener.
As philosophy developed in the west to be an intellectual pursuit, study of philosophical principles in Japan contained some element of movement. Shodo, Sado, Budo (and many other traditions) – all these “paths” have an element of perfection of movement. Through the perfection of movement comes the perfection of mind, an understanding of self devoid of intellectualism and fanciful thought.
“Man is a moving being. If he doesn’t move to what is good, surely he will move to what is bad.”
There is not a view of Aikido that is outside the founders teaching, most importantly his traditional teaching of setting an example that is worthy to be copied( the true meaning of shihan). Aikido is not philosophy. Training in Aikido brings an understanding of a certain type of philosophy, but the action and the learning cannot exist separate of each other – they compliment each other.
There is no westernised softened version of what he created, if there is, it is no longer Aikido. How can it be? We didn’t make it, and we can’t pretend to follow it. If it changes then traditionally it becomes another art, call it what you like and name yourself “soke” – founder, just don’t pretend to offer solutions to things you can’t even begin to understand.
To reconcile the world must begin through reconciliation of the self, the self, according to the founder only discovered through elimination of the ego. Hard work, sweat and introspection – then even harder work.
We stand on the shoulders of martial Giants. To do what he could do, we need to do what he did. This is the traditional way. The student steals the teaching, the worthy inherit, the universe decides, not the “entitled”.
Train the spirit through the body. Train the mind through overcoming the impossible.