116) Aikido Is Many Things To Many People: April 2014
Aikido, as the martial art practice by it’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, went with him when he died. He made no overt effort to insure that the art that he practiced was fully transmitted to a successor who was able to manifest the remarkable skills that he exhibited (despite the claims by some people). The various branches of this art seem to suffer from varying degrees of a myopic vision that reduces the expression to fit within the parameters of that organization/branch. I do not believe that Aikido is unique in it’ s trajectory and we can find numerous examples of other martial arts that have also headed in this direction. The result of this pattern is a confusing and often times, contradictory expression that can leave a person bewildered after having visited several different Aikido dojos to observe a class. Some of these expressions are more concerned with personal growth and interpersonal connectedness than they are with teaching real skills that can be of benefit to a person who needs to physically defend one’s self. Some of these expressions reach toward the other end of the spectrum and are more akin to Judo or a physical style of jujitsu. People analyze these styles from varying perspectives and come to wildly different conclusions about what this art should represent. I personally would be more comfortable if some people seek to rename what they do, like the late and great Noro Sensei, when their expression of their vision of Aikido so greatly departs from the true martial integrity of that which Morihei Ueshiba expressed. I can embrace and support expressions outside of a martial paradigm as long as it is not misrepresented as some ideal within some idealistic martial paradigm that is essentially bankrupt. That is my opinion and we know that opinions are like rear-ends…. Everyone has one and not all look the same…..
I personally am on a journey to try and create an expression of Aikido that can be identified as seeking to fit within some realms of what the founder was doing. I recognize that a primary image that I am working with is a direct result of my being a personal student of Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei. Not only was he one of the last group to have studied directly from the founder, but he himself has been on a journey to develop and pass on a vision of Aikido that reflects his understanding of what the founder (and the teachers under him) were doing. I will readily and proudly admit that I have searched outside of Aikido to find some things that I believe are missing, and to bring aspects in that I believe are important to creating my idea of that vision. I have the full support of my teacher in pursing this path. I have no problem in stating that added training with Kenji Ushiro Sensei and Dan Harden have contributed greatly to my own development. They have helped me to better understand my teacher and have radically changed how I pursue my own training and teaching. I want my expression of Aikido to be able to be an expression of “Aiki” and “ki” in a manner that is martially viable. I will continue to dedicate the rest of my Aikido life to the pursuit of that goal. In my mind, it is my small way of giving back that with which my teachers have so willingly given to me.
I will be teaching my first open seminar at my dojo this month. This will be an ongoing test of how I view my progress towards achieving my stated goals. Whereas my focus on teaching classes is principle based, this seminar will be waza based. I want to explore the category of techniques called Kote Kaeshi. I will look at these waza as kata that reveal important principles if people are willing to look deeply within a class of waza. This will be the first of a series of seminars that will look at classes of techniques as a means of developing a deeper understanding of the important principles that are the foundation of Aikido, as I understand the art right now.
At the end of the day, I am not really interested in the endless discussions of whether Aikido is still an effective martial. I am only interested in pursing what I believe to be a path akin to what the founder was expressing. I do not believe that you will find many people who will say that this path is not martially effective. I do believe that you will find people who do not believe that my expression of Aikido is akin the founders. In the end, reality is the ultimate trump card for all of us. We all have to live with the consequences of our own personal choices. This is my path and I pursue it openly. I am constantly challenging my own vision so that it does not become increasingly myopic. I am thankful to my teachers, training partners and students for their honest feedback.
Marc Abrams Sensei