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To me, Aikido is more than a physical engagement on the mat. I've learned that to fully experience Aikido there needs to be a connection made between the philosophy and writings of O'Sensei and the physical lessons taught in the dojo.
Early on in my training, I jumped head first into Aikido. I had a very limited understanding of Aikido's approach. All I was aware of was that Aikido was different and it looked very fluid. I thought, I understood what it was all about. It was not until I started reading the words of O'Sensei that I could see the man and his vision. A lot of the reasons why we train in a certain way were answered by his philosophy.
O'Sensei's writings are full of wisdom and his approach in developing Aikido is rooted in Peace.
"As soon as you concern yourself with the "good" and "bad" of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weakens and defeats you." Quote from Morihei Ueshiba's The Art of Peace
"In the Art of Peace we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control. Never run away from any kind of challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it." Quote from Morihei Ueshiba's The Art of Peace
The idea of peace may seem to conflict with the practice of a Martial Art. If you take a close look at Aikido, you will notice that Aikido does not violate or conflict any of the Philosophy and principles of O'Sensei.
Aikido strives to be at the highest evolution of self defense. The Aikidoka does not initiate aggression. Without provocation, the Aikidoka neutralizes the situation with no harm inflicted on themselves and the attacker. The Aikidoka exercises control of themselves and the situation. They always strive to bring harmony to conflicts.
Without this understanding Aikido can become empty and unmeaningful.
The next-time you look at or train in Aikido, think about O'Sensei, the man of peace. Look for his thoughts and philosophy in the techniques.