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There seems to be a constant butting of heads, on this site and I'm sure else where, over what 'style' of Aikido people study.
I have very little knowledge of different styles of Aikido. When someone writes Aikikai or Iwama I have no idea what they really mean. I have some vague notion of Tomiki Aikido due to a fellow class member studying it in a former life and an equally vague notion that Yoshinkan sounds quite scarey but other than that its a bit of a mystery. I'm greatful to Templegate for giving me a brief but enlightening introduction to other ways of 'doing things'. Attending one of their courses felt rather like a licence to adapt my aikido to me rather than adapting my square peg to one associations round grading system. I'm not exactly planning any kind of revolution; in a "Strictly Ballroom"-style performing the forbidden steps fashion. But it's good to see proof of life outside our box, lovely though our box is..
Anyway, I digress.
I always see the training of Aikido as being similar to the story telling traditions of many societies. The 'bare bones' of the story remain the same but the embellishments are unique, not only to each teller but to every listener. Rumplestiltskin will always be Rumplestiltskin whatever language it's translated into. The adaptations are almost by accident. Yes O Sensei (as I understand it but again it's only recently that I've learnt much outside my Dojo's 'Do') had a mid-life career change as it were, deciding that maybe the martial way of doing things could be adapted to a more peaceful. But Aikido is still Aikido.
Aikido is both inclusive of everyone and unique to each individual who studys. Even if you study a more martial, dare I say it a more 'violent', version you may be too small to be able to hammer on a particular technique and will need to adapt it to your physique.
Not even writing things down can set Aikido in stone because, frankly, if you do that you loose Aikido's fluidity which is it's essential foundation.
When telling a story every reader has a different style. You might be good at funny voices or different accents and emphasise individual characters accordingly. You might be good at acting the parts physically by dancing round a room or prefer to be up close and personal whispering the story in peoples ears. Similarly when it comes to Aikido each individual will have different strengths and weaknesses
This adaptability is what 'makes' Aikido. If it was static and a set series of moves how could it be adapted to different physiques and situations. Saying "Aikido doesn't work" is often more akin to a workman blaming his tools than anything else; a tendancy to think that I tried a technique and it didn't go well rather than, for example, using the "verbal aikido" that people often mention to difuse a situation before it gets to the physical stage. That oft maligned but rather useful ability to talk your way out of a corner / running away style of Aikido.
My experience of life is almost as narrow as my experience of Aikido. I've lived in a softly cushioned world and it doesn't take much to upset my equilibrium (see my church mouse entry) or that of 'my' Aikido. But in the same way that life is change, trying to deal with a 6'6" guy the same way I'd deal with 5'1" woman is probably not a good idea. You have to take each situation as it comes and learn from it. Use every lessons to broaden your ability to cope with what life and Aikido throws at you.
So what's in a name? Each individual partner you come into contact with will respond differently to a different style or technique whether it says 'traditional' or 'yoshinkan' on the Dojo's books.
The one unifying attitude is about blending with your oponent. Absorb the energy of a committed attack, turn to see things from their point of view and then come to an agreement...
Whether or not that agreement is their meeting with the Tatami is up to you! ...What ever it says over the door.
PS if I'm talking rubbish or my arguements don't follow through, let me know. I'm trying to learn how to write something more than my usual "dear diary" wafflings