View Full Version : My Living with Aiki Principles

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02-15-2011, 12:12 PM
Is there a way to fulfill the advice of the late Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, to train daily, sincerely and effectively in Aikido? By this, should we be content to take his meaning and intent to apply only on the mat, in a dojo setting or at a training event? No question, there is something comfortable and familiar to being in a gi, sweating and discovering stuff with other like minded and sincere participants, all within the secure confines of a well defined and controlled training environment.

Can we, and how may we transfer and carry with us this feeling of decisive control when it comes time to leave this familiar training environment, and enter the real world where we will need to strive, maintain, and to achieve our goals against unforeseen opposition and overt hostility?

From the seemingly endless goodies we find in our own respective Aiki toolboxes, which ones, or combination of these should we utilize to define and successfully craft our "Aiki-ness", and to achieve common ground with those with whom we strive to contemplate, commiserate, and to communicate, while also seeking to advance daily in our knowledge, skill sets, and thus derive satisfaction from our efforts and results.

I willingly admit that my knowledge and understanding of what both the Founder and the late Doshu defined and utilized on a daily basis for their own respective training goals, agendas and aspirations, are truly suspect, and most definitely subject to immature misunderstandings on my part, with no relief in sight. How then do I dare to adequately attempt to share my findings and feelings from my years of personal study, introspection and research findings gleaned, and perhaps incorporating those ideas borrowed from those who have proven themselves to be much more knowledgeable and believable than myself?

I do not. My interpretations, findings and positions are strictly my own, and I hold safe and harmless anyone else who may be seen as related or co-responsible in some arcane way. This will not be the first burning ship I have had to abandon, and will probably not be my last. Nonetheless, I sail on.

In terms of any sense of responsibility or perceived accountability on my part to be considered a representative of Aikido or its identity, I refute this notion completely. If others make that association, it is their task to verify and to justify. I am not necessarily defined by my association with Aikido and with Aikikai Foundation over the decades. It is simply a habit that I have willingly acquired, nurtured and benefited from, and one I will continue to include with my reasons for behaving the way that I do. When such an association is no longer mutually beneficial, I will freely look elsewhere without rancor or regret.

My sincere understanding is simply this. Aikido is an art form that can be rightfully attributable to only one person, Morihei Ueshiba. Our participation and inclusion in this identity is strictly at the generous and benevolent permission by him, and from the Ueshiba line of Doshu's. It is with this kind and privileged permission that I proceed to burden others with my otherwise sincere attempt to share what strikes me as relevant and applicable.

Over the years, I have visited the Aiki store countless times to pick up yet another tool to use in the building of my understanding, expertise, legitimacy, confidence and the maintenance of a sufficiently stable self image that allows me to continue in my various roles of student, instructor and confidant to select friends and peers. I mention this primarily to underscore what living daily with Aiki principles means to me. It is not only for the sake of any rare documentation of hoped for epiphanies, eureka moments, or thunder and lightning strikes of enlightenment that I may or may not have yet experienced. Rather, it is the seemingly mundane, daily grind of enduring my humanity and all the fallacies and faults that attend it, and the search to find enough vision, curiosity and energy to try once more the next day that keep me stubbornly persistent.

Although quite unglamorous, I am quite happy with how it all works out. This is not to say that I am satisfied. Oh no! I will never be satisfied, realizing how much more there is to experience, to test myself against, and to fully appreciate and to appropriately continue to enjoy the embrace of those marvelous friendships I have fortunately forged along the way.

I have been asked innumerable times, as to how I would employ my Aikido in a fight, a physical confrontation, or a situation where I would be faced with the real possibility of injuring or killing another person. My answer is rather simple. I would not. If I am unable to avoid a fight, or a life or death crisis, it would only be me, and not what I have trained myself to be, or what others may expect me to be, that will react or respond to the situation. I will do whatever it takes to survive, and not be concerned about the means, the source of training, or to any arbitrary responsibility to behave in any predetermined way. In such a moment, my Aikido persona will be in suspension until that unfortunate situation is resolved.

After all, I consider myself a martial artist, a warrior if you like, who studies Aikido to become better at being a contributing asset to common social goals that are acceptable to most. I find nothing in Aikido tradition or history of applicability that I would want to primarily use in a non Aiki situation. My first obligation is to myself and what I choose to stand for. I feel no need to measure up to arbitrary standards voted on by others that I do not know.

To date, I have been indeed fortunate to have been spared any real or unavoidable confrontation that resulted in injury or worse. Perhaps by choosing to live with the Aiki Principles I strongly identify with has allowed me to negotiate or bypass completely any need to resolve my challenges with any necessary violence. This gives me the confidence to exhort my students as well to think and behave in a similar way, while devising techniques of personal conduct that ensure their safety.

My daily resolution to do Aikido the right way will always be a work in progress. I fully accept all that that would entail and continue to require of me.

To be left in peace to pursue an agenda of harmonious interaction with other people, or to be allowed to exist independently without interference, is what I seek. It is the very same opportunity I offer to anyone I am privileged to meet.Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.

02-15-2011, 12:43 PM
To practice the principles, live them in all we do.

Worth remembering.

Thank you.

Diana Frese
02-16-2011, 03:41 PM
Here's Daian with another story, hope you don't mind. Some struggles are with the facilities and our class got shifted around a lot in the Y although in general the years there were great. I haven't trained much since then, either. So memories from those times stand out.

I don't remember what the topic was, but somebody at the inner desk, where the baskets for people's belongings were filed said, "You do Aikido. Aikido people aren't supposed to get angry."

I hope Yamada Sensei wouldn't be angry at my reply, it just came too spontaneously to stop.

"I'm human, and my teacher before me was even more human than I am."

Perhaps that was the proper reply after all, based on the intent of the questioner.

i think we all have to accept that we are human beings, and to continually try to be the best we can at it. I know my teacher did and still does.

As a matter of fact, there was an early newsletter at the NY dojo that printed an interview with him. The interviewer asked what positive effect Aikido had and he answered that he didn't get angry as often as before. He didn't say he never got angry.

02-16-2011, 06:22 PM
To live an aiki life... A truly noble goal, but I have a hard time following a carrot so far from my nose ('cause I'm just a dumb ol' country boy ;) ). I just try to be a little better every day than I was the last, and trust that the rest will take care of itself.

Thanks, Francis Sensei, for yet another thoughtful column. I look forward to hearing what you're thinking here every month...

02-17-2011, 08:19 PM
You exemplify the true spirit of Aiki Francis. My thanks for your thoughtful and enlightening posts.

All the best.


02-17-2011, 11:52 PM
Many thanks, Lyn, for your generous support of the contributors to Aiki Web, your patient yet frank responses to posts and questions, and your unflagging attention to things that really matter.

Diana, your stories are inspirational, mainly because they are so real, and so in touch with the inner feelings of many. More please.

Clark, my brother in Aiki, your unflagging support for the contributors to Aiki Web speaks volumes of how you too choose to walk your talk.
Thank you for your generous and wise reminders of what Aiki behavior truly looks and feels like.

Many thoughts come to mind when I read your columns, Ron, and yet I fail to count the many inspirational ideas they loosen in my head. Please continue to share your one hundred ninety and counting reminders of the Aiki mind in action, for they do ring true.

R.A. Robertson
02-18-2011, 01:14 PM
My sincere understanding is simply this. Aikido is an art form that can be rightfully attributable to only one person, Morihei Ueshiba. Our participation and inclusion in this identity is strictly at the generous and benevolent permission by him, and from the Ueshiba line of Doshu's.


Did O Sensei invent or discover aikido?

If the former, then he and his heirs hold the patent. If the latter, then all credit is due, but surely some measure of it is in the public domain. And did not he (and they) assert that aikido is for all the world?

For me, aikido is art and science. We can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, but we have both the privilege and responsibility of our own vision, and can be of greatest service by communicating our unique perspective.

Regardless of the source of your authority, you speak authoritatively whenever you speak authentically.

I, for one, am glad to be in a position to benefit from your authority. I look to those who author aikido daily, on and off that mat.


Mary Eastland
02-19-2011, 07:23 AM
Thanks Francis...sometimes I get distracted that don't matter at all. This is a good reminder of what is important.

Diana Frese
02-19-2011, 10:25 AM
Benevolence, and kindness. Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba was very conscious of the fact that we would probably be bringing Aikido home in some way, to very few or very many people as the case may be .... but I feel he had great kindness for each person also as an individual. That was inherent in his smile.

Sometimes I daydream about these things, back home. The years not training, or not very much sometimes I think about him while I am in the almost- garden in front of our house, just a few plants the storekeeper gave me when the blooms had faded "I know you make live again"

(He overestimated my green thumb but I tried)

and some from my mom's friend's garden she didn't have room for because they had spread.

I imagined he liked to do a little work in his little garden with the trees at his house next to the dojo, although I never really saw it. I didn't remember really seeing it. ( The third floor was high, and it wasn't polite to look into people's yards from above.)

As I mentioned before the kindness shone through even when he just stepped into the dojo entryway by the office window in an American style soft spring or fall plaid shirt. That's why I felt he loved his garden, his yard with trees.

Perhaps this way he honored his father, along with practicing the waza and writing the history.

The way of harmony of heaven, earth..... and people.

I see the rhododendron outside are uncurled, the sun has been warmer yesterday and today brown patches of earth are visible, and suddenly I remember a day long ago in 1971 when our Aikido tour group were at the doorway of his house, sakaki branches in our hands (they are possibly related to rhododendrons, but the leaves are smaller) to present as offerings to the Mitama of the Founder.

It was Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba's kindness to include us, to give us an opportunity to share in honoring the spirit of his father.

It was many years ago and occasionally remembered through the long years of what happens in the daily lives of regular people like myself, but sitting here today answering Francis' kind request the memory is sudden and startling.

I think we all have been given a great gift of Aikido and each is sharing it in whatever way, training and daily life, that is suitable to the person each of us is.

For those of us who often look in the mirror and see our own faults, the clarity of the Aikido that has been given to us can enable us to proceed with whatever we feel can be our best effort.

(thanks to Mary Eastland, who has given an example to emulate.... noticing Nature every day, and including it in our writings and of course to Francis, who has validated the importance of our emotions in communicating our stories with other people)

Mary Eastland
02-19-2011, 12:44 PM
Thanks Francis...sometimes I get distracted that don't matter at all. This is a good reminder of what is important.
That could have said things that don't matter at all.

graham christian
02-24-2011, 11:02 PM
Hi Francis.
The title says it all. A good reminder for all, well put.

When people ask me what I would do if faced with a life threatening situation and how would I use Aikido in such a scene I always say 'I don't know.' I then say you can never know and it's best to realize that.

However, I would say that if you ever found yourself in such a predicament you would as you say handle it as yourself not according to anything else. To have this view may I say that is Aikido, for Aikido leads to more self beyond 'persona.' Just a thought and intended as a validation.


02-27-2011, 08:50 PM
Greetings Ross,

Once again, you pose an excellent question to consider.

It is my opinion that O Sensei neither “invented” nor “discovered” aikido. Rather, what has become recognized and accepted as his “aikido”, was the natural consequence of the options he chose to exercise in envisioning, developing, and refining his version of martial integrity, spiritual purity and intellectual autonomy to be a unique and self made individual. I also opine that this very fact inspired him to wish the same opportunity for each of his direct students, not in imitation, but in honor of the same principles that he so revered. He later expanded this invitation for everyone else in the world.

No one can hold a patent or claim exclusive credit for what any fallible human being may uncover, as any such “discovery” is usually a result of “trial by error”, and in conscious or unconscious league with other similarly hapless human beings who stumble upon true treasures from time to time. For me, history has demonstrated, ad tedium, that this is the history of human discoveries, not from intent or superior design, but through single minded perseverance and tenacity.

I am unqualified to comment as to whether aikido is art or science. As such, I find myself in agreement with your view that it is probably a bit of both. Nonetheless, the ratios of this comparison is for each person to define and to portray as they will.

Thank you again, Ross, for your gracious manner, and for the wise and kind compassion you include in all of your writings.

02-27-2011, 09:08 PM

Your amazing and poignant sensitivity to the human side of the 2nd Doshu, created from your very own well spring of kindness and empathy, is both appropriate and welcome beyond measure. He would undoubtedly have been overwhelmed by such praise and regard.

Aikido's true purpose may never be fully understood or revealed, but the memories of the exploits and epiphanies of those who have gone before will continue their magic in keeping the faithful in thrall.

Thank you for reminding us once again of the indelible and necessary role that kindness can play in keeping in perspective the Founder's overall vision of Aiki, and its yet untapped potential for positive sharing and mutual enjoyment through interaction, both on and off the tatami.

02-27-2011, 09:11 PM
Hello Graham,

Thank you for the validation, and for the courageous example you display in sharing your awesome vision and practice of Aikido.

Your students, of which I am one, are fortunate indeed.

02-27-2011, 09:13 PM
Hi Mary,

I am truly glad to be distracted, each time something truly matters.

Thanks for keeping the faith!

Graham Farquhar
03-01-2011, 06:43 AM
Takahashi Sensei

Thank you very much for your column. Looking at recent posts on martial effectiveness in the forum section it is both timely and also great to read the perspective of someone with your depth of knowledge and experience in Aikido. It is now almost 29 years since I first begun my journey in Aikido. The intitial draw coming from a rough fishing village in Scotland was to be able to better protect myself as there were lots of times in my youth that I needed to. Since starting Aikido I haven't ever been required to consider using my art for my self defence. In most cases, its been simple to be aware of your surroundings and to get both myself and my companions out of any places where it seemed there was going to be potential conflict.

I will worry about whether I use Aikdo or not when it arises and only then - why worry about something that may not happen. In the meantime I prefer to develop my study of Aiki, both from the IP side and also for the practice of a wonderful art that has helped me to lead a fuller life because of my practice.

03-06-2011, 01:00 AM
Greetings Graham,

What a treat to respond to separate “Grahams”, taking care to properly address each of you with the etiquette and respect you both deserve.

There probably is no substitute for real life experiences to study, even as there is certainly no substitute for the deep introspection and candid self assessment that only people of integrity and personal courage will undertake. May I now applaud the skillful manner in which you choose to respond on your posts to those who unwittingly criticize and misjudge what they do not really know or understand.

Please be assured that your show of class is duly noted and appreciated.

Genuine hope, I believe, is based on an enlightened and honest appreciation for what is feasible and possible, way beyond mere wishful thinking and empty platitudes. I do agree that we may not always accurately predict our response to moments of crisis, and must rely on the strength of our training, conditioned mind set, and commitment to the principles we observe in our daily behavior. Only then, may we confidently allow the chips to fall as they may.

Thank you again for your kind words, and for your steadfast example and commitment to Aiki Principles.