View Full Version : Poll: Does aikido contain anything philosophically that is unique amongst martial arts?

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11-23-2003, 12:01 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of November 23, 2003:

Does aikido contain anything philosophically that is unique amongst martial arts?

I don't do aikido

Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=195).

11-23-2003, 03:45 PM
I really think the only possible answer to this question is the old cop-out; "I don't know all other MA; so I can't answer".

Still; if I were to venture a guess; I would say no there probably isn't. The study of ki (or whatever it's called in other languages)is as old as time; as is the one-point, or center, or hara. The philosophy of non-violent resolution of conflict probably evolved at the same time the philosophy of violent resolution of confilct did (some cro-magnon somewhere realized he didn't have the strength to club the grumpy guy in the next cave with a tree branch; so he tripped him. :D ).

As O-Sensei's techniques were a distillation of techniques from other styles, adapted to his own philosophy; so too that philosophy was a distillation of what he learned from other philosophies.

At least; that's my take on it. :)


11-23-2003, 09:21 PM
"...[O'Sensei's] eccentric behavior likewise was characteristic of the highest levels of yoga--a kind of divine madness that transcended time and space."

--from "The Secrets of Aikido" by John Stevens.

I've never tried another martial art, so I don't really know for sure, but I doubt any other martial art had a founder as in touch with the universe as O'Sensei. Therefore, I think some of his philosophies are unique compared to those of other martial arts.

Paul Klembeck
11-23-2003, 11:50 PM
Unique, well, that's a strong word. So, I must vote no. As to what people may think unique:

Ki: Philosophically, explicitly part of the Chinese arts, and as to following flow and momentum (energy), quite common.

Off-the-line: My background (in addtion to Aikido) is western sword arts. Off-the-line is near univeral in their martial application. The modern linear sport fencing mat does not reflect the martial tradition.

Love: Not speaking Italian, I can't precisely quote, but Fiore de Liberi, (15th century) says that one must practice with love towards your partner in your heart. While I don't know of others explicitly saying this, it is probably near univeral in all weapons training halls. Weapons are dangerous, no other attitude really works for training in their presence.

Religion: Fiore (obviously Christian) repetedly says "I will show you how to use the cross to protect you" refering to crossed sword wards and binds, revealing his underlying devotion. Religion is a common basis for almost every medieval mindset. O'Sensei certainly had no monopoly on devotion. As another (old or modern as you chose) example, Systema has a religious component.

Body art based on swordsmanship: Most western sword combat traditions have integrated grappling. They simply go together for anyone who can acquire weapons. If one is a trained swordsman, one will move as such and your grappling will reflect it.

Other: Please suggest. I love Aikido, so if anyone can prove philosophical uniqueness, I'de love to hear.


11-24-2003, 07:30 AM
Dave, we always have to base our opinions on a sub-sample! - I do think this is a cop-out. I've only tried a couple of others but I know of quite a few martial arts. I would say Aikido often does have a unique philosophy in that it i. it discourages competition and ii. it often has a underlying notion of minimal damage.

I can't think of any other martial art that fulfills these two conditions entirely.


11-24-2003, 07:39 AM
I do believe all true koryu-budo (Japanese classical martial arts) do not believe in competitions. The only competition they have is fight to the death, shinken-shoubu (duel with real swords).

One of the uniqueness of Aikido is that Aikido is gendai-budo (Japanese modern martial arts) and still hold true to the no competitions rule. Any movement or any technique must be respected as lethal and not be toyed or played with, for they might cause a fatal result.

Actually, in my opinion is that the philosophy of Aikido is not actaully unique, but it is actually universally true to all true budo/martial-arts. It is even universally true to life.

L. Camejo
11-24-2003, 12:24 PM
Interesting views.

I think any philosophical uniqueness in Aikido comes from the predetermined position of maintaining one's mental and spiritual (and physical if things get to that point)centre to be able to extend love and preserve the aggressor even in the face of extreme danger and death, through the realisation that "there is no enemy".

This is what, if anything makes it a bit different from other styles. I don't think that an Aikidoka that employs the philosophy should ever allow him/herself get to the point where any technique is executed out of fear or desperation, thereby engendering the need to damage or injure the other person for the sake of self preservation.

The challenge in this though is to become so highly skilled in all aspects of the way and the science that the ability to defend oneself without needing or wanting to injure the other person is achieved on all levels.

I think this philosophy extends to and is especially developed in Aikido competition in its modern sense (shiai, not shinken shobu). In paired kata practice and cooperative randorigeiko one does not always come across the willful denial and the serious and purposeful challenge of one's ego by another through the vehicle of skilled resistance.

It is very easy to be all harmonious when no one is really testing you and pushing you all the way and seriously trying to defeat you. Some say that the sports arena is the modern day version of the battlefield, I don't agree completely, but I think that if one can truly compete (i.e. shiai - to meet and to test) and maintain that centre under extreme pressure and still preserve harmony with the other person (i.e. not become emotional and want to destroy or damage the other because they are losing), then that person just might have a deeper understanding of just what it takes to really walk the path of harmony, than one who does not have their comfort zone seriously challenged on a regular basis.

So I think that the philosophy of Aikido does allow for competition and it is an important part of the training, as this element places a degree of pressure on the person to perform at his/her best while maintaining the tenets of mutual harmony. On top of this, there is even more pressure not to become so caught up in the challenge and pomp of victory and ego gratification, such that in the end centre is lost and malice for the other person enters. The beauty of competition and harmony of conflict is that even when one "loses", he wins by understanding the weaknesses of his technique and self and thereby forges onward to improve himself.

We have a saying here "You never know yourself until your back's against the wall." Too often have I seen Aikidoka (including myself) who simply collapse under the pressure of extreme and severe resistance, resorting to more primitive survival-based responses and training systems in the face of danger - this is what we strive to reprogram in Aikido, to get to the point where even under extreme difficulty we do not lose the direction of our higher selves and resort to animal behaviour.

Apologies for the length of the post.

Arigato Gozaimashita


11-24-2003, 02:58 PM
That is a nice way of putting it Camejo-san. I won't argue with what you have put forward.

I just want to mention another thing. Has anybody read Takuan Sh's "The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master" translated by William Scott Wilson. This book has opened my mind to a new understanding. Although, I've only went through the first chapter, "The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom", I already found many Aiki principles within the passage, except they are not mentioned as Aiki.
Although you see the sword that moves to strike you, if your mind is not detained by it and you meet the rhythm of the advancing sword; if you do not think of striking you opponent and no thoughts of judgements remain; if the instant you see the swinging sword your mind is not the least bit detained and you move straight in and wrench the sword away from him; the sword that was going to cut you down will become your own, and, contrarily, will be the sword that cuts down your opponent.
This is a principle that we often heard during our study of Aikido. Aiki is quite an old if not ancient principle. It is actually the foundation of all true martial arts, but many forget this.

That quote was the fourth paragraph of the first chapter. Although I've only read the first chapter, it was quite a humbling experience. I know now that I know nothing. I would like to open a thread on Takuan Sh as soon as I finished reading the book.

Like I mentioned in my post before that the uniqueness of Aikido is that it is not unique in any way, and it is not trying to be unique. It is very universal. No Aikido techniques nor its principles are unique. I even no longer think that the training system is unique. In my opion is that Aikido goes back to the root of Budo instead of creating anything new. Like Osensei said, "Aikido is a supplement".

I also realized that if I kept thinking a lot of "How to"s, I could easily get killed. I shall again begin my study and train well.

11-24-2003, 07:37 PM
Aikido is a unique name for a unique art. With in each person is the unique expression of that philosophy, so there is only the answer that flows from that mind. As posed, my answer to this question was compulsory.

Otherwise, if asked if there is nothing new under the sun, I can easily say that there are finite ideas expressed in finite time, but realization of these possibilities has been quite lacking.

11-26-2003, 07:44 PM
to me, aikido is a philosophy of life, which takes form of a martial art.

to see the aikido's uniqueness among other MA, check its own meaning. I don't think there's any other martial art that uses the word 'harmony' besides aikido.

11-26-2003, 10:08 PM
to me, aikido is a philosophy of life, which takes form of a martial art.

to see the aikido's uniqueness among other MA, check its own meaning. I don't think there's any other martial art that uses the word 'harmony' besides aikido.
Several martial arts have the term aiki in their name.

11-26-2003, 10:59 PM
Several martial arts have the term aiki in their name.
Also, I'm not too sure how "aiki" gets translated into "harmony" myself. "Ai" literally means, to me at least, "fitting" or "matching"...

-- Jun

11-26-2003, 11:24 PM
Also, I'm not too sure how "aiki" gets translated into "harmony" myself. "Ai" literally means, to me at least, "fitting" or "matching"...
Which then leads to the question about other martial arts which profess the same yet use another term. Judo come immediately to mind and how about Wado (absolutely no idea is the Wa here is the same as the Wa of harmony -but I'm feeling playful).

11-27-2003, 01:10 AM
Hi All

Aikido or the concept of KI is man's way of thinking about the univers. It's his perception of the real world.

Though our perception is unique per person, we can't clame that the philosphi is unique. The thought is just what it is, and in it's concept unique, but it's only trying to describe something that is so common, but hard to describe.

So in the sense that what your trying to describe is "what life is", and "everbody" esle is doing the same, there is nothing unique in the philosophi of Aikido.