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I have been asked many times by friends and family what makes Aikido different from other martial arts and two stories that I have heard in the last 24 hours seem to say it well. The first story was imparted to my sons cub troop by sensei during a seminar we were doing for them. It goes roughly like this.
A Karate martial artist, a Tai kwon do martial artist, a Judo martial artist, and an Aikido martial artist were standing at the bottom of a hill. A bolder was rolling down the hill for which the Karate martial artist punched and shattered it into dust. Another bolder rolling down the hill was kicked by the Tai Kwon Do martial artist and also was reduced to dust. Another bolder rolling toward the Judo martial artist was picked up and thrown by him. And the Aikido martial artist merely moved out of the way of the bolder rolling towards him. Of course sensei told it much better but you get the gist of the story. At any rate I thought it was a very good comparative parable.
The second story wasn't a story at all, but rather a similarity that Kensho Furuya Sensei was using to describe the difference between DO and JUTSU. This could apply to any martial art but I think it fits well to why and how most Aikidoka train.
He likened Jutsu to cursive writing and Do to calligraphy. One can apply Justu or the technique to make it work as a martial art just as one can write cursively to be understood. It is not difficult to understand a technique enough to apply it in a fight situation. So too it is not difficult to learn how to write so others can understand what you have written. These are both skills developed to interact with others, and the act of applying the martial technique (Jutsu), or the scrawl of the writing (so long as it's legible) does not say much about you.
In contrast when one studies a martial art as a Do one tries to see past the basic movements, despite how well the technique is applied, to try and understand how the technique affects him as well as the person the technique is being applied to. The affects that these martial artists ponder aren't necessarily just immediate. They ponder the lingering affect as well. The calligrapher can tell the same story as any one else on paper but the effort and beauty of the calligraphy leaves an impression on the reader that can't be done by scratching it onto a paper cursively. Following a Do and writing calligraphy are also both skills to interact with others, but unlike Jutsu and cursive writing they say much more about the practitioner.
Again, I think Furuya Sensei did a much better job of describing the correlation, but the description struck a chord in my heart just the same. Even though my training is just in the stage of learning the ABC's little lone writing, or calligraphy, I aspire to the Do of the art, because it's much more than just technique.