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Is Aikido a form of Haragei - the cultivation and development of Hara in the activity of Aikido? Or is Aikido out there, unique and on its own? I know at least one Hombu Shihan for whom Aikido is about Hara. The Japanese tend to take this for granted, but Westerners don't really understand it and construe Aikido as some sort of 'kick ass' martial art. What do you think? Check out this book review on the subject of Hara - http://alister-aikiblog.blogspot.com/
I began practicing Aikido in 1982 in Glasgow. My interest in Aikido came directly from my interest and practice of meditation - Soto Zen. I had studied and practiced Zazen for many years, attended Sesshins, and went on retreats. But I wasn't entirely satisfied. There was something missing.
When I first encountered Aikido it was if a light had been switched on. In a strange way I could understand exactly what was happening on the mat. It was many years later, however, before I could even begin to reproduce anything like those graceful and effortless movements - I'm still learning!