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Recently there has been lot's of talk about the word "Aiki" and what that word means, and what the founder of Aikido meant when he used the word. As usual I had my own very strong opinion on the issue, and set forth to be proven wrong or get my point across- I'm this way by nature.
Doing this forced me to examine and reexamine the history of our system (Aikido). Through this I found out that I wasn't as informed as I thought I was. I spent lot's of time on Aikido journal, sifting through interviews and translations. Trying to get a more complete view of the situation. Turns out I was a little wrong, and a little right, but none of that really mattered. In the end I have a better understanding, for myself, of what Aikido is historically, and that's the best thing that could have happened.
Thanks to all those who said I was wrong, you made me work, and through that I think I've become a little better and stronger. The old saying "you don't have to take my word for it" should be at the very core of our practice. Only through taking in many different viewpoints can you better find your own. Blindly following any one persons ideas, no matter how great they are, is always inferior to finding your own path.
A few of my friends recently read some of the discussions here on Aikiweb where I was expressing my feelings about IP/IT/IS, and they had some questions for me, that made me realize, that without some background information about me and my training, some of my arguments might not make sense. So I've decided to write a quick explanation about where I stand on the IP/IT/IS discussion, and why my feelings are the way they are.
I started my Aikido career with and received my Shodan from Patrick Cassidy, Aikikai 6th dan, awarded his 4th dan by Morihiro Saito Sensei, trained in Iwama Japan for around 7 years. My early Aikido training was an interesting mix of solid Iwama kihon, Aikikai style ki-no-nagare and strong spiritual ideals (if you know Patrick you're very aware of what I mean).
From this training I began to understand the idea that "Aiki" was the ability to understand, lead, and blend with your attackers mind. This understanding of the mind, leads to the ability to work with the attackers body. This idea, took a strong hold, and to this day I find it to be a unique, and practical ability inherent to Aikido training.
After receiving my black belt, I began to feel like I didn't really understand how one could practically "use" Aikido. How one could martially defend themselves with the techniques found in Aikido. So I figured the best way to find out would be to start competing in Sport martial arts. Which I did, I co
When one begins to talk about practicality, application and usefulness in the world of the martial arts we enter onto a slippery slope. People start talking about "street fights" and "what REALLY happens in a fight". We Begin to theorize about reality, instead of living and training in it.
Training in the martial arts is not fighting. No matter how much we want it to be, no matter how much we pretend or don't pretend it simply isn't fighting. You can not do or experience the things you would in a life or death struggle in a Dojo. It's not possible, for many reasons.
First, a Dojo is a controlled atmosphere. No one is going to have buddies waiting outside the door, to help them beat up another student. A car isn't going to drive through the school. People are not going to begin shooting at you in the middle of class. Most everyone knows each other and are working together, not plotting to harm one another.
Second, the Dojo has a teacher/coach who sets up the scenarios, decides when things have gone on to long, or are not appropriate. The teacher dictates what is safe, good practice and the direction he wants the school to go in. If it were a sporting event he'd be the referee, there are no referee's in life or death struggles.
Third, there is a lack of intent to truly do harm to one another. Not that there aren't occasional Dojo Scrabbles. Maybe a few people don't really like each other, but there is no real intent to do life threa
Martial arts and spirituality. What does that even mean? This is a question almost all of us ask. But few of us ever get any real answers. Some say it's mixing religions such as Christianity or Islam with martial arts. Some think it's dressing up in flowing clothes, spouting koans, and seeming esoteric. Some say it's simply, "a bunch of crap".
However I believe It isn't any of these things.
To understand the relationship between Martial arts and spiritually, you must first understand what each of them are on their own. Most of us pretty much understand, or at least have a clear concept of what the martial arts are. I'll define it here as the study of physical conflict. But there are lots of reasonable definitions. Most of us have spent enough time with the martial arts, that we have a pretty clear definition, at least for ourselves. It's spirituality that many of us have a hard time with.
To many, spirituality is simply going to church and reading the bible. While these things are spiritual things, they are part of a religion, and not the spirituality itself. A religion is a school of spirituality. The main goal of these schools is to put people in touch with their spirituality. The practices of a religion (prayer, bible reading, church services, worship etc.) are designed to put you in touch with your spirituality, but they are not the spirituality itself. By adding the practices of your religion to your martial arts, you are not wo
Many people engage in martial arts training to learn a "trick". They think they are going to learn a cool wrist lock, or some other kind of almost magical unknown technique, that will flip everyone for real. After a few years most of us learn that this really magical unknown technique, doesn't exist. We realize that the body is a machine and it's limitations can be readily understood by all.
So we give up on that idea, and we move on to the next bit of magic tricks. We start looking for either, a mental trick, a spiritual trick or an energy trick. We want to find a way that our minds, spirits or ki/chi can do the magic. While many spend forever looking for these tricks, most of us, again, settle down and realize that these are not all we fantasize them to be.
Slowly most of us learn that these things all come with dedication, perseverance, honest sweat and hard work. It only looks like a trick to the uninformed, who don't understand that it took time to learn these things, and that if it could be given over night, it truly would be just a "trick".
However most of us continue to fool our selves. We think that training in the martial arts is going to some how make us an amazing fighter. We might shrug it off, and say that we train in the peaceful way, and fighting is something we actually want to avoid. However it's impossible to deny your interest in physical conflict. Because the study of physical conflict IS the study of the mart
It's pretty common knowledge that Aikido is the study of Aiki; but what is Aiki? Do people other then martial artists use Aiki? Is Aiki magic? Is Aiki science? Does Aiki exist? These are all very important questions to which many never get fulfilling answers.
What is Aiki. Well first, lets look at the root words that make up Aiki. The first is Ai (çá). Ai is the Japanese word for Accord, or meeting. It basically means to be in sync or come together with. The second word is Ki (ãC). Ki is the Japanese word for energy. Many people attach some mystical meaning to ki, but that will take us away from where we are trying to get to in this article. If for now you simply understand Ki as energy, the same as we use the word here in the west it will serve us well. By looking at these two words in conjunction we will get a very direct translation for aiki, of: in sync with energy.
For myself, I look at Aiki like music. Several musicians playing music together must use Aiki. The energy is the sound they are producing, and the accord is them working together to produce a cohesive piece of music. Music is a very good example to use because there is no physical interaction, it is simply and directly related to the harmony of the energy produced (the sound).
In my opinion an abstract example like this, is the clearest example of what Aiki is. Not to say that you cannot have Aiki when there is physical connection, but with physical in