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Veers 04-02-2003 08:10 AM

Two things.
 
One, I'm actually starting aikido tomorrow! Finally! Sensei Joel e-mailed me this morning...said, "I have some great news today, Aikido will start on the Thursday the 3rd. I invite you and any of your friends that would like to participate. Of course the first class is free, I hope that you can all make it."

*thumbs up* yes!

Also, I had at least one request to post my aikido paper when it was done. Here's the rough draft. "Rough draft" as in "open to changes." If you see any mistakes-technical or regarding aikido-please feel free to let me know so I can work on them.

Aikido is an interesting martial art. Techniques performed by masters and advanced students of the art can appear to be fake, choreographed, or otherwise rigged when the truth is that aikido harnesses the power of physics and uses it to turn your body into a powerful tool. The martial art known now as aikido went through several stages of development and several names until, in 1942, the founder, Morihei Ueshiba, decided that AiKiDo—The Way of Universal Harmony—would be the name under which he would teach his art.

As with any topic as broad as an entire martial art's history, there are many facts, myths, rumors, and stories pertaining to aikido and its development. Though I do not yet practice aikido, I have tried a few of its techniques and can say from experience that it is not rigged! When people practice aikido at a class, they normally pair up with another person and take turns being uke (attacker, or one receiving the technique) and nage (defender, or the thrower). While practicing, techniques are done slowly to help the student understand the movements and keep uke safe, because at full force and speed, many of aikido techniques can be very damaging not only to the attacker, but also to the nage, if he were to apply the technique incorrectly. This means that an aikido student cannot expect him or herself to be able to deftly toss an attacker outside the dojo after the first class, and students of many years admit there is still much that can be learned.

Whereas an art like tae kwon do, karate, or judo usually stresses the importance of being able to beat up anyone who attacks you, many of the techniques in aikido (not to mention its philosophy) are based on the school of thought that says the less conflict there is, the better. Aikido is unique in that is says to run when confronted by an attacker. This may sound wimpy, but if you think about it, this would rarely be a poor choice. If physical struggle is unavoidable, an aikidoka (practitioner of aikido) can use a number of techniques to keep himself from injury.


I have done much research to help make the decision to start aikido, but there are still several things I would like to find out. The first is what impact did World War II have on the art and its students and founder? Morihei Ueshiba lived during that era, and, as a resident of Japan, could not have gone unaffected. I also want to find out what other martial arts Sensei Ueshiba trained in before forming aikido. I know many of the techniques in aikido are from jujitsu and a certain form of katana fencing, but that is the extent of my knowledge. Also, one might notice in demonstrations or classes that one or more people might be wearing a long black skirt. This is known as a hakama and is worn by black belts. Though I know its purpose in modern aikido, I do not know where they came from or what significance it has over a simple black belt. Lastly, I would like to find out when aikido officially came to America and what the world-wide state of aikido is now.


Now that I've decided in what to delve, I need to decide where. One source I know I will use, and have used before, is the book The Spirit of Aikido, by the founder's son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. I also have one internet source, Aikido FAQ, that I will use for articles, and possibly interviews. I'm sure I can dig up a magazine article, and other than that I don't really know.


Morihei Ueshiba was born on December 14th, 1883, in the Wakayama Prefecture now known as Tanabe, Japan. Morihei, the son of a politician, witnessed thugs hired by a rival politician attacking his father for his views. Young Ueshiba vowed to avenge and protect his father and his family, so he began martial art training. His determination coupled with a natural aptitude for martial arts lead to his mastering several arts, including jujitsu at the Daito School of Jujutsu, kenjutsu, or swordsmanship, and several staff forms. However, Ueshiba felt incomplete after his accomplishments, and delved into spirituality. After a few years, Ueshiba decided he would create the ultimate, all encompassing budo that he believed would express the true nature of budo, to end contention and fighting.

Morihei Ueshiba now set upon a different task, to form a budo of peace. Training hard and experimenting, he developed a budo that is "directly descended from the samurai tradition, but it is also a reform of that tradition—from dominance to reconciliation, from war to peace." One basic explanation of aikido states that "over simplifying somewhat, we may say that aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear techniques." Unsure what to call his hybrid, Ueshiba went through several names such as aikijitsu, aikijujitsu, aikibudo, aikinomichi, and in 1942, finally decided on aikido. Though Ueshiba had some friends develop the art with him, he did not rush to market aikido, but eventually moved to Tokyo with his family and slowly growing number of students and built a dojo, where knowledge of him and his creation spread.


The question I had about the hakama was easily answered, but not quickly found. Actually, from playing strategy games, I knew that samurai used them, but I knew no details. It turns out that the "origin of hakama was very old. Under an influence of the Chinese civilization, the usage of hakama had declined during Heian period and replaced by kimono with a long skirt, especially for women. When samurai clans took the power in the middle ages, the usage of hakama became again popular among men." The hakama was used by samurai to protect their legs while riding horses, and shortened armored hakama served as upper leg protection, much like Roman legionnaires. I believe the hakama also developed some religious usage, but I could find no information of any such.

Today, the shortened version of the hakama is used as part of girl's school uniforms in Japan, and is used in several martial arts. In aikido, the hakama is worn as a symbol of seniority by those who have achieved black belt rank (usually), and also serves to weigh the practitioner down a bit more. As mentioned, other arts use hakama, but I do not know what significance they hold in those martial arts.


World War II brought about many changes in the world, naturally, and Japan was hit hard. Before World War II, aikido was taught only to an elect few; friends, military officers, executives, and dignitaries. However, at the outbreak of World War II, Japan marshaled all of the country's martial arts and formed a group under governmental control. Ueshiba, by this time known as O Sensei, or Great Teacher, frowned on the idea of having his new art forced into such a collaboration. He decided to pack up and vacate Tokyo, leaving Kisshomaru, his son, in charge of the dojo. However, the dojo was closed during the war, and remained so until 1949.

As Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of O Sensei puts it, "There was a major change in Japanese society after World War II, so aikido had to also face new challenges. My father, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, was the person that started to spread the spirit of aikido and training of the general public." Following World War II, aikido became very popular in Japan, and soon traveled abroad via Japanese aikidoka as well as foreigners who took the art home with them.


Aikido today is still quite close to original aikido in many respects. Though there are different styles and different teachers and students, due to O Sensei's wishes that orthodox aikido be continued by his family, aikido has largely remained true to its roots. Just as with any martial art, religion, political group, et cetera, there are off-shot styles that add flavor to the mix, and there have been rogue practitioners manipulating aikido for personal gain alone, thereby giving aikido a bad name to some, but this is unavoidable, and has fortunately done no real damage to my knowledge (albeit George Premu).

The Hombu Dojo, the head dojo in Japan, is the center of aikido currently. Lead by Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, Hombu Dojo acts the administrative headquarters for aikido today, sending representative teachers around the world and licensing instructors who desire to teach aikido in its truest form. In an interview, when asked about his father, Moriteru Ueshiba explained that "his [Kisshomaru's] contribution mainly was that he was able to expand aikido so that today it is practiced in more than eighty countries, which has contributed to international dialogue and relations."


Experience is essential for writing, and this paper is no exception. As one who does not practice aikido (yet), I may well have stated a misunderstanding on my part as assumed fact. However, I trust my sources did not lead me astray, and I hope I can begin classes soon to learn more than just the talk.

I have only touched the surface of the answers to the questions I asked. Much has been written about the life of O Sensei, and there is much information on World War II and modern aikido, including original students of O Sensei that I could not find, or could not work in. This isn't a comprehensive paper, but it wasn't meant to be. I hope you learn something like I did.

John Boswell 04-02-2003 10:54 AM

HA !

First off, welcome to Aikido! And I'm curious where in Texas you are and what prompted you to get involved at THIS point in time? I wonder because it is my understanding that Sensei Birdsong from Austin is doing a lot of traveling and demonstration throughout the state and is doing very well with waking up aikidoka who have been off line for a while.

So, what kicked you into gear?

What dojo will you be in? or will you just study under an instructor you've just met?

I'm glad you have "found" Aikido and are so enthusiastic about it. You remind me of Lan (a fellow student in my dojo). He's like a kid in a candy store everytime he gets on the mat. Its Great! (though I do get sore just watching him take high falls that I'm still too scared to try. ;) )

Anyways, good luck with it. And keep an eye on this forum. Hopefully in the not too distant future, we will be having a seminar in Midland and I would encourage you to attend if at all possible.

Good luck in your journey!

Veers 04-02-2003 11:34 AM

Well, a while back I posted about this, but what got me interested was Tekken, Shadowrun (pen and paper RPG), and Virtua fighter :D I did some research on aikido, found this forum, read some books...decided it looked great, but didn't have a job.

A few months ago Kato Sensei (practiced under O Sensei for a short time) did a demonstration in town, and Jorge Garcia told me on this forum about it and invited me. I took a friend and went, then went out to dinner with Kato Sensei and a few of the other people who were at the seminar.

I looked around town but couldn't find any "good" dojos (a few of you will remember that stink hehehe), and then I found out that Jorge's friend who I met at the seminar was opening a dojo soon. It was supposed to be open January 1st, but didn't get finished until now.

So, since I got a job finally that works perfectly with my school shcedule, I'll be working Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat, and doing aikido Tues, Thur, and maybe Sat, with school in between. Yeah, I'm pumped.

I'm in Corpus Christi, by the way...

faramos 04-02-2003 03:43 PM

Dear Mr. Lyons:

Congradulations on starting Aikido. I hope in the near future your experiences will grow along with your knowledge of the history of Aikido. I must say for not having yet spend years on the mat you have already accumulated a wealth of Aikido history. I think you're interest in the role of Aikido after WWII is a very interesting one that perhaps you might want to look at from many different angles besides one people are inclined to look at. That being that Aikido somehow trancended all the ill will of the conflicts that have occured in the world over the past hundred years. Alot of what Osensei understood when he pledged his form determining it to be Aikido, was that the WWII, like all wars, would come to and end. And in the end, what would become of the victor, and what of the loser? Who would be subject to who's laws? What's the truth? How would people's lives change?

All were questions that Osensei had when he was developing the aiki ideology and, moreover, he was greatly concerned with the preservation of the history of all peoples. The culture of Japan as well as the culture of China, Korean, and the U.S. would all be lost if not for some greater truth as to their relevence. As these theaters of conflict came to a close, Osensei understood this responsibility, along with the former doshu, that in order to maintain a strong truth to the culture of Japan, it would be necessary to maintain the idea of love and harmony through the practices that had given them life. Therein Aikido helped to preserve the aspects of a culture Japan feared would die after the occupation, and became a symbol of true faith in Aiki. So great a faith in fact, that today it has spread like a flood and taught people around the world that in preserving oneself, you are preserving your true nature, culture.

None of this commentary I can attribute without research. If you are interested in reading some incredible literary pieces on the subject, may I suggest, works by John Stevens sensei, George Leonard Sensei, Tohei sensei, Abe sensei, Wendy Palmer sensei, Saotome sensei, and Saito sensei. I'm more than sure after finishing Aikido no Kokoro by Kisshimaru doshi, you'll want to know more about Aikido and the past. And that may be the greatest of all Aikido techniques.

Best in your training,

Frank

kensparrow 04-03-2003 12:56 PM

Jonathan,

Clearly your research is excellent as you arrived at the correct conclusion that Aikido is the best martial art in the world! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

I did like your paper and if you don't mind a constructive critisism, I had a couple of minor issues with one paragraph:

"Whereas an art like tae kwon do, karate, or judo usually stresses the importance of being able to beat up anyone who attacks you, many of the techniques in aikido (not to mention its philosophy) are based on the school of thought that says the less conflict there is, the better. Aikido is unique in that is says to run when confronted by an attacker. This may sound wimpy, but if you think about it, this would rarely be a poor choice. If physical struggle is unavoidable, an aikidoka (practitioner of aikido) can use a number of techniques to keep himself from injury."

I formerly studied karate and it was never about "beating someone up". Conflict was to be avoided whenever possible (as with Aikido) but when it was impossible to avoid, then the attacker's well being was not really taken into account (very different from the ideals of Aikido).

As for running away, most self defense systems advocate this as well. The particular techniques used are usually intended to disengage from an attacker and/or prevent them from pursuing you as you make your escape.

I think in many ways Aikido is actually the opposite of running away. Without some connection (not necessarily physical) between uke and nage, there is no aikido. The goal is to always control the situation. If controlling the situation means defusing it by removing yourself then that's the correct technique to use.

You might be interested in reading "The Magic of Conflict" by Thomas Crum. If you can get through all the flowers and sunshine (you'll see what I mean if you read it!) it has some really interesting things to say about the psychological aspects of aikido. It also makes a really good distinction

between "conflict" and "fighting".

Anyway, I hope you found this useful.

Train hard, be safe and have fun!

Veers 04-03-2003 01:23 PM

No, I don't mind at all! In fact, I was hoping for more than I've gotten so far!

So, something more like this?

Whereas an art like tae kwon do, karate, or judo usually put less importance on the opponent's well-being, many of the techniques in aikido (not to mention its philosophy) are based on the school of thought that says the less conflict there is, the better, and says that your opponent is a person, too, and you should try protecting them. Though other martial arts also teach that fleeing conflict is the best first option, aikido is unique in that it says when escape is unattainable, you should accept your attacker with love, not aggression (and toss him to the floor). When physical struggle is unavoidable, an aikidoka (practitioner of aikido) can use a number of techniques to keep himself from injury.

I realize this doesn't sum it all up, but, then again, the assignment was just to give a brief intro and history to aikido to a class who knows nothing about it (except one former aikidoka).

[edit]Spelling[/edit]

kensparrow 04-04-2003 12:33 PM

It is definitely tough to describe aikido to anyone who hasn't done it or at least seen it (I cringe every time I'm forced to say "well... have you even seen 'Above the Law'?". I do like your revised paragraph much better though. Hopefully you'll get some input from more qualified critics than myself. Good luck!

Veers 04-04-2003 01:17 PM

Woo, that sure was fun! I think I'm hooked!

Small class last night...heh, only me, Sensei, and one other senior student. Still, I guess that was good for me, as a first class. We did some basic stretching, then went into some basics moves. Don't remember all the names...I know we did ski and something about kata and katate. Oh well, I'll learn eventually.

My ankles are a bit sore. Need to stretch those tendons out a bit more!

Okay, so I'm a little stiff in my technique, but I'll learn to go with it. John had trouble subduing me because I was moving wrong and I had a laugh at myself :D Well, same as the language, I'll get it down!

What's the one where you sit seiza knee-to-knee and tip them over sideways? That one's fun, too. Did that one a lot, and I actually understood that one (probably because I did it so much...the other ones I only got to do like four times each) and showed my sister how to do it at home. She came with me to watch, and said it was really fun to watch and looks fun. But, she doesn't have enough money to pay the dues with just her babysitting income.

Yep yep yep, that was fun...can't wait until Tuesday. I hope I can get enough of a technique down so I can practice it with my sister at home.

Next class should have more people...possibly nine more. Can anyone help me with formalaties? I mean, I know to bow when you enter the dojo and to the picture of O Sensei and to my sensei, and after a demonstration, and at the end of class again, but *shrug* I felt really awkward during class!

Dave Dean 04-04-2003 02:54 PM

Jonathan,

I just started my first aikido class last night as well (if you don't count a Ki Development class a few weeks ago, which really isn't Aikido per se).

I had a cold, was more than a little clumsy, and absolutely had a great time anyway. :)Wish I could go several times a week, but I'll at least wait until I get through the 4-week intro class. :)

As far as dojo ettiquette goes, I understand it can vary a lot. Follow the lead of more senior students and you should be fine :)


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