Re: Aikido as Budo
You are what you train...
If you truely throw yourself into your training, put in the maximum effort, make the sacrifices... it will change you. That's why the choice of the art is so important.
Not long ago I went to a mixed martial arts match. I was astounded by the difference between the atmosphere of that venue and any traditional stryle dojo I have been in. High testoserone, hot chicks on the arms of the guys, fast cars in the parking lot... This was a completely different group of folks than you'd encounter in an Aikido dojo.
O-Sensei was once asked why there wasn't any ground fighting in Aikido? He replied that rolling around on the ground with another human being was "unseemly" (or whatever the Japanese equivalent was). I think this reflects his view of what the point of Aikido traiing actually is. It's not about fighting... it's about shaping who you are. This is true of virtually all of the modern budo.
This is why the techniques of the art are structured in the manner they are. Aikido is about meeting conflict expansively in a non-oppositional and relaxed fashion. It's about transforming the fear we all carry into something better, something that allows us to approach our lives creatively, elegantly, with style and class.
Saotome Sensei has often said that when we are doing technique we should strive to look "regal". Regal means you have elegance. Regal means you have presence. It means you move through life with "style", even under adversity... or perhaps, especially under adversity.
If you wanted to see what the goal of Budo training might be, you could have seen it in the person of Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the Nidai Doshu. That man was every inch the gentleman, a totally "class act". There were others who had more technical wizardry, some who were far more martial, some who went much farther into the spiritual side of the art as taught by the Founder. But no one outdid the Ni Dai Doshu in simple stature as a human being.
That's why we are training... that's the whole point of Budo training in general and Aikido in particular. So many people spend their entire lives preparing for that one life and death self defense encounter. They're essential world view is one of fear. They are obsessed with surviving in a violent and esentially unfriendly world.
If that is your outlook on the world, then that is the world you create for yourself. It will be your reality. People like this spend their daily lives watching out for that next threat. They pride themselves on being on guard. They are constantly armed against the various and sundry threats that abound in their world. Then they die in car crashes, from cancer, in hurricanes or floods, in all the ways that the everybody else dies...
It's not that Aikido doesn't contain some elements that would serve one in that rare self defense encounter. If one is training properly, one should be able to handle oneself. It's just that Aikido is an art for your daily life. It should make you a better citizen, a better friend, a better partner, a better parent.
A friend of mine once described the difference between being in the military and being in law enforcement this way: "being in the military means you train constantly for a job you might never have to do. In law enforcement you train pretty much not at all for a job you have to do constantly."
Many martial artists approach their training as if they were in the military. They train for that rare moment, which might never come, when they are facing the "enemy". Well, "we have met the enemy and they are us". Most folks are more like the folks in law enforcement who train not at all for a job they do constantly, namely live their daily lives. Budo is about training for your daily life. Aikido is about shaping how you choose to live and about helping you learn to move through your life in a way that leaves those around you better off than they were before they met you. It's about confronting all those elements of ourselves that serve to keep us from being great human beings. Surviving the next mugging might be a by-product of Budo training but it certainly isn't the point.