A number of weeks ago, I was speaking with a senior teacher in Aikido. This person related to me a fellow teacher talking about it not being important if the Aikido being taught “worked”. I, like that senior teacher, did not agree with that perspective. Imagine you are a soldier and you are asked to go into battle with an assault rifle whose motto is “it doesn’t matter if it works as longs as it looks good!” Imagine going on a cross-country drive with a car whose motto is “nice looking, might not make it for the long haul.” I think that you get the idea.
We are teaching a MARTIAL art. Granted, the word martial reflects a very archaic usage of this term. None the less, what we are teaching should have some value when a person is caught up in a physical conflict. The founder of our art was a fierce martial artist who seemed to have no problems in making Aikido work for him. If a person is teaching some type of movement patterns, calling it Aikido, with no concern as to the martial aspects of what he/she is doing, then I would encourage that person to follow the path that Noro Sensei took.
We teach an art in which waza is essentially kata. The attacks and the movements are stylized and represent far more than is visible to the uninformed eye. Simple changes to the movements of the nage can result in devastating results to the attacker. Big movement patterns in our waza can be reduced to hardly observable movements with the same energy patterns that are contained in the big movements.The attacks are simply patterned movements. They represent a host of realistic attack movements. Linear attack, elliptical, arcing, etc, attacks can be executed with different body parts, but the nature of the attack movements are essentially the same. The manner in which we apply techniques to those attacking movements should be easily transferable to attend to the attacking body part. There is so much there for us to learn if we can simply look beyond how things appear to be.
Everything we do in our lives should matter. Our ability to be able to provide to protect ourselves allows us to be able to create a more peaceful world. What kind of peace can we keep without a genuine ability to protect. Some of the most peaceful people I have met, have been remarkable warriors who understood a world of violence. The ability to act and choose to create and maintain a peaceful environment cannot be done by words alone. Aikido can provide us with some tools to help achieve this goal. If the tools do not work then the goals are fantasies best lived away from having to own up to a larger reality.
I do not expect every student of mine to be able to stare down and beat down any and all attackers. I do teach in a manner that can provide a student the opportunity to realistically employ Aikido if needed. I can provide the opportunities, but the students need to practice with the sincerity that allows these opportunities to become realized if necessary.
I look forward to this year of sincere and safe training!
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here