Dojo: Shinkikan Aikikai Aikido of Corpus Christi
Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
Join Date: Aug 2002
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.