Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
Calling all teachers. How do you differentiate between what aikido in its 'pure sense' is, and what it means to you. Can you even try?
Hello again, Justin,
I am sure there is nothing you need to apologize for in your posts.
There is a tendency for us all to use stereotypes and think of aikido as a set of forms, rather like the forms in Plato's world of ideas. But really, what we mean by aikido is aikido as expressed by all the individuals who practise it.
The Founder Morihei Ueshiba said there were no kata in aikido: by this I think he meant that there was much more freedom of form than in a traditional koryu. On the other hand, if you look at three books, you will see that there is a certain continuity of form. The books are "Budo", written in 1938 under Morihei Ueshiba's name, "Aikido", by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, which appeared in 1975, and "Best Aikido"/"Aikido the Master Course" by Moriteru Ueshiba, published last year. I cite them simply as collections of core techniques, which manifest certain priciples and also as evidence that three generations of the Ueshiba family have sought to redefine this essential core. The same techniques are shown and these techniques are thought to illustrate certain essential principles, but if you go through the successive volumes carefully, you will see that there are major differences.
So there is an essential and creative tension between (1) the basic framework and any one individual's interpretation of this and also (2) between the essential framework and more peripheral techniques. Thus, your students need to know (1) the principles embodied in a technique like kaiten-nage (which does not appear in "Budo", but which appears as a 'basic' technique in the 1975 "Aikido" volume), and probably the best way of teaching this is from a katate-dori hold. But they should also be aware (2) of the possibilities, of doing the same technique from, e.g., a punch (plus the katame variation), or a kata-dori hold. All the principles are there, but the difference of attack makes it harder to see them.
So you need to make sure that your students have the basic framework, which is going to involve much repetition of the core techniques. In addition, as a teacher you also need to give your students glimpses of the possibilities that can be achieved and enjoyed, after and to the extent that the basic framework has been mastered.
As I stated earlier, O Sensei said there are no kata, so much of this is going to be transmitting your own personal take on the essential framework and also the more interesting possibilities.