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Old 08-04-2010, 07:10 PM   #1
Thomas Osborn
Dojo: Aikido of Northampton
Location: Holyoke, MA
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 108
Is Aikido Only One Thing?

8/3/10 NOTE: I really like doing this blog. Well, I don't like writing it much, but I do like having written it. And I especially like doing a section where I get some good responses and generate some good discussion. The last section [8/1/10] is one of those that is generating some good replies on the AikiWeb Aikido Forums, External Aikido Blog Posts [] It goes to show how vibrant and alive is the art and the community of Aikido.
The discussions I have read in most martial arts forums usually start with "my form/style/school is different than yours", but rapidly move to "my form is better than everything else." and often deteriorate to " your form sucks and your mother wears combat boots". Aikido forums mostly stay with the first level of discourse. And given what I am trying to do, with the people I have as students, I appreciate the strong opinions I am getting, both pro and con. They force me to more closely examine what I am doing and why I am doing or not doing a particular thing. And sometimes I can bring what I am doing more in line with traditional dojo teaching, sometimes not.
For example, today I started the class with ikyo omote, but only bringing uke to a standing pin. I then got a volunteer and demonstrated the same technique but brought him to a smooth, soft ground pin. I then gave those people who wanted, the option of doing the standing or the ground pin, based on what their physical limitations allowed. Some guys tried the ground pin. What was interesting was how people began to see how important it was taking relaxed and balanced ukemi.
All that being said, personally I don't see there being one fixed and rigid Aikido. From what I can tell, O Sensei's Aikido grew and changed through out his life. The great consistency was that Aikido should be "a way to peace in the world". I have done a fair amount of traveling and try to put in some practice with what ever dojo is in the area. While I almost always learned, the dojos I gained the most from were those in which the sensei and most of the students practiced technique as a way to the inner strength and self knowledge that enables them to move through life calmer, more peacefully and more in control of themselves and circumstances as they come at them.
To me these are the core principles of Aikido. They are the structure, the skeleton on which can be built a flexible, highly adaptable, organic body of practice and technique. Thus, Aikido can be appropriate to almost anyone, no matter what their age, gender or physical ability. At one time it was believed that women were not physically capable of practicing or learning Aikido. Even today there are those who hold that children can not, should not learn Aikido. Of course we know that Aikido is not suitable for those with physical disabilities, the wheelchair bound, the blind, the aged and decrepit, etc, etc, etc.
It only takes a few minutes running through the internet to prove all of those assumptions wrong, and that one of the great strengths of Aikido is that with careful thought, aikido can be, has been, is constantly being, adapted to meet the needs and capabilities of all those people with out losing or violating the core principles and practices. To hold that Aikido can only be taught in such a way that it can only be practiced by athletic young men is quaint, but denies the it's vast range of possibilities. I mean if some arthritic, 71 year old, duffer can't practice what am I going to do four times a week?

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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