A couple of years ago, one of the former IAF officials, Mr. Haneef from Malaysia, stated in an IAF discussion that aikido is a world heritage. That got me thinking.
I agree with him, profoundly, and we have to consider the meaning of it. Normally, world heritages are historical cultural sites, and some natural ones, that must be protected from exploitation or destruction. Here is a list of them (679 in all):
I'd like to widen this concept to all things of significant meaning to mankind through the ages -- those generations behind us as well as those to come. Certainly, Leonardo's La Gioconda
belongs to the world heritages, as do Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
, Aristotle's Poetics
, the bubbles in Champagne, Fred Astaire's tap dancing, the acoustic trickery of the shape of the violin, and so on.
These things are what make us dazzled in life, so that we cherish being blessed with it. Therefore, they should be shared by all. No one can claim ownership to any of them, keeping them away from the rest of mankind. When things are of such importance to our well-being, they become our collective possessions.
The Internet has become a wonderful resource in spreading many of these world heritages to people all over our world. Although I'm a writer of copyrighted material myself, I am not fond of the idea of restricting this spread for whatever reason -- certainly not one as simple as money.
But that's a discussion not perfectly suited for this forum.
Aikido is also a world heritage, making a lot of good to anyone trying it at some length. It's both an art and a medicine. So, it should be easily accessible to us all. Nobody owns it or is entitled to decide about how other people may approach it. It's out there, for all of us to use or to ignore, as we please.
I don't know what difference it makes in the dojo if aikido is regarded as a world heritage or not, but it inspires some humility. Neither grade nor any other merit gives the right to claim privileges of any kind. Although our experiences of aikido differ, each of us has the same right to it.
And it stresses the process that is at the core of aikido: the sharing. Without sharing there can be no aikido, of course. There is sharing between tori and uke, as well as between teacher and students. Each one participating is at the receiving as well as the giving end.
So, what could it be but a world heritage?
Stefan Stenudd is a 6 dan Aikikai aikido instructor, member of the International Aikido Federation Directing Committee, the Swedish Aikikai Grading Committee, and the Swedish Budo Federation Board. He has practiced aikido since 1972. Presently he teaches aikido and iaido at his dojo Enighet in Malmo, Sweden, and at seminars in Sweden and abroad. He is also an author, artist, and historian of ideas. He has published a number of books in Swedish and English, both fiction and non-fiction. Among the latter are books about aikido and aikibatto, also a guide to the lifeforce qi, and a Life Energy Encyclopedia. He has written a Swedish interpretation of the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching, and of the Japanese samurai classic Book of Five Rings. In the history of ideas he studies the thought patterns of creation myths, as well as Aristotle's Poetics. He has his own extensive aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido