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Old 06-14-2009, 12:36 AM   #1
Minh Nguyen
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The role of weapons in Aikido

In the coming Fall, I plan to take a regular a separate Jo and Bokken class from my sensei. When I enroll in the course, it is only my curiosity. I really don't know what benefits practicing Aikido weapons can bring to Aikido techniques.

Can you please tell me whether my Aikido skills will be improved if I take the weapon class?

How is Aiki concept applied to using Jo, Ken, and Bokken? Do I do any sparring? If I do, is it as smooth as empty-handed Aikido techniques (without confronting or blocking attacks)?

I hope I can get a vivid answer, so I can expect what's coming in my weapon class. Thank you!
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Old 06-14-2009, 01:44 AM   #2
CitoMaramba
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Here are some video examples of the use of weapons in Aikido:

Morihiro Saito Sensei, demonstrating the the 31 Jo kata and kumijo. Saito Sensei learned all his ken, jo and taijutsu directly from the Founder.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUYVU33wVsU&fmt=18

Shoji Nishio Sensei, demonstrating his methods of ken and Jo. Nishio Sensei, aside from learning Aikido from the Founder, studied traditional iaido and jodo, which he utilised in formulating his method of Aiki-Weapons.
Nishio Sensei's ken and jo video

Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei also developed a distinct method of Aiki weapons based on his own studies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfGJpRwQWos&fmt=18

Inocencio Maramba, MD, MSc
Dangayan Singkaw Aikido Shinzui
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Old 06-14-2009, 06:15 AM   #3
lbb
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Answering your questions isn't going to tell you anything about what's coming up in your weapons class. The short answer to "why train with weapons" is that, supposedly, aikido technique derives from weapons technique, and in using weapons, it becomes more obvious why we do what we do in empty-hand practice. The actual experience of training with weapons will depend on your teacher and class. If it's done correctly, you will probably find it to be rather tedious and frustrating at first, since the practice will involve many repetitive motions (suburi) and a great deal of emphasis on getting details right.

Back when I first trained with weapons (jodo, not aiki jo), we used to get people who would hear about it and wanted to try it out. Sensei always made them observe a full class before he would talk to them about joining (and our classes were three hours long). You could see people's attitudes change from, "Wow! Weapons! Just like in the movies!" to "Ok, well, I guess you do have to do some basic practice" to "This is about as exciting as watching paint dry (plus it looks hard) -- no thanks!" Although the idea seems very exciting, the reality of weapons practice is just like any other kind of practice, whether aikido or soccer or playing a musical instrument: mostly it's just plain hard work. Eventually, as with any other hard work that you do diligently, you get that "woohoo!" moment when things start to come together...and then it's back to the hard work.
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Old 06-14-2009, 07:37 AM   #4
Jason Morgan
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

My Sensei teaches weapons as part of his curriculum. I have found it to help my empty handed Aikido immensely. I find it helps with posture, footwork, and learning timing and intent of an attacker. Weapons class has also given me a better understanding of how to perform attacks as uke and why the attacks are done in that manner.
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Old 06-14-2009, 09:24 AM   #5
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

We used Bokken in a recent class so that Sensei could help us with our hand positions and it made a huge difference for me. Especially when he demonstrated one of the techniques we were working on. Seeing the sword movement made the whole thing make a lot more sense to me. I expect that when I eventually get to the point of regular weapons work I will continue to find this to be true.

I think the new classes can only help to improve your Aikido.
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Old 06-14-2009, 11:17 AM   #6
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Train in weapons and you'll have all the answers you need.

You're probably just excited and curious about your new undertaking. Check out Aikido weapon videos and you'll get a feel.

Have fun.

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Old 06-14-2009, 01:56 PM   #7
Stefan Hultberg
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Hi

I feel that weapons practice is a very important part of aikido and I suppose one way of loooking at it would be that weapons practice improves your aikido because it actually IS aikido. Not everyone would agree with this and quite a few aikido styles only train tai jutsu. Amingst other things weapons practice deepens and sharpens your tai jutsu, your shiho nage, for example, is directly related to the shomen uchi strike with a bokken, and shiho giri with a bokken really improves your shiho nage. Also, I believe the weapons practice links us deeper with the Japanese martial tradition as well as the thoughts of the founder, who emphasized the link between buki waza and tai jutsu.

Also, buki waza is a lot of fun and quite restful. It may be a bit repetitive at times, but not overly so, and the repetitive exercises really develop your ability to be a conduit for ki, something which is crucial in all aikido.

All the best, enjoy the buki waza!!
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Old 06-14-2009, 05:25 PM   #8
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

There's no way to know what your sensei will teach until you are in the class, unless there is someone here on the forum that has trained with your sensei.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 06-15-2009, 02:00 AM   #9
philippe willaume
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

For school that do weapon in aikido, the idea is to improve the use of your body.
Not like very thing in aikido it varies from style to style and sensei to sensei

Aki weapon for what I have seen so far do miss a method to enter safely against someone fighting from a conservative position to make it a true weapon system.
That being said all the techniques are sound and you will find them in many fencing manual.

In lots of way, aikido is fencing with your open hand in the same way you would use a weapon. Speed and control with a weapon comes from not being tense and using "core" strength, more that shoulder and harms. The drawing of you opponent is a very fencing move as well as the continuity of movement (aka flowing)

As well as it has been mentioned before there is direct connection between actual sword move and technique

phil

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In the Land of Windsor where phlip phlop live.
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Old 06-15-2009, 05:57 AM   #10
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Hi
Quote:
Inocencio Maramba wrote: View Post
Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei also developed a distinct method of Aiki weapons based on his own studies
Are you sure?

I only knew he practiced the kenjutsu of Inaba Sensei and did also the aiki ken of Iwama?

Carsten
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Old 06-15-2009, 07:49 AM   #11
CitoMaramba
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Hi

Are you sure?

I only knew he practiced the kenjutsu of Inaba Sensei and did also the aiki ken of Iwama?

Carsten
Hi Carsten,

I may be mistaken but what I meant was he based his method on his studies of Kashima Shin Ryu (also the basis of Minoru Inaba Sensei's kenjutsu, I believe) and other sword techniques which he may have picked up from the Founder (Iwama aiki-ken?).

Shoji Nishio Sensei mentioned in one interview that he had planned to exchange ideas about weapons technques with Yamaguchi Sensei, but this did not push through.

Some mention of Yamaguchi Sensei's swordwork can be found here:
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpo...77&postcount=8

Quote:
Kashima Shin Ryu has links to Aikido through Seigo Yamaguchi, whose swordwork was influenced by the school, and through Minoru Inaba, who teaches a limited portion of the curriculum along with Aikido. There are no (to my knowledge) direct links to Morihei Ueshiba's swordwork.
This is my understanding of the matter and I would be happy to be corrected / clarified.

Cito

Inocencio Maramba, MD, MSc
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Old 06-15-2009, 08:31 AM   #12
MM
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

A relevant section from Peter Goldsbury's TIE article.
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14610

Quote:
Peter Goldsbury wrote:
The quotation is from a section entitled, "My Method of Aiki Training" (the kanji for training is 修業 and really means full ascetic training), ...
Then he goes on to the translation. An excerpt:
Quote:
My body was full of power, versatile, free of any obstacles and innumerable waza arose as if naturally. If we were to count them, they would be in the tens of thousands. If I had a sword, I could also freely teach people this way of the sword. Why so many and so powerful waza arose was, I supposed, a mystery.
I think that with all the postings about Morihei Ueshiba and "aiki", I'd have to say that Ueshiba used aiki to power his sword and never the other way around. In other words, I don't think Ueshiba used any koryu sword teachings to build his skill in the sword. Otherwise, we'd have specific koryu-styled weapons work in aikido. The fact that we have all number of people trying to find aikido weapons in this koryu or that koryu just illustrates my point even more.

If you believe all that, then the translated passage makes a lot of sense. If you also believe that the "core aiki" skills weren't passed down from Ueshiba to many of his students, then it also isn't hard to understand why so many went outside to get sword training ... or why aiki-weapons is viewed the way they are by those in koryu.

It looks as if aiki was meant to be the power behind weapons in aikido. No aiki, no weapons skill.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:20 AM   #13
Minh Nguyen
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Thank you, everyone, for your great answers!
I will take the class to see how it is.
The reason I ask is because one of my classmates never study about aiki weapons, but he was very good during the belt test from orange to blue. The other one performs jo kata well, yet he was a little clumsy when he took the test (also from orange to blue). The first person could deal with three uke randori much better than the second one. Both are my sensei's favorite students.

Please allow me to get off the topic a little bit. In the end of the belt test, my sensei said to the second student "you see that what I have taught you in Jujitsu traps you during the randori"

This makes me wonder the uniqueness of Aikido. Is it that if Aikido is studied with something else, even with its parent Jujitsu, a person's skill in Aikido can be screwed?
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:25 AM   #14
akiy
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Hi Minh,

Can you please start another thread if you want to change the subject?

Thank you,

-- Jun

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Old 06-15-2009, 10:31 AM   #15
CarrieP
 
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

I have just started doing more weapons in my aikido training, and so I'm just scratching the surface on how weapons relate to the rest of aikido.

However, here's what I've observed so far.

Helps to improve form and body movement in non-weapons practice. When holding and using a weapon, you must really focus on relaxing your upper body and shoulders. Also, using of the hips to move the weapon, rather than the arms. All things that translate directly into non-weapons techniques.

Helps to improve co-ordination and strength. We do a lot of warm-up exercises that simply involve moving the jo or bokken repetetively. These strengthen muscles, tire out muscles and help us learn how to move the weapons better when we do kata.

Adds a dimension of realism, martial awareness to training. Example: We were doing ikkyo shomenuchi suwariwaza recently. First, without weapon, then with a tanto. Just having the small wooden dagger in hand made it much more difficult to do the techinque, even though the technique nage was doing hadn't really changed at all. But now, as nage, we needed to keep an eye on that knife, to make sure we moved off the line before it hit us, and to make sure we were controlling the knife hand at all times and that we did not allow a possible attack of opportunity from uke. Not that uke would take that attack, because we were not training that way, but you could definitely see if you were in a place where 1. you did not have control of the tanto and 2. uke might be able to stab you.

Especially since a lot of aikidoka are not the best at attacking (I'll raise my here and include myself here, though I'm working on it) the weapon makes the attack feel more "real" (and some people do find it easier to use a weapon than to strike).

Weapons help with knowing your distance between you and your partner. Can see much more clearly how far you need to be to strike, or how far away you need to move in order to be out of the way of the strike.

Weapons can also help with "beginners mind." If you've been training a few years, and just start weapons, techniques that are very similar to each other will seem different, and you will look at them in a new way. I personally believe that struggling with something new and trying to figure it out is fundamental to learning. You take it to heart, and absorb it better that way.

Whether or not aikido came from weapons, or the other way around, you will definitely start to see connections between weapons techniques and aikido. IMHO, the more connections you see among different techniques, the easier it will be for you to learn and absorb what you are learning. Although there are several techniques in aikdio, it's all a few basic principles when you whittle everything away and get down to it. I think weapons helps to reinforce this concept.

Last edited by CarrieP : 06-15-2009 at 10:37 AM.
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Old 06-16-2009, 07:18 AM   #16
TomasCruz
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Quote:
Carolyn Parkinson wrote: View Post
I have just started doing more weapons in my aikido training, and so I'm just scratching the surface on how weapons relate to the rest of aikido.

However, here's what I've observed so far.

Helps to improve form and body movement in non-weapons practice. When holding and using a weapon, you must really focus on relaxing your upper body and shoulders. Also, using of the hips to move the weapon, rather than the arms. All things that translate directly into non-weapons techniques.

Helps to improve co-ordination and strength. We do a lot of warm-up exercises that simply involve moving the jo or bokken repetetively. These strengthen muscles, tire out muscles and help us learn how to move the weapons better when we do kata.

Adds a dimension of realism, martial awareness to training. Example: We were doing ikkyo shomenuchi suwariwaza recently. First, without weapon, then with a tanto. Just having the small wooden dagger in hand made it much more difficult to do the techinque, even though the technique nage was doing hadn't really changed at all. But now, as nage, we needed to keep an eye on that knife, to make sure we moved off the line before it hit us, and to make sure we were controlling the knife hand at all times and that we did not allow a possible attack of opportunity from uke. Not that uke would take that attack, because we were not training that way, but you could definitely see if you were in a place where 1. you did not have control of the tanto and 2. uke might be able to stab you.

Especially since a lot of aikidoka are not the best at attacking (I'll raise my here and include myself here, though I'm working on it) the weapon makes the attack feel more "real" (and some people do find it easier to use a weapon than to strike).

Weapons help with knowing your distance between you and your partner. Can see much more clearly how far you need to be to strike, or how far away you need to move in order to be out of the way of the strike.

Weapons can also help with "beginners mind." If you've been training a few years, and just start weapons, techniques that are very similar to each other will seem different, and you will look at them in a new way. I personally believe that struggling with something new and trying to figure it out is fundamental to learning. You take it to heart, and absorb it better that way.

Whether or not aikido came from weapons, or the other way around, you will definitely start to see connections between weapons techniques and aikido. IMHO, the more connections you see among different techniques, the easier it will be for you to learn and absorb what you are learning. Although there are several techniques in aikdio, it's all a few basic principles when you whittle everything away and get down to it. I think weapons helps to reinforce this concept.
I would like to add a few words to Carolyn's great post.

Using weapons makes student's mistakes when doing a technique more visible, thus easier to correct. It improves tori's perception of dimension of defence, what I mean is you couldn't instinctively try to block a bokken if imagining it to be a sword. It also (to some extent) emphasizes importance of a way that technique is done the way it is ("if you do it that way, I could do this" sort of thing). It also helps student in observing possibilities of tori's strikes but also emphasizes general holes in tori's defence.

This is what I've heard from my sensei, not my personal opinion. I'm so bad with weapons that I don't feel entitled to have personal opinion on the subject
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Old 06-16-2009, 12:08 PM   #17
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

I find weapons training to be beneficial. One thing that is a bit frustrating for me since I am new to everything is that some things are done different with iaido and using the bokken in aikido. The principles are the same, but some of the stances and movements are just a tad different. Sensei says it will make me more concious of my body and stance and that it will help me in the long run, but for now... it is just tedious for me to remember. As with everything, expect to put in some hard work and practice.
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Old 06-18-2009, 03:00 AM   #18
Robert Cowham
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Quote:
Carolyn Parkinson wrote: View Post
Helps to improve form and body movement in non-weapons practice. When holding and using a weapon, you must really focus on relaxing your upper body and shoulders. Also, using of the hips to move the weapon, rather than the arms. All things that translate directly into non-weapons techniques.

and

Adds a dimension of realism, martial awareness to training.
I agree with this. In my studies (with Inaba sensei) I found in the early days that I could get real value in solo training with a weapon that carried over into taijutsu - and my coordination of hips etc was much improved by that. These days I have lots of non-weapon solo training to do as well (see forum on Non-aikido traditions for some ideas), but the coordination and relaxation from sword is still very useful to me.

As to the martial side - a wooden bokken/bokuto can do you a serious injury in a kata - it helps focus the mind. It brings with it a sharpness and a concentration that is very useful. This is magnified significantly if you do anything with a shinken (live blade). That will really challenge your tanden. I recently took my katana to class and got my students to just practice basic kesa giri with it. It did not take more than 5-10 minutes for each of them to improve a lot - the sword taught them! They were then able to take that focus back to the bokken.

A favourite article of mine - Why Women Should Wield Weapons by Diane Skoss:

http://www.koryu.com/library/dskoss4.html
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Old 06-18-2009, 11:35 AM   #19
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

It is a very interesting discussion, but ...
You know, there is no way to keep weapon with you all the time. Your skill is useless against hidden dangers. Even your proper posture and movements will not help because mostly, it is no time for it.

So, let's look at the weapon training from a different point of view. Weapon, as a perfect tool to practice the most important skill in our art - dodging. Is in your dojo anyone who has a courage to face you during 31 jo kata, or bokken kata performance?
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Old 06-18-2009, 03:43 PM   #20
Randy Sexton
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Cool Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

I train in Aikido through a dojo associated with the ASU.
Mitsugi Saotome, the founder of our association, strongly believes in training with the Jo and Bokken and open hand techniques to develop our Aikido.
I have found in my two plus years in Aikido that there is a strong correlation between my abilities with weapons and my ability without weapons. They supplement each other in a synergistic effect.
I repeatedly find when I am uncertain how to do a technique I put a Bokken in my hand and do the technique and the light usually goes on in my darkened confused brain.

Doc

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Gandhi
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Old 06-19-2009, 03:11 AM   #21
Robert Cowham
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Quote:
Maciej Jesmanowicz wrote: View Post
It is a very interesting discussion, but ...
You know, there is no way to keep weapon with you all the time. Your skill is useless against hidden dangers. Even your proper posture and movements will not help because mostly, it is no time for it.
I would like to suggest that proper posture and movements are a good way of researching how to deal with hidden dangers!

To me, proper posture includes being relaxed, which means upright, and yet with a focus in my tanden - so some element of tension within the relaxation. In such circumstances I am better able to react.

If instead I am not relaxed then my movement is less good, and I tend to react slower.

I find this proper posture increased by weapons practice.

As I heard from one teacher - you need to have a sword in your mind!
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Old 06-19-2009, 12:32 PM   #22
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Quote:
Robert Cowham wrote: View Post
I would like to suggest that proper posture and movements are a good way of researching how to deal with hidden dangers!
There is a common mistake to see aikido as a fighting art. It is an art based on the first reaction and a dodging skill is essential. I think, that the idea of relaxation is fine, but definitely in dojo. In daily life it depends on our assimilation to an environment and our preparation to deal with obstacles. For example, it is visible who is prepared to take an exam (any), and who is not. Our brain decides how to choose a self-defense reaction. Any extra breathing, a posture, actually do not help.

We just got used to see Master Morihei Ueshiba as a person with a magical power, instead to see him as a skilful practitioner of Martial Art. He was a good swordsman but he never suggested to focus on weapon in aikido training. However he became famous because of "the ship accident". It took place on a navy ship where Ueshiba has been challenged by a naval officer who had a wooden sword. He couldn't strike Ueshiba at all (not a single strike). Ueshiba kept dodging his attacks and thrusts until the officer fell from exhaustion. That is a clear example of what aikido is about.
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Old 06-19-2009, 03:17 PM   #23
Robert Cowham
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Re: The role of weapons in Aikido

Quote:
Maciej Jesmanowicz wrote: View Post
There is a common mistake to see aikido as a fighting art. It is an art based on the first reaction and a dodging skill is essential. I think, that the idea of relaxation is fine, but definitely in dojo. In daily life it depends on our assimilation to an environment and our preparation to deal with obstacles. For example, it is visible who is prepared to take an exam (any), and who is not. Our brain decides how to choose a self-defense reaction. Any extra breathing, a posture, actually do not help.
Perhaps we have to agree to disagree

I didn't say only relaxation. I also didn't mention extra breathing, although breathing is very important. A relaxed posture with appropriate focus in tanden is I believe a good foundation in allowing better reactions to events.

As to the brain deciding things, I am not so sure. For fastest reactions the brain does not have time to decide things - responses need to be instinctive. This can be trained, although it is not easy.

I don't think the definition of aikido is that simple. You are picking on a single event to define aikido. I think there are many other events which also contribute. Ultimately, I am not that bothered by your precise definition, I am working to define it for myself. I wish you all the best for your personal journey of definition!
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