Aikido waza represents a unique style of kata. We can view different kata as varying along a spectrum of how “effective” those particular movements would be in conflict, contest, fight…. Aikido waza typically rests at one end of this spectrum, where the actual waza would not be one’s first choice to use in a fight. That being said, a deep understanding of waza leads the Aikidoka to realize how waza can be “modified” to be quite effective in a fight.
I personally believe that O’Sensei intentionally transformed his Aikido waza to represent that end of the spectrum. There is an unspoken brilliance in his creation. Working so hard at developing kata that represents “unrealistic” martial arts “moves” forces a person to confront one’s own personal vulnerability. Practicing in this manner genuinely leaves one vulnerable, because what is being practiced is not about practical fighting. At the same time, this practice highlights the importance of the connections that we have with those around us. If we are vulnerable beings, then how we connect with those around us effects of sense of vulnerability. I think that another brilliant aspect of this type of training is that as we deepen our understanding of our kata, we see that modifying the kata allows us a variety of responses to situations that significantly vary in degrees of “violence.” The importance of this is tempered by a person’s ability to recognize and chose appropriately as to how to respond to a conflict.
My martial arts and fighting sports training led me to respond to conflict in a more effective and violent manner than the person confronting me. I became profoundly uncomfortable with that aspect of my life. I found Aikido, specifically, Imaizumi Sensei, and I began a process of personal transformation. What surprised me about this transformation is that within one year of starting Aikido training, I responded to a situation in an effective manner without the same level of violence that typically reflected my past responses.
Today, this transformation has allowed me to change in the following ways: 1) I do not get as easily engaged in conflicts with others. I find it so much easier to “let things go” and simply not respond to most provocations. 2) I find myself being so much more sensitive to perceiving potential conflicts before they emerge. 3) I find myself able to de-escalate situations without a person perceiving me as a physical threat. 4) I find myself able to physically restrain people without engaging in some more dangerous and violent maneuvers that I have used in the past. 5) I find myself more capable than before to come out on the successful side of physical encounters. Simply put, I do not question whether or not my Aikido works. My Aikido is integrated in with all of my training. My Aikido has helped to transform me into a person that I like better than the “old me” without sacrificing an ability to defend myself.
I sincerely hope that my students develop their Aikido so that they can use Aikido as a tool for personal transformation, while at the same time, developing abilities as martial artists that allows for intelligent choices made during conflicts.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here