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One True Way
One True Way
by Ross Robertson
One True Way

There is only One True martial art.

Which style is it? None of them. All other martial arts are partial, incomplete fragments of the One True Art. The sum total of all combined arts still does not comprise the the One True Way, which has not yet been found.

How do I know it exists? Because all things have an optimum. There is an optimal way for human beings to move, to process rapidly changing events, and to respond to duress. This method disposes of everything which is extraneous, and is in accord with individual capability.

Yes, it will look different from person to person, taking advantage of strength, flexibility, agility, resilience, and acuity; at the same time allowing for the lack thereof. The method facilitates improvement in all areas, yet emphasizes an absolute awareness and acceptance of immediate limitations.

The True Art may be applied toward destruction or preservation, and as such its expression has much variation. But regardless of moment to moment variances, the aim remains the same, and that is optimal outcome. Optimal outcome is not limited to the expediency of the moment. It extends through the long chain of causality.

Martial styles limit.

The limitation inherent in different styles and schools is necessary. A path or a road leads toward a goal, and its narrowness is what gives it its orientation toward the goal. Deviations from the path are not optimal. Nevertheless, by traveling the Mountain Path, one knows only the Path, and not the Mountain. Even at the summit, the Path has not given you the Mountain.

Cross-training in many styles will not get you there either, although they can provide different views and different experiences. Still, one path at a time is the best we can do, and it is wise to follow a path to its fullness before starting out on a new route.

The reason is that we learn the Way through traveling, and for good travel we need to follow a path. When we become skilled on this path, then new paths open to us, and we may then explore them as they call to us, each in its turn.

To know the Way, we follow guides. To live the Way, we become guides. Being guides, we must know the alternate routes. To learn the alternate routes, we must explore. Being explorers, we must go between paths, into the interstices of the Known.

There we find the Right Way of Being. The Right Way is both individual and universal. It has nothing to do with perfection, and everything to do with knowing opportunity and limitation, and acting accordingly.

The One True Way embraces challenge while eliminating threats. The Way nurtures an environment favorable to life. The Way is One, but disappears in the absence of diversity. The Way is accepting of all things, and is absolute in its intolerance. The Way is infinitely creative.

Skills deceive.

To avoid all thrusts; to always evade capture; to throw with supreme subtlety; to strike with unfailing accuracy and effortless power -- these things have their utility, but are not the Way. You cannot master skills without being mastered by them. When Mastery of Skill has taken over your life, you are far from the Way.

I find I'm thinking a lot these days about the One True Art. It may be more than one human being can encompass, but it seems important nonetheless to move toward it. Then again, if it is True, why can't it exist inside a human being?

The more I open up to this Way, the more my aikido changes. Already it may not be recognizable as aikido anymore, and some might say I've strayed far from the Path. Say what they may, the Aiki-no-Michi is what brought me here. Aikido has led me to the interstices, and when I look into them I still see aikido everywhere. It's different, and new... but it resonates with an ancient and original tone.

I'm not saying aikido is the One True Way. I know of a certainty that it is not. But aikido can take you there. If aikido leads to something nameless, something more wonderful than aikido, can we not still call it aikido? I think so, as long as we remember that it's just a name, and others will call it differently.

The Way is nothing more than traveling and exploring. The Way is the method of travel and exploration, but the method is not the Way.

The reason to travel, the reason to explore, is to encounter. The Martial Way is to survive an encounter. The One True Way is not just to survive, but come away enriched from each encounter.

The One Way is alchemical in nature. Every encounter transforms, and all elements are enriched when properly combined.

We cannot find the Way through wishful thinking or through rigorous discipline. We find it only where it presents itself as a pure reality, unprejudiced by desire or will.

And if we ourselves do not create it, we will never be equal to it, and it will never be present to us.
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Center
Austin, Texas, USA
Ross Robertson lives and teaches aikido in Austin, Texas.
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Old 08-24-2007, 07:25 PM   #2
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: One True Way

Funny how the path aways changes, yet continues in the same direction. May we continue to have the courage and discipline to keep following it, no matter where it may lead.

Nicely stated. Compliments.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-25-2007, 11:23 AM   #3
jennifer paige smith
jennifer paige smith's Avatar
Dojo: Confluence Aiki-Dojo / Santa Cruz Sword Club
Location: Santa Cruz
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,049
Re: One True Way

Perhaps the One True Art is simply the True Art of Oneness; without distinctions that get in our way.
Paths are all true when you are in a position to hear the truth of that particular path. One foot in front of the other.

Not to try to preach, although I am a minister so it is an impulse, but I feel inspired by your post and this is my feel.
Thanks for such good writing.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 09-27-2007, 11:29 AM   #4
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 92
Smile Re: One True Way


Loved reading your post.
To me, I believe that the Way you are speaking of is Tao, if we're thinking about the same thing. Laotze (sp?) states that the "Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao".

I've also heard it stated and believe that Tai Chi is a practice that will "help one follow the Tao" (my paraphrase/understanding). So, am I saying that Tai Chi is the One True Way... ?

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Old 01-20-2012, 11:23 AM   #5
Janet L.
Dojo: Obiji Ki-Aikido, Lawrence, KS
Location: Lawrence, KS
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 17
Re: One True Way

Skill. . . It seems to me that a mastery of a skill, properly speaking, serves as a foundation to build on and create something new.

But when that mastery of a skill becomes an end in itself, it becomes a dead end.

Picasso mastered figurative painting before starting his increasingly abstract work. Dali painted his surreal images in a very representational style.

In the martial arts, it seems that at some point, many teachers start to move beyond what they were taught.

Tohei Sensei admitted that what he was teaching in his later years bore little resemblance to what he learned from Osensei, propagating his own innovations built on the base of what he learned from the founder, rather than passing them on unchanged.

My own sensei, somewhat regularly improvises exercises to suit what he is trying to convey that aren't things he learned from his teachers. Some, he has specifically labeled as "That's not Aikido!" But they have helped us greatly improve our stability and sensitivity. . .
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Old 01-21-2012, 11:52 AM   #6
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 265
Re: One True Way

The sum total of all combined arts still does not comprise the the One True Way, which has not yet been found.
It's surprising how much you know about this "One True Way" which you say hasn't yet been found. If it is yet to be discovered, how is it you are able to describe it in such detail? You seem to want on one hand to define what it is and on the other proclaim it a mystery; to make proclamations about it but avoid responsibility for your proclamations by equivocation. I don't see the point of doing this...

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:00 PM   #7
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: One True Way

Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
It's surprising how much you know about this "One True Way" which you say hasn't yet been found. If it is yet to be discovered, how is it you are able to describe it in such detail? You seem to want on one hand to define what it is and on the other proclaim it a mystery; to make proclamations about it but avoid responsibility for your proclamations by equivocation. I don't see the point of doing this...

Let me see if I can be less equivocal.

On the one hand, I do want to define what it is. I do want to know it within the bounds of what is knowable.

On the other hand, I do want to affirm that it retains a quality of mystery, even with greater knowing.

I'm a great fan of the scientific method, which at its best, is able to produce increasingly better models for reality. At the same time, good science acknowledges that the best it can do is produce models accessible to humans (at least, some humans) which may or may not accurately reflect ultimate truth or reality.

I do know a great deal about aikido. If you want me to speak more precisely, I would rather say I do know a great deal about my experience of aikido. I know enough to be confident that I have insights that can be valuable to some but not all humans. If I'm to share what I know with any authenticity, then it has to be from that arena over which I have actual authority.

At the same time, what I don't know about aikido is infinitely more than what I do know. I know very little of your experience of aikido, and can only learn if I'm willing to accept that there is much that I do not know.

If I wish to be in a position to help others, I have to not shirk the responsibility of my experience. If I wish to be in a position for others to help me, I have to remain humble about the limits of my knowledge.

For me, there is no contradiction. It is a simple matter of practicality.

Hope that helps.
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