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.
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 RobertsonRoss Robertson lives and teaches aikido in Austin, Texas.
Still Point Aikido Center
Austin, Texas, USA