The true essence and beauty of what I call "Aiki", was not, is not, and never was intended solely for the eventual creation of the Founder's "Aikido" alone. Rather, it embodies essential elements of those proven values, honored virtues and treasured characteristics of human potential that have historically and traditionally been appreciated and esteemed by enlightened folks throughout the ages.
The "Aiki" of Ueshiba Aiki,
and eventually, the Founder's Aikido, is but a singular, although unquestionably important example of the potential for human achievement to be found in the infinite Universe of Aiki.
The Founder did not have, nor professed to have, exclusive access to the vast resources of Universal Aiki. He was known to repeatedly admonish his select students to think larger than themselves, to dare to delve deeper within themselves for ultimate guidance, and to nurture a keen resolve and unbridled ambition to create their very own Aikido from the sum total of all of their unique and shared experiences.
I believe that he was well aware of what he himself naturally lacked in terms of abilities and resources. He was also undoubtedly aware that there would probably be fields of study he would never have access to in his own lifetime. Rather than viewing this fact as a failing, he chose to accept this as a natural limitation and resolved to throw all of his energies into those activities he was able to do with the talents and opportunities that he was gifted with.
The Founder accepted being both fallible and vulnerable, and by freely acknowledging this very fact, he became that much more humble, deeply appreciative, and appropriately resourceful in choosing the best available components for his very own Aikido matrix. To this concoction he could add, subtract, and substitute anything of proven value, whenever he perceived the need to.
I believe that the fundamental definitions and principles of Aiki are naturally embedded in the DNA of mankind's psyche. As such, the lessons and wisdom gained by mankind over the millenniums , have surely played their part in inspiring and guiding the great masters of the past. This accumulated wealth of cumulative wisdom from both tradition and history, will undoubtedly continue to work their magic on the great masters that are present today, and online for tomorrow as well.
To make the promise of fulfilling our human potential ever more probable, we need to constantly recognize those truths that are beautiful and inspiring, and to allow their potential to appropriately guide us in our never ending search for useful knowledge, and a deeper appreciation of our martial heritage.
Perhaps there can be found in the description of spiritual thought, as in all forms of creative expression, the fondest hopes and the loftiest dreams of the young, the ambitious, and the daring. Could it also be that these very notions are already included within the nurturing philosophies of our elders, and that we are simply fulfilling their hopes for future generations to complete those dreams, and to pass on such a rich legacy to future generations as well? Perhaps we cannot pay our elders back, but we can certainly pay the priceless gift forward, as it should be. Our forefathers and mothers did, as did O Sensei.
That the Founder was able to recognize Nature's largess from the Universe within himself, is it not equally astounding that he also succeeded in finding a way to incorporate his discoveries into an ingenious art form that we recognize today as Aikido. He was no politician, nor did he purport to be a spiritual guru, or even a mega philanthropist, who could spend billions helping the world's poor, all with the purpose of promoting "world peace".
The Founder's ambition, in my extremely limited understanding, was to believe in a universal destiny of harmonious interaction, both within himself, and for his own environment. Along with his admitted human limitations, his unique record of effort, achievement, and of overcoming failure, we also have proof that he proceeded undeterred, with a burning desire for yet one more day to become a bit wiser and to learn a wee bit more.
He realized that the most efficient method to accomplish whatever he felt possible, was through the daily training in the fundamentals he discovered, and had committed to repeat unconditionally and indefinitely. It was this fundamental belief in his own ability to understand and incorporate the Principles of Aiki he discovered, that fueled his extraordinary ambition to grow in both knowledge and understanding on a daily basis. He was goal oriented, but found time to enjoy the journey as well.
What does this all mean to us, the succeeding generations of eager students of Aiki, who choose to use the Founder's example for appropriate mentorship? Do or should we attempt to clone ourselves to the Founder's accomplishment of self creation, or do or should we apply those characteristics and lessons we can glean from the study of his efforts to our own individual search for growth, discovery, and our very own expression and appreciation of Aiki?
Since we can establish that growth in Aikido comes from daily practice of both the Principles of Aiki, as well as the techniques developed from the Founder's example, can we also accept that the manner and method of training remains the purview and sole right of the individual? If such an individual chooses to join a dojo or an organization of like minded students and instructors, how much and to what degree can or should that dojo or organization control and constrain the individual's right and need to explore, create and acquire needed knowledge, regardless of the source?
Many dojos do allow for cross training in other arts, encouraging independent studies on matters not addressed in the dojo setting. Parallel studies such as philosophy, martial theory, or even religious influences should also be respected as belonging to the individual's right to choose, and to apply.
Yes, each dojo has the fundamental right to require certain standards of behavior and compliance, within reasonable guidelines and rules, from their members. These members likewise have the fundamental right to refuse such controls, freely choose another path, and ultimately vote with their feet.
The question then is on what bases are such restrictions and covenants of behavior justified? Do they simply form at the whim or fancy of the head instructor, or is some acceptable standard of objective scrutiny being applied to ensure fairness and uniform application of any established norms for that dojo or organization? Will we always need permission to finally fend for ourselves?
In most instances of true disagreement, the favorite solution is to simply part company and move on. What a waste of invested time, of established friendships, and of the real and priceless opportunity to honestly and compassionately work out any misunderstandings and differences amongst the members and leaders of the group, not dissimilar to similar efforts on the mat.
The O'Sensei I recognize, appreciate and honor, and whose example I strive to remember in the creation of my own Aikido, would probably sadly shake his head at the inability of sincere students of his Aikido to work together with vision, courage and tenacity. It is simply too easy to quit prematurely, especially during this, our real test to prove our true and ever evolving understanding of Aikido's underlying meaning and purpose.
This O'Sensei, my Mentor in Aiki, would implore, cajole and admonish us to think larger, eschew arbitrary interference or harsh judgment, and to be content with the results obtained from growing daily in our Aikido. After all, as Miyamoto Musashi was credited with saying, "today's lesson is to correct yesterday's misunderstanding."
After all, it is your Aiki, isn't it?
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.