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Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?
Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?
by Francis Takahashi
Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?

Are the Aiki Principles, the exalted foundation for the Founder's Aikido, and the very same ones which his direct followers claimed to have formed the structure and rationale for his Aikido, realistically based on a workable theory that we can implement, or merely a fanciful construct of ideals that we can only wish were attainable? Are we merely justifying a fantasy, a magnificently romantic notion, that the citizens of this world can truly understand and apply such standards of excellence to everyday life, to personal mastery, and to harmony worldwide? What proofs do we have that verify the actual existence and implementation of these most laudable characteristics in the makeup of mankind as we know it to be?

Perhaps we can view the Founder's adoption of "Aiki Principles" in the same fashion that we would view the notion of "world peace", or of "equality amongst men", both extremely popular and desirable concepts, but having pragmatically no chance of becoming reality. Perhaps it is enough to merely state such dreams and hopes for some utopian future, when such notions may truly become reality, and where the destiny for mankind finally comes into its harmonious fruition.

As rather utopian ideals, is it wrong to want to employ Aiki Principles to then construct a feel good philosophy, an ongoing "work in progress" for the affording of happiness to the common folk, and a truly human vehicle to help bridge the chasms that obstruct the way to positive and open communication, natural exchanges of courtesy, and the much needed methods of simply getting along with one another? Even so, wouldn't this be so much better and universally desirable to using drugs, consuming alcohol, and foisting fanciful schemes to benefit one class of people at the expense of another?

Granted, each proponent of the Aiki Principles, and/or of the Founder's Aikido, is free to associate any rationale for one's core beliefs, and owes nothing in terms of an explanation or proof of correctness for that decision. It should, and rightfully does remain an intensely personal and private identity of self for each person, and to be respected as such by anyone else.

I, for one, never took seriously the na´ve claims by some that the Aiki Principles were actually a panacea for the world's ills, that they possessed any pragmatic and tested solutions for achieving and preserving "world peace", that "good men and women" would actually band together one fine day to make a better world come true, simply by stating, believing and proselytizing such otherwise noble notions of hope and faith. The banishment of "fighting", "combat", and of the existence of conflict itself, appeared grossly fanciful, and even injurious to those who blithely believed that such notions ensured their safety and sanity.

Charles Darwin's meager efforts did not create the concept of natural selection, but served to shed the light of reason on the paradigm shifting consequences of accepting the evidence that kept on growing so exponentially.

So too, did the Founder of Aikido merely point out another way of viewing and appreciating the immense significance of traditional Budo, and daring to view the ability to merely "fight" effectively as secondary or less, to a much higher purpose. This purpose, in part, was to reinterprete the principles of traditional Budo, into discovering and implementing alternative ways of achieving survival, and to win the day without resorting to conflict as the first response.

No, Aikido does not provide an easy formula to utilize. It appears to give rather simplistic and innocently na´ve answers to tough questions regarding effective conflict resolution. It further appears to base its proof of legitimacy on the very act of actually living out those principles on a daily basis, much like a true believer on a religious mission. You either take it at face value, or you move on to other choices. You vote with your feet, not with your fists, and at some deep and personal level, you truly hope that you are right.

In reading the translated words of the Founder on such matters, I cannot help but wonder what, and to what extent, poetic license was taken intranslating the Founder's actual meaning and purpose, for the utterances and writings attributed to him. History seems replete with second hand accounts that, over time and rewritings, scarcely resemble or even echo the primary sentiments and intent of the original author or authors. It is simply way too much to ask fallible humans to recount or preserve intact the offerings from persons who themselves were admittedly imperfect and fallible to begin with.

For me, the main draw from the beginning of my consciousness of why I really did want to continue my association with Aikido, and with its uniquely optimistic proponents, was for the very wonderful relationships I was honored and privileged to develop. The magnificence, generosity, unparalleled insight, and plain goodness of the special people I have met more than makes up for any real or perceived lack of proof that the Aiki Principles and the ideals of Aikido training are worth the effort, or appropriate for my lifelong commitment. I am in all the way.

As a feeble, fallible and flawed individual myself, it is enough for me to simply take at face value the Aiki Principles as I believe the Founder intended, and to allow my inner sensei to do the heavy lifting of applying those parts that make sense, and to respectfully disregard and discard the rest. I believe that some call this "shugyo", and the true rationale of why we train the way we choose.

The discussion regarding the efficacy and validity of Aikido training, and of its technical relevance, will have to wait for another time.
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Old 11-08-2010, 12:58 AM   #2
Chris Li
Chris Li's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Sangenkai
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 3,313
Re: Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?

Reminded me of this story from http://www.kwanumzen.com/primarypoin...ateaspoon.html :

Q: Every morning I get up with everyone else here and take a vow to save all sentient beings from suffering. How can I do that?

ZMWK: Do you want to do it?

Q: Yes.

ZMWK: Then you'll find a way, through getting up every morning and taking that vow. That's an impossible vow. Each one of these is an impossible vow. "The Buddha way is inconceivable - I vow to attain it." How do you attain something that's inconceivable? "Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all." How? It brings up the image of some great social worker in the sky - (laughter) - bigger than the whole universe, going to save all beings from suffering.

One time I heard Bernard Tetsugen Glassman Sensei, a teacher in Maezumi Roshi's school (he has a group in New York), talking on the radio. He gave an example of what a bodhisattva is. He said, there's a well that's dry down on the plains, and up on the mountain tops there is snow. So the bodhisattva is like a guy who decides he'll fill the well by bringing the snow down to the plains, but the only thing he has to carry the snow in is a teaspoon. So he goes up the mountain, gets one teaspoon full of snow, comes back down to the plains and puts the snow in the well. Then he goes back up the mountain, gets another teaspoon full of snow, brings it down and puts it in the well, over and over.

That's a ridiculous endeavor. Never in a million years is he going to fill up that well, but what's important is his sincerity of effort - to just do something, whether it's possible or impossible. That effort, that spirit, is a contribution in and of itself that can't be compared to anything else, so it has absolute value. Because it can't be compared to anything else, the spirit of that fills the universe in one second. At each moment that we do that, all sentient beings are saved, because we affirm the absolute value of everything.

We have to do something, even if it's not possible. So the vow points to something like that. At least, that's my view of it.


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Old 11-08-2010, 05:23 AM   #3
crbateman's Avatar
Location: Orlando, FL
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,502
Re: Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?

Another very thought-provoking article, Sensei...

I look at Aikido like a buffet... You don't have to (and couldn't possibly) eat the whole buffet, but take from it what suits you best, including a little extra of whatever you like most.

And the best part of the "aikido buffet" is that you don't end up feeling guilty if you take too much...

Thanks again for the fine article... It's obvious that you put much thought and introspect into your writing. You are a genuine pleasure to read every month.
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Old 11-08-2010, 05:31 AM   #4
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?

IMHO many people stop themselves from having what they want by saying it is unrealistic and so settle for less.
Is it realistic?
There is only one way to find out.
Rei, Domo.

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 11-08-2010, 08:07 PM   #5
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland Texas
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 1,652
Re: Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?

Much like we humans, aiki is a process. One of constant and never ending improvement. One that recognizes each individual can only do their best with the skills they bring to the table.

Great commentary. Thank you.
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Old 11-09-2010, 08:09 AM   #6
Location: ATL
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 847
Re: Aiki Principles - Are They Realistic?

It really depends on which view of his principles you're choosing to discuss. They are both physical and spiritual.

Spritually, it's easy to identify those principles and strive to meet them. The same could be said for any religion though.

Physically, I think we would first need to come to an agreement on exactly what those principles are before we could proceed. While I think I am now on the correct physical path, I can honestly say that this was not always the case.

Last edited by chillzATL : 11-09-2010 at 08:21 AM.
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