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Importance of Keeping it Simple
Importance of Keeping it Simple
by Francis Takahashi
Importance of Keeping it Simple

Aiki Principles, especially those that pertain directly to the Founder's Aikido, are actually intended to be quite simple, resonate seamlessly with established truths, and to invite genuine and reasoned discussion together with respectful participation. I find that this fundamental quality would be consistently uniform with the historic body of great philosophies, universally accepted systems of thought, and functioning as a key cornerstone for the myriad of inventions by humans over time. The expanding myopic obsession with martial relevance as a primary prerequisite for modern budo appears too all consuming to many. Perhaps this phobic reaction may be attributed to the proliferation of mixed martial arts programs, studios and shows. It may even be attributable to an alarming diminution of confidence in the way modern martial arts are practiced today, and not only in Aikido. The too often neglected option to explore, reveal and expand on Aiki's many other unique treasures appears almost epidemic, where the abandoned faithful are left to fend for themselves when it comes to philosophy, social responsibility, and with individual accountability and standards of integrity. Are we becoming more impolite, less tolerant of the views of others, and simply losing the ability to treat others with respect, and not being intimidating or scornful at will? Methinks we may be taking ourselves way too seriously, and our pursuit and honoring of true Aiki not seriously enough.

Yes, this disarmingly elegant set of truths has proven to be most difficult to assimilate, digest and converted into useful and productive behavior by the countless students of Aiki. Achievements of such value never come cheaply, or without extraordinary and prolonged effort. Have we become soft and lazy?

There appear to be fundamental differences of opinions as to what those principles actually are, historically and modernly viewed, and as to how they are to be appropriately applied. The question may well be, when will we individually and collectively find common ground in defining what Aikido's purposes are today?. Could it be that we are making the task too complicated, entangled by arbitrarily narrow and predominantly individual agendas, and missing the central point of allowing the simplicity of the Aiki messages to guide our needs, our training styles, along with our oft stated and documented commitment to treat each other in compassionate and non confrontational ways.

Nature proves time and time again that successful evolution, along with the development of ever better suited strains of life forms occur over time, often deep time. Our human legacy is but a mere hiccup in the inexorably relentless scheme of evolution, and the unnatural urgency under which we arbitrarily place our agendas as opposed to the rest of the natural world would be laughable, if it were not so often tragic. Any invention by man, including the Founder's magnificent contribution, must be rationally assessed within the greater scheme of creation, and its ongoing evolutionary timetable. It was pointed out to me that "man plans, God laughs". Isn't it time to admit that we are taking our importance, and our divine superiority, way out of context?

Aikido is essentially a tool, to be used wisely, or abused and misused with any number of unwanted or unforeseen consequences. The Aikido of the Founder is not a "done deal", a stand alone template for the rest of the martial arts world, and society, to regard and place in any primary position of honor or authority. The Founder warned against the trap of human arrogance and naïve complacency, and to entrust our futures to sincere and serious daily training and honest review. We must remain hungry, insatiably curious, and uncompromisingly focused on our own development and growth as martial artists, and as humans. The mentors and heroes we choose to guide us must also be subject to the same careful scrutiny of the highest standards of integrity, sincerity, behavior and humility that we must scrupulously apply to ourselves.

The fundamentals of the Founder's Aikido, and those of the Aikido we personally may choose to redefine and develop on a daily basis, must be uncomplicated, easy to comprehend, and simple to implement. We already can acknowledge that the actual Way is difficult and demanding. Why would we also choose to render it impossible to accomplish, by making it complicated and convoluted as well. The late Doshu kept reminding us that all truths would eventually become evident from daily training, and from the uncompromisingly honest assessment we give to ourselves. We are our own primary teachers.

Miyamoto Musashi was credited with the saying, ‘today's lesson is to correct yesterday's misunderstanding". Perhaps by resolving to keep the guidelines simple, we can then apply our limited energies to confronting our internal demons, overcoming the inertia of complacency, and to undo the paralysis from unfounded fears. Simply by adhering to a daily discipline to follow without doubt or undue interference, we may yet fulfill the prophecy of the late Doshu to excel, and to do it with joy and gratitude in our hearts.
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.
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Old 04-27-2011, 01:40 AM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 428
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Thank you for your thougtful post Francis. I agree with you about the importance of keeping it as simple as possible. I think that O'Sensei was very wise and visionary, he gave us the guidelines and everybody of us should take them and through sincere training delevelop it, adapting it to our individual and applying it in our daily life
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:49 AM   #3
crbateman's Avatar
Location: Orlando, FL
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,502
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Thank you, Francis Sensei, for sharing your thoughts again this month. Your guided optimism always helps me quash some of my own cynicism. I very much hope that a large portion of those things you champion will actually come to pass in my lifetime.

Thanks again for putting it out there...
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Old 04-27-2011, 09:19 AM   #4
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

As always Sensei, thank you for all you share.

IMHO, by making too many distinctions of differences, we create distance and complication. By accepting and appreciating the simplicity of sameness and inclusiveness we create friends.

Besides, as I tell everyone, the more complicated it gets the more I tend to screw it up. I have to keep it simple to keep on track.

Compliments and appreciation.

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 04-27-2011, 11:32 AM   #5
graham christian
Dojo: golden center aikido-highgate
Location: london
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 2,697
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Hi Francis.
Another good column. Ahhh for simplicity! For all is simple yet we tend to complicate it.

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Old 04-27-2011, 03:20 PM   #6
Conrad Gus
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Dojo: Eclipse Budo
Location: Victoria, BC
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 274
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

This is brilliant and helpful. I really needed to read this perspective at this time.

Thank you.
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Old 04-28-2011, 06:24 AM   #7
Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 824
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

"The too often neglected option to explore, reveal and expand on Aiki's many other unique treasures appears almost epidemic, where the abandoned faithful are left to fend for themselves when it comes to philosophy, social responsibility, and with individual accountability and standards of integrity."

Hi Francis -

The kind of exploration you are referring to enables me to look beyond the external form of Aikido technique and discover how the cultivation of internal Aiki facilitates change within myself. That kind of change is never easy, sometimes messy but ultimately always of value. Sharing with others what I discover makes me vulnerable for the knowledge I'm imparting isn't based on book lore, it's a revelation of who I am at that moment.

Perhaps that's why many Aikido students are satisfied with the single pursuit of mastering the external forms of Aikido to the exclusion of the looking into deeper aspects of the art.

As long as there are people such as yourself who are willing to "reveal and expand on Aiki's many other unique treasures", the growth of knowledge in those areas will continue unabated.

All the Best,


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Old 04-28-2011, 08:07 AM   #8
Mary Eastland
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Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,476
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Hi Frances:
Thank you.
Keeping it simple always brings me back to what I can control; myself.
Such a large undertaking requires all my attention. When I am doing it satisfactorly I can reach out to others.
Training, watching, teaching, thinking and reading.. then letting it all settle is enough. Others have their own roads. I can let them be.
Thank you for your thoughts that stimulated mine.
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Old 04-28-2011, 09:01 AM   #9
Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
Location: Los Angeles, California
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 371
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Hello Christian,

Your uniquely elegant acceptance of Aiki truths as you see them remains inspirational to us all. Thank you for your kind support and thoughtful insight

My Aiki Brother Clark,

We truly need more of your brand of “cynicism”, that scours away the detritus of irresponsible thinking. I believe that Emmanual Kant called it “Methodical Doubt” . Don’t stop anytime soon!

Hi Lynn,

Your unique brand of self honesty is always refreshing, and mindful of the strict discipline you impose on your training. Please keep the faith, and do not cease churning out your gems of powerful perspectives on matters Aiki.

Yes Graham, it is vital to keep our resolve to keep things simple, which is not the same as being simplistic. Thank you for your kind words.


It is an honor and a pleasure to share perspectives with you.

Brother Ron,

Your consistent display of courage and fidelity to the inner workings of the Aiki message inspires not only your students, but others as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughtfulness, and kind support for our discussions.

Sister Mary,

No doubt, your examples of fidelity to your Aikido foundation, continues to help others in so many ways. Thank you for your gift of giving, and your support.
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Old 04-28-2011, 09:04 AM   #10
Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
Location: Los Angeles, California
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Posts: 371
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Hello Carina,

You never fail to inspire with your gracious acknowledgments of the attempts by others to share the Aiki message. Again, I look forward to a public airing of your special insights into things Aiki. I truly enjoyed the last examples you shared.
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Old 04-28-2011, 09:43 AM   #11
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 428
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Thanks a lot Francis, it is true that I write less in english, because of my lack of vocabulary. But in the case of aikido I think you already know everything about me, it is simple: I began late and by chance. I passed the kyu tests required by my first teacher never thinking that I would make it to the shodan. The teacher of my teacher had tears in his eyes when he gave me the black belt. I have no more goals just now, only going to every class I can and to every seminar because I enjoy them very much and it keeps me in good physical and mental health and I have full confidence in my teacher about my improvement.
Finally a quote by Confucius " Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated".
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Old 05-01-2011, 08:37 AM   #12
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Join Date: Apr 2010
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Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

Aikido must be uncomplicated, easy to comprehend, and simple to implement
Yes! That's cutting right to the truth. Thanks Francis.


we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
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Old 05-11-2011, 10:56 AM   #13
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 386
Re: Importance of Keeping it Simple

I think it's important to think about self defense, because any of us might need it some day, but I'm glad that you emphasized that there are so many other aspects to Aikido and we should not put limits ...

Maybe it's relevant to mention here that Watanabe Sensei, one of my teachers, has written a book, rather, his students have compiled one with pictures and some of his sayings. It mentions in the intro I found while browsing Google that he has a broad perspective on Aikido, and that he is a doctor, with specialty in osteopathy. When he taught, I think it was Saturday afternoon class and I'm sure also Sunday morning class (we had to pay extra for that but it really was worth it....) his techniques indeed seemed to express simplicity, yet they were effective .

Some people on the threads have a real aversion to no-touch throws, but I know there are reasons why this aspect of Aikido, too, must be passed on into the future. I don't remember him teaching them to us, but they were probably a natural development out of the techniques we saw. It seemed so in one of the All Japan Exhibition You tube clips I managed to download on a dial up computer.

I hope he teaches again, before the earthquake and tsunami an announcement was posted on the Hombu dojo list of schedule changes that his class was listed as transferred to another teacher as of April l, but I hope to be able to find his book somehow, and to thank him, as his students have already done in compiling the book. They published it in honor of his 80th birthday last year.

While reading that synopsis I suddenly remembered one day I think he was the one who I saw pressed lightly on uke's back while getting back up from a seated kansetsu. And he was laughing. Probably because it was free back therapy from Doctor Watanabe.
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