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Posted by JGarcia on 2011/12/7 15:30:07 (61502 reads)

Article #1
The Traditional Learning Method of Aikido

“Horikawa never showed us how to do his techniques. I had to steal his techniques.”
(Nishikido Sensei speaking of Daito ryu master, Kodo Horikawa.) (1)

It has been noted in many places that the old way the masters taught was to demonstrate the techniques rather than to explain them. It was the duty of the student to “learn” from the master. Hiroshi Kato Sensei has told us in the past, “I was not taught by the Founder (of Aikido), I learned from him”. Kato Sensei always understood that it was his job to study carefully what the Founder was doing and to imitate it and incorporate his own understanding of what he saw into his aikido. Speaking in general terms, in our western mindset, we believe that good students come from good teachers. The eastern mindset is that good students come from dedication and the careful observation of the teacher. The worthy student shows himself to be so by virtue of his dedication to learning the art. The responsibility is on the learner. That being the case then, in the old culture of budo, it was the dedication, intensity, focus and hunger that allowed some of the learners to become the best students. The current western idea that a student must be nurtured, prodded, taught and encouraged by various teaching devices, interesting lessons, and a warm and friendly atmosphere is more of an external approach to the doctrine of epistemology (the science of ‘how we know things’). It must be noted that it is in this atmosphere that we are facing a decaying modern educational system because of these external approaches. We are meeting increasing numbers of unmotivated students who show up with an entertainment mentality that says. “Teach me, educate me – if you can!”

In this kind of culture, when a parent learns that their student is failing a course, many immediately want to know what curriculum is being used, why there is so much homework and what is the teacher doing to help their child. These parents tend to be attracted to state of the art facilities, the latest technological devices, and schools that boast of the certifications of their educational associations. They rarely look at their child and say, “What kind of a student did I deliver to this school? How disciplined and dedicated is my child? How much has he or she sacrificed to achieve excellence? Have they made learning a priority? What other activities, games, trips and personal things are competing with their education?” Do the students believe that learning is their responsibility or are they looking for better methods, better institutions, special attention and shortcuts believing that these will make them what they should be?

In learning a martial art, who has the responsibility to see that the student learns? Must the teacher give long explanations, develop focused lesson plans, and work with each student individually? What is the lesson and method of teaching used by the old masters that protected the art from the unworthy and yet rewarded the diligent? Read the excerpts below and see what only a small part of the historical record shows. As both teachers and students, we must all reevaluate what it means to learn and how we can dedicate ourselves to what we want to learn. In doing so, we must take full responsibility for who we are and for what we want to become. We must come to realize that while others can attempt to teach us, the burden is on the student to learn. Our teachers can show us but it is the student who through focus, attention, and sacrifice, learns. In Japanese budo though, the learning is innate or internal. The student learns internally as he experiences the training and discipline of the art. Words, while helpful, are not the main component or catalyst of the learning process. Rather, it is the student, who deals with the issues of ego and attachment, that allows the learning to be internalized and true change to occur.

From Peter Goldsbury Sensei (President of the I.A.F.)

"The Founder of Aikido has been quoted as good-humouredly telling his deshi, "Don't expect me to teach you. You must steal the techniques for yourselves." A double transformation takes place. There is a gradual transformation in the learning process, as the deshi in fact learns how to learn by stealing (i.e. observing), and this is paralleled by the gradual transformation in the relationship between master and deshi. At the end of the process, the deshi has mastered the kata as the master has presented them, has understood the principles underlying the kata, but also gone beyond the master’s kata and created something of his own. In the case of Japanese traditional arts, the vehicle of this double transformation is regular training or practice." (2)

"Then, also, perception and awareness are also of great importance. Students nod in apparent understanding, but this understanding is not always evident from their practice of the technique. In my experience, an accomplished aikido teacher has a very clear perception of his students' situation, their strengths and weaknesses. So there is a lot more going on in a training session than simply showing techniques and having students do these techniques. The teacher is also involved in teaching the students how to learn. As I said before, progress in aikido is ultimately the student's own responsibility, not the teacher's. So the student really does have to learn how to 'steal.' " (i.e. the techniques) (3)

From Yoshio Sugino Sensei (Master Swordsman)

"Ueshiba Sensei, unlike the present Honbu instructors, taught techniques by quickly showing the movement just one time. He didn't teach by offering detailed explanations. Even when we asked him to show us the technique again he would say, "No. Next technique!" Although he showed us three or four different techniques we had the feeling we wanted to see the same technique many times. We ended up trying to "steal" his techniques (by observing carefully). Mr. Mochizuki had a very keen sense for budo. He would grasp Ueshiba Sensei's techniques by watching. Sensei never took his hand to show him a technique. However, he would imitate Sensei. In other words, imitating is the same as learning. You watch the techniques of your Sensei through your spirit and mind. This is what I mean by "stealing" techniques from your sensei. People today are very slow to learn even when teachers explain. They are too casual about this type of thing. People in the old days were really serious." (4)

From Morihiro Saito, 9th Dan (Senior Student of O'Sensei)

"The Founder's teaching method in Iwama were very different from his approach during the prewar years. In earlier years, it was his custom to merely show his techniques a few times with little or no explanations and then to have students attempt to imitate his movements.This was the traditional method of martial arts instruction and students had to do their best to "steal" their teacher's techniques. But now, Ueshiba had the luxury of being able to devote his full energies to his personal pursuit with just a few close students...In the last years, I was taught by Sensei almost privately...Serving the Founder was extremely severe even though it was just for the study of a martial art. O Sensei only opened his heart to those students who helped him from dusk to dawn in the fields, those who got dirty and massaged his back, those who served him at the risk of their lives. As I was of some use to him, O Sensei willingly taught me everything." (5)

From George Ledyard (Famous instructor from Aikido Eastside)

O-Sensei didn't teach technique, at least not after WW II. He modelled Aikido in thought, word, and deed. He put it out there for those that were interested to follow...
Chiba Sensei and Saotome Sensei don't even look like each other, despite the fact that they were in class together at the same time under the same instructors. And this is due, in my opinion, to the fact that O-Sensei, whom they considered to be their Teacher, did not teach technique but rather allowed each student to develop his own Aikido. But it is clear to me, from training and conversing with these two quite different teachers that each saw the primary inspiration for his own training to be the Aikido Founder.

I think that many people would accept the notion that Aikido isn't "taught" so much as it is learned by doing and the teacher provides the direction ones training takes. This is why very few of the Aikido "greats" look like each other. (6)

My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, is adamant that Aikido has no "style". He has taught us in much the same way he was taught. He has steadfastly refused to spell out technical details, has only generally called our attention to various principles at work. This has resulted in much the same situation you had with the Founder. No one has "mastered" anything close to what this man knows. Only a very few have any real idea what he is doing. None of us look like each other because its been left up to each of us to develop our own understanding. (15)

From Henry Kono (Former student of O Sensei)

If he (O Sensei) was in the back of the dojo he might come out every day. If he was away, you might not see him for three weeks. If he was there, he might come out for five or ten minutes then go back in. I saw him about 300 times in four years. He never explained what he did, he just did it! This is what I mean by magician. He did it and if you couldn't discern what he did, there was no way to figure it out. He never explained anything but he left hints which were very difficult to discern because of the way he stated his ideas in very short phrases that no one could understand.

I saw a tape of Shioda Sensei being interviewed in England. He was with O-Sensei for ten years from about 1930-40, he said O-Sensei never explained once in that 10 years as to what he was doing!

He wasn't a teacher in the sense that he was teaching. The Japanese may look at that as teaching, but in the western sense it isn't. You had to intuit what he was doing and saying, read between the lines, so to speak. (7)

He (O Sensei) used to say, I don't want you to know what I'm doing." (16)

Concerning Arikawa Sensei (From Peter Goldsbury)
Actually, I believe that Arikawa Sensei was... someone trying to do what O Sensei himself did. In Hiroshima he showed waza, but did not really teach. After practice ended he was very happy to answer questions, but occasionally told us not to give students certain explanations. They should be required to find out for themselves. The shihan could guide and prevent bad waza, but should not give verbal explanations.

From Shihan Hiroshi Kato (Dojo-cho of Suginami Aikikai, Tokyo, Japan)

Interviewer: Would you tell us some memories you have of the Founder?
Kato: He did not say anything in detail about waza (technique). Rather than listening to his words, I learned by watching him.
Kato: He said, "Budo (the martial way) cannot be learned from other people. It has to be exercised by oneself." Even now, when I practice, I visualize the founder in my mind. It is not something that can be taught, but must be developed with discipline. That is why I started to understand the things he said. Things I have learned by myself are not easily forgotten, but things that have been taught by other people, without inquiry within me, and taught in the language like "it should be done only in one way, and no other way," are all forgotten.

I tell everybody to try it anyway, even if you don't understand it. Results come as you practice. People do not understand when I explain it verbally. Words are a convenient tool, but to show them how is more important. When it comes to teaching, people generally say "This should be done like this." It is easier that way. However, in this way, the amount of verbal instruction tends to increase. Seeing is much better than hearing hundreds of times. It is my great privilege to have had the chance to see the founder doing it. I really feel that I learned Aikido from seeing it.

I do not like the concept of instructing others in what to do. I am very adamant about that. For me, rather than teaching, I think practice is the place to begin by oneself.

Interviewer: Do you have any last words of advice?
Kato: If you really establish your individual style, you should practice it alone. Practicing is like that fundamentally, isn't it? While practicing, you discover your own thoughts and world's view. You train yourself. If you train yourself, do it alone. That is my ideal in my practice and words to you. (8)

From Peter Ralls, 6th dan, direct student of Hiroshi Kato, 8th dan

"As soon as I took hold of his wrist, I would feel myself lose connection to the ground. Then he would move and apply the technique and bury me. He also had a system for using the bokken and jo that used the same footwork. If I could compare it with anything I would say that it seemed almost like the Chinese martial art Bagua. But when we asked Kato Sensei, he told us he had never studied any martial art other than Aikido. He said that he had developed his aikido by trying to figure out how O Sensei did what he did. But he made a point of saying that he did not learn it from O Sensei, he developed it trying to do what O Sensei did. The same for his weapons work. He said O Sensei never taught him weapons, he developed his own forms trying to catch the feeling of what O Sensei did. And this was an important part of his own teaching philosophy. He said that you should never be a "copy" of your teacher. He thought the role of the teacher was to inspire the student to figure out stuff on their own, because that was the only way they could really get anything worthwhile. And he said that was the way O Sensei taught. He said that when O Sensei taught class, he would walk around, and if he didn't like what the student was doing, he tell them they were doing it wrong, but he wouldn't explain to them what was right. they had to figure that out for themselves." (17)

From Chogun Miyage (Founder of Go-ju Ryu Karate)

"The true essence of karate, the perfection or ideal for which we strive, cannot be expressed or passed on through the spoken or written word. It is intangible in nature. The only way to understand the true meaning of this essence is to internalize it into your being by training."(9)

From Darrell Craig Sensei (Author and a Budo master)

"The old masters of Japan intentionally designed the techniques so that their deadly aspects would not be easily discernable and thus fall into their enemies' hands. The techniques were probably also taught this way so that only the most dedicated students would learn their real secrets." (10)

From Kondo Katsuyuki, the current Headmaster of Daito ryu Aikijujutsu

"I heard many times from my teacher, Takeda Tokimune, that Takeda Sokaku sensei never taught the same technique twice. Tokimune sensei told me that at the time he was teaching as his father's Representative Instructor, Sokaku would scold him for being "foolishly soft-hearted" if he taught too kindly or showed his students something more than once. My teacher (Tokimune, Sokaku's son) often warned me, "If you teach the same technique twice, the second time your students will figure out how to defeat you with a counter-technique. Teach something different the second time....Sokaku... showed a technique and left it up to each student to "steal it as much as he was able to. Thus, Daito-ryu techniques vary according to individual interpretations of Sokaku's students.

When my teacher Tokimune was still active and in good health, many of his students from all over Japan came to Abashiri once a year to take part in the annual Headquarters meeting. Several times, when I came to participate in the headmaster direct transmission seminars (soke jikiden kai) that were always held on these occasions, the meeting was divided into two groups, one taught by Tokimune sensei himself, the other taught by me acting as his instructional representative. Naturally, the day before these my teacher would go over with me in detail about what he wanted me to teach on his behalf, and he always told me that I must not teach the true techniques that I had learned from him. Even in regard to the very first technique taught in Daito-ryu, ippondori, I was strictly prohibited from teaching the real version I had learned directly from Tokimune sensei, and was told to teach only the version of ippondori he always taught in his own Daitokan dojo.

My teacher explained his purpose in this by saying, "What will you do if you teach people the true techniques and the next day they leave the school? The oral and secret teachings of Daito-ryu will flow outside of the school." He also said, "Out of a thousand people, only one or two are genuine students. Find them out and teach them what is real; there is no need to teach such things to the rest." My teacher only taught real techniques to a person if he could ascertain, from his questions, technical and physical ability, apprehension, and diligence, that they carried a sincere and genuine attitude. He inherited this method of teaching from Sokaku sensei.

These days, with my own students, I teach the same technique many times and I always hear my teacher scolding me from the heaven. There he is looking down on me and saying, 'What a fool you are!' "(11)

From Alec Corper, an Aikido Sensei in Holland

"This is typical of a number of factors of Japanese Budo that has roots in the following:
1. Pragmatic reality - The teachers of that era didn't give away technical secrets that would enable them to overcome ther enemies in battle (or conversely, empower them)
2. Financial reality - They didn't give away secrets that would jeopardize their (or their families') financial security.
3. Ego - They never let anyone else reach their level so they could keep their power.
4. Real teaching-If the students couldn't see what they were doing then it would be logical to assume follow that they wouldn't be capable of inheriting the art anyway, but their dues would provide a dojo for the "real" students, and the ordinary students would have received some benefits without knowing that they were missing anything." (12)

From Yukiyoshi Sagawa from the book, "Clear Power":

"See! This is why you are no good. You don't do something simply because so and so said so. If you simply go through life by simply thinking you can copy people you'll never get anywhere. The only person that can do this is you. You must create your own understanding for yourself.
Take Aiki for example. There is no way to really teach this. Even if I could point at something that is Aiki I can't put it into words. You simply think you can learn everything from me, so you don't develop the habit to think for yourself. ... In the end its about accumulating your thoughts and having them act as the foundation for other thoughts. ... others tell you so, or influence you, then it's no good. You must hold your own counsel. Decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. ...

... You must take what you learn, and then innovate it based on your own ideas. ... No matter how much you learn something, if it is simply taught to you, you will forget it. However you will never forget something you acquire for yourself. It becomes you. In other words, teaching is simply a matter of giving the right hints. You must acquire that thing for yourself. Especially in the case of Aiki, it is an internal feeling which must be grasped.
It's not simply a matter of questioning everything either. You mustn't simply think that it's enough to be taught. Everyone's body type is different, so there is no guarantee that things will work out exactly the same way.
... I don't teach everything, and I can't teach everything. What I can teach is the foundation of how the skeletal system works. How your muscles and organs work upon that frame is for you to ponder and discover on your own. (13)

From Taitetsu Unno (Writer of the preface to "The Spirit of Aikido")

"The training and discipline common to all the Ways, martial or cultural, consist of three levels of mastery: physical, psychological and spiritual. On the physical level of mastery of form (kata) is the crux of training. The teacher provides a model form, the student observes carefully and repeats it countless times until he has completely internalized the form. Words are not spoken and explanations are not given; the burden of learning is on the student. In the ultimate mastery of form the student is released from adherence to form. (p.7) …the internal psychological changes (are) taking place from the very beginning. The tedious, repetitious and monotonous learning routine tests the student’s commitment and willpower, but it reduces stubbornness, curbs willfulness, and eliminates bad habits of body and mind. In the process…real strength, character and potential begin to emerge. (p.8)
In every martial and cultural art, free expression of self is blocked by one’s own ego. (Faced with an opponent) if an opening does occur, it is created by one’s ego. One becomes vulnerable when one stops to think about winning, losing, taking advantage, impressing, or disregarding the opponent. When the mind stops, even for a single instant, the body freezes, and fluid movement is lost… (p.8). The egoless self is open, flexible, supple, fluid, and dynamic in body, mind, and spirit. Being egoless, the self identifies with all things and all people, seeing them not from its self-centered perspective, but from their own respective centers… the ability to see all existence from a non-self-centered perspective… (is)… its highest expression (and) none other than compassion. Such a way of thinking is the essence of all the martial and cultural Ways in the Japanese tradition. Aikido is a modern formulation of this essence, perfected by the genius of Master Ueshiba Morihei. Aikido, being a form of traditional martial art, realizes this universal (principle) through rigorous training of the body. Ultimately, physical, psychological, and spiritual mastery are one and the same. (p.9) (This is why a dojo is a)…place of enlightenment…the place where the ego self undergoes transformation into the egoless self." (14)

By all that has been presented, I do not mean to imply that verbal communication is wrong as an instructional method in Aikido training. I am also not meaning to imply that we should completely return to previously used methodologies. I am suggesting though that we may need to reevaluate the basis of responsibility in human learning and what the conditions are that give the student the impetus for the learning process to occur. I propose that those conditions are found in the learner himself.

Look at this word by Ellis Amdur. In this statement, he may have the best summary of these concepts for modern thinkers," The jury is still out for me whether open teaching produces a greater number of high-level students. To be sure, "basic training," whether in the military or civilian situations, requires meticulous instruction, for such information must be for anyone and everyone in one's cadre. High-level training, however, requires high-level people, and high-level skills will only be acquired by an elite few -- those who are both innately talented, and obsessively, pervasively committed. I have heard from several teachers who are diligent and open, some of whom are instructors of koryu and others of internal training methodologies, who carry the attitude that they will hide nothing, that "there are no secrets." Yet, each has told me that although they have a lot of people studying, they only have one or two students. It is possible that, although the "open" teacher provides a more pleasant, psychologically supportive training environment, he or she may have, at the end, the same number of great students: one or two. "Steal the technique" is not only something one has to do with a teacher like Takeda Sokaku or Ueshiba Morihei, who allegedly shows a technique only once; it also occurs with any teacher, because explanation is not experiential. One has to breathe in the skills through the pores, not the ears." (16)

Finally, I have to say that in our time, we have seen the decline of our modern educational system. While the cry has been for standardized testing, improved facilities, the additional certification and training of teachers; test scores have dropped lower and lower, our knowledge quota has decreased and we are indeed facing a crises in our educational systems. Our approach as westerners is almost completely external.

The approach of Japanese budo is internal. The discipline of Japanese budo intends to bring the learner from the place of ego to the point of egolessness. Every learner finds himself somewhere between the two points of selfishness and selflessness. As the learner progresses from one point to another, humility of heart, openness of mind, and the steadfastness of the spirit become the launching ground for understanding, true knowledge and right practice.

Japanese budo is transmitted person to person by means of forms, strict discipline, and etiquette. The students selects the teacher and asks to be received as a student. Once accepted, he enters the dojo and begins to train following directions, learning the culture, etiquette, rules, and submitting to his Sensei and his seniors. The struggle for the student is an internal one. Day by day, the training acts as a forging and refining fire. It tests the resolve and perseverance of the student. The governing factor is in the training and the student is exhorted to continue to train daily. It is through this process that the student of a pure heart (makoto) begins to internalize the essence of the art and its benefits are applied to him. The learner then, has found the place of true knowledge and transformation within himself.

This article was written and the quotes were compiled by Jorge Garcia
Quotes slightly edited from the following sources
(1) http://www.budovideos.com/shop/customer/pages.php?pageid=29
(2) http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=556
(3) http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=473
(4) http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=368
(5) From the book, Takemusu Aikido, Vol.1, pp. 18-21, Aiki News Publication
(6) http://www.aikidojournal.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1826&start=30
(7) http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=435
(8) http://www.shudokanaikido.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=28
(9) http://www.samuraimartialsports.com/gojuryu.htm
(10) http://www.houstonbudo.com
(11) http://www.daito-ryu.org/history4_eng.html
(12) From a personal letter from Corper Sensei
(13) From the book, "Clear Power" by Yukiyoshi Sagawa
(14) From the foreword of the book, The Spirit of Aikido, p.7-10, Kodansha publication
(15) From the Aikiweb forum. http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=196437#post196437
(16) From an article, "A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training" by Ellis Amdur, 01-15-2013
(17) A quote from Peter Ralls on Aikiweb.com commenting on the death of Hiroshi Kato.

Article #2

The Traditional Psychological-Social Transformative Method of Aikido
by Jorge Garcia

From Gozo Shioda, 9th san - Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido

Thinking that I would have given anything to make something of myself in this incredible martial art, I eagerly commuted back and forth to the dojo. But of course, I could never equal the uchideshi (live-in students) who were always serving at Sensei's side. So it was inevitable that I, too, had to be by Sensei's side to take in as much as possible. Thus, I became an uchideshi at the age of 19.

At that time I was going to Takushoku University but I was devoted to Aikido more than anything else and so I took a leave from school. I was allowed to take two years off. Once I hit the three year mark though, I would be removed from school altogether. I immersed myself whole heartedly in Aikido for two years with an absolute resolve to become a top uchideshi.

Once I became an uchideshi, I lived with Sensei and took care of all his daily needs, no matter what they were. All shugyo (spiritual purification through hard training) is like this, no matter what kind it is. It's the same as the apprenticeship programs of years gone by. You never complained to your master. You simply kept silent and did as you were told. Giving your opinion was absolutely out of the question. If you ever asked something like, "Isn't it better to do it this way?" you would catch holy hell immediately!

People today probably think that this is a bit unreasonable, but if you want to master a particular path or way, my feeling is that this kind of intensive training is necessary. For no matter how well you know the pre set forms and procedures of the techniques, this alone will not make something a martial art. This is especially true in the case of Aikido. In order to master Aiki techniques, simply drilling in sports-type training is not sufficient.

To achieve this mastery of a martial art, nothing is better than solid shugyo in which you share daily life with your teacher in absolute obedience. And yet, you won't gain anything by simply living with your teacher. The important thing is, in taking care of all his needs, to continually sense your teacher's feelings before they are made known to you. In the end, you are striving to be able to perceive his intentions.

If you are helping Sensei in the dojo, you should be able to determine what Sensei will want next and do it for him before he says anything. Watch Sensei's movements continuously; then understand the changes in his feelings.

But here's the difficult thing. If you see something and then think about it and then set to work on it, it's already too late. You can't think about it. You have to be able to discern instinctively what Sensei's feelings are right away, on the spot. This is the natural way. It's not about thinking, just sense it naturally. I always made it my goal to try to do things this way and as a result, I developed an ability to sense my opponent's intentions.

Before long, this kind of training carried over into demonstrations as well. When performing as Sensei's uke, although fundamentally it doesn't matter where you attack, the point initially is to show the audience. So, for example, Sensei might present his shoulder and say, "Grab here." The average person would then go in and grab his shoulder. My goal was to perceive his intent and go in and grab his shoulder before he could say a single word. It is an unspoken, heart to heart way of communicating. If you can't do this, then you can't move naturally. I studied this sort of thing. So now when it's time for me to do a technique I can apply what I studied and can tell where the opponent intends to attack.

It is through my life as an uchideshi that I acquired these sorts of abilities, but it's unreasonable for me to try to get today's young people to do the same thing. They probably wouldn't give absolute obedience to their master and I'm sure they couldn't even begin to think of caring for their teacher as part of Aikido training. (1)

From Morihiro Saito, 9th dan and keeper of the Iwama Dojo

Serving the Founder was extremely severe even though it was just for the study of a martial art. O Sensei only opened his heart to those students who helped him from dusk to dawn in the fields, those who got dirty and massaged his back, those who served him at the risk of their lives. As I was of some use to him, O Sensei willingly taught me everything." (2)

From Shoji Nishio, 9th dan

In the dojo community, there is a teacher, experienced disciples, and beginners. The teacher is called Sensei. The advanced pupils are called Yudansha (black belts), the beginners are called Mudansha (unranked and kyu ranks).You will not become a Yudansha only by improving your ability. It is also necessary to strengthen your mind and soul according to the way of the warrior. A Yudansha always gives more to the dojo than he takes. For him, the dojo is more than a sports center. It is a part of his life and the members are a part of his family.

Therefore, in the dojo, all the members are connected in a Sempai (Senior) and Kohei (junior) relationship. Everybody, even the teacher, is always a sempai and kohei at the same time. The sempai is the senior member despite his physical skills or the degree he might have. The kohei is the junior member. Even if he is more skilled and higher ranked than his senior, the kohei has to respect him as long as he lives. The senior takes care of his junior and always tries to be a guide to him on his way of budo. (3)

It has been for some time now that as I have been thinking about what Aikido is and what it does for the individual, that a new thought has occurred to me. The thought is that in order for Aikido to make a psychological change in an individual, there has to be a certain kind of environment and a certain kind of relationship with the teacher.

I first began to look at this old idea in a new light when I would see so many people coming to our dojo seeking something for their children. The parents seemed to have this intuitive belief that martial arts would help the particular thing that they saw their child needed a change in or help in. As I strove to help their children, I quickly realized some things. 1) You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. 2) You can't help someone (particularly with Aikido) who isn't trying to do their best. 3) You can't help someone who resists discipline.
In the first case, you have the problem of motivation. If the person isn't seeking change, they won't change. What seems to change them without their knowing it is when they like the art or they respect the teacher. Then they want to do well so they find the motivation to give it their all. In the second case, some people are self starters and always do their best while others are lazy, demotivated and have poor concentration and diffusion of thought. These lack the intensity to pass through the fires of real change. Any experience that processes a real change in someone is an intense one. Lastly, in most endeavors, be it school, your job, the military or a martial arts dojo, the discipline is the key. Self disciplined people do the best but institutions like the military have a form of forced discipline and that processes change as well but that change can be for the better or the worse in the person due to the enforced nature of the process.

I realized that in a traditional martial arts dojo, everything is about the discipline. The rules of etiquette are not only about the social nature of the institution but about the parameters of behavior each person is required to adhere to. How strictly that is enforced and how the student receives it is the key. There is also the factor of abuse. In many situations in western culture authority soon becomes authoritarianism. This is abuse in the sense that it comes from the top down and may not take into account the feelings of those below. Authoritarianism lacks compassion for it's followers. This happens in many cases.

Recently, I was thinking about my master teacher from Japan. By training, he follows the rules of protocol of Aikido but I have noticed that he never demands it from anyone. Everyone gives him their obedience because they respect him but I have never seen him ask anyone to do any of the things the protocol asks for. He fully expects it to come from you. He once said that "Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one's own choice." This voluntary giving of oneself to Aikido and it's processes is what changes an individual. It has to come from the person though. The heart must be soft, obedient and pliable in the hands of a good and honest instructor of Japanese budo in order to see the psycho social transformative change that so many are looking for. If you think of Aikido in this way, you will realize that almost the entire training of Aikido is discipline. From the time you walk through the door, in its etiquette and rules, there are rules for almost everything. On the mat, you are subject to the discipline and instruction of the Sensei or instructor. Almost every word and action is corrective in nature thus falling under the category of discipline.
Then there is the aspect mentioned in the quotes above. In the early days of Aikido, it was considered a budo which was a particular form of austere training by which you would undergo severe training taking you from the ego self to the egoless self thus finding your true (purified) humanity. This process was not automatic and many people resisted it naturally, but some submitted themselves to it and for these, the training went to higher and higher levels. If Aikido is a training of the mind, then the relationship with the teacher in terms of authority, submission to his instruction, directions and discipline were the keys to the psycohological and social changes in the practitioners.

I think that this is the point where many of my readers will take exception to my comments and part company with me. I think though that I need to direct you back to what my teacher says. He said that "Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one's own choice." This is the key. It is not the instructor who forces the student to submit or follow. That always comes from the students and the students should always think for themselves and rule over their own mind and conscience. In a real budo relationship, the instructor is a guide and a mentor who leads by example and by setting the parameters of the protocol. The students set the level of their obedience. The instructor has the option to help and reward those who are following him and are obedient to his instructions (with regard to the training).

Gozo Shido Sensei understands that modern people would highly resist this kind of training lacking the background and mindsets of the past but still, he makes clear that the training of sensing your teacher's desires was one of intuition and sensitivity that would take your martial abilities to another level in terms of being able to sense your opponent's next move. Physical training alone can do that but sensing the needs of others is indeed a master level skill. To tune yourself to the teacher at that level is a relational skill that goes to the kind of human you are rather than the kind of warrior you are.

Nishio Sensei, in the third quote, goes on to describe the dojo as a place structured for the care and discipline of its members. He shows that the dojo or training hall is a place of heirarchy and order and that the purpose of that is for the care of each other.

The psycho-social transformative change that Aikido as a budo brings is a long process that works on an individual outwardly through the forms, disicpline and etiquette of the art. The inward, compassionate and relational aspects of the changes are personal in nature and come from a close and direct relationship with a mentor and guide that you truly respect and love. It is in these two poles of tension that we are stretched into change.

This kind of training is not for everyone and it may well be that its time has passed but if that is the case, then the era of Aikido as a budo will have passed and it may be then that the hopes and dreams of Morihei Ueshiba for Aikido will never be realized.

Within the limits of common sense, compassion, rationality and good judgement on the part of the teacher, I think that we still need the expressions of the budo of the past for people today. It has to be voluntary though and the teacher must never be abusive in his leadership but must always have the well being of his students in mind as a guide in transforming human character through budo.

(1) From the book, Aikido Shugyo, pp.149-152
(2) From the book, Takemusu Aikido, Vol.1, pp. 18-21
(3) From the book, Aikido Toho Iai, p. 16


Article #3 - Profile of a Master

Interview with Hiroshi Kato, Dojo-cho of Suginami Aikikai, 8th Dan

Martial arts cannot be taught

Interviewer: Sensei, please let us know why you decided to learn Aikido.

Kato: I did not have a particular interest in Aikido, but I wanted to learn martial arts. My mother knew someone who...also knew the founder of Aikido. So, without any specific intention, I started to practice around Showa 28 (1952).

Interviewer: How was the atmosphere of practice in those days?

Kato: I only remember I lost myself in practicing. There were many tough people and it was hard for me.

Interviewer: Would you tell us some memories you have of the founder?

Kato: He did not say anything in detail about Waza (technique). Rather than listening to his words, I learned by watching him. I haven’t accomplished what I saw—probably less than half of it. When he took my hand, I felt like I was being absorbed into him because of his God-like presence.

One time, Osensei gave me a chance to give him Shiatsu on his shoulder. As his muscle was bouncing back, I noticed his back muscle was extremely flexible. Whenever I had such personal time with him, Osensei used to tell me stories.

Interviewer: What kind of stories were they?

Kato: He said, "Budo (martial arts) was a gift of God, not the creation of the human mind," and "Budo cannot be learned from other people. It has to be exercised by oneself.”

Recently, at last, I am starting to understand what he said. I did not have any sense of it at all during that time. I just listened to his words and simply said, "yes" to him.

I remember one incident. During those days, at Hombu dojo, we had meetings with Osensei regularly. One day, an important guest was in the meeting and he seemed different from other days, uplifted and full of Ki energy. I was Uke and I was thrown to the degree that I saw my legs with the ceiling in the background. I could not do Ukemi at all. It was almost like Jinshin nage. I was really scared.

But such experiences became a huge part of my dedication to practicing Aikido. Even now, when I practice, I visualize the founder in my mind. It is not something that can be taught, but must be developed with discipline. That is why I started to understand the things he said. Things I have learned by myself are not easily forgotten, but things that have been taught by other people, without inquiry within me, and taught in the language like “it should be done only in one way, and no other way,” are all forgotten. Well, I was not obedient also. (smiles)

Each Aikido teacher has his own idea and way of practicing and teaching. I think it is because the founder did not really teach as if there were only one mold or pattern. Therefore, I think each individual style has developed out of his teachings.

"Extreme softness controls hardness", (a Japanese maxim) is not always true. "Extreme hardness controls hardness", he used to say. And extreme softness controls hardness. Extreme hardness controls softness and extreme softness controls softness. When I think about them, all of them are really true. Depending on the situation, each concept is important. Osensei did not really stick to only one concept, but embraced many.

Seeing is believing

Interviewer: What kinds of things do you pay attention to when you are instructing or explaining?

Kato: I tell everybody to try it anyway even if you don’t understand it. Results come as you practice. People do not understand when I explain it verbally. Words are a convenient tool, but to show them how is more important. When it comes to teaching, people generally say “This should be done like this.” It is easier that way. However, in this way, the amount of verbal instruction tends to increase.

For example, when I tell students how to take people down without using force, I demonstrate this to help people understand the sense of it. Then, I let people try it. Then, from that, learners take it from there, sensing what it feels like. After that, if they are willing to be stronger, I tell them to do it by themselves. There are no Aikido competitions, so instructors can’t force them to do it, can they?

Seeing is much better than hearing hundreds of times. It is my great privilege to have had the chance to see the founder doing it. I really feel that I learned Aikido from seeing it.

I think it is important for instructors to show how it is done and let viewers feel how great it is. When I visited Hombu dojo for the first time, I had the chance to see the founder perform Aikido. I thought, “This is something that will take my entire life to do.”

Interviewer: What did you think about Kotodama, the spiritual principle the founder talked about?

Kato: I think vocalizing from Hara lets our Kimochi (feeling/emotion) be present out there. I won’t say that I haven’t studied it, but I am afraid studying it too much ends up in word play. And my face should have the expression of God and become enlightened to talk about it. Or else, I don’t feel my words come from a natural place. I feel awkward pretending to be a little God.

Martial artists ensure that their words and actions are congruent. When verbal experience leads, it binds you. If that happens, I tend not to be at all free.

The strength of Aikido is in embracing others

Interviewer: What do you think about strength in Aikido?

Kato: Strength is many things, isn’t it? Taking other people down is one strength. But persistence in practice, and becoming good at dealing with others, are also strengths. It is holistic, I think.

It may be easier to train the body to take people down. Showing strength in Wa (peace) and Musubi (connection) is very different from that. It is more difficult to attain and requires more strength. Unless strength is found in embracing others with a full-fledged humanitarian perspective, it is not pertaining to strength in Aikido.

It is important to ask oneself “What is Aikido?” and develop one’s own perspective. If you choose not to fight, then why don’t you do that? Searching for ultimate answers like that is a necessity in doing Aikido.

Aikido is not Kumiuchi, traditional martial techniques for fighting. If Aikido were like techniques for fighting, the way of practice itself would be totally different. But Aikido practice consists of ways to develop ourselves and each other. Of course, it is not saying that being weak is acceptable — through our experience of strength we are not tempted to fight. Aikido is not about competition. A person who has true strength does not fight.

Again, going back to the regular meetings with Osensei, on one particular day, some writers who were specializing in Japanese tales of Samurai and Shogun came to see the founder. The authors started to talk about the technique of Sen sen no sen (responding before an attack) and Ato no sen (countering an attack). And the founder started to say, there are no such things. In Aikido, people win even before their fight starts. He had a view of winning that encompassed everything, that makes it into oneness, and a value system that transcends the concept of winning and losing.

Master Kisshomaru, Osensei’s son, was like that also. He was really a tough teacher. Especially in terms of judging students, his perception and discernment of people’s integrity was very strong. Although I don’t mean he was a cold person. And above all, he acknowledged teachers who had a strong individual style. That is wonderful. It is hard to acknowledge someone who is doing a different Aikido from one’s own. In order to do that, it requires extreme generosity as a human being. That is also one of the strengths found in Aikido. It is very different from how skillfully you can perform your technique.

Train yourself alone

Interviewer: Do you have any last words of advice?

Kato: I was not a full-time disciple of Osensei and I had a job during that time. So, I could not spend much time with him. Therefore I had to train myself and practice it. There must be many ways to do it, for example using sword and jo (staff).

If you really establish your individual style, you should practice it alone. Practicing is like that fundamentally, isn’t it? If you are young, you should practice to your physical limits. While practicing, you discover your own thoughts and worldview. If you keep doing that, your experience will bring you something to tell others. You train yourself. If you train yourself, do it alone. That is my ideal in my practice and words to you.

Practicing Aikido is to keep believing in and searching for something. Aikido, in the end, is belief. It is not a religion. But while you practice it, you gain strength in that type of awareness. I believe in the founder and his words. Still now, he lives in me. If I keep practicing Aikido with that attitude, it naturally fosters spirituality in Aikido. If it weren’t there, it would end up only at the level of physical strength.

I feel it is important to practice it peacefully, without fighting each other. Also, I do not like the concept of instructing others in what to do. I am very adamant about that (smile). For me, rather than teaching, I think practice is the place to begin by oneself and with comradeship. Let us practice together.

The founder told me once, "I do not have any disciples at all. There are no disciples but many comrades to accompany me. I have companions to attain the truth of this philosophy."

I love (these) words. Let us practice together.

Interviewer: An editor from “Aikido Tankyu” magazine
Interviewee: Hiroshi Kato
(Chairman of Suginami Aikikai, Eighth Dan)

Translated by Takanari Tajiri


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Posted by JGarcia on 2011/12/7 15:29:15 (16746 reads)

The name Aikido is composed of three Japanese words: ai, meaning harmony; ki, spirit or energy; and do, the path, the system or the way. Aikido is the way of harmony with the spirit.
Martial arts are studied for self-defense and self-improvement, but Aikido is different from other martial arts in that the practitioner seeks to improve his character while training in martial techniques that have the ethic of preserving life for both the one being attacked and the attacker.
The basic movements of Aikido are circular in nature; most attacks are linear. The Aikidoist harmonizes with, rather than confronting, an aggressive line and converts it into a circular motion that renders attackers helpless.
Then, instead of using potentially crippling kicks or punches, the Aikidoist trains to apply various wristlocks, arm pins, or unbalancing throws to neutralize aggressors without serious injury.
Aikido is not a sport. There are no competitive tournaments. The Aikidoist betters his or her self without belittling others, and because Aikido seeks not to cause harm, techniques can be practiced at full power without fear of injury.
Aikido is considered an “internal” martial art because learning Aikido techniques help you to deal with your own aggressive tendencies and teaches you to relax and be calm in order to be able to receive and redirect aggressive movement and stabilize it in a harmonious resolution.
Beyond being a martial art, Aikido is thought of by many to be a way of self improvement as well as a system of health and wellness.
Aikido is the newest of the traditional Asian martial arts, holds the most modern outlook, and is proud of its high ideals.

Short History
Morihei Ueshiba, now called O-Sensei (“Great Teacher”), founded the martial art known today as Aikido. Born in 1883, he dedicated himself to becoming strong after seeing his father physically beaten by political opponents. He sought out and studied under masters in many traditional martial arts, eventually becoming expert at a number of styles of jujitsu (unarmed combat), kenjitsu (sword fighting), and sojitsu (spear fighting). Dissatisfied with mere strength and technical mastery, he also immersed himself in religious and philosophical studies. The stories of his immense physical strength and martial prowess are impressive enough, but more important is the legacy of nonviolence and human integrity he left to mankind.
In early 20th-century Japan, involvement in the martial arts was a competitive and dangerous business. Contests, feuds and rivalries often resulted in injuries and even deaths. The formulation of Aikido dates from an incident that occurred in 1925. In the course of a discussion about martial arts, a disagreement arose between O-Sensei and a naval officer who was a fencing instructor. The officer challenged O-Sensei to a match and attacked with a wooden sword. O-Sensei faced the officer unarmed and won the match by evading blows until his attacker dropped from exhaustion. He later recalled that he could see his opponent’s movements before they were executed, and that this was the beginning of his enlightenment. He had defeated an armed attacker without hurting him—without even touching him.
O-Sensei later wrote: “Budo (the Martial Way) is not felling the opponent by our force; nor is it a tool to lead the world into destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect, and cultivate all things in nature.”
O-Sensei continued to practice and teach Aikido into his old age. Observers would marvel at his martial abilities, vitality, and good humor. He was still giving public demonstrations of Aikido at age 86, four months before his death.
After he passed away on April 26, 1969, the Japanese government posthumously declared Morihei Ueshiba a Sacred National Treasure of Japan.
O-Sensei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, inherited the title Doshu (“Leader of the way”) and he continued his father’s work at Aikido World Headquarters (called Honbu Dojo) in Tokyo until his death in 1999. Today, O-Sensei’s grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba, the third Doshu of Aikido, presides over the million and a half people that practice Aikido all over the world.

Aikido, as Ueshiba conceived it in his mature years, is not primarily a system of combat, but rather a means of self-cultivation and improvement. Aikido has no tournaments, competitions, contests, or "sparring." Instead, all aikido techniques are learned cooperatively at a pace commensurate with the abilities of each trainee. According to the founder, the goal of aikido is not the defeat of others, but the defeat of the negative characteristics which inhabit one's own mind and inhibit its functioning.

At the same time, the potential of aikido as a means of self-defense should not be ignored. One reason for the prohibition of competition in aikido is that many aikido techniques would have to be excluded because of their potential to cause serious injury. By training cooperatively, even potentially lethal techniques can be practiced without substantial risk.

It must be emphasized that there are no shortcuts to proficiency in aikido (or in anything else, for that matter). Consequently, attaining proficiency in aikido is simply a matter of sustained and dedicated training. No one becomes an expert in just a few months or years.

On the technical side, aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki)jujitsu, as well as sword and (possibly) spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, it may be that many aikido techniques were the result of the founder's own innovation.

Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially coherent collection of sayings which are only more or less shared by aikidoka, and which are either transmitted by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about aikido.

Some examples: "Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family." "The essence of aikido is the cultivation of ki [a vital force, internal power, mental/spiritual energy]." "Aikido is primarily a way to achieve physical and psychological self-mastery." And so forth.

At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of aikido, however, we may identify at least two fundamental threads: (1) A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible. (2) A commitment to self-improvement through aikido training.

Aikido practice begins the moment you enter the dojo! Trainees ought to endeavor to observe proper etiquette at all times. It is proper to bow when entering and leaving the dojo, and when coming onto and leaving the mat. Approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class, trainees should line up and sit quietly in seiza (kneeling) or with legs crossed.

The only way to advance in aikido is through regular and continued training. Attendance is not mandatory, but keep in mind that in order to improve in aikido, one probably needs to practice at least twice a week. In addition, insofar as aikido provides a way of cultivating self-discipline, such self-discipline begins with regular attendance.

Your training is your own responsibility. No one is going to take you by the hand and lead you to proficiency in aikido. In particular, it is not the responsibility of the instructor or senior students to see to it that you learn anything. Part of aikido training is learning to observe effectively. Before asking for help, therefore, you should first try to figure the technique out for yourself by watching others.

Aikido training encompasses more than techniques. Training in aikido includes observation and modification of both physical and psychological patterns of thought and behavior. In particular, you must pay attention to the way you react to various sorts of circumstances. Thus part of aikido training is the cultivation of (self-)awareness.

The following point is very important: Aikido training is a cooperative, not competitive, enterprise. Techniques are learned through training with a partner, not an opponent. You must always be careful to practice in such a way that you temper the speed and power of your technique in accordance with the abilities of your partner. Your partner is lending his/her body to you for you to practice on - it is not unreasonable to expect you to take good care of what has been lent you.

Aikido training may sometimes be very frustrating. Learning to cope with this frustration is also a part of aikido training. Practitioners need to observe themselves in order to determine the root of their frustration and dissatisfaction with their progress. Sometimes the cause is a tendency to compare oneself too closely with other trainees. Notice, however, that this is itself a form of competition. It is a fine thing to admire the talents of others and to strive to emulate them, but care should be taken not to allow comparisons with others to foster resentment, or excessive self-criticism.

If at any time during aikido training you become too tired to continue or if an injury prevents you from performing some aikido movement or technique, it is permissible to bow out of practice temporarily until you feel able to continue. If you must leave the mat, ask the instructor for permission.

Although aikido is best learned with a partner, there are a number of ways to pursue solo training in aikido. First, one can practice solo forms (kata) with a jo or bokken. Second, one can "shadow" techniques by simply performing the movements of aikido techniques with an imaginary partner. Even purely mental rehearsal of aikido techniques can serve as an effective form of solo training.

It is advisable to practice a minimum of two hours per week in order to progress in aikido.

Aikido and combat effectiveness
Many practitioners of aikido (from beginners to advanced students) have concerns about the practical self-defense value of aikido as a martial art. The attacks as practiced in the dojo are frequently unrealistic and may delivered without much speed or power. The concerns here are legitimate, but may, perhaps, be redressed.

In the first place, it is important to realize that aikido techniques are usually practiced against stylized and idealized attacks. This makes it easier for students to learn the general patterns of aikido movement. As students become more advanced, the speed and power of attacks should be increased, and students should learn to adapt the basic strategies of aikido movement to a broader variety of attacks.

Many aikido techniques cannot be performed effectively without the concomitant application of atemi (a strike delivered to the attacker for the purpose of facilitating the subsequent application of the technique). For safety's sake, atemi is often omitted during practice. It is important, however, to study atemi carefully and perhaps to devote some time to practicing application of atemi so that one will be able to apply it effectively when necessary.

Aikido is sometimes held up for comparison to other martial arts, and aikido students are frequently curious about how well a person trained in aikido would stand up against someone of comparable size and strength who has trained in another martial art such as karate, judo, ju jutsu, or boxing. It is natural to hope that the martial art one has chosen to train in has effective combat applications. However, it is also important to realize that the founder of aikido deliberately chose to develop his martial art into something other than the most deadly fighting art on the planet. This is not to say that aikido techniques cannot be combat effective - there are numerous practitioners of aikido who have applied aikido techniques successfully to defend themselves in a variety of life-threatening situations. No martial art can guarantee victory in every possible circumstance. All martial arts, including aikido, consist in sets of strategies for managing conflict. The best anyone can hope for from their martial arts training is that the odds of managing the conflict successfully are improved. There are many different types of conflict, and many different parameters that may define a conflict. Some martial arts may be better suited to some types of conflict than others. Aikido may be ill-suited to conflicts where one would provoke an adversary to fight. While there are some who view this as a shortcoming or a liability, there are others who see this as demonstrating the foolhardiness of provoking fights.

Since conflicts are not restricted to situations that result in physical combat, it may be that a martial art which encodes strategies for managing other types of conflict will serve its practitioners better in their daily lives than a more combat-oriented art. Many teachers of aikido treat it as just such a martial art. One is more commonly confronted with conflicts involving coworkers, significant others, or family members than with assailants bent on all-out physical violence. Also, even where physical violence is a genuine danger, many people seek strategies for dealing with such situations which do not require doing injury. For example, someone working with mentally disturbed individuals may find it less than ideal to respond to aggression by knocking the individual to the ground and pummeling him or her into submission. Many people find that aikido is an effective martial art for dealing with situations similar to this.

In the final analysis, each person must decide individually whether or not aikido is suited to his or her needs, interests, and goals.

Weapons Training
Some dojo hold classes which are devoted almost exclusively to training with jo (staff), tanto (knife), and bokken (sword); the three principal weapons used in aikido. However, since the goal of aikido is not primarily to learn how to use weapons, trainees are advised to attend a minimum of two non-weapons classes per week if they plan to attend weapons classes.

There are several reasons for weapons training in aikido. First, many aikido movements are derived from classical weapons arts. There is thus a historical rationale for learning weapons movements. For example, all striking attacks in aikido are derived from sword strikes. Because of this, empty-handed striking techniques in aikido appear very inefficient and lacking in speed and power, especially if one has trained in a striking art such as karate or boxing.

Second, weapons training is helpful for learning proper ma ai, or distancing. Repeatedly moving in and out of the striking range of a weapon fosters an intuitive sense of distance and timing - something which is crucial to empty-hand training as well.

Third, many advanced aikido techniques involve defenses against weapons. In order to ensure that such techniques can be practiced safely, it is important for students to know how to attack properly with weapons, and to defend against such attacks.

Fourth, there are often important principles of aikido movement and technique that may be profitably demonstrated by the use of weapons.

Fifth, training in weapons kata is a way of facilitating understanding of general principles of aikido movement.

Sixth, weapons training can add an element of intensity to aikido practice, especially in practicing defenses against weapons attacks.

Seventh, training with weapons provides aikidoka with an opportunity to develop a kind of responsiveness and sensitivity to the movements and actions of others within a format that is usually highly structured. In addition, it is often easier to discard competitive mindsets when engaged in weapons training, making it easier to focus on cognitive development.

Finally, weapons training is an excellent way to learn principles governing lines of attack and defense. All aikido techniques begin with the defender moving off the line of attack and then creating a new line (often a non-straight line) for application of an aikido technique.

About Bowing
It is common for people to ask about the practice of bowing in aikido. In particular, many people are concerned that bowing may have some religious significance. It does not. In Western culture, it is considered proper to shake hands when greeting someone for the first time, to say "please" when making a request, and to say "thank you" to express gratitude. In Japanese culture, bowing (at least partly) may fulfill all these functions. Bear in mind, too, that in European society only a few hundred years ago a courtly bow was a conventional form of greeting.

Incorporating this particular aspect of Japanese culture into our aikido practice serves several purposes:

It inculcates a familiarity with an important aspect of Japanese culture in aikido practitioners. This is especially important for anyone who may wish, at some time, to travel to Japan to practice aikido. There is also a case to be made for simply broadening one's cultural horizons.

Bowing may be an expression of respect. As such, it indicates an open-minded attitude and a willingness to learn from one's teachers and fellow students.

Bowing to a partner may serve to remind you that your partner is a person - not a practice dummy. Always train within the limits of your partner's abilities.

The initial bow, which signifies the beginning of formal practice, is much like a "ready, begin" uttered at the beginning of an examination. So long as class is in session, you should behave in accordance with certain standards of deportment. Aikido class should be somewhat like a world unto itself. While in this "world," your attention should be focused on the practice of aikido. Bowing out is like signaling a return to the "ordinary" world.

When bowing either to the instructor at the beginning of practice or to one's partner at the beginning of a technique it is often considered proper to say "onegai shimasu" (lit. "I request a favor") and when bowing either to the instructor at the end of class or to one's partner at the end of a technique it is considered proper to say "domo arigato gozaimashita" ("thank you").

Training the Mind in Aikido
The founder (Morihei Ueshiba) intended aikido to be far more than a system of techniques for self-defense. His intention was to fuse his martial art to a set of ethical, social, and dispositional ideals. Ueshiba hoped that by training in aikido, people would perfect themselves spiritually as well as physically. It is not immediately obvious, however, just how practicing aikido is supposed to result in any psychological-physical) transformation. Furthermore, many other arts have claimed to be vehicles for carrying their practitioners to psychological-physical transformation. We may legitimately wonder, then, whether, or how, aikido differs from other arts in respect of transformative effect.

It should be clear that any transformative power of aikido, if such exists at all, cannot reside in the performance of physical techniques alone. Rather, if aikido is to provide a vehicle for self-improvement and psycho-physical transformation along the lines envisioned by the founder, the practitioner of aikido must adopt certain attitudes toward aikido training and must strive to cultivate certain sorts of cognitive dispositions.

The fact that aikido training is always cooperative provides the locus for construing personal transformation through aikido. Cooperative training facilitates the abandonment of a competitive mind-set which reinforces the perception of self-other dichotomies. Cooperative training also instills a regard for the safety and well-being of one's partner. This attitude of concern for others is then to be extended to other situations than the practice of aikido. In other words, the cooperative framework for aikido practice is supposed to translate directly into a framework for ethical behavior in one's daily life.

Furthermore, it should be clear that if personal transformation is possible through aikido training, it is not an automatic process. This should be apparent by noticing the fact that there are aikido practitioners with many years of experience who still commit both moral and legal infractions. Technical proficiency and broad experience in the martial arts is by no means a guarantee of ethical or personal advancement. This fact often comes as a great disappointment to students of aikido, especially if they should discover that their own instructors still suffer from a variety of shortcomings. In fact, however, this itself constitutes a valuable lesson: Technical proficiency is an easier goal to attain than that of personal improvement. Although both of these goals may require a lifetime of commitment, it is considerably easier to make the sort of sacrifices and efforts required for technical proficiency than it is to make the sacrifices and efforts required for substantive personal transformation and improvement.

The path to self-improvement and personal transformation must begin somewhere, however. Perhaps the most important (and easily forgotten) starting point for both students and teachers of aikido is to bear constantly in mind that the people one is training with are one and all human beings like oneself, each with a unique perspective, and capable of feeling pain, frustration and happiness, and each with his or her own goals of training.

If one takes seriously the notion that part of one's aikido training should aim towards self-improvement, one may sometimes have to consider how one will be viewed by others. Someone may have superb technical ability and yet be viewed by others as a self-centered and inconsiderate bully.

A Note on ki
The concept of ki is one of the most difficult associated with the philosophy and practice of aikido. Since the word "aikido" means something like "the way of harmony with ki," it is hardly surprising that many aikidoka are interested in understanding just what ki is supposed to be.

Modern aikidoka are less concerned with the historiography of the concept of ki than with the question of whether or not the term "ki" denotes anything real, and, if so, just what it does denote. There have been some attempts to demonstrate the objective existence of ki as a kind of "energy" or "stuff" that flows within the body. So far, however, there are no reputable studies which conclusively demonstrate the existence of ki.
Traditional Chinese medicine appeals to ki/chi as a theoretical entity, and some therapies based on this framework have been shown to produce more positive benefit than placebo, but it is entirely possible that the success of such therapies is better explained in ways other than supposing the truth of ki/chi theory. Many people claim that certain forms of exercise or concentration enable them to feel ki flowing through their bodies. Since such reports are subjective, they cannot constitute objective evidence for ki as a "stuff." Nor do anecdotal accounts of therapeutic effects of various ki practices constitute evidence for the objective existence of ki - anecdotal evidence does not have the same evidential status as evidence resulting from reputable double-blind experiments involving strict controls. Again, it may be that ki does exist as an objective phenomenon, but reliable evidence to support such a view is so far lacking.

There are a number of aikidoka who claim to be able to demonstrate the (objective) existence of ki by performing various sorts of feats. One such feat, which is very popular, is the so-called "unbendable arm." In this exercise, one person,, extends her arm, while another person, , tries to bend the arm. First, makes a fist and tightens the muscles in her arm. is usually able to bend the arm. Next, relaxes her arm (but leaves it extended) and "extends ki" (since "extending ki" is not something most newcomers to aikido know precisely how to do, is often simply advised to think of her arm as a fire-hose gushing water, or some such similar metaphor). This time, finds it (far) more difficult to bend the arm. The conclusion is supposed to be that it is the force/activity of ki that accounts for the difference. However, there are alternative explanations expressible within the vocabulary or scope of physics (or, perhaps, psychology) that are fully capable of accounting for the phenomenon here (subtle changes in body positioning, for example). In addition, the fact that it is difficult to filter out the biases and expectations of the participants in such demonstrations makes it all the more questionable whether they provide reliable evidence for the objective existence of ki.

Not all aikidoka believe that ki is a kind of "stuff" or "energy." For some aikidoka, ki is an expedient concept - a blanket-concept which covers intentions, momentum, will, and attention. If one eschews the view that ki is a stuff that can literally be extended, to extend ki is to adopt a physically and psychologically positive bearing. This maximizes the efficiency and adaptability of one's movement, resulting in stronger technique and a feeling of affirmation both of oneself and one's partner.

Irrespective of whether one chooses to take a realist or an anti-realist stance with respect to the objective existence of ki, there can be little doubt that there is more to aikido than the mere physical manipulation of another person's body. Aikido requires a sensitivity to such diverse variables as timing, momentum, balance, the speed and power of an attack, and especially to the psychological state of one's partner (or of an attacker).

In addition, to the extent that aikido is not a system for gaining physical control over others, but rather a vehicle for self-improvement , there can be little doubt that cultivation of a positive physical and psychological bearing is an important part of aikido. Again, one may or may not wish to describe the cultivation of this positive bearing in terms of ki.

Ranking in Aikido
Policies governing rank promotions may vary, sometimes dramatically, from one aikido dojo or organization to another.According to the standard set by the International Aikido Federation (IAF) and the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), there are 6 ranks below black belt. These ranks are called kyu ranks. In the IAF and USAF, kyu ranks are not usually distinguished by colored belts. Other organizations (and some individual dojo) may use some system of colored belts to signify kyu ranks, however.There is a growing number of aikido organizations and each has its own set of standards for ranking.

Eligibility for testing depends primarily (though not exclusively) upon accumulation of practice hours. Other relevant factors may include a trainee's attitude with respect to others, regularity of attendance, and, in some organizations, contribution to the maintenance of the dojo or dissemination of aikido.

Whatever the criteria for rank promotion, it is important to keep in mind that rank promotion does not necessarily translate into ability. The most important accomplishments in aikido or any other martial art are not external assessments of progress, but rather the benefits of your training to yourself.

Etiquette in Aikido (Rules of behavior and respect in the dojo)

Proper observance of etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques. In many cases observing proper etiquette requires one to set aside one's pride or comfort. Nor should matters of etiquette be considered of importance only in the dojo. Standards of etiquette may vary somewhat from one dojo or organization to another, but the following guidelines are nearly universal. Please take matters of etiquette seriously.
1. When entering or leaving the dojo, it is proper to bow in the direction of O-sensei's picture, the kamiza, or the front of the dojo. You should also bow when entering or leaving the mat.
2. No shoes on the mat.
3.Be on time for class. Students should be lined up and seated in seiza approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class. If you do happen to arrive late, sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the instructor grants permission to join practice.
4.If you should have to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, approach the instructor and ask permission.
5.Avoid sitting on the mat with your back to the picture of O-sensei. Also, do not lean against the walls or sit with your legs stretched out. (Either sit in seiza or cross-legged.)
6.Remove watches, rings and other jewelry before practice as they may catch your partner's hair, skin, or clothing and cause injury to oneself or one's partner.
7.Do not bring food, gum, or beverages onto the mat. It is also considered disrespectful in traditional dojo to bring open food or beverages into the dojo.
8.Please keep your fingernails (and especially one's toenails) clean and cut short.
9.Please keep talking during class to a minimum. What conversation there is should be restricted to one topic - Aikido. It is particularly impolite to talk while the instructor is addressing the class.
10.If you are having trouble with a technique, do not shout across the room to the instructor for help. First, try to figure the technique out by watching others. Effective observation is a skill you should strive to develop as well as any other in your training. If you still have trouble, approach the instructor at a convenient moment and ask for help.
11.Carry out the directives of the instructor promptly. Do not keep the rest of the class waiting for you!
12.Do not engage in rough-housing or needless contests of strength during class.
13.Keep your training uniform clean, in good shape, and free of offensive odors.
14.Please pay your membership dues promptly. If, for any reason, you are unable to pay your dues on time, talk with the person in charge of dues collection. Sometimes special rates are available for those experiencing financial hardship.
15.Change your clothes only in designated areas (not on the mat!).
16.Remember that you are in class to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of receptivity and humility is advised.
17.It is usually considered polite to bow upon receiving assistance or correction from the instructor.
18.During class, if the instructor is assisting a group in your vicinity, it is frequently considered appropriate to suspend your own training so that the instructor has adequate room to demonstrate.

Modified by Jorge Garcia from an Aikido Primer by Eric Sotnak.

Posted by JGarcia on 2011/12/7 15:29:01 (17281 reads)

The following vocabulary list is by no means complete, but it contains some of the more commonly encountered terms one may encounter during an aikido class.

Agatsu = "Self victory." According to the founder, true victory (masakatsu) is the victory one achieves over oneself (agatsu). Thus one of the founder's "slogans" was masakatsu agatsu - "The true victory of self-mastery."

Aikido = The word "aikido" is made up of three Japanese characters: ai - harmony, ki - spirit, mind, or universal energy, do - the Way. Thus aikido is "the Way of Harmony with (universe's) energy."

Aikidoka = A practitioner of aikido.

Aikikai = "Aiki association." A term used to designate the organization created by the founder for the dissemination of aikido.

Ai hanmi = Mutual stance where uke and nage each have the same foot forward (right-right, left-left).

Ai nuke = "Mutual escape." An outcome of a duel where each participant escapes harm. This corresponds to the ideal of aikido according to which a conflict is resolved without injury to any party involved.

Ai uchi = "Mutual kill." An outcome of a duel where each participant kills the other. In classical Japanese swordmanship, practitioners were often encouraged to enter a duel with the goal of achieving at least an ai uchi. The resolution to win the duel even at the cost of one's own life was thought to aid in cultivating an attitude of single-minded focus on the task of cutting down one's opponent. This single-minded focus is exemplified in aikido in the technique, ikkyo, where one enters into an attacker's range in order to effect the technique.

Ashi sabaki = Footwork. Proper footwork is essential in aikido for developing strong balance and for facilitating ease of movement.

Atemi = (lit. Striking the Body) Strike directed at the attacker for purposes of unbalancing or distraction. Atemi is often vital for bypassing or "short-circuiting" an attacker's natural responses to aikido techniques. The first thing most people will do when they feel their body being manipulated in an unfamiliar way is to retract their limbs and drop their center of mass down and away from the person performing the technique. By judicious application of atemi, it is possible to create a "window of opportunity" in the attacker's natural defenses, facilitating the application of an aikido technique. "Atemi" can also have the connotation of a "vital strike". As such, it is important that the strike be delivered to a vulnerable target and with sufficient force as to eliminate the attacker's ability or willingness to continue the assault.

Bokken = bokuto = Wooden sword. Many aikido movements are derived from traditional Japanese fencing. In advanced practice, weapons such as the bokken are used in learning subtleties of certain movements, the relationships obtaining between armed and unarmed techniques, defenses against weapons, and the like.

Budo = "Martial way." The Japanese character for "bu" (martial) is derived from characters meaning "stop" and (a weapon like a) "halberd." In conjunction, then, "bu" may have the connotation "to stop the halberd." In aikido, there is an assumption that the best way to prevent violent conflict is to emphasize the cultivation of individual character. The way (do) of aiki is thus equivalent to the way of bu, taken in this sense of preventing or avoiding violence so far as possible.

Chokusen = Direct. Thus chokusen no irimi = direct entry.

Chudan = "Middle position." Thus chudan no kamae = a stance characterized by having one's hands or sword in a central position with respect to one's body.

Chushin = Center. Especially, the center of one's movement or balance.

Dan = Black belt rank. In IAF aikido, the highest rank it is now possible to obtain is 9th dan. There are some aikidoka who hold ranks of 10th dan. These ranks were awarded by the founder prior to his death, and cannot be rescinded. White belt ranks are called kyu ranks.

Do = Way/path. In aiki-do, the connotation is that of a way of attaining self understanding or a way of improving one's character through the practice of aiki.

Dojo = Literally "place of the Way." The place where we practice aikido. Traditional etiquette prescribes bowing in the direction of the designated front of the dojo (shomen) whenever entering or leaving the dojo.

Dojo cho = The head of the dojo. A title. Currently, Moriteru Ueshiba (grandson of the founder) is dojo cho at World Aikido Headquarters (hombu dojo) in Tokyo, Japan.

Domo arigato gozaimashita = Japanese for "thank you very much." At the end of each class, it is proper to bow and thank the instructor and those with whom you've trained.

Doshu = Head of the way (currently Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba). The highest official authority in IAF aikido.

Fudo shin = "Immovable mind." A state of mental equanimity or imperturbability. The mind, in this state, is calm and undistracted (metaphorically, therefore, "immovable"). To cultivate fudo shin is thus to cultivate a mind which can accommodate itself to changing circumstances without compromise of principles.

Fukushidoin = A formal title whose connotation is something approximating "assistant instructor."

Furi kaburi = Sword-raising movement. This movement in found especially in ikkyo, irimi-nage, and shiho-nage.

Gedan = Lower position. Gedan no kamae is thus a stance with the hands or a weapon held in a lower position.

Gi (do gi) (keiko gi) = Training costume. Either judo-style or karate-style gi are acceptable in most dojo, but they must be white and cotton. (No black satin gi with embroidered dragons. Please.)

Gyaku hanmi = Opposing stance (if uke has the right foot forward, nage has the left foot forward, if uke has the left foot forward, nage has the right foot forward).

Hakama = Divided skirt usually worn by black-belt ranks. In some dojo, the hakama is also worn by women of all ranks, and in some dojo by all practitioners.

Hanmi = Triangular stance. Most often aikido techniques are practiced with uke and nage in pre-determined stances. This is to facilitate learning the techniques and certain principles of positioning with respect to an attack. At higher levels, specific hanmi cease to be of importance.

Hanmi handachi = Position with nage sitting, uke standing. Training in hanmi handachi waza is a good way of practicing techniques as though with a significantly larger/taller opponent. This type of training also emphasizes movement from one's center of mass (hara).

Happo = 8 directions; as in happo-undo (8 direction exercise) or happo-giri (8 direction cutting with the sword). The connotation here is really movement in all directions. In aikido, one must be prepared to turn in any direction in an instant.

Hara = One's center of mass, located about 2" below the navel. Traditionally this was thought to be the location of the spirit/mind/(source of ki). Aikido techniques should be executed as much as possible from or through one's hara.

Hasso no kamae = "Figure-eight" stance. The figure eight does not correspond to the arabic numeral "8," but rather to the Chinese/Japanese character which looks more like the roof of a house. In hasso no kamae, the sword is held up beside one's head, so that the elbows spread down and out from the sword in a pattern resembling this figure-eight character.

Heijoshin = "Abiding peace of mind." Cognitive equanimity. One goal of training in aikido is the cultivation of a mind which is able to meet various types of adversity without becoming perturbed. A mind which is not easily flustered is a mind which will facilitate effective response to physical or psychological threats.

Henka waza = Varied technique. Especially beginning one technique and changing to another in mid-execution. Ex. beginning ikkyo but changing to irimi-nage.

Hombu dojo = A term used to refer to the central dojo of an organization. Thus this usually designates Aikido World Headquarters. (see aikikai)

Hidari = Left.

Irimi = (lit. "Entering the Body") Entering movement. Many aikidoka think that the irimi movement expresses the very essence of aikido. The idea behind irimi is to place oneself in relation to an attacker in such a way that the attacker is unable to continue to attack effectively, and in such a way that one is able to control effectively the attacker's balance. (See shikaku).

Jiyu waza = Free-style practice of techniques. This usually involves more than one attacker who may attack nage in any way desired.

Jo = Wooden staff about 4'-5' in length. The jo originated as a walking stick. It is unclear how it became incorporated into aikido. Many jo movements come from traditional Japanese spearfighting, others may have come from jojutsu, but many seem to have been innovated by the founder. The jo is usually used in advanced practice.

Jodan = Upper position. Jodan no kamae is thus a stance with the hands or a weapon held in a high position.

Kachihayabi = "Victory at the speed of sunlight." According to the founder, when one has acheived total self-mastery (agatsu) and perfect accord with the fundamental principles governing the universe (especially principles covering ethical interaction). The very intention of an attacker to perpetrate an act of violence breaks harmony with the fundamental principles of the universe, and no one can compete successfully against such principles. Also, the expression of the fundamental principles of the universe in human life is love (ai), and love, according to the founder, has no enemies. Having no enemies, one has no need to fight, and thus always emerges victorious. (see agatsu and masakatsu)

Kaeshi waza = Technique reversal. (uke becomes nage and vice-versa). This is usually a very advanced form of practice. Kaeshi waza practice helps to instill a sensitivity to shifts in resistance or direction in the movements of one's partner. Training so as to anticipate and prevent the application of kaeshi waza against one's own techniques greatly sharpens aikido skills.

Kaiso = The founder of aikido (i.e., Morihei Ueshiba).

Kamae = A posture or stance either with or without a weapon. kamae may also connote proper distance (ma ai) with respect to one's partner. Although "kamae" generally refers to a physical stance, there is an important parallel in aikido between one's physical and one's psychological bearing. Adopting a strong physical stance helps to promote the correlative adoption of a strong psychological attitude. It is important to try so far as possible to maintain a positive and strong mental bearing in aikido.

Kamiza = The area frequently located at the front of a dojo, and often housing a picture of the founder, or some calligraphy. One generally bows in the direction of the kamiza when entering or leaving the dojo, or the mat as a sign of respect.

Kansetsu waza = Joint manipulation techniques.

Kata = A "form" or prescribed pattern of movement, especially with the jo in aikido. (But also "shoulder.")

Katame waza = "Hold-down" (pinning) techniques.

Katana = What is vulgarly called a "samurai sword."

Katsu jin ken = "The sword that saves life." As Japanese swordsman, practitioners became increasingly interested in incorporating ethical principles into their discipline. The consumate master of sworsmanship, according to some such practitioners, should be able not only to use the sword to kill, but also to save life. The concept of katsu jin ken found some explicit application in the development of techniques which would use non-cutting parts of the sword to strike or control one's opponent, rather than to kill him/her. The influence of some of these techniques can sometimes be seen in aikido. Other techniques were developed by which an unarmed person (or a person unwilling to draw a weapon) could disarm an attacker. These techniques are frequently practiced in aikido. (see setsu nin to)

Keiko = Training. The only secret to success in aikido.

Ken = Sword.

Kensho = Enlightenment. (see mokuso and satori)

Ki = Mind. Spirit. Energy. Vital-force. Intention. (Chinese = chi) For many Aikidoka, the primary goal of training in aikido is to learn how to "extend" ki, or to learn how to control or redirect the ki of others. There are both "realist" and anti-realist interpretations of ki. The ki-realist takes ki to be, literally, a kind of "stuff," "energy," or life-force which flows within the body. Developing or increasing one's own ki, according to the ki-realist, thus confers upon the aikidoka greater power and control over his/her own body, and may also have the added benefits of improved health and longevity. According to the ki-anti-realist, ki is a concept which covers a wide range of psycho-physical phenomena, but which does not denote any objectively existing "energy" or "stuff." The ki-anti-realist believes, for example, that to "extend ki" is just to adopt a certain kind of positive psychological disposition and to correlate that psychological dispositon with just the right combination of balance, relaxation, and judicious application of physical force. Since the description "extend ki" is somewhat more manageable, the concept of ki has a class of well-defined uses for the ki-anti-realist, but does not carry with it any ontological commitments beyond the scope of mainstream scientific theories.

Kiai = A shout delivered for the purpose of focussing all of one's energy into a single movement. Even when audible kiai are absent, one should try to preserve the feeling of kiai at certain crucial points within aikido techniques.

Kihon = (Something which is) fundamental. There are often many seemingly very different ways of performing the same technique in aikido. To see beneath the surface features of the technique and grasp the core common is to comprehend the kihon.

Ki musubi = ki no musubi = Literally "knotting/tying-up ki." The act/-100process of matching one's partner's movement/intention at its inception, and maintaining a connection to one's partner throughout the application of an aikido technique. Proper ki musubi requires a mind that is clear, flexible, and attentive. (see setsuzoku)

Kohai = A student junior to oneself.

Kokoro = "Heart" or "mind." Japanese folk psychology does not distinguish clearly between the seat of intellect and the seat of emotion as does Western folk psychology.

Kokyu = Breath. Part of aikido is the development of "kokyu ryoku," or "breath power." This is the coordination of breath with movement. A prosaic example: When lifting a heavy object, it is generally easier when breathing out. Also breath control may facilitate greater concentration and the elimination of stress. In many traditional forms of meditation, focus on the breath is used as a method for developing heightened concentration or mental equanimity. This is also the case in aikido. A number of exercises in aikido are called "kokyu ho," or "breath exercises." These exercises are meant to help one develop kokyu ryoku.

Ku = Emptiness. This shows up in aikido in the ideal of developing a state of cognitive openness, permiting one to respond immediately and intuitively to changing circumstances. (see mokuso)

Kumijo = jo matching exercise or partner practice.

Kumitachi = Sword matching exercise or partner practice.

Kuzushi = The principle of destroying one's partner's balance. In aikido, a technique cannot be properly applied unless one first unbalances one's partner. To achieve proper kuzushi, in aikido, one should rely primarily on position and timing, rather than merely on physical force.

Kyu = White belt rank. (Or any rank below shodan)

Ma ai = Proper distancing or timing with respect to one's partner. Since aikido techniques always vary according to circumstances, it is important to understand how differences in initial position affect the timing and application of techniques.

Mae = Front. Thus mae ukemi = "forward fall/roll."

Masakatsu = "True victory." (see agatsu and kachihayabi)

Michibiki = An aspect of aikido movement that involves leading, rather than pushing or pulling, one's partner. As with many other concepts in aikido, there are both physical and cognitive dimensions to michibiki. Physically, one may lead one's partner through subtle guiding or redirection of the attacking motion. Psychologically, one may lead one's partner through "baiting" (presenting apparent opportunities for attack ). Frequently both physical and cognitive elements are employed in concert. For example, if uke reaches for nage's wrist, nage may move the wrist just slightly ahead of uke's grasp, at such a pace that uke is fooled into thinking s/he will be able to seize it, thus continuing the attempt to grab and following the lead where nage wishes.

Migi = Right.

Misogi = Ritual purification. Aikido training may be looked upon as a means of purifying oneself; eliminating defiling characteristics from one's mind or personality. Although there are some specific exercises for misogi practice, such as breathing exercises, in point of fact, every aspect of aikido training may be looked upon as misogi. This, however, is a matter of one's attitude or approach to training, rather than an objective feature of the training itself.

Mokuso = Meditation. Practice often begins or ends with a brief period of meditation. The purpose of meditation is to clear one's mind and to develop cognitive equanimity. Perhaps more importantly, meditation is an opportunity to become aware of conditioned patterns of thought and behavior so that such patterns can be modified, eliminated or more efficiently put to use. In addition, meditation may occasion experiences of insight into various aspects of aikido (or, if one accepts certain buddhist claims, into the very structure of reality). Ideally, the sort of cognitive awareness and focus that one cultivates in meditation should carry over into the rest of one's practice, so that the distinction between the "meditative mind" and the "normal mind" collapses.

Mudansha = Students without black-belt ranking.

Mushin = Literally "no mind." A state of cognitive awareness characterized by the absence of discursive thought. A state of mind in which the mind acts/reacts without hypostatization of concepts. mushin is often erroneously taken to be a state of mere spontaneity. Although spontaneity is a feature of mushin, it is not straightforwardly identical with it. It might be said that when in a state of mushin, one is free to use concepts and distinctions without being used by them.

Musubi = "Tying up" or "uniting". One of the strategic objectives in applying aikido techniques in to merge with (= musubi) and redirect the aggressive impulse (= ki) of an attacker in order to gain control of it. Thus "ki musubi" or "ki no musubi" is one of the goals of aikido. There is a cognitive as well as a physical dimension to musubi. Ideally, at the most advanced levels of aikido, one learns to detect signs of aggression in a potential attacker before a physical assault has been initiated. If one learns to identify aggressive intent and defuse or redirect it before the attack is launched, one may achieve victory without physical confrontation. Also, by developing heightened sensitivity to the cues that may precede a physical attack, one thereby gains a strategic advantage, making possible pre-emptive action or, perhaps, escape. This heightened sensitivity to aggressive cues is only possible as a result of training one's awareness as well as one's technical abilities.

Nagare = Flowing. One goal of aikido practice is to learn not to oppose physical force with physical force. Rather, one strives to flow along with physical force, redirecting it to one's advantage.

Nage = The thrower.

Obi = A belt.

Omote = "The front," thus, a class of movements in aikido in which nage enters in front of uke.

Onegai shimasu = "I welcome you to train with me," or literally, "I make a request." This is said to one's partner when initiating practice.

Osaewaza = Pinning techniques.

O-sensei = Literally, "Great Teacher," i.e., Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.

Randori= Free-style "all-out" training. Sometimes used as a synonym for jiyu waza. Although aikido techniques are usually practiced with a single partner, it is important to keep in mind the possibility that one may be attacked by multiple aggressors. Many of the body movements of aikido (tai sabaki) are meant to facilitate defense against multiple attackers.

Reigi = Ettiquette. Observance of proper ettiquette at all times (but especially observance of proper dojo ettiquette) is as much a part of one's training as the practice of techniques. Observation of reigi indicates one's sincerety, one's willingness to learn, and one's recognition of the rights and interests of others.

Satori = Enlightenment. As characterized by the founder of aikido, enlightenment consists in realizing a fundamental unity between oneself and the (principles governing) the universe. The most important ethical principle the aikidoist should gain insight into is that one should cultivate a spirit of loving protection for all things.

Sensei = Teacher. It is usually considered proper to address the instructor during practice as "Sensei" rather than by his/her name. If the instructor is a permanent instructor for one's dojo or for an organization, it is proper to address him/her as "Sensei" off the mat as well.

Seiza = Sitting on one's knees. Sitting this way requires acclimatization, but provides both a stable base and greater ease of movement than sitting cross-legged.

Sempai = A student senior to oneself.

Setsu nin to = "The sword that kills." Although this would seem to indicate a purely negative concept, there is, in fact, a positive connotation to this term. Apart from the common assumption that killing may sometimes be a "necessary evil" which may serve to prevent an even greater evil, the concept of killing has a wide variety of metaphorical applications. One may, for example, strive to "kill" such harmful character traits as ignorance, selfishness, or (excessive) competitiveness. Some misogi sword exercises in aikido, for example, involve imagining that each cut of the sword destroys some negative aspect of one's personality.

Setsuzoku = Connection. Aikido techniques are generally rendered more efficient by preserving a connection between one's center of mass (hara) and the outer limits of the movement, or between one's own center of mass and that of one's partner. Also, setsuzoku may connote fluidity and continuity in technique. On a psychological level, setsuzoku may connote the relationship of action-response that exists between oneself and one's partner, such that successful performance of aikido techniques depends crucially upon timing one's own actions and responses to accord with those of one's partner. Physically, setsuzoku correlates with leverage and with the most efficient application of force to the task of controlling one's partner's balance and mobility.

Shidoin = A formal title meaning, approximately, "instructor."

Shihan = A formal title meaning, approximately, "master instructor." A "teacher of teachers."

Shikaku = Literally "dead angle." A position relative to one's partner where it is difficult for him/her to (continue to) attack, and from which it is relatively easy to control one's partner's balance and movement. The first phase of an aikido technique is often to establish shikaku.

Shikko = Samurai walking ("knee walking"). Shikko is very important for developing a strong awareness of one's center of mass (hara). It also develops strength in one's hips and legs.

Shinkenshobu = Lit. "Duel with live swords." This expresses the attitude one should have about aikido training, i.e., one should treat the practice session as though it were, in some respects, a life-or-death duel with live swords. In particular, one's attention during aikido training should be single-mindedly focussed on aikido, just as, during a life-or-death duel, one's attention is entirely focussed on the duel.

Shodan = First degree black belt. (Nidan = second degree black belt, followed by sandan, yondan, godan, rokudan, nanadan, hachidan, kyudan, judan)

Shomen = Front or top of head. Also the designated front of a dojo.

Shoshin = Beginner's mind. Progress in aikido training requires that one approach one's training with a mind that is free from unfounded bias. Although we can say in one respect that we frequently practice the same techniques over and over again, often against the same attack, there is another sense in which no attack is ever the same, and no application of technique is ever the same. There are subtle variations in the circumstances of every interaction between attacker and defender. These small differences may sometimes translate into larger differences. To assume that one already knows a technique constitutes a "locking in" of the mind to a pre-set dispositional pattern of response, resulting in a corresponding loss of adaptability. Prejudgment also may deprive one of the opportunity to learn new principles of movement. For example, it is common for people upon seeing a different way of performing a technique to judge it to be wrong. This judgment is frequently based on a superficial observation of the technique, rather than an appreciation of the underlying principles upon which the technique is based.

Shugyo = Discipline. Traveling in pursuit of Truth. To pursue aikido, or any martial art, as a path to self-improvement involves more than training. The word "shugyo" connotes a continual striving for technical and personal excellence. Keiko, or training, is only one component of such striving. To pursue aikido as a Way, requires a continual reexamination and correction of oneself, one's attitudes, reactions, dispositions to like or dislike, etc.

Soto = "Outside." Thus, a class of aikido movements executed, especially, outside the attacker's arm(s). (see uchi)

Suburi = Repetitive practice in striking and thrusting with jo or bokken. Such repetitive practice trains not only one's facility with the weapon, but also general fluidity of body movement that is applicable to empty-hand training.

Sukashi waza = Techniques performed without allowing the attacker to complete a grab or to initiate a strike. Ideally, one should be sensitive enough to the posture and movements of an attacker (or would-be attacker) that the attack is neutralized before it is fully executed. A great deal of both physical and cognitive training is required in order to attain this ideal.

Suki = An opening or gap where one is vulnerable to attack or application of a technique, or where one's technique is otherwise flawed. suki may be either physical or psychological. One goal of training is to be sensitive to suki within one's own movement or position, as well as to detect suki in the movement or position of one's partner. Ideally, a master of aikido will have developed his/her skill to such an extent that he/she no longer has any true suki.

Sutemi = Literally "to throw-away the body." The attitude of abandoning oneself to the execution of a technique (in judo, a class of techniques where one sacrifices one's own balance/position in order to throw one's partner). (See aiuchi). In aikido, sutemi may connote an attitude of fearlessness by which one enters into an attacker's space with no thought of preserving one's own safety. Far from being simple recklessness, however, sutemi is based upon an absolute commitment to a strategy for neutralizing the attack. Techniques in aikido cannot be applied tentatively if they are to be effective. Rather, one must respond instantly to a threat and take decisive action. Thus, in a manner of speaking, sutemi requires not only throwing away the body, but throwing away the self as well.

Suwari waza = Techniques executed with both uke and nage in a seated position. These techniques have their historical origin (in part) in the practice of requiring all samurai to sit and move about on their knees while in the presence of a daimyo (feudal lord). In theory, this made it more difficult for anyone to attack the daimyo. But this was also a position in which one received guests (not all of whom were always trustworthy). In contemporary aikido, suwari waza is important for learning to use one's hips and legs.

Tachi = A type of Japanese sword (thus tachi-tori = sword-taking). (Also "standing position").

Tachi waza = Standing techniques.

Taijutsu = "Body arts," i.e., unarmed practice.

Tai no henko = tai no tenkan = Basic blending practice involving turning 180 degrees.

Tai sabaki = Body movement.

Takemusu aiki = A "slogan" of the founder's meaning "infinitely generative martial art of aiki." Thus, a synonym for aikido. The scope of aikido is not limited only to the standard, named techniques one studies regularly in practice. Rather, these standard techniques serve as repositories of more fundamental principles (kihon). Once one has internalized the kihon, it is possible to generate a virtually infinite variety of new aikido techniques in accordance with novel conditions.

Taninsugake = Training against multiple attackers, usually from grabbing attacks.

Tanto = A dagger.

Tegatana = "Hand sword," i.e. the edge of the hand. Many aikido movements emphasize extension "through" one's tegatana. Also, there are important similarities obtaining between aikido sword techniques, and the principles of tegatana application.

Tenkan = Turning movement, esp. turning the body 180 degrees. (see tai no tenkan)

Tenshin = A movement where nage retreats 45 degrees away from the attack (esp. to uke's open side).

Tsuki = A punch or thrust (esp. an attack to the midsection).

Uchi = "Inside." A class of techniques where nage moves, especially, inside (under) the attacker's arm(s). (But also a strike, e.g.,shomen uchi.)

Uchi deshi = A live-in student. A student who lives in a dojo and devotes him/herself both to training and to the maintenence of the dojo (and sometimes to personal service to the sensei of the dojo).

Ueshiba Kisshomaru = The son of the founder of aikido and second aikido doshu.

Ueshiba Morihei = The founder of aikido. (see O-sensei and kaiso).

Ueshiba Moriteru = The grandson of the founder and current aikido doshu.

Uke = Person being thrown (receiving the technique). At high levels of practice, the distinction between uke and nage becomes blurred. In part, this is because it becomes unclear who initiates the technique, and also because, from a certain perspective, uke and nage are thoroughly interdependent.

Ukemi = Literally "receiving [with/through] the body," thus, the art of falling in response to a technique. Mae ukemi are front roll-falls, ushiro ukemi are back roll-falls. Ideally, one should be able to execute ukemi from any position and in any direction. The development of proper ukemi skills is just as important as the development of throwing skills and is no less deserving of attention and effort. In the course of practicing ukemi, one has the opportunity to monitor the way one is being moved so as to gain a clearer understanding of the principles of aikido techniques. Just as standard aikido techniques provide strategies for defending against physical attacks, so does ukemi practice provide strategies for defending against falling (or even against the application of an aikido or aikido-like technique).

Ura = "Rear." A class of aikido techniques executed by moving behind the attacker and turning. Sometimes ura techniques are called tenkan (turning) techniques.

Ushiro = Backwards or behind, as in ushiro ukemi or falling backwards.

Waza = Techniques. Although in aikido we have to practice specific techniques, aikido as it might manifest itself in self-defense may not resemble any particular, standard aikido technique. This is because aikido techniques encode strategies and types of movement which are modified in accordance with changing conditions. (see kihon)

-tori (-dori) = Taking away , e.g. tanto-tori (knife-taking).

Yoko = Side.

Yokomen = Side of the head.

Yudansha = Black belt holder (any rank).

Zanshin = Lit. "remaining mind/heart." Even after an aikido technique has been completed, one should remain in a balanced and aware state. Zanshin thus connotes "following through" in a technique, as well as preservation of one's awareness so that one is prepared to respond to additional attacks. Zanshin has both a physical and a cognitive dimension. The physical dimension is represented by maintaining correct posture and balance even when a technique has been completed. The cognitive dimension consists partly in preserving the same overall mindset at all phases of technique application - there is nothing any more special about having completed a technique than there is about beginning or continuing it. Also, upon completing a technique, one's state of cognitive readiness is not abandoned: one remains ready either for a renewed attack by the same opponent, or for an attack from another direction by a new attacker.

Zori = Sandals worn when off the mat to help keep the mat clean!

Posted by JGarcia on 2006/2/18 0:46:20 (45188 reads)

Shudokan Aikido
 17111 Kieth Harrow Blvd
 Houston, TX 77084

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