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Aïkido Knowledge base

Introduction to the applied technique

1. Essence of Aikido       By Morihiro Saito 

Old Master Morihei Uyeshiba, the Founder of Aikio, was born in Tanade City, Wakayama Prefecture, on December 14, 1893. In commemoration of this day, a festival presided over by present Master Kisshomaru Uyeshiba, is held on the 14 th of every month at the Aiki Shrine.of Ibaraki Dojo. The Founder took to the Nine Chinese Classics at the age of seven, started Zen practice at 10 and mastered a number of martial arts later. Endowed with extraordinary brains and a man of effort by nature, the Founder created a martial art named "Aikido" in 1942, when he was 59, after traversing such milestones as "Aiki-no-Michi" (Road to Aiki), "Aiki Jujutsu" and "Aiki Budo" (Aiki Martial Art). 

The successive changes in the names of the art he sought after graphically reflect the growth of his mental and technical attainments. It is particularly worthy of note that the Founder imposed on himself superhumanly vigorous training and mental exercises at the open-air Dojo at Iwama (present Ibaraki Dojo), chanting "Aikido" and enshrining the Great Aiki Deity. His Iwama experience added greater depth to Aikido and rendered its position firm and secure in the world of martial arts. 

In1946 when I was admitted into Aikido, the Founder was engrossed, day and night, in consolidating the techniques he had developed. I feel it was quite fortunate of me to come into contact with the Founder at a time when AIkido was on the threshold of consummation. 

Now, I will try to explain what kind of martial art Aikido is and its essence. 

Invincible Martial art 

As history illustrates, mankind throughout the world has been involved in constant struggles. These struggles have been repeated without intermission in all the ages and curiously enough, "under the name of justice". Struggles arising from an outburst of militant instincts, struggles for higher positions and greater power and struggles generated by ideological differences. They combined to fill the world with enmity and hatred, turning it into an interminable scene of deadly strife and bloodshed. There was always the need for invincible martial strength because the struggles tended to expand beyond any hope. 

The martial pursuits in Japan were not free from the world of struggles. These pursuits, however, gradually became independent of political involvements and have been sublimated into martial art. The desire of individuals to become stronger has thus been given a sublimate environment for growth. 

The martial arts have been in existence on the basis of Japan's traditional combat techniques. Despite their long history, the martial arts devised by man have inherent deficiencies regardless of what schools they belong to. An element which is considered important to make up for the deficiencies is spiritual strength. Japanese martial arts owe their essence a great deal to religions which cultivate such spiritual strength. 

"Aikido is an invincible martial art". Does it mean that the art calls for a return to the old worlds where power meant everything? No, that is not the case. Aikido founded by Morihei Uyeshiba was aimed at drawing forth the natural latent qualities of individuals in terms of mental attitude and techniques. In other words, Aikido is an art designed to cultivate the mind and techniques without running counter to nature. Body movements governed by a down-to-earth principle of non-resistance, coupled with a mental attitude of relinquishing disputes, contribute to the accomplishment. 

Fill your body fullest with the air of the universe and merge with nature. You will find your body replete with Ki (Spirit) power and ready to impart abdominal breath power (super natural power), the intensity of which is beyond human imagination. Aikido is an art which induces a full display of such natural power. The mind and techniques divorced from strife are the indispensable prerequisite to bringing forth individual qualities to the fullest extent. This makes Aikido an invincible martial art. 
While in a training session, the Aikido Founder would stand in the center of Dojo (training hall) inviting a trainee to strike at him. The minute the trainee swung his wooden sword over his head to deliver the strike, he found the tip of the Master's sword poised mincingly against his throat. Held at bay, the trainee would make a desperate attempt to strike at the Master, The Master vanished. He had moved with a divine speed and was standing behind the trainee. The Master's movement was natural enough and its speed did not appear to the spectators as great as it actually was. 

The Founder was quoted as saying: "All I have to do is stand with my back facing the opponent. If the opponent tries to strike at me, his will to strike will hit and hurt himself. I am integrated with the universe, I possess nothing. When I stand up, I absorb my opponent. Uyeshiba's Aikido knows of neither time nor space, it is the universe itself. This state of affairs is called "Kachi-haya-bi". 

The Founder, who passed away in 1969, used to demonstrate Akido performances at Doji while making his esoteric commentary on the art. His demonstration illustrated that Akido is an astounding martial art which defies defeat under any circumstances. Aikido possesses the necessary spiritual strength covering the deficiencies witnessed in unsophisticated martial arts. Its techniques, by themselves, provide the evidence that Akido reflects the strife-free mind. They are convincing to such a degree that even strongly ego-oriented individuals are bound to be impressed. Aikido thus deserves the description of "an invincible, yet virtuous martial art". 

Spirit of Aikido 

Its a well-known fact that matches are prohibited in Aikido. This is because Aikido has inherited a number of lethal techniques from his Founder, which render the matches too dangerous an exercise, and also because purports to place no restrictions on every conceivable movement. If the rules are set and dangerous techniques are excluded from the matches, Aikido undoubtedly will lose its raison d'etre. If the matches are to be held, all the techniques will have to be scaled down to those consisting mainly of Atemi or the contestants will have to either stake their lives or wear protective gear. A question also arises whether the form of the competition should be limited to empty-handed techniques or should also include the use of weaponry. 
Even if only empty-handed techniques are allowed, the techniques inherent with Aikido are too terrific to make Ukemi (rolls and somersaults in defence) possible. True, such Ukemi against throwing is made possible deliberately in training sessions. However, execution of techniques becomes uninhibited in matches and the dangers involved are rather obvious. The answer to the question of why Aikido is not identified with a sport or a contest is simple. To make the art like that is impossible for the reason mentioned earlier. 

The founder described the movements of Aikido as the "materialization in minute’s detail of the movements of Heaven, Earth and other aspects of Great Nature". If the system of a match is introduced in an art of Aikido nature, the movements inevitably will be restricted within a frame work of rules. Introduction, of such system in keeping with gymnastic science and the western tendency to believe in "Win or Lose" concept will prove a minus to future martial arts in some respects. 

Aikido beginners are urged to understand, first and foremost, the spirit of the art explained above. Everybody has a desire to be strong. Such desire is quite important in the process of training. However, if the trainee is tempted to try out how strong he has become, such temptation must be overcome immediately. By so doing, he will gain command of himself. Those how have infinite faith in the techniques acquired and continue their training assiduously will win the final victory as strong individuals. 

"Aiki is not the art to fight and vanquish the enemy. Its aim is to bring peace and harmony to the world and unite mankind as one family", this is the way the Founder defined Aikido. The spirit of Aikido, as he put it, calls on people to become aware of their respective missions in life, help each other to accomplish the missions and get mankind together as one united family. Such spirit is reflected on the stone monument along the path to Aiku Shrine.

The epitaph reads :  
"The heaven and earth look so serene and beautiful. This Universe has revealed itself as a family created by the omnipresent God...Morihei Uyeshiba" 

This is the Founder's ode to Aikido which still imparts to the visitors to the Shrine his affection for mankind and nature. 

It is up to human beings to make this world a better of a worse place to live in.

 The Founder pondered: 
"This world was created by God, man is but his child, and God dwells in our body". In other words, man is required to keep training for a finer self and carry out his ordained mission. 

Aikido functions as a compass in guiding people in the direction of digging out and developing their intrinsic qualities, as well as striving to accomplish their missions with a sense of enlightenment. According to the Aikido precept, if people live up to the doctrine, mankind will be united as one family, strife will cease, friendly relations will prevail and peace will be preserved. 

The spirit of Budo (martial art) is extremely lofty and far-reaching. Complete grasp of the spirit in a man's lifetime is impossible. It is particularly significant, therefore, to hand down Aikido to wider circles of posterity. 

"Aiki is equal to love for the Universe", stated the Founder. Underlying this statement is the spirit of an all-embracing love for nature and animals, letting them enjoy their full lives in harmony with human environment. Such spirit gave rise to the thought that "even evil should not be treated as such beyond salvation but should be converted to good". Blending mankind as one family is thus made possible. 

Requirements of Aikido 
There are requirements which make Aikido what it is. It is often said that Aikido is something like a combination of judo and Karate, Aikido is not that simple. 
The 'intangible" part of the requirements is, first of all, the blending of Ki(Spirit). The word "Aiki", when applied to the world of nature, means the interchange of Ki between heaven and earth which procreates and nurses both the tangible and intangible of the Universe. Aiki, when applied to human society, signifies the mystery of nature as represented by the harmonious mating of man and woman and the subsequent birth of their children. 
If a state of Ki-musubi (Ki knotted up) is brought into being in accordance with the principe of "Aiki", mutual harmony is maintained in the tangible area of your body versus your partner's, leading to the proliferation of a great multitude of techniques. 
The first requirement of Aikido is, as stated above, "Aiki". The second requirement is the "Δ footwork pattern". Assume your posture obliquely and in case of group attack, you will be able to get to the side of each attacker in the Δ footwork pattern. Conclude your movement with "Hitoe-mi" (reverse triangular) posture. 
The Aikido movement may be summed up as follows, according to the secrets of the art orally bequeathed by the Founder : 
Enter the sphere of the opponent triangularly (Δ), handle him circularly (O) and get it over with squarely (□) 
The Δ footwork pattern balances out the Aikido movement. 
Natural movement are not always as precise as determined by the ruler. Even when the position of your feet is not exactly in keeping with the reverse triangular pattern, the opponent can sufficiently be brought under control if you twist your hips (torso) appropriately to deflect his attack.  
A detailed account of "Aiki" and the "Δ" footwork pattern" (The two major requirements of Aikido) will be given in the second stage and subsequent chapter 
Aikido is a mirror 
Aikido is a martial art seeking after truth. The way to truth is interminably long. Paradoxically, however, truth is not far away. It is "right at your feet". Those pursuing truth should know that they are always at the beginning of their endeavor. In other words, they should always remember the modest spirit and behavior of beginners they once were and refrain from indulging in the self-conceit that "they have already completed their pursuit". 
Truth is an unwritten law governing human life. Gaining an awareness of such truth through AIkido is a valulable lesson of life. To get to know AIkido is equal to getting to know such truth. Aikido is a valuable lesson of life. Seeking after truth in social life is an endeavor to accomplish one's ordained mission in life. Truth may sound difficult to attain if interpreted complicatedly. It is not all that difficult, however, if you turn your eyes to the immediate surroundings of reality and start with what you can do in ascending the ladder of truth. 
We live in a modern, complicated society. Each one of us is but a cog-wheel of society. We tend to be too self-centered to pay due attention to society as a whole, and dissatisfactions and complaints are brewed. But those who have stepped into the path of truth are required to accomplish their individual missions and become enlightened selves above the overriding pressures of society. 
The Founder of Aikido would be most please if the followers discovered their own paths to truth and could live in a divine world of peace and calm transcending earthly discontent. I regard such a way of life as a "fruitful life" - the kind of life I wish to have our posterity inherit. 
In summary, to get to know Aikido is get to know yourself. I want you to consider Aikido your mirror. You should remember that the essence of Aikido lies "right at your feet". 
       Morihiro Saito