Aikido has been thought of as “moving Zen.” Technique trumps power.
Seagal may be a tad portly and past his prime now, but back when he had his dojo in Japan many studied under him. He achieved the rank of aikikai, or seventh dan
Think of an aikidoist as a kind of alchemist, who blends elements of an attack upon him and transmutes them into a neutral, safe grounded place as he stymies the aggressor.
Moving right along: is ki like chi? What a question. Of course it is.
Chi or qi comes from the Chinese, who disagree on its meaning. Similarly, ki came from chi, sometime in the seventh century, and the Japanese disagree on its meaning. Consensus exists, however, when it is said that ki has a place in aikido. The debate begins on whether it is a physical state, or spiritual, or both, or a mix. Let’s say breath, energy, relaxation, and awareness are possible parts of ki and are definite parts of aikido.
Philosophizing and parsing aside, what should we make of a martial art that is decidedly not martial? That does not have the participant drop kicking the heck out of somebody? Or smashing somebody’s face in? Should we allow such an art to exist?
Well, we’re a little late to de-exist it. Aikido is here to stay. And if we fight that very fact, it will work with our anger and aggression and have us muffled in no time. And for those bar boozing buffoons…instead of us calm, aikido-knowing types working up a sweat punching, and clenching, and tensing – all very tiring to the body – let the oaf’s momentum, with a little assistance from ourselves, have them head out, head first, out the door, mannerly - but firmly.
Don’t mistake gentility for passivity. Or non-aggression with slow-poke action. The disabling of an attack is so fast that, for the uninitiated, the move or moves must be watched over and over. Then in slow motion. Then explained. Anticipation is key because if you sense a kick coming, you can duck it or side step it. And for a martial arts’ expert unfamiliar with aikido, a common refrain is: “the aikidoist’s moves were not telegraphed. I wasn't even in a fight, I was down, and held down, so fast. What the heck just happened?”
It’s a classier form of fitness – and a way of living too. Instead of wrestling with a pig and mucking yourself up, you let the pig do the dirty work while you stay above the fray. But you make the pig pay and pray for your joint lock, pin, or throw – to stop.
Aikido is not a striking, hitting, or kicking martial art. It has an array of defenses against such thrusts but its best, boffo hit is when the opponent is hit by the ground as the aikidoist lays them out.
You might ask if there’s something spiritual about such a fighting form. There is. Aikido’s backbone, in part, stems from the religion of Omotokyo.
Aikido has its Yin and Yang: Uke and Nage. Uke is the aggressor - yet gets thrown by nage - the defender.
Whether an aggressor or defender, if you practice this art long enough there’s a good chance you’ll suffer some bruising, and will likely have experienced some straining of tendons and ligaments. It’s the nature of the beast as joints react naturally - or unnaturally - to your efforts. Now, with aikido will come falls and rolls, so the question comes up: can old folks participate? You bet. Because aikido involves non-stop learning - a senior will likely have more mental tools at their disposal, to dispose of younger, more head strong practitioners.
Who founded this unique art which eschews violence and promotes love? Morihei Ueshiba. Though small in stature, at less than five feet tall, his martial art and his influence within it, to this day, is huge. He was a fan of poetry and art, and first took up Sumo wrestling and Jujutsu. With his long white wispy beard and mustache and his prominent cheekbones, the guy just looks wise beyond his years. And agile. Here’s he’s training the younger generation, back in 1957.
The Aiki Shrine is said to be the home of aikido, and aikido as the term for this fitness form, came to be in 1942.
Some wonder if aikido is all there, if it is really real? Can one hold down another with only their toes?
“It’s done in a flash.” That’s an essence of aikido. Another is to be able to read an opponent’s mind. Budo, Japanese Martial Arts – retains and maintains the Samurai spirit. Winning at all costs isn’t the deal – but knowing how to fend off five attackers wielding swords, is.
Watch the aikido master school the pro fighter, who enters the fray a skeptic - and leaves, humbled, but with his mind opened to aikido’s power of efficiency made more amazing by the seemingly lack of power in the parry.
As with almost any sport or discipline, variants occur due to disagreement on emphasis or focus. Aikido also shares this unfolding. Kokikai aikido is said to stem from Ki aikido. But if its website header line is any indication, it shares a major precept of aikido: minimum effort maximum effect.
That, alone, is worthy of respect.