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Traditional Aikido and Sport

Submitted by admin on 18. December 2017 - 14:22

     This article was written some time ago as part of an introduction to a much larger text and is published with approval of Yamada Yoshimitsu Sensei.
The definition of Aikido is uniquely author’s and is a result of almost thirty years of continuous professional practice of this martial art.

    AIKIDO is the incarnation of the Eastern worldview and world perception formalized (expressed) as traditional Japanese martial art.

     Harmony in Eastern sense means balance. Balance between any kind of opposites. But this balance is not static, both sides of the opposite are constantly transforming into one another, this is not confrontation, not a contest "who defeats who", it is simply a natural order of things. If one of the opposites grows bigger (smaller) harmony gets broken. "They who follow Heaven, or the natural order, flow in the current of the Tao”, as written in Huainanzi.

     Accordingly in the East an enlightened person is the one who follows the natural flow of life (as do both of the participants of process in Aikido). Zen-buddhism mentors claim that enlightenment can be embodied in any kind of daily activity and this teaching left a noticeable imprint in all areas of traditional Japanese way of life. Among them not only arts (painting, calligraphy etc.) but also different crafts, ceremonies (tea ceremony, floral arrangement etc.) as well as martial arts including Aikido. The name of each of these types of activities in Japan contains a hieroglyph (concept) "Do”, meaning a way to enlightenment. "Do" always implies cyclical nature. "Returning is the motion of the Tao (Do)”, said Lao-Tzu, "Going far means returning". This definition complies easily with a training process in Aikido in which constant and rigorous work on basic technique indicates and acts as a movement forward.

     In order to embark upon a path there is no need for some special skills or education, one requires simply to make a first step along with someone who is walking in the same direction and has some experience which he passes on directly (also part of tradition). But since that starting moment difficulties arise because "The contradiction so puzzling to the ordinary way of thinking comes from the fact that we have to use language to communicate our inner experience which in its very nature transcends linguistics”, D. T. Suzuki.

   To study Aikido it is important to be consciously aware of the reality and not the description of it (this is precisely the way of traditional training). It is so because of the limitations of language. The immediate perception of reality lies beyond any thought or language. "When the rational mind is silenced, the intuitive mode produces an extraordinary awareness; the environment is experienced in a direct way without the filter of conceptual thinking." Any kind of description of Aikido only partially coincides with the truth of it. The practice of Aikido requires the state of "here-and-now" and this means that evaluating and analysing mechanisms must be shut off. "Apart from bodily-form there is no voidness; so apart from voidness there is no bodily-form. That which is voidness is bodily-form; that which is bodily-form is voidness”, says a buddhist sutra. Most likely I understood all of the mentioned above and below due to the lack of knowledge of any languages (except Russian) and never listened by ear alone to the information as the Eastern tradition dictates. "Not knowing that one knows is best”, Lao-Tzu, “The sage carries on his business without action and gives his teachings without words”. In precisely this way I received knowledge from Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei and continue to do so from Yamada Yoshimitsu Sensei and Benedetti Stephane Sensei. Individuals of another culture face the difficulty of becoming qualified Sensei or Shihan in Aikido due to the lack of Eastern worldview and world perception in them. That is the cause of the tendency to instill into Aikido competitive and sport-oriented direction specific for the Western culture. But as soon as it loses it's roots (tradition) it ceases to be that which was created by the Founder Ueshiba Morihei. Of course in the process of transfer of information from the source downward vertically semantic reduction (unadvertedly followed by simplification) takes place but there is always a reverse vector defining the correct direction of development. In case of Aikido introduction of any kind of contest-based aspect into the training process destroys such vector altogether and catastrophic simplification of information makes Aikido study primitive leaving behind a sole name of the absent huge layer of Japanese culture.

    In terms of European (ancient Greek) notion Aikido - is PHYSIS which is the true nature of things. The worldview and world perception, even if they are expressed as traditional Japanese martial art, can not be a sport discipline under any circumstances. It is absurd! All the more it can not become sport on an individual whim.

Mikhail Ignatov

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