“Morihei Ueshiba has proven useful as an authorative figure to boost the status of various organizations, but his superlative techniques and Shinto-laced manner of speech are considered antiquated and irrelevant, and have been summarily discarded by aikido’s governing bodies.”
In the past several years I have attended seminars and had lengthy conversations in three continents. One of the urgent topics of conversation is the slow death of aikido as a viable martial art in a world full of eye-catching alternatives. All I talked with were in agreement that aikido’s numbers are steadily falling and it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to maintain a dojo faced with such overwhelming competition. The golden years of aikido seem long past.
Young people prefer the sensationalized martial arts they see depicted on the movie screen in gory displays of violence. They want something they can learn quickly and turn themselves into superb fighting machines in record time. They have no moral compass to guide them in the meting out of techniques designed to kill and maim. For them, if the other guy starts a fight, then he is fair game to be taken down a notch.. If he gets hurts in the scuffle, then was happens to him is well-deserved. Aggression inspired by arrogance lead to destruction and humiliation, a lesson learned by Japan in the aftermath of World War II.
Action scenes by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and China, not to mention the uber violence portrayed in video games, simply reinforce this mentality.
Aikido as conceived by Founder Morihei Ueshiba has a unique alternative to offer the world: a vast curriculum of highly effective techniques and a moral philosophy guiding their use. But this genius of a man has been swept aside by the organizations that now operate aikido.
What little mention there is of him is nothing less than schizophrenic in nature. Morihei Ueshiba has proven useful as an authorative figure to boost the status of various organizations, but his superlative techniques and Shinto-laced manner of speech are considered antiquated and irrelevant, and have been summarily discarded by aikido’s governing bodies.
So how is it that today’s aikido leaders expect to compete in a world filled with flashy martial arts focused on competition, the more violent the better? If public exhibitions are any indication, the All-Japan Aikido Demonstrations exemplify aikido’s answer.
Their solution is to put on display highly choreographed demonstrations in which everything goes oh so smoothly with participants moving about effortlessly downing attackers. To add more spice to these performances, most throws involve spectacular high falls that only a few well-trained athletes with acrobatic skills can pull off.
Veteran practitioners of other martial arts with experience in violent fighting competitions express derision when viewing these hollow performances.
Are we showing Morihei’s aikido or emulating the Cirque de Soleil?
Well, we’re definitely not modeling ourselves on Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido and as circus performers we are third-rate.
So what is the answer? Go back to the source! Aikido Journal has meticulously collected and organized most of the extant film footage of Aikido’s Founder. You will find it here. He is a model and inspiration for what you can achieve in aikido!
We have further put together the most important resource of aikido technical material in existence featuring one of Morihei Ueshiba’s most talented disciples, Morihiro Saito. It is the gold standard for those desiring to polish their technique. Morihiro Saito was a devoted student of Morihei Ueshiba and a martial arts genius. His remarkable systemization of the Founder’s curriculum is vast in scope, and precise and clear in its presentation. Saito Sensei’s aikido is here.
Now what can you do as an individual practitioner? While training on the mat, don’t adopt a passive attitude. Become proactive and strive to learn to blend with your partner. Next, when you are acting as nage, make the first moment of contact with your uke decisive. Your first action should take uke’s balance. When you have succeeded in unbalancing the attacker, your aikido will become highly effective.
As uke, don’t be a participant in a choreographed faked sequence where “I’ll let you throw me if you let me throw you.” While being respectful and safe in your practice, don’t tank for nage. Nage has a job to do to take control of the situation and produce a clean, effective throw. You as uke have the job of presenting a committed, sincere attack. This means you don’t take advantage of your foreknowledge of the technique being practiced to thwart nage’s every move. Remember nage can do the very same thing to you and you’ll both look stupid practicing in such a manner. You will never progress by training in this way.
Follow the Founder’s example and put your body and soul into every movement and always maintain a beginner’s mind. You will never stop learning and improving with the right attitude.
Aikido has amazing benefits to offer. Basing ourselves on Morihei Ueshiba’s example, we can rescue aikido from its slow descent into oblivion. But only through long, consistent dedication, and offering the best we have to give.