ulrike serak, 6. dan aikikai tokyo, shihan    max eriksson ohlwein, 6. dan aikikai tokyo

A martial art to end fighting

The practice of harmonizing defense and offense

Aikido is a traditional Japanese martial art (Budo) and yet absolutely contemporary. It follows the basic principle that there can be no winner when someone else is harmed. Therefore its practitioners don’t develop skills to defeat each other but in order to harmonize attack and defense. Thus, Aikido is not a way of fighting, but a way of ending the fight.

On a very superficial level, Aikido can also be seen as a method of self-defense. However, on a deeper level, it is more a method for self-awareness and personal growth. Only by knowing ourselves well, we are capable of unifying our physical, mental, and spiritual powers. The practice of Aikido is about realizing principles like integrity, presence, and empathy. Through regular practice, one sharpens their perception and makes the body flexible and powerful. Over time, this will develop one`s ability to remain centered and to act accordingly to any situation.

Practice and results are one

The realization of these principles is both the experience and the result of our practice. We don’t see Aikido as a means to an end but as an attempt to actualize its principles in every moment of practice. Because of that, the path and the result are one.

As the Zen saying puts it, “Practice and enlightenment are one”
Or in other words, I can achieve the desired outcome only now in this present moment.

For instance, while performing a simple Aikido form, I might feel that my moves are rough, tense, or inharmonious. Maybe I’m dragging my partner across the mat or feel pulled by them. I feel like I’d rather be practicing with someone else. Watching myself like this can make me unhappy, to the point where some people might start thinking, “Maybe this isn’t for me”.

On the contrary, this conflict is a very good starting point for the practice. Because this type of experience is nothing more than the interference of my ego – which is the only thing that prevents me from being connected with my partner and myself.
In a way, it can become a habit to add our thoughts and perceptions to all of our experiences. Through non-interference, we develop presence, clarity, intuition, calm, and a sense of centering.

The Origin of a peaceful martial art

Aikido was developed in the early part of the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei (1883-1969). He has studied many traditional martial arts of Japan and came to the conclusion, that true Budo should preserve life instead of taking it.

The famous motto of O-Sensei, “Masakatsu Agatsu,” contains the essence of Aikido: “True victory is victory over the self.”

Aikido is a true Budo (a martial Way) rather than simply a Bujutsu (“martial technique”) or Bugei (“martial art”). When martial training is undertaken not simply as a means to conquer others, but as a means to refine and perfect the self, this can be said to be Budo.

Ueshiba Morihei, the founder of Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei (“venerable teacher”), the founder of Aikido, was born in 1883 in Tanabe, a coastal town in southern Japan. From the time of his youth, he studied various martial arts, including sumo, swordsmanship, spear technique, staff technique, and various styles of jiujutsu — particularly the Yagyu and Daito styles.

From youth, Ueshiba appears to have been a deeply sensitive and spiritual person. Eventually influenced by the charismatic spiritual leader and artist Onisaburo Deguchi, he came to view his martial training as a means of personal purification and spiritual training.

Over his lifetime, O-Sensei saw Japan involved in some of the most violent conflicts of the 20th century, culminating in the Pacific War. It was during this time that he founded Aikido, declaring it a way of joining the peoples of the world together in peace.

The Kaiso’s incredible technical expertise and charisma brought him tremendous support from high-ranking military officers, government personnel, and the Imperial family during his life. Following his death in 1969, he was posthumously awarded an Imperial medal for his unique contributions. Recognitions and honors aside, it was the universality of his insights and his vision of the Martial Way that is open to all sincere students that led to the phenomenal growth of Aikido around the world.

The noblest philosophies and intentions of the samurai have become a part of global culture, and give spiritual sustenance to millions of persons of all cultures; this is largely due to the groundbreaking influence of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei.

The second Doshu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru

Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Nidai Doshu (the second “master of the Way” of Aikido), son of Morihei Ueshiba, was born in 1922. From his early youth, he trained under the guidance of his father. During the confusion of the wartime period, when Allied fire-bombings reduced much of Tokyo to ruins, he remained in the city and preserved the original dojo building.

Following the war, as Aikido entered its golden age and began to attract public attention, he was instrumental in leading and organizing what would become the Zaidan Hojin Aikikai — the government-recognized, not-for-profit organization which exists today as the center of world Aikido. Upon the death of O-Sensei in 1969, Kisshomaru Ueshiba was named the second Doshu of Aikido. From that time on, Doshu quietly went about the business of spreading Aikido internationally. The tremendous expansion of the art, and the now millions of practitioners, can largely be credited to his efforts.

It was he who coordinated the sending of Japanese Shihan overseas, thereby founding and developing the seeds of large organizations in other nations. He also maintained the strong support of government officials and businessmen in Japan and built new support of this kind internationally.

His many publications on the Aikido technique and philosophy have further spread Aikido’s influence. The high educational and professional standards of Aikido, and the respect it has gained, are a result of these efforts. In 1999 Kisshomaru Ueshiba died in Tokyo, having successfully transformed the vision of his father into an international movement.

The actual Doshu of Aikikai Hombu Dojo, Ueshiba Moriteru

Moriteru Ueshiba Moriteru Ueshiba, son of Kisshomaru Ueshiba, was named the Sandai (“third”) Doshu shortly after his father’s death. Before that time, he had served as the Aikikai Hombu Dojo-cho (“headquarters dojo director”). The Doshu has carried on in his father’s tradition of Aikido at the highest level, with clean and powerful techniques.

Now taking over the leadership of the Aikikai organization, Doshu brings to his position an already full life of training and instruction. The Aikido world has high expectations that, under his leadership, Aikido will continue to grow and expand in fulfillment of O-Sensei’s dream.

Impressions from Aikido practice.