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

A martial art to end fighting

The practice of harmonizing defense and attack

Aikido is 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 Practitioners don’t develop skills to defeat an opponent but to harmonize attack and defense. Thus, Aikido is not a way of fighting, but a way of ending the fight.

The practice is about realizing principles like integrity, presence, and empathy. This by itself is a high aspiration, but only on a very superficial level is Aikido a method of self-defense. On a deeper level, it is a vehicle for self-awareness and personal growth. Only by knowing ourselves well are we capable of unifying our physical, mental, and spiritual powers. Regular practice sharpens one’s perception and makes the body flexible and powerful. Over time, one will develop the ability to remain centered and able to act in any situation.

Practice and result are one

The realization of these principles is both the experience and the result of our practice. We don‘t regard Aikido as a means to an end but rather as a way of trying to realize its principles in every moment of practicing. The path and the result aren’t as separated from each other with regard to time.

As Zen saying puts it: “Practice and enlightenment are one”
In other words, I can always reach the desired result at any time in this present moment.

For example, while executing a simple Aikido movement, I might feel that my movements are rough, tense, or unharmonious. I might be dragging my partner around the mat or being dragged by him and I feel like I’d rather practice with someone else. Observing myself being like this can make me feel unhappy, making this a point when some people might start to think ‘maybe this is not for me‘.

Actually, this conflict is a very good starting point for the practice, because this kind of experience is nothing more than the interference of my ego- which is really the only thing that prevents me from being properly connected with my partner and myself. In a manner of speaking it can become a habit to add our own thoughts and perceptions to all our experiences. Through non-interference, we develop presence, clearness, intuition, calmness, and a sense of being centered.

The Origin of a peaceful martial art

Aikido, a traditional Japanese martial art, was developed in the early part of this century by Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei (1883-1969). 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 are 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 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.