I think an important and helpful thing to do at times, especially when we’re really training a lot, is to stop where you are and think of O’Sensei. Take a look at some of his pictures, read some of his doka, watch some of his films, whatever you can do to take a glimpse of what he was trying to do with this wonderful art. It’s really easy, especially these days in our UFC-infused society, to go a different direction. Not necessarily the wrong direction if that’s what you’re trying to do, but Aikido is Aikido.
The main focus of our training, according to the founder, is self-mastery. He also said to not worry about watching his technique, but to listen to what he said. (see “training with the master”) Aikido is a wonderful self-defense mechanism, but it is also very easy to get too engulfed in the mindset of worrying if your technique will “work on the street” or not. “Am I taking uke’s balance?” “Am I leading uke correctly?” “Can Uke hit me from here?” “Is this yonkyo really putting the pain on?”. These are common concerns with ours that we can easily get way too caught up in. We totally leave our own center and start worrying about….them. Stop. Come back to center. You are the center. Don’t go with the flow because if you think this way, you’re separating yourself from the flow. Be the flow. Bring them to your center. You are here and alive and aware right now. If you get fear out of the way and BE in your body, your beingness isn’t going to allow you to get hit and knows just what to do for the best outcome…you’d be amazed. It sounds impossible, but it’s fun to shoot for.
When you see O’Sensei or read his writings, you realize he never got outside of himself. You’ll never see a picture of him with a strained expression throwing someone hard. You’ll never witness him “trying to take balance”. He’s always relaxed, stable, and looks like the center of a top with uke flying around him. In still photographs, he’s never blurred like he’s moving fast. His grip looks solid but not hard. This is the “aikiness” that he has blessed us with and we need to embrace it to truly reap the benefits of this art. If that’s not what you want, it’s not what you want. There’s other great martial arts out there that show you how to disarm a guy and break his face in a matter of seconds. Just remember… Aikido is Aikido, and if we want to regain purpose and intention in our training, it’s helpful to recognize the founder of the art and see where he was coming from.