Discovering Aikido: Principles for Practical Learning  ©





This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.  Winston Churchill


Even if you are one of those who has come to believe that all life is insignificant, while here, it is certainly makes sense to make the most of it.


(a) Effective training

The warm up is vigorous, as the body should be ready both for class and for life. The exercises done are all related to forming good aiki habits, not just strength conditioning. Bowing to partners is done once before, and once after each change in partners - anymore is wasted energy. Ukemi must be taken both very softly and very hard according to one's ability, remaining responsive at all times. Harder ukemi and stronger attacks should always be striven for, not avoided. Zanshin should be present from the beginning of the class to the end, not just at the end of each technique, and should reveal itself in form through the posture, and in spirit though the mind via the eyes. Of course, if it continues outside the dojo, so much the better. Breathing must continue throughout the technique for both tori and uke are alive. Kiai can be loud or silent; the loud is for murderous technique – killing; the silent exists in the mind within a concentrated breath - life. Therefore, kiai when practising by oneself, not with a partner. Shapes are preferred to names; irimi-nage shape, ikkyo shape, and so on. More often than not, a name sets an otherwise variable technique in stone. Kokyu-ho and kokyu-nage should have no predetermined form, just principle. Seek the principles not the form and try to apply them in technique. Different techniques should have more in common than differences and those commonalties are the key. The typical grading syllabus is often an incomplete, limited assortment of techniques – it should not be the main guide for learning.


(b) Effective study

To come to terms with the apparent horde of technical information in Aikido it is necessary for the learner to gather all the parts, analyse them, and sort and place them into a sensible framework. Everyone’s experience is different and so each student’s framework will vary. Once a framework is being built, everything will slowly begin to fall into its natural place. Certain things may not fit and might even be discarded. Accordingly, one will know what one knows and will be ready to impart it to others.


(c) Effective purpose

Whether Aikido works or not depends upon the individual. For many, Aikido only exists while being practised, in much the same way as say, table tennis. However, if one can maintain a level of awareness outside of the dojo, it can be said that one's aiki is working. Awareness can be in terms of posture, breathing, ki extension, and sensing danger. If one has developed aiki, if one has become healthier, if one has become calmer in nature, if one has become more aware of one's body, if one has become more confident, if one has become more aware of danger, if one has avoided a potential problem then one's aiki has already worked and may indeed, still be working. Of course, if one took that mugger's wallet and sent him on his way, one's aiki could also be said to have worked.


Ultimately, everything the student knows depends upon the self, over and above whoever they study under. Good teachers are needed for guidance early on, but beyond that, it is the self that needs to take control and direct training. Of course, it helps if there is a good teacher at hand.

Having learned basic movements and techniques, you have to dissect, criticise, and rationalise everything and reassemble it all in such a way that it makes sense, yet remain ever open to new ideas. You have to make the techniques your own through a combination of hard training and careful research. Hard training and no thinking or sporadic training and deep thinking are both recipes for slow development. The only way forward is to train hard and to seek to understand.


There is no end ...


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