Friday, February 16, 2001

Training in aikido is complex. There are a great many skills, techniques, principles, and attitudes to be studied and synthesizes into a single understanding called aikido. Traditionally, there exists a step-by-step methodology that will guide the student steadily from the early stages of training to more advanced levels.

At its source, aikido is a budo, a “martial way”. As a budo, it is more than a group of practical combat techniques, though it is a very effective self-defense form. Aikido works in the realm of human and spiritual development. It is not just a martial art that has a philosophical base or a spiritual side attached. Nor is it a spiritual creed with a physical form attached. The techniques and philosophy of aikido can no more be separated than two sides of a coin. A nickel can be cut in two halves, heads from tails, but it isn’t worth five cents any more. Separate the form from the spirit of aikido, and you end up with neither. The techniques and the philosophy are one.

Conceptualizing about aikido out of the context of training is a practice wrought with pitfalls, which only increases the possibility of misunderstanding some of aikido´s fundamental principles. A description of an object and the real object are not the same thing.

The concept of aiki principles is like a picture of a bowl of rice. You would not be satisfied eating a picture of a bowl of rice, nor will you be satisfied just having the idea of aikido in your head. A real bowl of rice is nourishing and so is the real aiki when it is alive in your body and spirit. The concept that is aikido is learned and expressed through the techniques of aikido. The philosophy of aikido comes to life only when you practice it and live it.

Mastery of aikido is a journey, not a destination. To attain that condition of being in which philosophy, technique, attitude, and spirit merge requires consistent, sincere training. There are no shortcuts.

The first step in learning anything is to say the words “I don’t know”. When you say them as a brand new student, you learn. When you say them again after many years of training, at that moment you learn again.

When you consider yourself an expert, your cup is filled with old knowledge and there is little room for more. The purpose of training in a dojo is for discovery, for growth, not for performance of what you already know.

There is a natural process involved in learning and growing in aikido. You begin by practicing small parts of techniques and principles, then you put some of the parts together and try to make them work smoothly as a whole movement. Often the parts work well but fall apart when the whole technique is attempted. Gradually, your understanding of the parts and of the whole will merge. Trying to get it all now – is equivalent to learning to juggle starting with seven balls. You end up dropping them all. Start with one, then two, then three and soon you will be able to pay attention to the overall motion instead of trying to catch each one

Text from Living Aikido by Bruce Klickstein
Klickstein was the chief instructor of the Aikido Institute in Oakland. He started training in 1968 in Berkeley, California. Due to unfortunate circumstances Klickstein no longer practice Aikido within the Iwama Ryu organization. However his book shows a high regard for etiquette and also a high sense for details and correct movements. This book is in Saito Sensei’s own words free of errors…. A book I can recommend to all students of Aikido.