Little House In Ise

The Heart of Aikido : The Practice Itself
December 6, 2009, 13:33
Filed under: Aikido | Tags: ,

I submitted the following with my application to test for 3 dan. The topic I was given was “The Heart of Aikido”.


The health benefits of hard, physical exercise such as we experience during Aikido practice have been broadly shown to be beneficial to the human body. Exercise strengthens our hearts, muscles, sinews, joints and bones. Recently, there has even been evidence suggesting that regular, hard exercise is beneficial for the brain — possibly even improving cognition and emotional condition. All this together makes it clear that Aikido is good for the body, but what about the spirit?

Avoiding discussion of Kotodama and the historical connection between Aikido and Omotokyo, there is still an element at the heart of Aikido the spiritual nature of which is often overlooked: the practice itself.

Most practitioners of Aikido are not soldiers and so most do not expect to use their art in war. Amongst modern warriors, there is an understanding that if the need to fight with hands arises then something has gone terribly wrong. Police and similar peace-keepers are among the few who might use Aikido as something other than a last resort but they themselves prefer other options. As such, it is clear that for most Aikidoka it is only during practice that we use our art.

It is practice that brings purpose to Aikido. The clothes, weapons and customs are important but if it were not for practice itself there would be no point in all the rest. We go to the dojo to train not to show off our new dogi. We go to the dojo to practice, improve and grow not to enjoy the flowers decorating the tokonoma. We also go to the dojo to help others practice, either by teaching or being their partner.

Aikido practice literally and figuratively brings people together. From “Onegaishimasu” we enter into the heart of Aikido. By asking someone to be our training partner we open ourselves up to another human being. Though we grab, strike and sometimes struggle against the physical strength of this person, it is not a conflict. Quite the contrary! Together, we learn to better blend with each-other’s energy and intent. We learn their strengths and weaknesses while exposing our own.

When a training partner, can sense weakness and yet is still allowed close enough to strike, we are at our most vulnerable. In tactical terms, our partner is also exposed and vulnerable leaving both sides physically at the mercy of the other. Being open to attack we learn that, though the potential to be injured or to inflict injury — even death — is real, another human being is in the same situation. By acknowledging their vulnerability we learn that to use their weakness to destroy them is form of self destruction. We grow together with the realization that the other is the same as the self — open and in danger. The necessity of protecting our partners becomes clearer. During practice we trust one another with our bodies often putting our lives and health in the hands of total strangers. This level of trust yields bonds between people that would otherwise be unlikely to occur.

Beyond “not hurting” our partners, we are also in the position of being nurturers as well. As sempai it is our responsibility to protect our kohai but also we must also help them learn. Though out of balance in some respects, on the mat the relationship between sempai and kohai reflects deep mutuality of purposes. Kohai learns technique from sempai whereas sempai learns to communicate and demonstrate concepts that are intrinsically difficult to grasp. Both sides learn empathy and build bonds with the other. True Aikdo grows from the physical and emotional mutuality of training.

Clearly then, practice is the purpose, meaning and heart of Aikido.


9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

If the sentiments that you’ve expressed in this essay are intrinsic with all (or most) “Akidotas”, then there is promise that the “warriors” of Aikido are essential in the family, the community, in the nation, in the world.

Comment by Ita


O’ Sensei Ueshiba Morihei’s stated purpose for creating Aikido was to bring world peace. There is a reason beyond the way we try to move that this art is sometimes called The Way of Harmony.

Much Love,

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Beautiful and deep Essay Eric. May the force of Aiki be with you always.

Congratulations on 3rd Dan


Comment by Miguel

Thanks Miguel!

When will I be seeing you in morning class?


Comment by Eric Holcomb

You know actually I am training from both 5:30 and 7:00 pm Keiko almost everyday now to get ready for my coming 1st Kyu test on February. We usually sleep kind of late at night and can’t make it for morning Keiko. The next time I will come in the morning, you will be the first one to know 🙂

Comment by Miguel

Enjoy your preparation and Ganbare!

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hi Eric
Nice article. I like the phrase ‘We grow together with the realization that the other is the same as the self — open and in danger.’
I’ll be reading more.
Hope you are well.

Comment by Sean Flynn

Hi Sean,

Long time! How are you? Doing well, I hope.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. In this blog I try to stay in more firm, familiar territory but since this was an assigned topic I had to follow it where it would lead.

Hope to see you soon!


Comment by Eric Holcomb

[…] THE HEART OF AIKIDO : THE PRACTICE ITSELF December 6, 2009, 13:33 Aikido, 合気道 […]

Pingback by Il cuore dell’Aikido « Daniela Mazzon Systema

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: