The most surprising thing about Aikido is that it took me so long to get into it. I mean I was hooked part way through my first session but it's surprising that it took me so long to try it. Thinking back on it I've always been drawn to martial arts in movies. It just looked so cool, so graceful. In college I was way too busy and this fall I finally had my first break in training since graduating so I guess this was my first real "chance". I was just looking for some cross training to get me through the early winter but as always happens - I got hooked. Anyway I'm dong Aikido now and I love it.
I'll just give you a little background on aikido today and some other time I'll talk about what we actually do in class and all that. Keep in mind I've only been doing this for less than 3 months and a lot of what a martial art emphasizes, teaches and so on are open to debate and very from student to student. None the less here is my impression at this point in my study:
For those who don't know (and I didn't) Aikido is a Japanese martial art that comes from Jujitsu and Samurai traditions. Because of this ancestry in samurai martial traditions we train in sword and knife techniques - both offensive and defensive. Also, since samurai used swords they used armor. As a result there is less of an emphasis on striking in jujitsu and aikido because it didn't make sense to punch someone who was wearing armor. Instead when we practice open-handed techniques (no weapons) we practice a lot of throws, joint locks, pins and some grappling. Things that would have made sense to do to someone wearing armor.
Actually some of my teachers have said that Aikidio is actually 90% about striking. Though I agree that's a slightly more complicated argument and I'll make it some other time.
More importantly aikido isn't just jujitsu with swords. Aikdio is a relatively new martial art though it is built on traditions that are hundreds of years old. The founder of that art, called Osensei by aikido parctioners, died in the 1969. In his native Japan he lived through the Russo-Japanese War and both world wars. These were formative influences that shaped Osensei's view of the role of violence.
This outlook is reflected in aikdio which is primarily a defensive art. Many of the techniques are variations on jujitsu but instead of hard throws and painful breaks many aikdio techniques end in pins or softer break falls. Philosophically, you could argue that the point of these techniques is not to "win" but end the conflict with minimal harm to your attacker. I find this to be a very interesting mix - a kind of a ying and a yang of violence and peace if you will. By this I mean that I feel that Aikido is inherently martial and physical. Yet the intent is ostensibly not to cause harm. However this requires you to struggle with your attacker and overcome him and his desire to harm you. I see this as a violent process but one through which you can possibly achieve a minimally harmful outcome.
As one of my math teachers in college used to say when we would come across an interesting coincidence or property in class: "It's all very cosmic".
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