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What Aikido is not

Understanding Aikido

by Lynn Seiser

The article below does not necessary reflect the point of view on Aikido of our club Aikikai Gent. However, we think these articles provide really ‘food’ for deeper thought on Aikido and it’s value.
This article appeared on the forums of aikiweb

When I was a child, I believed in magic.
I hated people who burst my bubbles.

Aikido is many things to many people. I know that it is supposed to be the gift from O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba to a world full of confusion, conflict, and chaos. I do get a lot out of training. Nevertheless, and in no offense to O’Sensei, there are many things that Aikido is not. Aikido is not magic, it is not a quick fix, and it is not an escape or retreat from the real world.

As I got older, I wanted to believe in magic.
I learned to appreciate the people who burst my bubble
so I could see and deal with reality.

Aikido is not the only, or even the best, martial art. Aikido is a martial art. If it matches your needs, then practice. If not, let it go. Do not feel you are better than others because you practice or worse because you do not. The reason there are so many styles and systems of martial arts is that each have their strengths and weaknesses, their application intent and context, and their personality matches. Aikido may be the best for you, but the worst for another.

Aikido is not psychological intervention and treatment. It is not counseling or psychotherapy. Aikido will not fix your mental or emotional problems. In fact, because of the intense interactions, you may become even more aware of them. Aikido is that type of arena. By being aware of your problems, you can consciously face, accept, and resolve them (but not on the mat please).

Aikido is not medical treatment. Aikido will not fix physical conditions or injuries. In fact, it has the potential, if you do not train wisely, to make everything physically worse. Wise training, slow, and steady, watching alignment and form, and progressing slowly, now that just may be of some benefit. What would the fun be in that?

Aikido is not a social life. While you can learn social skills in a dojo, it is not a substitute for, or sanctuary from, the real world and a need for real human interaction. The social interaction before, during, and after training is important. It is a way to realize you are not alone in your Budo journey. That is important. Though trying to find your social life, especially the dating or sexual aspects, can lead to loss of the exact thing you were looking for.

Aikido is not family. Aikido is a type of family where you can learn parental type roles, responsibilities, and affection by teaching. Aikido is a type of family where you can learn sibling roles, responsibilities, and affect for senior and junior (rank, not age) members. Aikido is a type of family in which you share a responsibility to contribute and participate in the family dwelling, the dojo where you study. However, to neglect your real family and not practice the same at home is to totally miss the spirit of Aikido.

Aikido is not parenting. Aikido is not substitute for actively aware and engaged parents. Most Aikido Dojos offer a children’s program. Some have after school programs for working parents. They may provide safety, supervision, and study time, but the children do not want or need if from substitute parents. They need it from the real thing, the ones who gave them birth brought them home, and love them.

Aikido is not the answers to your questions about your purpose in life. It gives you a place to practice that purpose. A Zen Koan is an absurd question that defies intellectual analysis and understanding. The best way to find the answer to a Zen Koan is to drop the question and stay consciously aware in the present. You do not find a purpose in life; you put it there by the direction and choices you make. The answer is in the question. How do you stop yourself from having the life you want?

Aikido is not aerobic, resistance, or stretching exercise. It is not ballet, folk dancing, or disco. Aikido is not a spectator sport. Aikido is physical movement. It is graceful and rhythmic. It looks like a choreographed dance from the bleachers. It is only when you sign up, show up, suit up, shut up, and train as an actively engaged participant that you finally understand what Aikido offers. You will not be able to explain it to anyone who does not train and you will not have to explain it to anyone who does.

The physical practice of Aikido is not the mental or spiritual practice. The mental or spiritual practice is not the physical practice. To have body, mind, and spirit in harmony, you must train the body, mind, and spirit separately and in unity. It is not either/or and it is not sequential. It is both and it is simultaneous. That is the practice, everything pointed, and extending in the same direction at the same time.

Aikido is not magic, but people are. Aikido it is not a quick fix, but a tool of respect and discipline. Aikido is not an escape or retreat from the real world, but a safe place to practice how to be in it and what direction we already know we need to be heading.

As an old man, I believe in the magic of reality and discipline.
I have become that person who bursts bubbles.
However, I try to do it with positive intent and love.