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~life force

Aikido is a modern form of budo (Japanese martial way of self refinement) combining vigorous physical training with spiritual discipline. Aikido cannot be learned intellectually, but must be understood through physical training, unifying body and mind, self and other. Its cooperative nature allows us to execute technique in a more dynamic and safe way than is possible in a competitive situation. Aikido’s inclusiveness transcends boundaries of age, gender, race, culture, religion and class.

Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). O’Sensei (great teacher) combined his life study of martial, philosophical and spiritual disciplines with his personal genius to create a form of budo dedicated to the protection of life. He wrote, “True budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings and not killing and struggling with each other... Aikido is the realization of love.”

Aikido is often promoted as an art of self defense. While Aikido contains all the elements of attack and defense necessary for self defense, its method of practice embodies deeply ethical principles directed towards cultivating caring, responsible and responsive people.

Etiquette, the guidelines that govern our behavior in the dojo, forms the heart of our practice. Expressed through the seated posture of seiza, bowing, cleaning the dojo and the cooperative nature of Aikido practice, etiquette shapes our attitude towards respect, gratitude, humility and concern for self, others and our physical and social environment. We begin and end practice with bowing, an enactment of respect that is repeated in each encounter with our training partners, forming the matrix within which all other action takes place.

Aikido teaches a variety of skills that contribute to a person’s ability to attend to him/herself. These include learning to sit quietly and observe our breathing, heartbeat, sensations and what is going on around us. As seiza is the foundation of etiquette, it is also the base for Aikido movement. Proper sitting develops upright stable posture, full rhythmic breathing and a quiet alert mental state. These three elements (posture, breath and state of mind) are of fundamental importance to Aikido and life.

Aikido movement is circular and fluid, reflecting the organic motion of nature. To create this circular movement we must establish a strong stable center. This center resides in the area of our lower abdomen (tanden), and its development is of primary importance to physical mastery of Aikido. Moving in the kneeling position (shikko) is one of the best methods for strengthening the tanden.

Aikido practice also develops falling and rolling skills that have obvious benefits for self-protection and serve as wonderful means for physical conditioning. These skills (ukemi) allow us to absorb and neutralize the throws and techniques of Aikido. It is through the reciprocal exchange of throwing and being thrown in Aikido that care for others can be learned. Essential to caring for others is the ability to attend to them. The partner practices (kata) of Aikido require that we listen to (sense) our partners and join our movement with theirs. In order to harmonize with our partners, we must learn to focus our full attention to that end. However, if this skill is taught as a means of gaining control over others, our practice violates the moral ethics of O-Sensei’s teaching. The objective of our practice must be mutual learning and the development of awareness and self-control.

Aikido weapons training and Iai Batto-ho (art of drawing and cutting with a sword) reveal the martial roots of our practice. They develop martial spirit through the intensity of focus and precision of timing and distance demanded by the disciplined use of sword and staff in solo or partnered forms. The foundation for Aikido body arts exists within these weapons forms.

The practice of Aikido, including seiza, shikko, ukemi and kata, develops strength, coordination, balance, relaxation, flexibility and sensitivity. These qualities emerge within a context of disciplined concern for others, for the dojo and the materials used in our practice. Dojo members participate in the cleaning of the dojo as an integral part of their practice.

While we believe Aikido is a serious endeavor, our training should contain elements of wonder and joy as well as hard work. Fun is a serious part of our practice. The ultimate objective is to give practitioners of all ages, backgrounds and capabilities an opportunity to swim in the waters of Aikido. We hope that in doing so we can discover the personal and interpersonal resources needed to meet the challenges of today’s world.

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