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Realizing Aikido’s Potential: Further thoughts

by Stanley Pranin

Published Online

Back in August I wrote an essay titled Realizing Aikido’s Potential. This article appears in English on the Aikido Journal website and a Japanese translation was published in Aiki News. The position advanced—namely, that aikido’s great potential as a force for the betterment of society can be realized by taking steps to restore its martial nature—seems to have struck a responsive chord. Actually, what I wrote in the article was little more than a restatement of the viewpoints expressed in private by some of the most highly-regarded personalities of aikido, including close students of O-Sensei.

One of the principal ideas contained in the above-mentioned essay was the importance of the “martial nature” of aikido as a key element of the vision of Morihei Ueshiba. I would like to expand further on this concept.

Aikido practice with a martial emphasis ties training to a quest for the development of effective technique. Effective technique means the ability to respond to an attack by an opponent intending to inflict harm in such a way as to neutralize his aggression with a minimum of force. The key is to create a training environment where the attacking skills of practitioners reach higher and higher levels of sophistication. This will necessarily result in a corresponding improvement in defensive skills. Of course, such conditions can only be approximated in training due to the danger inherent in strong attacks and appropriate responses. Nonetheless, it is possible to strive for an ever-improving ability to confront attacks of increasing vigor.

As the intensity of attacks increases, a growing awareness of the serious nature of training emerges. There is the realization that a moment’s lapse in concentration can lead to injury. The looming possibility of injury leads to the observance of strict etiquette in the dojo as a way to create safe training conditions thereby forestalling accidents.

The hyper-level of sensitivity developed in such an environment produces in the aikidoka an improved ability to sense the aggressive intent of the attacker at progressively earlier stages. The mental/spiritual state I am describing transcends the dualism to which we are accustomed as the defender achieves a state of harmony with the mind and movement of the attacker.

This skill cultivated in training can then be applied outside the dojo setting to other areas of the practitioner’s life. The ability to perceive the timing and intent of the people we come into contact with in the course of our daily lives is a most valuable asset.

The presence of growing numbers of individuals who display such interpersonal skills cannot but help to have a salubrious effect on society. Even though the founder may have expressed these concepts using rather esoteric language, I regard practice with a “martial edge” as the gateway to a higher spiritual level and the key to unlock a higher human potential.

This is the thinking underlying our planning of Aiki Expo 2003 and the main theme of the event.

Stanley Pranin
Las Vegas, Nevada
December 2, 2002