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Fundamental Principles of Aikido

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by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #70 (March 1986)

The selection of the topic for this article came about as the result of a very kind letter from a totally unexpected quarter: Minoru Mochizuki Sensei of the Yoseikan Dojo in Shizuoka. Mochizuki Sensei’s letter was in response to the editorial I wrote in the last issue entitled “Suggestions for the Elimination of Abuses in Dan Rankings”. I was asked to elaborate on my view of the essential nature of Aikido in light of the subject covered in the above article.

I have many ideas about what Aikido is and how it should be practiced, but perhaps the majority of them apply to my own training and are not something I would ever wish to impose on others. There are a number of points, however, I do regard as fundamental principles of Aikido and they include the following:

- Aikido is a discipline based on the martial art and philosophy of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

- Aikido has a core of techniques which constitutes the physical manifestation of the art (ikkyo through yonkyo, shihonage, iriminage, kokyunage, etc.)

- Aikido is basically defensive in nature

- There exists in Aikido an ethical concern for the well-being of the attacker beyond a preoccupation with self-defense

There may well be other traits shared by several of the styles but the above characteristics I would regard as essential to the art. Failure to stress any one of them would lead to a basic alteration of the fabric of Aikido as conceived by the Founder.

I personally have a “live-and-let-live” attitude towards stylistic differences. I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to make a blanket statement to the effect that all approaches have something worthwhile to offer or that all contain defects or limitations. Let me simply restrict myself to a statement of the obvious: A number of styles of Aikido exist each emphasizing different areas and which have attracted sufficiently large followings so as to warrant recognition. As a historian, therefore, each and every one of them is of interest to me.

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