I have never met an unpleasant practitioner or teacher of Aikido, have you? I am sure they must exist, certainly, but I have never met one. And when I look back at all the wonderful Aikido masters I have had the privilege of training with and learning from, I didn't meet one who didn't treat me with heartfelt kindness. Some were even positively humorous and shockingly refreshing. Well rounded humans who care about others, isn't this how all martial arts should be?
My Chinese Master, used to often tell me, 1000 hours training for a seconds use. On reflection some might say what a waste of time, but in peaceful times we have the luxury of appreciating that this ratio also brings with it many useful periphery benefit's, health, happiness, confidence, & co-ordination. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Underlying the many 100's of thousands of hours practice if you keep your mind's eye open, it may also bring you esoteric understandings.
Aikido is an art which contains hard and soft elements, utilizing opponents force against them it also holds strongly the ideal that one should not aim to kill or overly harm opponents, underlying the physical movements is a strong and living philosophy of kindness and respect for life which as martial artists we must applaud.
Although it's inventor, Ueshiba's early life, particularly his time in Manchuria was, one can imagine very different, his later life became deeply spiritual and his influence can be clearly seen and felt in Aikido today. Some of the popular Chinese arts that share similar principles as Aikido, Chin-na for example, the locking and joint breaking art sadly do not often promote the underlying spiritual dimensions that if you look closely you can feel historically lived in it's subtle but sublimely effective movements.
Let me highlight a spiritual message that came from an unusual angle; the teaching of Kuroda Tetsuzan Shihan, the great swordsman of Japan. I spent a couple of days with him on training camp in Japan while filming the Mind Body and Kickass Moves BBC TV series.
I remember looking forward very much to our first meeting, even though, truth be told he did look stern and quite frightening with the ever present razor sharp Katana in the hand, and a reputation of having probably the quickest draw in Japan today, moving deftly, as he demonstrated before the eye can register a moment made, he'd have cut you in 2 nice lumps. Being naturally curious I wanted to experience that speed so asked him to demonstrate, we went outside and found a private spot by the beach, just as a storm was whipping up, the cold gray sea rain was driving down onto my face, making the pebbled floor underfoot slippery, and there it was in a flash, he'd pounced, in the blink of an eye, Razor sharp sword powerfully flashed past my throat, nearly cutting my head clean off at the shoulders.... Incredible, beautiful.
Before meeting Master Kuroda I had heard many story's & as you can imagine, and my mind was filled with child like anticipation when I first entered his dojo a little early before training. There were already 200 neatly dressed solemn practitioners silently waiting in seiza position for the master to arrive.When he finally entered the sacred space of the dojo he was dressed a regal dark blue masters uniform, neatly pressed white wrap over top, sword at side and brightly colored Co-Co the clown orange fuzzy afro wig on his head. He proceeded to teach for the first half an hour refusing to remove the wig, it was the best display of Ice breaking I have ever seen and a juxtaposition you would never imagine to see in a Dojo, especially a Japanese Dojo of one of the worlds top practitioners .
Chris Crudelli meets Kuroda Sensei
For those looking closely though, it taught a very important lesson also, peel off your preformed views, opinions and judgments of all things, remove the trappings of ego and reputation, relax, have fun and do not be too serious and stern. Apart from the physiological disadvantage tension brings to health & fighting, slowing reactions and impairing judgment, life is just too short to act hard. That is for the weak. I am surly not alone in strongly respecting this attitude which shows flexibility of mind and creativeness of spirit.
I don't read much Japanese but much of the Kanji are derived from Chinese, I can read Chinese and if you read the works Aikido in Chinese characters it means 'The way of appropriate Chi', How fitting!!!
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