The Richness of our Differences
At a time when the ministry of Youth and Sports wishes to reunify French Aikido, the Doshu’s response to a question made during an interview in Tokyo is an invitation to accept and recognize as “partners”, in a first time those who are like us, but also the “others”, those who are different from us in their origin, style, grade, age, seniority, their morphology, and their way of “Living Aikido”. To all of us, French Aikidoka, that we belonged to the French Federation of Aikido and Budo or the French Federation of Aikido Aïkibudo and affinity, there is an opportunity, through the declaration of Doshu, check the acuity of our eyes and listened to finesse our absolute respect for our “differences”.
Question asked to Master Ueshiba Kisshomaru:
I would ask you what are your plans for the future of Aikido at the international level? I understand that the current goal of the International Federation of Aikido is to spread a unique teaching method as a basis for what might be called true Aikido. There are many exceptional Masters at the Honbu Dojo who use a very personal technique. Under these conditions, how do you think the true Aikido can be spread throughout the world via a uniform method of teaching?
Master Ueshiba Kisshomaru’s response:
To address someone by saying, “What you are doing is wrong, you should not practice this way, it is not the true Aikido” is something to avoid. Indeed some technical differences exist within practice, but it turns out that akthough all groups practice with their own style, they are aware of the that connects them to each other through the unit of the Federation. I hope above all that through Aikido, everyone will meet and will go beyond differences in style and technique. Different nationalities have designed different teaching methods that they practice daily.
What to take from Ueshiba Sensei’s response?
In order to improve the techniques, it is necessary to gradually modify the teaching methods. The opposite would be foolish, just like starting to establish a framework to integrate a picture on the wall before actually drawing it!
The Way of Aikido lies above all in the “Spontaneity” and “Nature” of each practitioner. Techniques of Aikido are endless and multifaceted. Although they appear different according to the particular style of each expert, however, there is a unity between them as well as an order. It is the consideration of the unity of these techniques that makes most of the beauty of Aikido.
That is why we did not intend to include Aikido in a structure, be it political, ideological or economic, that is to say, to build an all inclusive organization. The purpose of the International Federation of Aikido is primarily to spread and develop international friendship.
With the view expressed by the Doshu Ueshiba Kisshomaru, this kinship between Aikidoka worldwide who practice an art and a sport is reassuring and comforting. It appears as the ideal sign of unity, that is to say the recognition of others, their right to be different. It pushes them to organize themselves to be able to exercise this right effectively.
This is the attitude of tolerance that we propose, following Ueshiba Kisshomaru Doshu’s pluralistic view of Aikido, opening to the expression of different sensitivities and different currents of thought who love independence and freedom. Master Morihei Ueshiba himself, with his vast experience of men and the world, knew that groups would fight and differences would arise because of differences in technical experts. As his son Kisshomaru, he insisted, saying that these stylistic differences were secondary, and only the spirit of sincere friendship and absolute respect for each expert were essential.
The Master was against the codification of a technical method. “With one method,” he said, “there is no more originality in the creation of a gesture. There remains only the mastery of frozen gestures.”
Aikido, according to the founder, is above all freedom and independence, and codifying techniques within a method will be made at the expense of individual freedom and the will of expression of each practitioner. For a beginner, of course, a classification is useful as a memory aid, but it quickly becomes diametrically opposed to the concept of spontaneity in the application of a technique.
“We must learn to unlearn” said the Master, ie, drop structures. The Master had created Aikido for Intellectuals, so as to de-intellectualize them.
Master Mitsugi Saotome, whom I have known at his debuts at the Aikikai in 1955, recently said in the magazine Karate Bushido No. 110: “It must be understood that the people who come to Aikido have not all the same motivations, the same physiological structure. Everyone learns a basic form, but adapts based on these data.”
Jean-Paul Avy, in a Federal organization meeting, drew prospects of a structure, allowing experts of various Aikido schools to retain their moral, spiritual, and technical specificity. It created the conditions for a harmonious conjunction of mainstream technique, ensuring a wealth of different teachings. This design combines unity and freedom and follows the entire perspective of Ueshiba Kisshomaru Doshu on the development of Aikido in the world.
At the time of the creation of a single French Federation of Aikido, it would be useful, that practitioners and leaders of our two organizations, ponder these few guidelines, rather than pretend to ignore them, as we often tend to do with what bothers us, or what we fear.
In Aikido, we must overcome our fear and go to others. We are afraid of others because they are not like us, yet this precisely why they are a treasure for us. Do not be afraid of those who are not like us, or those whose words have resonances that are alien to our level of understanding.
It is with these people that we are called to forge new and fruitful relationships. Thus we will discover that others are similar in spite of our superficial differences, which is the dearest wish of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei. We then can discover the real richness of our differences.