Aikido: Budo That lives.

Aikido to me is Budo that lives in the theory of Tomiki Aikido is an attempt at practicing those theories Yin and Yang, a trendy tattoo nowadays but do people really take the time to understand the principle behind it. There is a widespread misconception that Yin and Yang are opposite forces in conflict with one another. Yin being a negative force and Yang being a positive one.

The truth of the matter is that while they are opposing forces, they are not conflicting forces. They do a delicate and constant dance that maintains balance in everything. Although they oppose one another, each one could not survive or even be without the other. The real truth is that inside the center of each force, the other dwells. The same could be said about Aikido and the impact it has had upon my life. When the word Aikido is broken down, it means “the way of unified energy.”

Aikido is the delicate pendulum balancing unity between mind and body. Not always does the mind do what the body wants and vice versa. It takes practice, patience and failure to create the unity needed between these opposing forces. Morihei Ueshiba once said that “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” My interpretation of this quote is “Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better and then repeat.” This interpretation has worked for me.

Every movement and every thought have meaning and purpose. What one practices is what one will do. Make your practice say what you want it to say. When training, do not rush. Take the time to learn what you are doing. Analyze every movement and every thought and figure out the goals you are trying to accomplish. Once you have the basic understanding of a technique, practice it alone very slowly, looking at your balance and body placement. Then add an uke while focusing on that uke’s balance an ability to counter. If that goes well, add dynamic movement (practice from slow punch or entering grab etc.)

After all that goes well, ask others for input. Within my dojo there were many students that studied many other arts. There were students of aikido that studied striking, grappling and kicking arts which added a vast knowledge to what we were trying to accomplish. We would spend a lot of time working on “what if” type practices and asking everyone to bring everything they knew to practice. This helps us develop our aikido to control anyone at any time. After all that we would try it in randori while remembering our dojo code and goals. Then after randori practice we would have a better understanding of the technique to take back to kata and start all over again. This type of practice taught us to look for the weak point in techniques and we worked to make them better and adaptable to any situation. It is important to practice the physical movement of the techniques in the way that represents your personal goals. Aikido, to me, is Budo that lives in theory.

Aikido is merely a theory to me because it cannot be proven definitively without being performed to its entirety. We, as martial artists, try to avoid that extreme outcome at all costs and most can say, thankfully, they have never been in a scenario where they had to perform, they’re training in its entirety. Minamoto Musashi put it into words in the best way possible. He said that “The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them.” That is the goal of our art, and it is why we do what we do. It is for prevention, protection, defense and peace. It seems that the path of Tomiki Aikido has been altered by the competitions that are being held. It seems that today many people decide to do martial arts and train for the purposes of competition rather than learn for the actual knowledge of the art. This is not why I chose Tomiki Aikido.

Yes, Tomiki Aikido has competitions, but it should be Aikido competitions and not competitions of Aikido. If one puts the competitions before the Aikido, what is the point and real intention of training? There can be no personal growth if the only end goal that one has is that which goes against Aikido’s intended purpose. I practice Tomiki Aikido and would say, if you are going to get lost, better to get lost in the Aikido, not in the competition.

William Ball
Yondan Maryland Tomiki Aikido Center