Let’s begin with a quote from Yukiso Yamamoto, who retired in 1970 as chief instructor of Waialae Aikido Dojo, Hawaii.
“I do not practice Aikido for self-defense reasons. I do not think any serious students practice this art for self-defense. The movements are simply a way to visually demonstrate the Aikido principles. These principles of nondissension and avoiding conflicts can be applied to our everyday life. This is the purpose of studying Aikido. If you have love in your heart for all creation, the universe itself is your protector. There is no self-defense for those with ill intentions” (Lerner, 1976, p. 29).
Although aikido is certainly relevant to self-defense, I find Yamamoto Sensei’s perspective freeing: “The movements are simply a way to visually demonstrate the Aikido principles.” The intention of demonstrating principle is not sustained by vengeance, fear, ego, or any of the darker sides of memory. Rather, a love of life and its subtle beauty can inspire the devotee of principle.
Perhaps we practice not only to demonstrate the principles visually, but also to demonstrate them experientially. If the experiential aspect were not important, watching videos of aikido would be as effective as actual practice–which we know is not true of any learning project, much less a performance art such as aikido. (Video is, of course, helpful, but it’s only supplemental to the real thing.)
As we experientially demonstrate principles, in the company of others and with the assistance of others, we are also manifesting these principles. Thus, we can say that we practice in order to manifest principle. Perhaps this could be said of life in general. The ability to live isn’t fully built into us when we are born–we refine our practice through the decades of our journey here. Throughout our lives we practice ways of living in order to manifest our principles more fully, more accurately, more effectively.
I hear the meaning of manifesting principle in Yamamoto Sensei’s words: “These principles of nondissension and avoiding conflicts can be applied to our everyday life. This is the purpose of studying Aikido.”
There are many principles of life, and myriad moments in which to practice them. I look forward to reflecting on them with you!
Lerner, I. (1976). Diary of the Way: Three paths to enlightenment. New York: Ridge Press.