A mosaic called Aikido
by Dennis Hooker
Whether or not I know the complete history of O sensei's training is not important to me. I am concerned with the final outcome of his life's work, and how that outcome can make my life and the lives of those around me better. Another popular Aikido publication has, for some time now, been concerned with the roots of Aikido. They look to this art, or that art, as the foundation of Aikido. Understanding some of the principles that were used in the development of Aikido may be a good thing. It is not a good thing if in doing so they are redefining Aikido in the terms of the arts they are examining.
Morihei Ueshiba was a master craftsmen who blended a mosaic of martial art and philosophical doctrine into a intricate and beautiful painting. The master himself, as well as his emissaries offered this work to western culture, and it was graciously accepted. Many of the elements that made up this masterpiece had been available to western culture prior to the arrival of Aikido from Japan, but none had gained a substantial foothold in the west.
At a time when western (particularly American) culture was not looking to Japan for anything other than transistor radios and trinkets a movement was about to be born. Exceptional men armed with O sensei's art, and their own incredible ability, ventured into what could be perceived as hostile territory. Nowadays, it is easy to forget what the attitude was like toward the Japanese people in those early years after the war.
However, the art and philosophy of the founder and his students would transcend cultural boundaries. If what we read about these early emissaries is true, not only would they match their skills against masterful martial artists and prevail, but would win their hearts and loyalty in the process.
As a people we found in this mosaic called Aikido something that was captivating to us. I think, in part, we recognized in this art of Aikido the American pioneer spirit. The art was a blend of all that was available to the founder at the time. When he added to this his compassion for humanity and all surrounding it, we can, in retrospect, see that the whole of Aikido is much grater that it's parts. We must preserve the whole of Aikido for ourselves and future generations. At a time when the fabric of western morality is being ripped to shreds Aikido is a bastion of hope for our future. Aikido alone cannot restore the social and moral values of the nation but it can be a corner stone in rebuilding it. We must not let the small minds of greedy people rip the fabric of Aikido apart.
As children, my generation, and generations before us were taught moral and social values and the rewards of discipline at home, at school and in the church. This is no longer available to many of our young people. Many of the institutions that help form us are still around, but many young people have little interest in them. Many of them view morality as weakness and discipline as something to be avoided. The church is no longer as strong in the community as it once was, and even if they had the capability public schools are prevented from teaching morality. Social values are an issue that neither schools or many churches want to touch. Many young people today are growing up without a sense of moral or social values. In Florida we see it every day. Children who kill, rape and steal and show no remorse beyond than of being caught. In the past we could write these off to the occasional sociopath. Now it is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
In talking to many Aikido teachers, I find a growing desire for children's classes. At first, this desire comes more from the parents than the children. They find the traditional dojo is a place where their children can learn life skills that go beyond physical self defence. The children find that correct discipline can be a good thing, and many hunger for it. The Aikido dojo is, to a certain degree, replacing more conventional forums for teaching correct social principles.
We must not forget that O sensei's desire was for Aikido to bring about peace through love. When I hear Doshu speak of praying for world peace I believe him, when I hear Saotome Sensei speak of peace through strength I believe him. It seems that this is a part of the mosaic some people are beginning to forget. Others are attempting to cover it over with efforts to redefine Aikido as just another martial art. It is this principle of peace, not war, that endeared Aikido to our society in the first place. We must not forget that the Aiki of Aikido has a different meaning than the Aiki of Aikijujitsu. Let us not lose that distinction. If we chose to accept the meaning of Aikido as defined by Morihei Ueshiba, and expressed by his many exemplary students, then we should not feel a need to justify our art by looking to the past for it's meaning.
Aikido is quickly approaching the main stream of our society. I believe it is because of O sensei's total art. Not just a piece pigeonholed as martial, philosophical or spiritual. Some of us may be better at expressing ourselves at one part of this discipline than another. However, together we make up the mosaic of Aikido. We need not and should not be replicas of one another. Let others spend their time looking to the past to find meaning for what they do in the present. As for me I follow O sensei's dream as expressed by my teacher and rationalized by myself and look to the future.
There are those that say O sensei's teachings were beyond understanding. That he spoke in terms they could not comprehend. They believed his teachings to be a jumble of diagrams and concepts bearing little relationship to the physical art of Aikido, and they could not grasp the significance of it in their learning process. The diagrams he drew and the concepts he talked about are ancient universal symbols and theories expressed within his framework of understanding. I am a Master Mason, and many of the principles I learned on my journey to becoming a Freemason closely parallel the teaching of O Sensei. I find no contradiction between the two. In fact I find that one set of principles support the other in my learning process.
There is an old saying, "you can't see the forest for the trees". This is beginning to happen to the mosaic of Aikido. Some people are so concerned with the individual parts of the art they can no longer see the beauty of the whole.
One person will say look at that brush stroke, that is a stroke from our school. There are more of these strokes than others, so this art work is a watered down version of our school. Others say no, look at this brush stroke. It is from our school. There are not as many of these strokes, but it makes the painting complete, therefore this art work is of our school. Yet others say no look at the paint, this is what makes the art work complete. Without the paint there would be no art work. Others would say that it is the pigment that gives the paint it's color that really matters. Others say no, look at the canvas that supports the art work. Without it, the brush and paint would not matter. So it is the canvas that makes the art work complete. This is commensurate with the makers of the brush, the paint, and the plaster taking the credit for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
There are people that say if you really want to know what Aikido is all about come study with the martial arts that were it's source. Although very viable arts in their own right, they contribute but a portion of their color and texture to the mosaic of Aikido. The art of Aikido is greater than it's parts! The source and root of Aikido springs for the soul of it's founder.