Welcome to Aikido West, and thank you for joining us in our training. This handbook will give you some idea of what you have undertaken, and will hopefully facilitate your advancement in the art of aikido.
There are many reasons to train in a martial art. Of course there is the issue of personal protection. As aikidoka, we enjoy the exploration of movements, attitudes, principles, and training procedures which can keep us and others from harm in times of danger. The martial-arts aspect of aikido is pleasurable to us in the way that young cubs of many mammal species enjoy playing at combat. In those terms, we can learn about our capabilities for courage, power, speed, and timing from our training. We also learn that we can overcome many obstacles which may stand before us, and about our ability to act in order to protect life.
We are not, however, preparing for some future event. The event is now. There is no competition, no sparring or fighting for which we are preparing ourselves. We train in aikido simply because we enjoy the nature of the training. Aikido is a way of life. It is an opportunity to learn how to reconcile the conflicts in our lives. The founder of Aikido, O'Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, told us that the purpose of aikido is not to defeat others, but to defeat the discord within ourselves. Peace begins within.
Aikido is meant to create personal and social harmony. Along with the effectiveness of our techniques, we especially concentrate on developing that harmony in our daily practice. Although sounds of bodies falling fill the dojo, and plenty of sweat is the order of the day, we still experience joy and gentleness with our partners. The spirit of aikido truly is love, and you will find it easy to experience this love in the midst of learning your protective skills.
Culturally, we have all been conditioned to separate ourselves from, and perhaps even fear, other human beings. As aikidoka, our interactions on the mat provide us with endless opportunities to close the gap of alienation between the world and ourselves. Through aikido we have found a most pleasant and relevant way to contact others of our own kind.
Our enjoyment of aikido is also linked to the experience of a greater sense of spirit within ourselves, and in the universe around us. Aikido releases our spirit in tangible, simple ways. We also appreciate the personal discipline and the mental cobweb-cleaning. We like sharpening our minds along with our bodies, and derive great benefit from the mental exercises and practices which aikido has to offer.
As we gain a better understanding of ourselves we can find that training to live in peace is more relevant (and fun) than learning better means of warfare. The condition of our world surely has shown us that. The escalation of fighting among human beings is a dead-end path of destruction. We are training in skills which can serve to protect our loved ones and ourselves, and these skills are meant to turn our enemies into friends and our hearts away from fighting. The result of this training can be a more peaceful world.
Along the way, however, we learn many techniques which could cause serious harm. As we learn about these devastating skills, we also learn to respect and nurture all life. As our physical arts develop, our skills in resolving the many conflicts of daily life will also develop. Both on and off the mat, we strive for "I win--you win" situations rather than "I win--you lose" situations.
Please be aware that you can't "accomplish" aikido. It is an endless path of polishing and refining both technique and character. You can't master a martial art. You can only master the art of being yourself.
Through the years of training before us, we will learn about our personal resources and abilities in surprising ways. Martial arts training is a rather basic matter. Little room is left for useless or wasteful thinking. The process of self-judgement is eventually replaced by acknowledgement, assessment, and utilization of attributes without chastising ourselves for what is or isn't there.
Those who persevere in aikido do so because they truly enjoy it. They take all the time they need and appreciate the step-by-step process of their learning. There is no benefit in super ambition or punishing yourself for making mistakes. By rewarding yourself for discovering a mistake, you get to utilize the discovery. Slow down and pay attention to the new lessons which each class brings and you get to enjoy every step of the path.
Following this letter are some principles to help you in your efforts. With these notes, we extend our warmest welcome and support to you. May our relationship be enjoyable, valuable, and filled with pleasant surprises!
See you on the mat...