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  • What importance should we give to weapons in aikido?
    This is a very usual question in aikido. Personally, I really like the practice of weapons. For the intensity it brings “naturally” to the practice but also because the practice of weapons illustrates in the strongest way the notion of staging of our own practice: Before the training, the Bokken is only a piece of (twisted) wood, as the training begins, the piece of wood becomes a blade with the sharpest edge. And when the course ends, the sword turns back into a piece of wood. All this reminds us that what we do is about representation, a (school backyard?) game. From the point of view of building up the body, the practice of weapons such as a bokken, for example, will require the students to align/organize the body in a very natural way. With the both hands on the bokken, it takes indeed a lot of effort not to have the body not aligned. On the contrary, grabbing a bokken with the two hands, the hips and the body are placed quite naturally, and this makes it an interesting pedagogical tool. Are weapons indispensable to the practice of aikido? I do not think so (it is only my own opinion). First, it is important to note that the practice of Ken in Aikido does not reach a very high level. Aikido is not a school of Kenjutsu. The exercises that are practiced are extremely basic in comparison to what is done in the traditional schools of kenjutsu. The exercises performed in aikido are usually degraded exercises (we will say "adapted") of the sword schools (Kashima, Katori, etc.). And the legacy of O Sensei in this matter is rather blurry, on purpose I think. What O Sensei has given to us is more of a tool box than the repertoire of a sword school, strictly speaking. It is certainly possible to use the sword as part of an Aikido course (Taijutsu) to illustrate a movement or a line. However, I am not persuaded that the element that is explained with a bokken cannot be explained by the verb. In fact, it happens that the sword is used as an educational tool in a situation which (to be nice) I cannot understand. In this situation, Tori holds a sword and Uke does not. The teacher then tries to explain the technique using his completely artificial advantage (the sword) without realizing that this situation is wrong. Because this situation is based on the fact that Uke acted initially in a "taijutsu" framework, without any of the protagonists being armed), and Tori when the time seems opportune, uses a sword out of nowhere... Would it come from a distortion of Te-Gatana? “Move, if my arm was a sword you'd be dead"... "And if I had wheels, I'd be a bicycle." The professor ignores in this case that if Uke would had considered the possibility of a sword he would probably attack differently (part of the aikido being precisely to study how to disarm an armed partner). One question still tickles me about the practice of weapons and the sword in particular. How to reconcile the pacifist ambitions, or can we say, compassion, of Aikido faced with Uke when the majority of sabre movements end with a cut that would be lethal to the partner? To this I have no answer, but I keep digging. Philippe
  • Is it necessary to practice other martial arts?
    You may know this sentence “the mind is like a parachute; it works better when it opens”. I think that we shall keep in mind that Aikido is not the ultimate martial art, that this so called ultimate martial art does not exist, and that nobody has the Truth (not even me who is writing these lines, how ironic it is, isn’t it ?) In that way, practicing another martial art in parallel of the practice of Aikido can definitively help not to be confused about this. Doing some sparing with a boxer is really interesting in term of reaction on unexpected attacks, the practice of Win Chun is also very good at protecting the center line in a very close distance from a partner, the feeling on the whole body that Taiichi brings is fundamental or to use an example that a lot of aikidokas will appreciate, the practice of Kenjutsu will bring a lot of sense into the weapon practice in Aikido. Nevertheless, I think that it is very difficult to dedicate ourselves deeply into several martial arts at the same time. It may also be taken as a lack of consideration to use another martial art as a complementary activity. It would consider that Boxing, Win Chun, Tai chi, Kenjutsu at the same level as swimming, jogging or stationary bike. The question that is more interesting is why we think we have to practice another martial art. Aren't we sure enough about our own practice? In that case, is it coming from a lack of attention on our own practice (are we doing all the necessary effort to get all what the martial art can bring on this matter)? Is it coming from the teaching (in the case of a teaching which would not put emphasis on the part of the practice that you have an interested to)? Is it coming from the art martial itself that does not bring what we need at this moment of our life? Is it the quest for the ultimate fighter that remains around? Do we still believe that the ultimate practice exists? It is indeed an effective commercial argument ... maybe we should think about changing the martial detergent "Plouff" which is twice as effective as our good old classic detergent ... Fear or in any case insecurity is a lever of very powerful enslavement for a martial arts teacher. To be aware of it is already to be a little less sensitive to it… and understanding why we have this feeling of a need to practice several practices can also be a great step forward…
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