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Is Aikido the Martial Art of the Future?
Since the beginning of human civilization and maybe even earlier than that, there has been violence and conflict, thus an interest in better and smarter ways of warfare has been present throughout human history. Many martial arts have developed in an effort to make people stronger, faster, better than the opponent and help them win every situation. Conflict touches very directly and deeply into the core values that we find so important. Safety, integrity, and communication are fundamentals for a healthy and happy living.
Sometimes individuals or nations see an opportunity in conflict and in a way they welcome it hoping to gain something in the end, it's no coincidence that Martial Arts have been a subject of deep interest and fascination in the past and it seems that even today, every person on this planet has considered at least once the issue of war and violence. Sadly there is still so much conflict and brutality in many parts of the world. At a more personal level, many people are interested about self defence and martial arts, and what would be the most effective martial art for them.
What Is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese Martial Art, developed in the late 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, also often referred to as O'Sensei (meaning "The Great Teacher") by Aikido students. Ueshiba practiced in the traditional martial arts at the time but was also influenced by religion and different schools of thought - what came trough after lots of training and insightful inquiry resulted with the martial art of Aikido. The movements are also very much influenced by weapons training and have the technical roots in Japanese grappling martial arts. The name "Aikido" can be translated as "A way of harmonious Spirit". It seems somewhat controversial, but one of the core principles of the art is a peaceful resolution of conflicts, preventing damage to the opponent whenever possible.
Are Aikido Ideas Too Utopian??
Aikido is promoted as an effective martial art that is exploiting technical mastery, knowledge and the opponents weak points to turn his own strength against him. Certainly, Aikido demonstrations can be very impressive and entertaining but can this martial art really be effective in fights?
Some aikidoka(Aikido practitioners) have reported of situations where they have used Aikido techniques or skills they have acquired while training in a potentially dangerous situation, but on the other hand, there aren't many Aikido practitioners who compete in mixed martial arts. This is most probably because Aikido at its core philosophy and etiquette is a non-competitive practice and that makes it very difficult to compare it with other martial arts.
The practice always happens in a friendly atmosphere, usually in pairs with predetermined roles of Uke( the attacker ) and Nage/Tori( the one performing the defensive technique ). The attacks used during practice are most often slowed down or done in very predictable large movements.
The founder, Morihei Ueshiba insisted that the practice would remain non-competitive, and there will be no organized competitions, only public Aikido demonstrations occasionally( embukai ).
"True victory is a victory over oneself."— Morihei Ueshiba
The aim in Aikido is not to defeat others, since physical strength, no matter how great is always limited and eventually every warrior is destined to loose. Rather, taking a broader view and a more philosophical approach, the idea of the founder was to overcome the egoistic structures of the mind tough practice and break into a free way of living without fears.
Reconsidering the End Goal of Martial Arts
As we explore more and more the martial arts world, we'll find ways of practice and techniques that are very violent in nature, designed to hurt or even kill the opponent, but those kinds of practices are not of much use in modern society. With the evolution of weapons, empty hand martial arts are less and less effective in comparison. Even more than that, hurting others, violence and brutality is less popular way resolving conflict, there has been so much effort going on in art and social science to promote dialog, and peaceful conflict resolution, no need going back to brutality. Many books and works of art aim at raising awareness about the negative sides of war and conflict.
People usually start practicing a martial art in order to overcome some problems that come from conflict, at first impression seemingly coming outside of themselves and their field of control. The obvious solution is to become stronger and overcome the problem. But is that the end of trouble? After lots of effort, you may become stronger, but even strong people have enemies that are stronger, or groups of people, or weapons they can't go against. As you see just getting stronger is not the ultimate solution. Rather, a better way of communication, higher awareness, consciousness, responsibility, and respect for the integrity of other people is what will ultimately lead to more harmonious relationships. And freeing yourself of ego polluted negative thinking patterns may be the only way to overcome negative emotions.
Some Aikido Values to Benefit from
Martial Arts are a great way to improve self-discipline wich by itself has endless applications, but there is much more. People trough controlled conditions, that are not really dangerous get the chance to practice and feel what handling problems under pressure or stressful conditions feel like. Through time and practice, one develops respect and appreciation other people, develops patience and problem-solving skills. With better confidence, one communicates more simply and is less likely to engage in conversations that offend others or start a serious conflict. It promotes physical activity and better health and much more.
Conflict and war have been ever present in society and history and Martial Arts have developed as a response to that. People, react very intensely to conflict because of its personal nature and the first instinct is to become stronger and win but that is not the ultimate solution. Therefore, in the future, as violence awareness and better ways of conflict resolutions emerge, society should get more and more demilitarized, meaning Martial Arts should no longer be practiced in a violent way, but rather in a more sporting way, that promotes good physical, mental and relational values.