Written in collaboration with my Aikido teacher and friend, Sensei Simone Chierchini. Head Instructor of the International Aikido Academy which I represent in Ireland. Other Dojo in Italy, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Adaptability was a theme of our Aikido Spring Course. Sensei Simone stressed the importance of retaining flexibility of mind. For this to sink in it is important to keep calm ,centered, and not to fixate on technique. It is easy of course to fall into the trap of applying techniques against the will of an attacker\ partner but in terms of learning Aiki its pointless. Moving from the centre, an attack must be led to its logical conclusion, without resorting to brunt strength or with aggression.
The ability to adapt to different situations and people is at the heart of Aikido. In particular this touches the meaning of Takemusu Aiki. For Simone Takemusu Aikido is not defined by techniques but by the idea of Takemusu. With the study of natural movement and principles, the expression of Aikido should sprout spontaneously, like water from a well. Therefore his teaching is centered around encouraging this in others. In his words ‘My vision of training in Aikido is that of, looking for the authentic and individual spark that we all have and to be able to manifest it, at least to some degree.’ Kata and Kihon exercises are extremely useful insofar as instilling martial principles and correct body habits. But the more dynamic, fluid and expressive aspect of Aikido must be explored as well. ‘any kind of training I propose, even the army style ones, with rigid forms and no freedom, is actually intended to evolve into an increasingly wider degree of freedom of movement and expression. Aikido for me means to gain access to tools of self enlightenment.’
Also when training with these things in mind, it becomes easier for the body to absorb the underlying principles. For example for some beginning students, the temptation is to studying the technique, to understand it at an intellectual level. This is useful to the extent of learning footwork but litte further. To truly begin to train we must learn to switch off the head and being to study with body and mind integrated. When the student has absorbed the basics, it should become possible to explore Takemusu Aiki. Breaking free of restraints and moving freely.
When not focused on technique we can relax our minds and hopefully the underlining principles of Aiki can start to seep in. How may this be helpful in general life? For example when faced with confrontation it is easier to hold to our own fixed view. Inflexible and unable to comprehend the reality of what may be going on. If we are able to apply the ideas of Takemusu into daily life we should gain a greater understanding of ourselves and others.
Besides from Ireland, Sensei Simone is also teaching in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and of course Italy. The week before coming to Ireland he had been in Iran. Between teaching he was able to do a lot of site seeing and to immerse himself into this fascinating culture. He found the Iranian people to be wonderfully warm, open and joyous. This contradicts the impression of the European mainstream and perhaps suggests that many of our preconceived notions may of off center if not completely incorrect. We often hold so true to our own ideas and beliefs that we cant see the wood for the trees.
Bringing this idea full circle and back to training. We train together as a Dojo.
We are all training with the same aim. To know who we are.