Aikido as a Budo, not as a sport

Please enjoy Mori Sensei’s sentiments on ‘budo’ vs ‘sport’ and the importance of the mindset beyond a rules-based approach to training martial arts over a life-time, not simply a sporting peak in a career. I’m sure you’ll find it insightful.

Recently, I had a contact from a representative of “Kuro-obi World”, a Japanese company promoting Budo through YouTube and DVD selling. He asked me to take part in a project to create a DVD and YouTube video with Shihan Tatsuya Naka from the Japan Karate Association. It was Naka Shihan’s wish, he told me. Naka Shihan found me browsing YouTube and he was impressed with my style of Aikido, and he also liked the atmosphere of Brisbane Dojo classes.

Since Naka Shihan is a legendary Karate-ka, who holds a rank of Shihan in the headquarters of one of the biggest martial arts association in the world, I felt very honoured by the offer for I am just a nameless Aikido-ka. I told the representative that I was happy to participate in the project, but I could not visit them due to Japan’s border restrictions at the moment. Since I thought it was too much trouble for them to travel to Australia, I suggested them to find another Aikido-ka in Japan. I know that there are a number of famous Aikido-ka’s, especially a young famous Aikido-ka who appears in YouTube a lot collaborating with other martial artists. 

Then, the representative explained to me that Naka Shihan was not interested in sport-style martial arts but wanted to see me because I train in a Budo-style Aikido. I was truly pleased to hear these words and appreciated Naka Shihan’s perspective as I place importance on this point too. You know, I believe that Budo is not a sport. Most players/practitioners of any sports reach their best around thirty years old (at the latest) and their abilities diminish gradually. On the other hand, the authentic Budo-ka can increase the abilities in techniques as long as they keep training and accumulating experiences until they cannot move any longer. When the quality of performance relies on muscle strength alone it creates a limit in the performance because muscles deteriorate as one ages. Yet, mature techniques in Budo rely on principles and mastery of techniques, thus it does not limit the practitioner in developing their quality of skills.  

For instance, the techniques of Master Gozo Shioda in youth were surely strong, yet his strength derived from his body being young and strong. As he got older, he developed his Aiki power and thus his Aikido was recognised as Godlike in its technique. We hear that O Sensei was the same; that he was at his best, a supreme level when he passed away. I witnessed what the authentic Budo-ka truly was, and I assume there are not many of them at all in this modern time. I believe that there were heaps of old men like them in the era of samurai when they trained and used the real martial arts in the real world. You know, only samurais who survived endless battles were able to live until becoming old in those days.

Aikido techniques performed by muscles and physical strength are described as a sport-type Aikido while a Budo-type Aikido is performed by skills and principles. Using muscles and physical strength is important at the beginning of one’s Aikido journey or when you are young to learn the techniques and make them work. Yes, we should use our muscles and strength when we are young. However, the Aikido with speed and power by muscles is good only until about 2nd Dan level and we hit the limit. This is the start of Budo-type Aikido. All the experiences gathered until this level are critical to move on to the next level where the skills of how to use one’s body (such as concentration of one’s body power, balance of one’s weight and application of one’s body weight) and the principles of martial arts are the essential factors, rather than muscle strength. Simply speaking, you can generate an ultimately effective technique by one’s bones and body frame (feet, knees, hips, spine, arms, hands…) and that is why a decrepit old man can be an authentic master of a Budo. The master’s body is the art itself!

Well, I am getting older, and the dojo’s students are getting older too. We shall all keep training a Budo-style Aikido to keep advancing our abilities in this fascinating art, shan’t we? 

The representative of Kuro-obi World is planning to visit our dojo in June or July to film a class where students are training. Then, he will visit us again with Naka Sensei, maybe in August, to film Naka Sensei training and learning Aikido with us. So, please everyone, make a reminder in your calendar to attend these classes.


Michiharu Mori

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