What Good Have I Learned in Aikido It is said that there are two sides to everything. For the past year I’ve spent a lot of time
criticizing Aikido and it’s lacks and rarely, did I speak about the good sides of it. Having practiced it for almost 14 years, surely
I learned not only about it’s flaws, but also about many positive aspects that it offers,
which I’ve left unsaid of. Thus, in this Martial Arts Journey video I’ll
be sharing the Good Things I’ve Learned in Aikido. Aikido often times is referred to as a more
philosophical martial arts practice and that was also my experience of it. It’s founder Morihei Ueshiba, also known
as O’Sensei, was a deeply spiritual and religious person and he spent a lot of time
teaching about how Aikido should be an art of Peace and how it should help a person grow
as an individual. Being exposed to this philosophy all the time,
definitely had an impact on me. The teaching which most probably had most
impact is known as “Masagatsu Agatsu” or in other words: “True victory is victory
over yourself”. I have found that many martial arts promote
overcoming the ego, yet Aikido’s unique approach to promoting it through non-competition
and having no form of tournaments, aside a single style called Shodokan Aikido, shaped
me into appreciating that life is not all about winning. In Aikido you always perform a role of either
the defender, known as Nage or Tori, or the attacker – Uke. When I first started learning Aikido at 14
years old, I was still internally driven by competitiveness and in the beginning I could
not comprehend – how come during the training I will have to be quote on quote “winning”
against my attackers only half of the time, even if I will be better than them, and the
other half of the time I will consciously have to allow myself to be beaten. While I was not happy about this principle
to begin with, years later I learned how much it helped me grow as an individual. Through this way of training, I first of all
learned that sometimes being defeated is an inseparable part of life which should be accepted,
appreciated and that it should not be resisted against all the time. Being attached to victory all the time can
be a great source of stress and to learn to sometimes allow ourselves to lose can actually
be relieving and healthy. Only years later when I started training combat
sports I realized how much this attitude helped me here as well. Not always trying to win would not prevent
me from trying to become better or learning from my mistakes. Instead – not being attached to wanting to
achieve obvious success, I learned to find my winnings in other, more subtle places and
to appreciate them. For example, without this attitude, I would
not have been able to make the “Aikido vs MMA” video, where my supposed lose in the
ring became a positive, life changing event. Also, this type of attitude gave me the strength
to deal better with my loses in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, allowing me to take up the challenge,
and to be more receptive to it as a learning opportunity. The philosophy of Aikido also emphasizes understanding
that we are part of the whole. It is an important realization that the world
does not revolve around us and that we are all dependent on each other. This not only helps us learn to take up responsibility,
but also encourages empathy and better understanding where other people come from. In Aikido’s philosophy the concept of an
“enemy” is shunned, since as it is explained, one who we see as an enemy, is also in reality
a human being, who may also have a family or others who care for him. It may be that he is having a difficult time
in his life and it is our responsibility to help him or “wake him up”. This does not mean that we do not see him
as a threat, if he is posing one, yet this empathic approach, potentially opens up other
creative solutions, such as finding rapport with the attacker without needing to hurt
him, or using only as much force as necessary, which also leads to less trouble later and
more opportunities to connect with the attacker after the conflict is physically resolved. This understanding of being a part of the
whole is also emphasized in Aikido by the switching of roles mechanics, since you are
all the time helping each other to learn and grow, by offering yourself as the attacker. Through training this way, I learned to think
not only about myself and how to dominate others, but also to care, to be there for
others and to help them in their learning process, which I feel is a very valuable trait. On a more physical level another thing I came
to appreciate which Aikido helped me develop, was the fact, that I had to learn so many
different and complicated techniques which taught me the skills to understand body mechanics
and to pick up various other techniques from different martial arts more easily. In Aikido there is such a strong emphasis
to understand small details and principles that this definitely led to being able to
see more, better memorization and comprehension of even the smallest of details, which is
very useful to me in learning new martial arts. Last of all I would mention the emphasis on
body and spacial awareness of feeling distance, positioning and being able to understand how
the body works in general. Learning various falls and receiving techniques
known as Ukemi, working on weapon forms, training with multiple attackers who would offer pushing
pressure and finding ways to avoid them and to not become overwhelmed, all gave a better
understanding of body and space dynamics which is very useful of being more aware in general
and yet again when learning other martial arts. It is funny, that many speak of Aikido having
been more effective in the past since it’s students were primarily experts in other martial
arts such as Judo and Karate, and added Aikido on top of their training to become complete
martial artists. Exploring my own experience, it almost seems
that the opposite has happened. While Aikido by no means made me an effective
striker, grappler or fighter, in my observation, it prepared my body and mind to be much more
receptive in learning other practices, acting almost as a trampoline. Would that make me say that all Aikido practitioners
should move on to other martial arts after practicing Aikido for a while? While I am very supportive to cross-training,
I would not necessarily say so. It really depends on what the person wants
to learn. If someone is seeking a way of life, a philosophy
expressed through movement, which makes a person more receptive and more physically
aware, Aikido can be perfect for such a person. Many misunderstand me, that when I talk negatively
about Aikido, that I see no value in Aikido whatsoever. In truth, my main concern is only for the
people who believe that Aikido is teaching something which it does not, which is the
experience I went through myself. For years I believed that I am learning self
defense and how to become a better fighter through Aikido and when I realized I did not
learn that, that drove me to want to fill this newly discovered void in myself and that’s
why I started other martial arts. I also felt responsible to raise other people’s
awareness about what Aikido does not offer, so that others would not seek for something
in it that they will not find, and that this realization for them would come sooner than
later. Yet does that mean Aikido is inherently bad? Of course not. Each practice has something of value to offer. It is simply our responsibility to stay conscious
of what we really want to learn and of the best way to do that. For the last few years when I still taught
Aikido I was already conscious that it is not a practice of self defense. I would tell that straight away to my new
students who would come for the first time to my Dojo – to not expect to learn self defense. It would drive some people away, yet those
who stayed, were the ones, who had no interest in fighting or self defense. They simply wanted to become a better version
of themselves through movement and the philosophy that Aikido offered. They wanted to get more in touch with Eastern
culture without the need to actually fight. These same people would not had fit in a Judo,
BJJ or Karate Dojo and Aikido was the perfect solution for them. Aikido definitely has it’s place in this
world, it just needs to become clear on what it is and what it offers. And each Aikido practitioner should appreciate
their practice for what it gives them and to not be afraid to sometimes look elsewhere
if the answer they are seeking is not within their practice. As I said in the beginning there are always
two sides to everything and it is important to be conscious of them both, being able to
appreciate the benefits and also recognizing the flaws. As long as we can do that and we train the
right practice, for the right reasons, many martial arts may have a positive impact on
our lives. I hope this short video helped you better
understand my relationship with Aikido and what I took from it. What did you learn in Aikido or your practice
that is still valuable to you? Let me know in the comments. If you liked the video, make sure to subscribe. This was Rokas and I wish you to own your
journey.

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