Is Aikido a Martial Art?

Choreography

Aikidoists are often accused of practicing ” Choreographed Aikido” and to be honest I must admit that these claims are very often justified, with Uke (attacker) preparing to break fall long before he makes his attack, and most of them attack off balance , therefore making any multiples of techniques possible with the minimum of effort and of course this makes Tori (defender) look “fantastic”.

abbe6_tnWhat is really sad is that these people believe that this is good Aikido.
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei would always say to us that “two” students are training at the same time, one is Uke who is learning and improving his attacking techniques and hisĀ opponent Tori is also learning and improving his defensive techniques, whilst we were training with Abbe Sensei if Uke’s foot or heel came off the mat as he attacked Abbe Sensei would give the offending leg a good whack with a shinai (bamboo sword) he would then say ” My English is very bad but my shinai speaks fluently!”.

If Uke attacks on balance then it is obvious that Tori’s technique must be good and strong to throw him, and as Abbe Sensei said so many times ” two students are training” .
Mark Eastman a strong young Dan grade with me went on a seminar recently where there was a 6th Dan. The 6th Dan refused to use him as Uke stating ” I can not use you as you do not harmonize with me”, he was not being awkward or difficult just attacking on balance.

Diluted training

Today all of these traditional exercises and training methods have now changed to a simple warm up routine with jumping up and down on the spot and lots of deep spiritual discussion.
Hard exercise is now considered to be aggressive and not in harmony with the true spirit of Aikido.

Abbe Sensei said that hard training developed the spirit, he also referred to Ki during those early days as he demonstrated the power of his technique, when asked to explain the meaning of Ki, he said not to worry about Ki as that would be a part of our training and development.

He then said “Only when you reach first Dan will you be able to understand the true concept of Ki as a further extension of your Aikido.”
I still believe that line of thought, and the instructors in our dojo’s very rarely speak of Ki although it is taught as a important and integral part of our training and study.

Ki Aikido

Although Ki is generally recognized as the spirit and breathing during the application of technique, every teacher and student will offer a very wide and varied and sometimes bizarre interpretation of the meaning of this much abused word.
The main problems arise and are created by the teachers themselves, who very often mislead their students to the extent that they almost believe that Ki is a form of magic. The following is one prime example from a very prominent Aikido magazines letters section.