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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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Mar 8, 2012

"Simplicity is a great virtue
but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it.
And to make matters worse: complexity sells better."

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

This quote is so relevant in daily life. When I stumbled upon this, it also seemed so appropriate that I had to share it with you. It says everything I have been conveying in class in not so many words. It also explains why if one wants to understand the practice of Aikido, it is a journey.

My sensei often said that when a student comes into Aikido, everything has to be unlearned to learn to be more natural. Having to break everything down to help students practice each movement and technique, I found each movement and footstep follows a natural logical left-right sequence. It is this naturalness, and the dynamics of the movement, that makes each Aikido technique powerful. It also allows it to be practiced by all ages and by both genders.

In a similar vein, students often wonder where the kicks are, why aren't we practising somersaults, and acrobatics? While very impressive to watch and to perform, it is not a natural ability for most people. Your body will have to be conditioned and stretched to a point to perform, let's say, a back flip. Moreover, in a fight it isn't very practical. While in mid-air doing a flip, or performing a kick, you are vulnerable; especially if the other person is faster than you.

During practice, work to keep your centre of gravity low enough to be stable, yet high enough to be able to respond quickly. Turn and perform each technique from the hips/waist and leverage on the best thing available: the ground. This helps in keeping your posture upright and stable. You will find you will resort to the simplest movements and techniques when called to action, and this will help keep your composure.

The warm-ups are excellent in finding your centre, and in developing a conscious awareness of your body. So instead of mechanically going through the routine, practice self-awareness as you work through the warm-up sequence.

One last point about simplicity is acceptance. In order to harmonise with any force or energy, one has to develop receptivity and sensitivity; to be able to accept, to receive, to be humble. This does not come about easily if a student chooses to be stubborn, arrogant, or disrespectful. It is odd, but progress in Aikido will suffer; learning will cease, and the techniques will be performed in a forced and aggressive manner.

It is simple. As students, strive to do well in school and achieve the best results you can. As a child, no matter how hard you try, your parents, grand-parents, and teachers will always be your senior in age and experience, so respect is the first thing to practice there. If you give respect, you will receive respect.

It is hard work, and it does take patience and learning to appreciate, but in the long run it will all be worth it.

See you in the Dojo.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.

(© Copyright March 2012: Rafael Oei)

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