Falling for Aikido

Graceful yet brutal, the martial art of Aikido has roots in very old Japanese traditions

Steve Murray
Wednesday - May 12, 2010
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Evan Fujiuchi performs an ‘ikkyo’ (first move) on Craig Sumida

enjoy spending a few minutes in the company of the respected teacher and “his wife of too many years,” says Dora with a laugh.

The shihan addition to his name is an honorific title meaning expert or senior instructor, and is awarded by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the school established by Ueshiba that is now run by his grandson Moriteru Ueshiba. Aoyagi doesn’t like the title. It’s just too formal, plus, he says, he is no expert.

“You’re never good,” he says. “Once you think you are good, that’s when you get busted up.

You are always learning.”

The modest claim of skill is one that is heard a lot around the dojo, not because so few have achieved any meaningful rank, but because development is slow because the movements must be precise in order to have their intended effect.

“I believe in the 10-year rule,” says Hirata. It takes 10 years before you begin to understand what it is about.”

Aoyagi has been studying for more than 50 years, and while he was instrumental in the opening of the dojo that, in 1962, became the first aikido dojo built outside of Japan, he seems most proud of the variety of people who have studied at the school over the years.

“We have Chinese, Hawaiians, Filipinos, Japanese, haole. We get people from Europe, from Asia, everywhere,” he says, pointing a finger for emphasis.

Aikido is not for everyone. Some students, especially today, are attracted to martial arts that emphasize greater grappling skills, while other want something that has “more real-world” applications. Some just want to do their best Jackie Chan impersonation. There are dozens of choices, and each one offers something unique. It’s really an individual choice.

“How effective is aikido? If you’re looking for something that will help you kick butt and take names, then, no, aikido is not for you. If you’re looking for a little more, to be connected with your ki, understand how you move and understand your relationship with other things, then aikido is great,” says Sumida.

That pretty much sums it up. Plus the improved balance is great for your golf game.

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