Aikido can be many things to many different people. For some, it is a Budo, a martial way of life. For others, it’s a hobby to pass the time. For yet others, it’s a means of physical fitness.
Using music as a metaphor for martial arts, to me, aikido is like jazz. It’s fairly new (less than 100 years old), but has roots in much older arts (like aikijutsu) that might be considered more like blues. I consider striking arts more like rock and roll, MMA (mixed martial arts) is like speed metal, and Tai Chi like classical music. There is no art that is “better” or “more effective”, there are only different personal tastes. All arts have value to their practitioners.
Aikido schools with chief instructors teach their own singular version of jazz. Some teach acid jazz, others fusion jazz, maybe big band jazz, or even instrumental jazz. All are valid styles, but at most other schools, only one version is taught and that style is expected to be learned and recited.
At the Seattle School of Aikido, as a cooperative school with instructors from varying backgrounds, students are taught to find their own version of jazz, not to just copy the instructor’s version. We want students to take responsibility for their own training, and to find their own way. We want everyone to know the basics, but we allow everyone’s personal style to ultimately become manifest for themselves.
For me, I am working on my aikido to be like smooth jazz: comfortable and soft, simple yet soulful. No extra notes, no flashy phrases, just enjoyable music for those with or without training in music appreciation. I have taken my influences from a number of sources (aikido and non-aikido alike), and ultimately come up with my own style. As I continue to practice, I constantly evolve. Can you hear the notes I could but don’t choose to play?
That is my Aikido, my quest for smooth jazz.
Please, come jam with us.