Aikido In The Rain

During a rainy weekend while sitting in thought about my time in aikido, I was distracted by the individual rain drops falling on the ubiquitous asphalt and mineral shingle roof keeping me dry; glad to be dry, and a thought began to form. I thought, how much like the flow of water, the perfection of ki in aikido practice must be. I envisioned the drumming drops striking in their chaotic pattern, making their meandering journey down the rough surface of the shingles. During their journey, the drops begin to coalesce into small rivulets picking up mass and slowly picking speed as they flowed to the edge of the roof. At the edge of the roof, dictated by the water’s surface tension and the pull of gravity, bulges into a pool. Ultimately gravity wins and the almost magical water both drips and streams off the roof. It was not until another recent rainy weekend day while reading a book on martial arts at a coffee shop, that the thought of rain and the roof returned, and began to develop in my minds eye and determined once home, I would sit down and develop the thought.

What I ultimately realized was that something was missing from the magical water and the forces of nature, a critical piece; people. I then realized the roof I was under, it self, stood as the symbol of humanity. The roof was developed in antiquity by our ancestor’s as a response to the chaotic state of nature. The roof is and was a means of co-existence with nature. The roof does not destroy the rain that falls upon it, for we cannot live without water. The roof does not throw the rain back where it cam from; water is also a friend and useful. Rather, the roof during a downpour, allows the rain to go somewhere non-threatening to the inhabitant. The roof was not likely developed in a flash of genius by some pre-historical ancestor. More than likely the roof evolved over time into what many of us now take for granted; until we don’t have one. I began to see the interaction of forces between the rain and the roof like the interactions of people of the martial arts and aikido in particular.

Like the rain, humanity is a product of nature, and yet unlike rain we are conscious. Like nature and the rain, humanity can be chaotic. It is therefore the chaotic nature between humans in nature that must be balanced. I believe that people choose the martial arts, even if to a small degree, to learn to defend themselves from other people. Regardless of what they say when they first enter the dojo door, self-defense against other people must be a reason; or why not painting or music or any other myriad of choices. People that choose the martial arts over, lets say guns, seem to understand inherently that our fellow humans can at times be either a competitor or a compatriot (chaotic?) and killing them is an extreme option. Like water, we need other people, and on occasion, a means of dealing with them when their chaotic nature becomes violent.

I have found aikido as a great means to practice self-defense while making new and lasting friendships. Aikido is specifically none competitive and many of the techniques were modified by O-sensei for safety from several very deadly Japanese fighting systems. Many of the people that really need self-defense skills are turned away by the apparent violence of martial arts. Some of our new members were attracted to aikido because it is non-competitive and “softer” which provides a safe place to practice a proven martial art without the excess of baggage of competition or on average, more aggressive practitioners.

The foundation of aikido is learning about and mastering Aiki. Aiki is the blending and harmonizing of positive and negative ki toward a single end. In aikido we refer to the practicing pair as uke and nage; uke is the attacker (negative ki) and nage (positive ki) performs the technique being practiced. Note; uke attacks, but I did not use the word defender. Nage is proactive and does not receive the attack; rather, nage moves to a safer position in which to initiate Aiki and thereby harmonize with the attack and add their ki to uke’s ki, and both with the power of nature (gravity).

Be forewarned, the practice of aikido is in intimate interaction between two or more people of which you are physically attached to one another during the execution of technique. As such, the time required to attain practical success with aikido techniques is generally longer than striking arts where contact is primarily limited to delivering and deflecting strikes. Rather than deflect a strike and then counter strike; you must now move uke’s entire mass, along with you own, into a position where they can be safely controlled; again, we call this process Aiki.

Be patient in your practice, aikido takes time but is worth the wait to become proficient. In the mean time you may make new friends that are more than willing to assist you in your new journey. You may also find your own negative ki diminishing within your spirit. Once proficient, should the need arise, and an attack rains down upon you; you can become that old and enduring roof that safely and efficiently channels the rain to a place where it becomes non-threatening; and maybe even discover a future friend.


Joe Heim

Kenosha Aikikai

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