Lately, I’m getting requests for advice from fellow Aikidoists I have not even met for various struggles they are experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
There are quite many people who have had to close their dojo due to sudden decrease in the number of students, and there are also others who have lost the place to practice because public facilities, from which they were leasing a space to teach & practice, have been temporarily closed or have barred the use of the facilities for certain activities under the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, I’ve also heard that some people, who used to schedule their work hours around when Aikido classes were held, have lost not only their jobs, but also the place to practice Aikido.
Also, there is a number of fellow Aikidoists who are trying to adapt to the new situation by having started to teach weapons classes outside or by having started online classes to slog through these challenging times.
Especially when the world of Aikido is going through the extraordinary circumstances of late that have never been seen before, the practicing of Aikido was supposed to give us a sense of solace and a feeling of normalcy & calmness. However, it seems in some cases that some people are finding themselves to be in more dire situations when they have been more dedicated to the practice of Aikido.
Yet, I cannot help but wonder whether the reality that we are dealing, which fell upon us all of sudden without much of an advance notice, is what we should lament so much about…
What I want to suggest to everyone is to read again various biographies of the Founder of Aikido. You may find his biographies, which chronicle the life of the Founder of Aikido broadly, rather than the kind of biography that may be written as part of the history of an organization like Aikikai that tends to describe the Founder of Aikido as someone with much success more for the benefit of the organization, very encouraging
In the past, I wrote an article titled as “The Founder Morihei Ueshiba, a God?”, and I concluded the article with “No, he is not a God. He was a human who had overcome a series of challenges and struggles to have won success in the end. If the Founder of Aikido were a God, any of our efforts would be a waste and meaningless. It’s because we humans can never become a God, although we humans may be able to lead a life like a God.”
Although my viewpoint may be found as pessimistic and negative, because I wanted to raise the alarm as a certain number of Aikido-analysist-like expressers were not only expressing their views to make Ueshiba become god-like, but also attracting the attention & interests of many people that there was something special & essential in Aikido. Given such notion at the time, I was quite alarmed by a possibility of “Ueshiba as a human” would be pushed away to be far from our reach.
I remember still vividly and fondly when Hatsu Okusama (i.e. Mrs. Ueshiba) said one day, “When he was younger, Sensei (i.e. the Founder of Aikido) used to stuff rice straws under the gaiters he was wearing so that his calves looked bigger.” That was when we were eating supper together, and the Founder of Aikido and his wife shared laughter with the rest of us.
I was also told directly and first-handedly that the Founder of Aikido was always quick to help elderly people when they were having difficulties to walk on an upslope or on a downslope.
The Founder of Aikido was once a military person; he had also worked at a stationery store in Tokyo; he also gathered a group of young people in his hometown to lead the group to travel to Hokkaido as pioneers. After he had settled in Hokkaido, he lost everything in a fire. He was captured with the guru of Ōmoto-kyō for having planned to travel to Mongolia. He was also arrested by GHQ after the WWII, albeit for a short while, for the suspicion of having been involved with the Empire of Manchuria during the war. He put up a fight against a chronic liver disease, and he also overcame disaccords with Soukaku Takeda of Daito-ryu to leave a great legacy in the end.
After having moved to Iwama, he dedicated much of his time to farming and touted the concept of “Buno Ichinyo (武農一如)”.
The Founder of Aikido did not create the art of Aikido overnight with his innate genius-like talents & super powers.
Many of Aikidoists of late seem to be mesmerized by an impression of a-miracle-like Aikido that is not only man-made but that also sits at the top, and not only do many of Aikidoists of late not seem to pay attention to the efforts by the Founder of Aikido to have pushed & pulled up the art of Aikido to the summit, but they also seem only to seek “further Aikido” by looking up to the sky without even thinking of the tireless efforts expended by the Founder of Aikido.
It was once said that if you master the Ki of Aikido, your relationships with others will improve, your illnesses will heal and your score in golf will improve, and “Panacea like Aikido” was in vogue.
Then Aikido actor(s) became popular before “stunt Aikido” emerged, and then lately, “Iai, Battou Aikido” by carrying a Japanese sword around one’s waist is abundantly seen.
Ever since the days of the Founder of Aikido’s Aikido, the art of Aikido has reflected various thoughts, ideas and the values of different times as well as different cultures to have become the art of Aikido that exist today.
Each path of development and adaptations is a part of Aikido’s big evolutionary current, and Aikido has constantly continued to evolve.
An apple is an apple and it’s no more or less than an apple itself no matter how you cut the apple into smaller pieces, whether vertically, horizontally or diagonally. While I have no intention to deny or criticize every different teaching method, what is obvious is the fact that we can only wash our hands diligently and keep us sanitized & clean while keeping a certain distance with each other when faced with the unprecedented infectious disease.
What have been associated with Aikido, i.e. miracle-like powers, a miraculous stunt or a very sharp sword, which can cut what it touches in a split second, have been truly powerless.
If you do not realize this point, you cannot be called an Aikido shugyo-sha (i.e. a practitioner in Aikido); you cannot even so easily call yourself as an Aikido-ka.
I believe a true Aikido-ka is the one who wakes up from various dreams and ideals of Aikido and who thinks hard about how he/she should face and deal with a sense of defeat & hopelessness under the current situation and who continues his/her endeavors, no matter how difficult it is or it may seem to do so, in pursuit of answers.
And “biographies of the Founder of Aikido” are full of strong words of advice & encouragements that should propel us to move forward toward a positive direction.
Of course, there is no specific “do this, do that” type of advice in any of them. We have to read the texts and figure out what we can learn and what we can do for ourselves. If you can see to read biographies of the Founder of Aikido will give yourself an opportunity to reflect upon yourself to ready yourself to start on a new endeavor with full of new challenges, I think you will feel like getting one step closer to the Founder of Aikido. I’m sure you can seek the coronavirus fiasco as yet another challenge to be dealt with in your life.
Let me tell a personal story.
Aikido Nippon Kan located in Denver Colorado is still temporarily closed, and there is no concrete plan as to when to re-open while continuing to monitor the changing coronavirus infection situation. Then how come an independent dojo like Aikido Nippon Kan, that does not have a network of organizations, is being able to survive without offering classes or having revenues for almost a year?
There is a precious advice left by late Morihiro Saito Shihan (For more information on late Morihiro Saito Shihan, check out 1) http://www.nippon-kan.org/interview-with-morihiro-saito-sensei/ , 2) http://www.nippon-kan.org/tribute-to-morihiro-saito-shihan/ , among others), “The Founder of Aikido used to say that nobody should practice or teach Budo while worrying about ‘a komebitsu’.” A ‘komebitsu’ is a container to store rice, and in this case, it means ‘how to make a living’.
I heeded the advice and opened a Japanese restaurant next to my Dojo 25 years ago, and the restaurant has not only grown to be one of reputable restaurants in Denver, but also won various awards. While the management of the restaurant under the current circumstances has been challenging, this is why such a large dojo like Aikido Nippon Kan can be sustained despite having been temporarily closed for the time being. Thanks to the restaurant, I have not had to take teaching Aikido as a way to make a living. Moreover, a number of dedicated members and I have continued AHAN humanitarian support activities, one of Nippon Kan’s main missions, including providing support for a facility abroad that provides a safe and nurturing environment for young children, even during the period temporary closure. Under the current unprecedented circumstances, I am renewing a sense of appreciation for the advice from late Saito Shihan.
By the way, are you struggling in the whirlwind of the coronavirus pandemic to make ends meet? There are 4 rooms at Nippon Kan, and if desired, a part-time job could be available. If you don’t desire anything extravagant, meals could be available, too. Of course, you can practice Aikido.
Nippon Kan Aikido has been practicing weapons techniques since the Dojo’s inception in 1978 while centering our mission to further the understanding of how Ken and Jo movements are expressed in Taijutsu techniques. Nippon Kan Aikido is excellent in practicing Taijutsu techniques through the use of “buki (i.e. weapons)”.
Nippon Kan Aikido did not start offering weapons classes because of the recent shunning of the close-contact nature of practicing Taijutsu techniques despite the lack of the experience to teach such classes.
In fact, “The Structure of Aikido: Volume 1: Kenjutsu and Taijutsu Sword and Open-Hand Movement Relationships (ISBN-10 : 1883319552; ISBN-13 : 978-1883319557)” was published in 1997.
Additionally, please check out a few video clips that have been posted.
It’s predicted that the practice of Taijutsu techniques will continue to be shunned for quite a long time as it requires a close-contact style of practicing, and unless an instructor has or learns alternative techniques to teach, it will likely remain challenging for anyone to retain regular members or even to recruit new beginner members.
It seems Aikido Life that we have pursued has hit a massive speed bump in a cul-de-sac; however, instead of wishing fruitlessly for the return of the good old times, why don’t you consider learning at Nippon Kan new skills and different ways to teach, especially if you have time to spare? In times like this, we need to “TENKAN” in our thinking, attitude and actions.
As I’m a 71-year-old Aikido instructor of an independent dojo with the experience as the last ‘osobatsuki’ uchideshi at Iwama when the Founder of Aikido was still well, I am no longer interested in who belongs to what organization, who is affiliated with whom or who practices which style of Aikido. I also couldn’t care less about expanding the network and the reach of my organization, either. I just simply wish for sharing the techniques and the thoughts I have learned in 56 years of my life that I have dedicated in the practice of Aikido with younger generations of fellow Aikidoists who may be feeling lost these days, just as I had been helped and supported by others when I was much younger. And for these reasons, I decided to come up with this project to offer who are currently going through difficult times a place to breathe again and an opportunity to rise to the challenge.
The minimum duration of training is 1 month, and the training duration can be extended by the month. For those who qualify, Nippon Kan’s scholarship program can be available to cover the cost to stay at Nippon Kan, the cost for meals and the instruction fees.
If interested, please send your résumé to INFO@NIPPON-KAN.ORG, and send a note to Aikido Nippon Kan’s Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/nkdojo22 ) through the Messenger function that you have done so.
Please be advised that there will be certain rules that must be cleared and followed under the current coronavirus pandemic.
This project is only for those who currently live in the U.S.
If you know anyone who might be interested in this opportunity, please feel free to share this information.
Please be advised that we do not accept any inquiry by phone.
Founder and Kancho, Aikido Nippon Kan &
AHAN Nippon Kan Scholarship Program Promotion Team