A Response

In reply to a letter received from my students after reading ‘A few things to know about aikido’.

The purpose was telling students, you can train with one main thought, the intention to do true aikido all the time. If one minute you attack thinking of being an attacker, next you must think of being calm and defending (with no aggressive thoughts) you never become truly one, the aim of aikido is self-preservation, not fighting back. If you learn both sides, you never become truly complete.

O Sensei, a fighting man at first, but when he found true enlightenment he called it Aikido.

You should look after yourself taking ukemi, many students still try to win while they receive the technique, this is wrong, and not O Sensei’s way. (I know this because I was a fighter for many of my training years.)

When we start aikido we have many thoughts of why we signed up. From birth, we learn to think about how we can survive in the world, and this makes us attack and defend but you can never be fast having two thoughts. Many martial arts teach attack and defence Aikido has only one thought: To receive all and become a better person, so we can live a life of freedom from all that is bad, to flow with nature and in turn become at peace with the universe, going against this we will not reach the great height that is possible.

When the attacker, we attack one hundred per cent, we learn to take good ukemi this is harmonising, it is not making the attack unreal; it is only unreal if you know you’ve changed your thoughts, then you are no longer being true if this happens, the change came from you, not the other person. What our aim is to be true and honest it takes time to develop. How we approach our training matters only then we are thinking correctly. Most who train are not doing true aikido in the real sense of the word, who are we to judge telling them not to train? In time they may change and become a better person than us.

As teachers, we can only offer our thoughts in the hope that while we train we understand the true way ourselves and others. We train hard to destroy the bad in us. This takes time — it may take all of our life.

We will not like everyone we meet and sometimes as a teacher, we have to ask a student to leave the mat because we feel their energy and ours is not in harmony this is normal in all life. As a student, we cannot always ask the other student to leave; sometimes we have to go another way ourselves.

If a teacher, it is normal that you will not get on with all other teachers and their way of teaching, this is human nature it happens in all walks of life.

If you keep thinking other aikidokas are wrong and your way is the only true way, I am sad for you if this happens, you should leave these feelings inside and wait to see if you can change; if you cannot change, you should consider your new path.

I have seen many teachers around the world and I had many thoughts on their approach to the way they teach. I thought, most are not doing aikido as I think it should be, this was my own opinion and very judgmental. Over the years, this way of thinking has made many dislike myself because I was too outspoken and should have kept my thoughts to myself. If I had been patient and waited, perhaps I could have seen their point of view and I would have more friends.

It is only now when I have nothing to gain in grades or the winning over of students that I can look back on my aikido life and know I was wrong to judge. For this, I am truly sorry, my ego would not let me look at bad aikidoka, but if this was truly out of the hundreds of thousands that train in this art, only a few will become truly humble this is now my path. I do not think in this life I will succeed in this mission, I will try. To all reading be careful what you think, be careful what you say because you will be judged on this at some stage by others; you will see them disliking you, you will observe it in yourself as you become more enlightened thus giving you concern, you cannot undo what you have done.

On the subject of the Aikido world going in all different directions now, Saito Sensei has passed, it is not hard to see why. The things I have said in this letter may answer some questions in this respect. We all must choose our path. If Saito Sensei’s passing was a way to allow us to break away and become true to what we think, then aikido will change around the world once again, it may be better because it may reveal a new O Sensei, something we would all wish to be? 

By teaching, we may find that student who is true.

To judge is to criticise; this means thought, thought means you have made a decision, and in making that decision time was used wrongly, it could have been used to look at the beauty in life.

Sensei Sargeant