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Walking the Path; Aspects of Aikido
Relevant to Modern Life

Hello, I am Nick Mathys from Leeds University, and today I would like to talk about one of the Japanese martial arts, Aikido. I trained in Aikido during the ten months I spent as a foreign student at the Kyoto Institute of Textiles and Technology, and have been continuing to train ever since then. Through this path I have been able to study many concepts, perspectives and ways of thinking.

I see the training of Aikido as, like our lives, walking a long, uncertain path. It is important to arrive at your destination, but I also believe there is a great significance in the process of overcoming each of the obstacles we encounter along the way.

For this reason, I have entitled my speech "Walking the Path; Aspects of Aikido Relevant to Modern Life". As time is limited today, I have limited my speech to discussing the importance of cooperation, lateral thinking and efficiency and the importance of images to achieve oneís goals.

Cooperation

In Aikido there is no concept of winning or losing. The aim of an Aikido class is for the students to enable each other to deepen their understanding of Aikido. If one tries only to further oneís one advancement, and does not work towards cooperation, then it is not possible to achieve that aim.

When I first started learning Aikido, whenever I practised as "Uke", that is the role of attacker, I always tried hard to beat "Tori", that is the person who defends. However, Ukeís true role is to match Toriís level of ability and cooperate to allow them to acquire the technique. Through becoming aware of this and incorporating it into my training I have been able to understand how important it is for each otherís improvement. The point is not to strive for the short term victory of trying to beat your partner, but to strive for the long term victory of allowing each other to advance.

I think you could say a similar thing about our daily lives. If one only pursue oneís own interests, and does not place importance upon cooperating with others, then it is likely that friction will arise in oneís human relationships. Through my continuing training of Aikido I have come to realise the importance of cooperating with others, and that such cooperation can allow us to draw each otherís potential out.

Lateral Thinking and Efficiency

How would you defend yourself if you were suddenly attacked by a number of opponents? This is the challenge I had to face when I took the level 2 test last March at the Osaka Aiki Dojo. Usually, candidates for the level 2 test have to do a Randori (free practice) with three opponents. However, at that time the head teacher of the Dojo misread my name and so I had to take the 1st Dan test, that is I had to do Randori with four opponents.

"Use the one against the many" declared the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba OíSensei. For example, if you restrain one opponent then you can use them as a weapon against the other attackers. The main point is that you do not respond to force with force, rather you need to revolve your thoughts to make the impossible possible. At the time of that test I remembered Ueshiba OíSenseiís words, and fought whilst thinking of my opponents not as enemies, but as a usable resource. The result was that I was able to deal with my opponentsí attacks efficiently and display my skills to the best of my ability.

In whatever endeavour, when an issue arises, rather than heading straight on into trying to solve it, I think that it is important to first think laterally, that is to revolve your thoughts and consider the issue from different angles. Of particular importance is to consider how you can use your resources at hand most efficiently and effectively. Following that line of thinking, in Aikido it is possible for a weaker person to defend themselves against a stronger person.

The Importance of Images to Achieve Goals

In Aikido, when you throw your opponent, rather than thinking of throwing them to the floor or tatami mat, it is by far more effective to apply the technique whilst thinking of throwing them to beyond the edge of the universe.

Human beingís physical power is limited, but the power of the imagination is not. Therefore, if you act using your mental power as the basis behind your actions, then it is maybe possible to overcome your bodyís physical limitations.

From last April I assisted with the teaching of the new students at the Kyoto Institute of Technology Aikido Circle. For beginners, it is very difficult to learn the essential body movements of Aikido, and so they were often confused. I offered them advice such as when they practise the technique where you draw a circle with your arms whilst throwing your opponent it may be of benefit to imagine moving your hands over the surface of a ball. When they tried that they became able to move much more naturally than before.

Also, if you carry your aspirations as images inside your mind, then it is possible to direct your resources towards achieving those aspirations both consciously and subconsciously. Moreover, if you do so then your sensitivity to useful information and opportunities in daily life may also improve.

I am not saying here that if only you have an image to work towards that you will definitely be able to achieve your objective, rather that it is very important to always have a firm belief in what it is you hope to achieve.

Conclusion

Modern society is becoming increasingly complex with each day, and it feels as though the pace of that change is becoming increasingly rapid. It can be readily expected that in our lives we will have to face new problems and obstacles. Is it not that in these circumstances constructing cooperative relationships with those around us, having flexible ideas and acting efficiently will be the important keys to responding to societyís changes from now?

No matter who it is, everyone has times when they lose confidence and enthusiasm, but is it not that in those times that the holding of a forward looking image for what it is you wish to achieve can support you?

I am truly grateful for having discovered the Aikido that has had such a profound influence on my life. However, the concepts that I have talked about today are not only acquired or realized through Aikido.

You could say that all of us are each walking our own paths. I believe that it is very important to share with each other the lessons learned from the great encounters we experience whilst walking our own paths to overcome the confines of the cultures and countries to which we belong.

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