I often get asked the question, "What do you do?" My answer, "I teach Aikido." And from that question, of course, 9 times out of 10 the person I'm talking to asks a second question, "What's Aikido?"
What is Aikido?, Go ahead, read it again, "What is Aikido?"
I always start off with the same sentence: Aikido is a Japanese martial art; and then I tailor the rest of the answer to several other factors, like how I'm feeling at that exact moment, if I'm annoyed with the person I'm talking to or not, whether that person is interested in taking classes or not, etc...
So, I'm tailoring the answer to this question in context of this website, and directed to you the reader.
What is Aikido? Let's start off with translating the Chinese characters into English:
Ai stands for harmony
Ki stands for spirit
do stand for way of life
So let's start off with Aikido as the way of spiritual harmony. Now, what in the world does that mean and how in the world does spiritual harmony have anything to do with martial arts?
I think I need to stop right here and just repeat myself, what in the world does spiritual harmony have to do with a martial art!
A martial art is for fighting, and more specifically for self defense; not so much for competition, although the use of competition to test out techniques is a powerful way to learn.
Our society and economy has truly transformed the martial arts in a way to fit our times; to fit, "the spirit of our time."
I guess that would fit the way of spiritual harmony pretty well. But then again, what is peace? I mean we can be in a city or country that is not at war, but we can feel insecure, or worse we could be fighting with everyone around us, or even worse we could be surrounded by our enemies that are just waiting and hoping for us to make a mistake so that they can take us "down!" You don't have to have a gun in your had to be at war.
Or we could be living in a country that is at war, yet at the same time be in a state of total peace.
It's really hard to pinpoint and put my finger on the exact meaning of all this, as a matter of fact it reminds me of a saying I once read in a book on zen:
It's impossible to step on the same piece of water twice in a running stream.
Well, that too is like Aikido. It's always in a flux of change, so hard to put a definition on it and define it. It all becomes a matter of focus, in other words, what you are focusing on at that particular moment.
I want to learn Aikido in order to learn some techniques that will be an effective way to protect myself if I am ever in a situation which calls for it.
I want to learn Aikido so that I can exercise, get my heart rate up and become more flexible.
I want to learn Aikido so that I can strengthen my character.
Aikido, as a tool, is a means to get you where you want to go. It is only a tool, and my job is to teach you that tool and how to use it.