May 26, 2017
Today, I have decided to talk (write) about aikido and martial arts in general. It may have something to do with my kyu exam being in a few hours. I am still way too fresh to talk anything technique-wise about aikido of course and what I will babble here regarding the philosophy will probably be a scratch on the surface of a deep, long tradition.
Most YouTube commenters and forum posters who are interested in martial arts (I am not talking about trolls) focus on the physical aspect of them. It is understandable, considering the thing is something physical at first sight; people are punching each other, twisting each other’s wrists and arms, wrestling, stabbing, slashing and such. It is called martial arts, war arts et cetera for a reason.
However, as in many martial arts forms, the physical movements come from observation of nature. Not only animals and their stances, but also from the natural balance of things; trees, rivers, air, life and death. The saying “be like water” is not only about the flow of your body; it is also about a state of mind which tells you to adapt and react, rather than refuse and resist (a great Sepultura song by the way).
It has only been eight months for me, although I practice six days a week in two dojos. However, more and more I observe why aikido (and other martial and fighting forms; from karate to BJJ) work as intended or become complete failures. Understanding the body flow and anticipating a move is the key. This is not an easy thing. Actually, it is very, very hard. No matter which style you are practicing, the practice mat (tatami for my case) doesn’t prepare you at “real life” speed. Constant practice of techniques, whether it be punching or applying iriminage, is to make your muscles remember the forms and when the time comes, when one tenth of a second matters, make you react with your instincts rather than with your brain.
In a sense; adaptation comes from instinct. Blending with your partner in aikido makes everything fluent and effective, whereas forcing techniques for the sake of doing them resulting in ineffective mumbo jumbo. This applies to every body activity out there. Have you ever seen Lionel Messi jumping and bouncing from his opponents to tackle them? Rather than seeing the opponent as an obstacle, he sees them as tools of the trade. If a MMA figher's jab or round kick doesn't work due to timing or a counter move, he needs to adapt and move accordingly. Otherwise, it would be a knockout for him.
In the battlefield, where most of these art forms were created, the lack of adaptability meant death. Thereforefore, there is no “ineffective” martial arts technique, but people who can and cannot apply the philosophy of those styles. These styles didn’t pop out in one day, after all. Their roots go hundreds of years back. There lies the feeling of “being like water”. No matter what the obstacle is, you continue flowing and adapting your form to the obstacle.
And the first obstacle is your body and your mind.
Photo credit: Mertcan Özbakır. Model: Murat Tolga Ertürk - Thank you!