The best phrase for our focus on martial-arts is Budo, or martial way. At the core, a martial path is one which prepares you successfully survive self-defense situations. Competitions are useful for testing your skill and challenging yourself but are ultimately about feeling good or self-satisfaction or pride. They do not fully focus you or prepare your mind and energy to succeed in a critical self-defense situation.
No matter which martial art you study or with whom you train, be sure there is a basic focus on preparing your every movement to be effective. Be sure your training is purposefully goal-oriented in preparing you to survive the physical and situational threats you may face. Effective self-defense should never be an accidental ability, by-product, or secondary goal of training in martial arts; it should be the only goal. Movement martial arts – budo – prepares you to build the practical response into your every movement; to see the martial principle of every situation.
Nothing you study should be above questioning, no curriculum should be above challenging, and no teacher assumed to have your answers. Judge for yourself if a technique or art is teaching you to move effectively – to survive attack – or if it merely is preparing you to look good for competition. Never be afraid to ask why, and never be afraid to walk away from training companions who cannot give you a solid answer! You are ultimately responsible for your own safety, your own success in self-defense situations, building your own effective martial capacity (Bu). You are responsible for setting your destinations, ensuring the effectiveness and fidelity of your martial training, of walking your path (Do). Take the time to review your destination frequently and to invest in good companions as you engage in Budo.
Budo is Japanese for “martial way,” and refers to a focus on practical technique in martial arts. Our main focus at Arundel Aikikai is in Budo through training people in the martial art of Aikido. We focus on something more important than teaching the techniques of Aikido, however. Our training is focused on teaching students how to learn to move, martially. Students will certainly learn to produce “aikido techniques” in response to attacks. However, our students will learn something even more important and valuable. By learning to identify and assess basic martial movement, our students learn the skill set of learning effective martial arts movements from any teacher or situation.
To focus on forced discipline or stuffy seriousness takes away from the joy of training. We teach without meanness or mindless repetition. We encourage students to question what they learn, and sincerely test out their answers during practice. We treat those who train with us as honored companions travelling with us on their martial arts journey. The best description of the impact of our approach comes from students who have moved away or expanded their training to include other instructors or martial arts:
I didn’t know how much I knew! Didn’t think going in that anything we did like working edges, moving with shape and structure-vague obscure stuff really, hard to teach I imagine, even harder to grasp I know, would help me and translate into all the techniques and break falls in front of me now.
And now I see it very clearly: All the torment and crap we avoided. All the unlearning required to move past “technique”. Take what you get, move, make something happen. It will. You’ll do great. I did. (even if I do say so myself ! ) Hang in there friends, especially on those nights you think you didn’t get anything right in class, didn’t get much out of it. You are