Nikos Papanikolaou, 3rd Dan
I started Aikido back in October 2000, training in the French style of Christian Tissier. I achieved the rank of 1st Dan (shodan) in November 2003 in that style. As I returned to Greece in 2004, I trained with sensei Yannis Tsorotiotis whose teacher is Kazuo Chiba. This was a very technical and powerful style, which taught me how to think critically about every technique and why it works. As my footsteps brought me back to England in 2008, I trained with some excellent senseis, including John Longford at the Cambridge Iwama aikido club. My appetite for a more philosophical approach to Aikido led me to extend my horizons, and in November 2008 I found myself knocking at the door of Quentin Cooke and at this period of my life I have found a dojo to truly call home. After lots of coaxing and encouragement, I graded for 2nd Dan (Nidan) in March 2010. I believe that aikido has the power to help us achieve great things and it is something I want to share so I will attempt to explain what I think Aikido is...
When an observer sees an Aikido technique, there are certain things that come as a surprise. The body movement is fluid and the attacker is effectively dealt with but the technique is not violent and the person playing the attacking role will be seen to get up smiling, ready to practice again. When violence is met with more violence it breeds hate, but Aikido offers another solution to break this vicious cycle, based on principles of love and peace. The founder O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba called the system of Aikido the “Art of Peace”. Although Aikido was initially developed as a martial means to end conflict in an era of world wars, Morihei Ueshiba extended the art in all spiritual dimensions to include love, tolerance and compassion to other human beings. Ueshiba took Aikido beyond a one-dimensional body discipline and created a rounded system of mind, body and spirit coordination. Whereas traditional martial arts focus on the destruction of the opponent, Aikido aims to transcend physical conflict by meeting the attack with understanding and love, which neutralises the aggression. When we teach the mind and spirit to transcend physical conflict, we meet all attacks, both physical and verbal, with consideration and compassion towards the attacker, because the mind is not consumed by anger or the desire for revenge.
Can the search for universal love and spiritual perfection be cultivated through a martial art? When we respond to hate with love, what happens to the nature of conflict? Once we devote time and effort in the art of Aikido, we will learn to deal effectively with any kind of conflict and soon, all desire for violent response will give way to acceptance and peace. It is rare in normal life for an average person to be attacked physically, however, we do all have to deal with conflict situations in our daily lives. By applying Aikido principles we can have a positive effect on our own lives and the people around us. Conflict often arises from within, so we need to apply the Aikido principles to ourselves first, perhaps by recognizing negative feelings and turning them to positive ones, before we can apply them to others.
I believe that the Path to Universal Love and Peace is possible only when we realise that it is up to ourselves to use the tools that exist within us. Aikido is a manifestation of body, mind and spirit unification and, seeing how Aikido has positively shaped my life, I would like to pass it on to others and help society grow. It is my hope that Aikido will contribute towards a loftier goal and, as Ueshiba himself said, help reconcile the world.