Honesty may not be the first word you think of in connection with aikido, but on reflection you may come to realise that in fact it is a central pillar.

There are many reasons to train, but for me, the most important reason is to develop myself.  I see aikido as a tool to help me grow.  It’s a road without end, but such a fascinating journey, as the vista is always changing.

As a student, if you are to maximise the opportunity to grow, then you have to cultivate honesty.  It is the necessary quality required to understand who you are and where you are at.  And to progress, you have to continue to take a good look at yourself, and to be honest about what you see.  Honesty is simply the optical tool required to see with 20/20 vision.  As the an...

Every two years, a unique event in the aikido world takes place in the UK and this year saw the third iteration of the Aiki Extended seminar.  So what makes it so special?  There are a lot of reasons.

First, no other event that I know of provides so many teachers in such a condensed period of time.  This year saw 25 presenters.

Second, the breadth of topics covered is simply staggering and many times the presenters offer insight on topics that simply aren’t covered elsewhere.  For example this year we looked at the part that aikido can play in dealing with depression, politics,  leadership, business, teaching the blind, and everyday conversation to name but a few.

Third, the more traditional aikido sessions focus on principle rather than...

If you were asked what aikido was about and were restricted to using no more than one sentence, what would you say?  I asked my students this and was a little surprised with how hard they found it to come up with a pithy and concise answer.  Admittedly, I was ahead of the curve as I had asked myself the same question and had plenty of time to reflect on my answer, which was not a luxury I gave them.

My answer is that aikido is best defined as ‘managing conflict well’.

All martial arts are based on conflict.  There is attack and defence manifested in technique and the aim is obviously to protect yourself and to defeat the enemy.  Perhaps what sets aikido apart is that we are encouraged to question who the enemy is and if there is an enemy at a...

Perhaps like me, you get frustrated by the many discussions that take place on social media, which end up becoming a shouting match about what aikido is all about.  All too often it seems that the ‘Art of Peace’ is lost in these debates by even the most experienced practitioners.  I observe with a sense of wonder and disappointment that the participants do not see the irony in this.

Yet perhaps one definition that most aikidoka might be able to get behind is that aikido is the art of managing conflict well.  This is important, as conflict of some kind arises in all our lives, albeit that fortunately it is not always manifested in the form of an axe wielding nutter.

Even so, this definition leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre as we might debat...

The first time I stepped onto an aikido mat, I was taught how to centre, how to ground, how to extend and how to relax in a positive manner.  I followed the directions I was given and I was able to see a dramatic difference in my performance levels.  I was blown away!  I had no idea how it worked, but the results were spectacular, almost other worldly, and it is with this sense of wonder that I have approached my study ever since.  In short order, aikido piqued my curiosity and it still does.  Trying to understand how it works is like trying to capture the perpetual carrot being dangled in front of my nose.  I know it is a never ending quest and that I will never truly get a hold of it, and so you would be forgiven for asking ‘what’s the point’...

Quite honestly I might as well be writing about life, because maintaining one’s personal integrity off the mat is vital if you want to make your way in the world and be happy.  For me, the mat on which I practise aikido is just a training ground for the mat of life, and I think that the two are bound together.

The reason for focusing on aikido is that the training, (true for martial arts training generally) seeks to engender this particular virtue.  Indeed one of the pleats in the hakama is deemed to be representative of it, (the other six pleats also have a meaning).

So what is integrity and why is it an important aspect of our training?  The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definition:

1 - The quality of being honest and having st...

There are many words that resonate when we talk about aikido, perhaps none more so than connection.  So what is it and why is it so important?  On a superficial level, there is the obvious physical connection that happens when uke and tori come together through a strike or a grab.  It is purely physical and for most new students, this is as far as gets.  However, as we progress and our technique improves, we have more time and awareness to look at the quality of that connection and to perhaps consider how this reflects the fundamental aims of aikido.  The question we need to ask is ‘Are we just using speed and strength to overwhelm our opponent or are we seeking to create harmony out of chaos and turn an opponent into a partner?’...

What makes aikido different from other martial arts is the idea that we should not seek to be victorious over an attacker, but to be victorious with them.  Life in general is just much better if you can find a win-win situation when conflict arises.  If anyone has any doubts about this, then they only need to refer back to the translation of the Japanese words, ‘Ai’,(harmony) ‘Ki’(life force or nature) and ‘Do’ (the way.  The key word here is harmony.  This is the goal on every level, to be at peace with yourself, (a real battle for many), to find harmony with others on a one to one basis and within the wider communities to which we all belong.

Whilst this may be the aim, it is difficult to maintain this state on a permanent basis....

Much of what happens in our lives is largely beyond our control and happens in seemingly random fashion, but we are largely responsible for our behaviour.  It is our intention that determines the course of this.  This is no less true when it comes to practising aikido.  Our intentions are central to the outcomes and to the quality of our training.

It starts even before we enter the dojo, as without the intention to show up, there will be no practise.  I often say to students that one of the biggest lessons that aikido can teach you is just to show up.  When you do, you will make progress.  It won’t always be easy, but it’s especially important to battle through those moments of difficulty, as that’s usually where the most learning is to...

I deliberately placed the title of this article in a weird place and even though it is a deliberate choice, it feels uncomfortable. Balance seems like such a simple word, but it is profound and fundamental to the fabric of the universe.  In our aikido practice, it is essential and is the foundation stone on which everything else balances.

Looking at this from the perspective of the individual, physically, we need to maintain a balanced posture. It is hard to receive or deliver any real power, (I don’t mean physical strength, though it’s true for that too), when you are significantly out of balance. In the Ki Aikido tradition, they employ a wonderful testing system that can show you that you only need to be slightly out of alignment to be knocked...

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