Basic Principles of Aikido

As Taught by Professor Kenji Tomiki

Background: Professor Tomiki first studied judo as a student of Professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan judo in Japan. He then studied aikido under Master Morihei Ueshiba, who, after learning aikijujutsu from Master Sokaku Tanaka, established his own aikido school.

Judo Principles: Professor Tomiki followed Professor Kano's judo principles in developing his training system in aikido. These judo principles are expressed with elegant simplicity by his mentor as:

"Seiryoku Zenyo" and "Jita Kyoei".

These maxims have been translated into English (by Professor Kano himself) as:

"Maximum efficiency with minimum effort" and "Mutual benefits".

O-Sensi The first principle, "Seiryoku Zenyo", makes certain that your training is efficient. What you learn must work. In martial arts, the difference between what works and what does not could mean the difference between life and death. If a certain waza (transliterated as technique) works only when your partner cooperates (too much), its efficacy is in question. Or, if it works only when applied by someone with considerably superior strength, it probably is not efficient.

There are physical limitations to what is possible. Physical differences between individuals can be a factor. The nature of attack can be another. Some waza may be more difficult -- even impractical in some circumstances -- for a small person to apply to a huge, powerful person. Nevertheless, with effective training following these principles, the human mind and body can perform wonders.

The second principle, "Jita Kyoei", ensures that your training is beneficial to you and your partners. If it is to be beneficial, it has to be safe. Alternatively, if it is unsafe, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to train realistically.
Portrait of Jigoro Kano
In the course of your training, if you have any doubts as to the correctness of what you are doing, compare it to these two principles. Proper training must always conform to these self-evident fundamental principles.

These are viable ethical principles that are also applicable to the world outside your dojo. Our ultimate purpose is to apply these high principles to our daily lives and make them more fulfilling.

Professor Tomiki also expressed the ideal state of mind and body in aikido as:

"Mushin Mugamae".

Tomiki Sensi with uke, Oba Sensi According to Professor Tomiki, "mushin" is a state of mind that is free -- that does not dwell in any particular place and is thus everywhere. He once likened it to water; water can follow natural terrains and go everywhere but can at the same time be overwhelming. It is the state of mind that can perceive everything around you; you are ready for anything and everything. [Sometimes, "mushin" is narrowly translated as "no mind" but that does not convey its meaning well.]

The term "mugamae" literary means "no posture" or "no stance". It is to be understood that it will take years of dedicated practice before one can hope to attain this enlightened state. It is proper to enter the practice of aikido through "jigotai" (defensive posture). From that modest beginning, one endeavors to graduate -- through years of training -- to "shizentai" (natural posture), or "mugamae".

It is perhaps easier to grasp the meaning of "mushin mugamae", if one thinks of it as a state of mind and body that one pursues throughout one's life.

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