Friday, August 1, 2008
beautiful, positive, dynamic
Yamada Sensei paused during his Tuesday morning class at the United States Aikido Federation Summer Camp (taking place this week at Stockton College near Atlantic City) to share with us what he feels are the most important aspects of the art.
Here is my interpretation of what he said:
It was only moderately surprising to me to hear him say that, first of all and most importantly, Aikido must be beautiful. That’s my Sensei, I thought – and he has been for nearly 25 years. The grace and symmetry of the movements and a fascination with the interaction have certainly been primary for me, with interest in the martial application developing gradually and a bit later. Now I see that the quality of beauty is not separate from the martial aspect. The elegance is pure physics, probably much the same as when mathematicians refer to certain proofs as “elegant.” Economy and purity of motion produce martial effectiveness.
Aikido must also be positive and this Yamada Sensei demonstrated for us very clearly. By contrasting proper extension, expansion and forward movement with the opposite effects of pulling in with the arms or moving backwards, he looked for a moment like a mere mortal rather than the larger-than-life figure we are used to experiencing on the mat.
Finally he reminded us that Aikido must be dynamic. He emphasized that each technique must have a memorable beginning and a clear ending. As a musician, I know the importance of dynamic variation, and as it happened, Sensei gave the example of a Beethoven symphony he had been listening to that morning – it begins with a strong statement and it has a shape. A trip to the dictionary reminded me that the term “dynamic” relates to energy or to objects in motion, is characterized by continuous change (emphasis mine) and is marked by intensity and vigor.
Although English is not Yamada Sensei’s native language, I believe he succinctly and completely described his Aikido – I can only imagine how eloquent his thoughts might be in Japanese.
The video clip above is from a series of instructional tapes by Yamada Sensei with Donovan Waite taking ukemi. It fully illustrates the beautiful, positive and dynamic qualities of the art of Aikido.