Some Simple Truths

When Sensei asked me to write an article for this website I have to admit I didn‚'t know where to begin. It's not that I am ever at a loss for words. Instead, it was more a matter of having too many words and too many thoughts. Worst of all, I kept asking myself what could I possibly say that hasn't already been said better by Sensei?
Wednesday, July 6, 2005

I took some comfort in knowing that he was simply asking for my personal interpretation. However, what I have learned about Aikido has been so strongly influenced by Sensei that I'm not even sure what original thoughts I have. Plus, I kept fixating on the fact that everything we need to hear and see about Aikido is given to us every time we see Sensei. He clearly and honestly tells us everything. What more could I add? And that's when it hit me, write about these truths and their importance to our practice.

Minimum Effort/Maximum Effect‚ Comfortable‚ I Can, You Can‚ Find Out for Yourself. These are all phrases we have heard Sensei use time and again. Each one of these sayings serves multiple purposes. They summarize key elements of Sensei's understanding, they make a state of mind more tangible and they provide us with a framework for our study. They also help take our practice beyond the physical aspect of technique into a realm of feeling and deeper understanding.

Perhaps the most important thing for us to remember is that these words are absolutely true. We do not need to overcomplicate the message or to search for underlying meanings. Sensei speaks to us directly and with great clarity so there is no need for interpretation. When he says ‚ Relax‚ that means he wants us to relax. When he says ‚ Be comfortable‚, he means be comfortable. It is really that simple.

With the statement ‚ I can, you can‚ he shows us not only what he is capable of now but also offers us the promise that we can reach the same place someday as well. Whether or not you believe he means you personally, I am convinced he does. Sensei doesn't lie to us, he does not obscure things and he does not hold anything back. He doesn't spare us the truth ‚ I can think of too many times when Sensei succinctly summed up my performance with the single word ‚ "Perfect." Note to new students: lest you think I actually believe that my technique has reached a state of perfection, ask your instructor what it means to have Sensei tell you‚ "Perfect." Sensei often describes himself as a mapmaker. When he says ‚ Find out for yourself‚ he is telling us that he has given us the map and now we need to make the journey. Books and discussions are no substitute for practice. It is each of our jobs to practice hard, polish our technique and find out for ourselves.

Sensei tells us that this is Kokikai's Golden Age and I could not agree more. Since the time I began my practice I have been in awe of Sensei's strength and understanding. As the years have passed he has not only become more powerful, he is now more relaxed, more fluid, more impossible to detect. What is most amazing is the way he continues to progress and how he changes not just between camps, but over the course of a visit, during a camp and even over the duration of a single class.

But this isn't the Golden Age only because of Sensei's personal growth. It is a time when Kokikai students, instructors and the Kokikai organization are developing as well. As Sensei's personal abilities have grown so have his abilities as mapmaker and teacher. I look at beginning students today and I am always amazed at how quickly they progress. New Kokikai dojo continue to open throughout the world and our camps have record turnouts. This is a fantastic time to be a Kokikai student.

In just a few weeks we will again have the opportunity to see and experience Maruyama Sensei. Take advantage of this opportunity and attend every class you possibly can. And be sure to not only watch what Sensei does, but listen to what he says and take those words to heart.