We live times of great uncertainty, tension, worry. Fear of being attacked, robbed or physically abused is widespread. Many feel the urge of learning how to defend themselves and this request may often be addressed to Aikido teachers.
Our martial art is not certainly the most famous one. This is also because it is not widely represented in literature and cinema. Maybe the reason is that it is not honed to overwhelming the others, which is something more spectacular than pacific resolution of conflicts. As a matter of fact, this article will not merely be about Aikido. It will focus on the cultural foundations it stems from, by means of two art forms such as literature and cinema.
Women have always had a fundamental role in Japan, beginning from its legendary founder, the goddes Amaterasu. Many were the empresses, among which some notable she-warriors such as empress Jingu (3rd century a.d.) who invaded Korea. Historical reports also refer of powerful pristesses. Only after China’s cultural inflluence upon Japan, women started losing their importance and by the 13th century they had become a social entity under the rule of fathers, brothers, husbands, sons. Nonetheless, Japanese women have been able to preserve through the centuries something of their original independence, to the extent of writing the first novel of world literature’s history, the Genji Monogatari, or fighting side by side with their samurai.
The oldest literary document of ancient Japan, the Kojiki (“chronicle of ancient events”), is a shinto text about the history of the imperial family from 554 to 628. The book contains references to an autochthonous style of fight called Tegoi: “…When Takeminakata no kami grabbed the hand of Takemikazuchi no kami, the hand became a column of ice, then again changed into the blade of a sword, and he lost any hope completely. Then in turn Takemikazuchi no kami grabbed the hand of Takeminakata no kami. He held it as if it was a young reed and threw it away.”
Our mental representation of a man attacking or defending is a visual process based on the conception that we have of the human body when it is resting but this static vision is fundamentally flawed. Even though the human body is indeed a composed of a torso fitted with four limbs and a head in the way that has been immortalized in so many statues around the world, this representation does not translate the reality of the dynamic aptitudes of our body. This is however by this motion that we must represent our adversary.
The term “between techniques”, is for me is a great help to understand what aikido is about. In spite of the fact that the general level of our art has improved a lot technically thanks to the increase in teaching skills and Aikido literacy of the practitioners, I think the that the moment of time that elapses between two techniques is often misunderstood.
For me, it is very important to use this time of “non-contact” with the partner in order to prepare for any subsequent solicitations from him that are to come. It is essential to maintain this effort of attention for the body to keep the same pace as uke’s. An attack is not only a contact between two partners, but it is an ongoing assessment of uke’s distance, how he stands up, and how he prepares for an attack.