So using the following 4 dictionary definitions of principles I continue on with exploration of discovering what are the principles of Aikido.
-a determining characteristic of something; essential quality
-a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived
-a personal or specific basis of conduct or management
-an adopted rule or method for application in action
So using the first definition, a principle can be a determining characteristic of something or essential quality. After pondering the words ‘essential quality’ for some time I have come to the conclusion that a principle might be able to tell us what Aikido IS and what it IS NOT. Perhaps this type of principle is simply a definition of the art.
Merriam Websters dictionary defines Aikido as, "a Japanese art of self-defense employing locks and holds and utilizing the principle of nonresistance to cause an opponent's own momentum to work against him".
I find myself feeling like this definition is lacking in capturing the essence of Aikido. How would this be any different from judo, jujitsu or Bujinkan? No I feel we must explore further.
Stanley Pranin noted Aikido author and historian tried his hand at defining the art and principles.
“-Aikido is a discipline based on the martial art and philosophy of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei- ---Aikido has a core of techniques which constitutes the physical manifestation of the art (ikkyo through yonkyo, shihonage, iriminage, kokyunage, etc.)
- Aikido is basically defensive in nature
- There exists in Aikido an ethical concern for the well-being of the attacker beyond a preoccupation with self-defense”
I think these are great points, and most of the Aikido philosophical world could get behind these. I do however have some questions about the ethics and defensive nature of Aikido. Is it a schools preference of is it universal in application? I will dive deeper into this topic later.
Lou Fernbaugh pondered this question and wrote a definition of aikido.
Training the subconscious, and nervous system
Based on Principles, not unique actions
Leading to a reactive mode of moving
Allowing a seemingly endless stream of adaptive variations."
If my memory serves me, a Jiyushinkai bumper sticker from the 90s read,
“Peace and harmony through non-violent action”
Jack Bieler offers,
“Aikido is one particular incarnation of a perennial mode of interaction with violence, with the typical Japanese cultural style of simplicity and artistic balance, organization and efficiency, which can be described as "elegance". That character may best define what is unique about aikido.”
EnergyArt.com suggests Aikido is,
“A Japanese internal energy-based martial art. Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba in the 1930s from a unique blend of Daito Ryu aikijitsu (a form of jujitsu), sword techniques, and the teachings of a mystical Shinto-like religion that included mantra and sound work called the Kototama”
So looking at these definitions I can distill a few things. In order for the art to be formally Aikido the teaching must come through the lineage of Morihei Ueshiba. While I am not a devoted follower of Ueshiba I can buy this as a distinguishing characteristic.
Another characteristic is that it a martial art based on principles. But there I go defining principles with principles.
While the ethics might vary greatly I do feel that Aikido can be defined as having a strong ethical system, and a certain artistic style of model to which it aspires. Perhaps it is the elegance Bieler Sensei described.
Aikido FAQ offers probably the best definitions or
“Aikido -- The art of unity with the ground”
“Aikido: The way of blending energy The Aikidoka (one who practices Aikido) attempts to become one with the mat by being thrown into it repeatedly in the hope that s/he will merge with the mat. This usually doesn't happen, so the process must be repeated. Frequently.”