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Aikido, anyone?
By: Elmer, Benedict E. Collong, RMT

             Summer in the Philippine Heart Center saw the launching of the Aikido Summer Program last April 4, pioneered by Dr. Santos Jose G. Abad and Dr. Valentin G. Yabes. Encouraged by the favorable response to the Aikido demo conducted by Crispin Buenaseda Sensei last February 11, Val sought and gained the support of Dr. Abad and other "kindred" spirits like Lilibeth and Patrick Balagat, Brenda Abarejo, and myself (Dr. Yabes, after all, can be really, really, really persuasive). Servier, Astra, Wyeth and Bayer also helped out each in their own way. With the blessing of Dr. Ludgerio G. Torres, the MAB Hall was transformed into a thirty mat dojo every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening with thirty plus students of varying ages. Teaching with Cris Sensei is fellow yodan (4th dan blackbelt), Willy Li Sensei, and Manuel Becilla Sensei, a shodan or 1st dan blackbelt. Already, it has attracted the attention of the local aikidoka (that's an aikido practitioner, my friends) community and was offered probationary status as a recognized aikido dojo of Aikido Philippines, Inc., an affiliate of the Hombu Dojo of Japan
             But what is Aikido other than that Japanese martial art Steven Seagal uses to throw around bad guys in his movies? Seagal popularized Aikido much like Bruce Lee did for Jeet Kune Do. But would you believe that between the flying opponents and bone-snapping action on the movie screen is a martial art developed by a religious pacifist with a unique background and a surprisingly altruistic intent?.....
             Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by O-sensei Morihei Ueshiba in the village of Iwama around the middle of the 20th century, the synthesis of his many years of training in the classical martial arts and defined by his ethical, religious, and philosophical beliefs. Ueshiba in his youth studied Sumo, Jujutsu and swordsmanship. As an infantryman in the Russo-Japanese War, he was no stranger to violence. However, his later involvement with Deguchi Onasiburo, master of the then new Omoto-kyo religion of which he eventually joined, most influenced Ueshiba, changing his view on life and most especially the martial arts.
             Aikido has its roots in the koryu-jujutsu or classic jujutsu practiced in th century Kyoto by Shinrasaburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, a colorful character in Japanese history. His techniques were passed down to the Takeda family and became daito ryu jujutsu. During the Meiji period, Sokaku (sometimes Sokaki) Takeda combined daito ryu with a "palace" martial art called oshikiuchi forming daito ryu aiki-jujutsu (daito ryu aiki jutsu). O-sensei Ueshiba was Takeda's most outstanding student.
             Prior to its first formal use in 1942, Aikido, Ueshiba's "system" was referred to as Aikijusu and then Aiki-budo. Although budo can be translated as "martial way," Aiki-budo was still primarily a fighting style. Aikido is an art based on the fundamental concepts of harmony or blending, inner power and the purpose of developing the practitioner. The name Aikido is made of these components:
  1. Error! Error! Unknown switch argument. Ai can be translated as harmony or blending
  2. Error! Error! Unknown switch argument. Ki can be translated as inner power, spirit or life energy;
  3. Error! Error! Unknown switch argument. Do means a way or a path.
             There are many possible translations and interpretations of the name but the most common translations are "The Way of Harmony" and "The Way of Harmony with the Spirit." By extension, it is "The Way of Peace." Gozo Shioda, founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, describes Aikido as the budo (martial way) that has as its purpose the realization of harmony.
             Aikido presents us with the idea that you do not have to be particularly strong or large to overcome an opponent. This is because Aikido teaches the practitioner to utilize the force of the attacker to first control, then subdue and if needed to injure the opponent. But why take Aikido? Gozo Shioda once said: "As you get older, your muscles weaken and you can no longer lift and pull. In the end there's a limit to physical strength, no matter how you build it up." Aikido develops the practitioner, even as natural strength wanes, with training that eventually extends from the mere physical ability to defend one's self to a state of mind where one seeks to maintain a sende of harmony with his or her surroundings and daily life. And if that was (understandably) too much to take without a grain of skepticism, just think of these two words: self-defense and exercise. Consider this my friends, if Aikido gave five-foot O-sensei Ueshiba the ability at eighty to flip six-foot plus Stevie and a bunch of others again and again in training, isn't that worth looking into?
             So one takes a curious peek at the goings on in the MAB Hall on one of these evenings, drawn perhaps by the sound of slamming and other noises in the dojo. One finds a workmate or two comically rolling on the mats or seemingly attempting to rework anatomy on some other hapless fellow and thinks: "this is aikido?" There is hardly anything that resembles what you'd see in a Seagal movie. Then they see the instructors perform techniques and are finally impressed - at the instructors. Ah, well, us Seagal-wannabees are hardly an impressive lot, really, but we'll get there... inshallah.
             Sitting seiza on the mats one night, I observed my fellow students practice. Reflecting, I saw myself back in '93 as a white belt making all the fumbles and mistakes they did, and quite some more. Val beside me commented positively at their improvement over the past weeks, and I found no reason not to agree. For these men and women, there has been a transformation both mentally and physically. Regardless of what they understand Aikido to be or hope it would bring them, two things are evident: there is a sense of fellowship bringing these employees of various units in the PHC together and an obvious general desire to improve one's self. If only for these, I'd say that the Aikido Summer Program was quite a success.
             Last June 1, the students of the first martial arts program in the PHC graduated in the MAB lobby. It was a simple but meaningful occasion attended by no less than our beloved director, Dr. Lugerio G. Torres, who came with a little surprise. In continuance of his policy of support for employee welfare, he expressed approval for extending the program beyond the summer season. This before Dr. Abad and the other students could present a petition for an extension of the program. Sykik, no? O magaling makiramdam. Clearly, everyone went home not just with their certificates but dreams of eventually wearing colored belts and hakamas.
             Currently, a set of courses are being drafted. Programs for new comers and the older students, candidates for 5th kyu, alike are in the works, and classes will resume in earnest by July. See you on the mats. Aikido, anyone?

This article was taken from HEART CENTER BULLETIN, Volume III No.1 dated 2001