Richard Feynman was one of the twentieth century's leading theoreticians of quantum physics. After his Nobel Prize in 1965, prestigious American universities offered him to devote himself to pure research. He refused, willing to continue, alongside research, his teaching career. Even more surprisingly, he chose to teach freshmen. He was then told that his students had very little chance to benefit from an education that greatly exceeded their level. His answer is worth pondering by those who believe that education must necessarily be divided between the mass and the elite. He replied that he was not able to explain his point to a first-year student, it only meant that he hadn't understood that point in first place. What is conceived well is expressed clearly.
Teaching Aikido has led me in some circumstances to give what is called "advanced" lessons in which beginners were obviously not invited. With time and experience, my vision has changed. I know now that a qualified teacher is able to help relatively new students on the arduous trails of that discipline without losing them along the way. Besides, is he so far from them, he who opens the way? One must always keep in mind that the most accomplished master is an explorer, ignoring the immense territory which extends beyond the limit he has reached, and which was imposed on him by his own nature, his personnality and the circumstances of his life.
It can't be denied that a hard teaching, where symbolism plays a fundamental role, will never be understood but according to the ability of the person who receives it. But why should this be a hindrance? And is it not this precisely the role of symbols to convey to the adept different realities, depending on the stage of his progression on the way? For those who understand what it means, the technical form, the "waza" is indeed a symbol of what is beyond all particular forms. For those who have not reached this level of understanding, the form is still the medium that will eventually allow a later awareness.
Believing that a beginner can not befromnefit the teaching of a master on the basis that it would be "too far" shows little trust in the master's necessary ability to adjust his discourse, the demonstration, and the whole of his course to the various modes of appropriation of knowledge he faces. And I must say here that this diversity is not smaller or less complex with advanced practitioners. From this point of view, his task is the same in both cases.
Limiting the master's teaching to the happy few also underestimates the importance of the influence he can have on evolving progressing minds. This influence is real, and it is a great factor of motivation and progress for students, even though it is not always tangible and definable. But such an influence can only be transmitted by direct physical contact with the master. It is not impossible also that the transmission of such an influence is ultimately the true responsibility of the master and eventually gives its meaning to the journey that led him to the position where he is. If the transmission of correct technical forms is within the reach of a good teacher, the transmission of the knowledge that these forms convey does require a qualification which can only be achieved with time.
The master whose audience is reduced to a limited number of handpicked students for strategic development of an organization unrelated to tradition, such as federation of Aikido, is prevented with this process from acting in accordance with the laws that regulate normally a traditional society.
Let's not think like Machiavelli here, as most of the time this kind of educational choices is done with the best intentions in the world. Nevertheless, we can wonder if that split between beginners and advanced practitioners, which seems to be the mark of reason and common sense, is not in fact the sign of a time when the division of all things into categories buries us each time a little deeper into the material world. Hell is paved with good intentions and let's not forget the etymological sense of the word devil: what divides.
This division is the fundamental characteristic of the material world, and its origin, it appears to us under this world's multiple forms. Anything that contributes to divide therefore increases the already considerable influence of the material world, what Morihei Ueshiba called the "corporal / bodily soul". And I would like to say strongly here that the approach proposed by Aikido is not to contribute and maintain that multiplicity and sink in the matter even more, but on the contrary, from the multiplicity which is the common lot of all men, to reach unity. This is the deep meaning of "aiki".
This work undertaken to the soul from the body, by its natural complement O. Sensei used to call "spiritual soul" will not succeed without the reversal of some values of the existing social order which brought science to its peak. It is in this context that one needs to rethink the place of of the master in these modern structures whose organizing principle is at the opposite of what governs any traditional system.
Philippe Voarino, New Year 2013
Richard Phillips Feynman
(May 11th, 1918 – February 15th, 1988)
Aikido is not a sport, it is a martial art which laws (takemusu) are in harmony with the laws of the universe. Studying them allows the practitioner to understand his place in the universe. Aikido was born in Iwama, O sensei achieved in that village the synthesis of tai jutsu, aiki ken and aiki jo.
The International Takemusu Aikido Federation (ITAF) brings to the practitioner the structure he needs in order to work as close as possible to the reality O sensei MU defined. The official national representations are the guarantee of a teaching faithful to the Founder's.
In modern Aikido, weapons are hardly taught, if taught at all. In O sensei's Aikido, on the contrary, aiki ken, aiki jo and tai jutsu are unified and form together a riai, a family of harmonious techniques stemming from one unique principle. Each techniques helps understand all the others.
Peace is a balance between a human being and the world around him. The true martial art's goal is not to become stronger than one's opponent but to find in that opponent a way to realize harmony. There is no enemy anymore as such, but an opportunity offered to reach unified ki.