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Why Aikido Doesn’t Have Competitive Matches

Interview with Minoru Inaba Sensei – By Eisuke Aoyogi (Originally posted on Aikido Journal)

Inaba Minoru Sensei
Inaba Minoru Sensei

Aikido doesn’t have competitive matches. Always keep the feeling of being on the battlefield.

About Non-competitive Matches - Always Being on the Battlefield

Aikido doesn't have competitive matches, so what is the objective of training? How can we decide the goal of training?

Inaba Sensei: It was one of Master Ueshiba’s suggestions that aikido not have competitive matches. One explanation is that we don’t want to make a champion or “number one” person. It’s more important that individuals reach their own highest level.

But if we think about it deeply this is probably not the reason. Real martial arts are not about winning or losing. They are about the kind of fighting you can do. A long time ago, if you lost a match, this was shameful. It was either win or die. In sword fighting this was especially true. Now perhaps this is true with guns. How can you fight with a gun?

I wonder how effective “sport” martial arts would be in a real battle. In a sports match they decide where and when they will fight. That means, if you win, how much carry over or effect will that have on your daily life? You cannot say whether it’s better or not to have competitive matches. Maybe you can say they are fun a sporting activity.

I think I agree about not having competitive matches for aikido. If you have a match on such and such a day, at a certain time and place, you prepare for that match. But in real life, you don’t know when you have to fight for your life. If you have a match, you sometimes forget that life is unpredictable.

Even if you do not have a competitive match, you should always feel at every moment that you have a match. That kind of feeling is important to keep. That is more of the martial arts’ spirit. If you are thinking that you are always on the battlefield, you will be prepared.

If you set up competitive matches you will forget that feeling. That being said, sometimes in some situations I feel that competitive matches work. If you want to experience competitive matches, you can try any sport. You may want that type of experience. But there is a big drawback to competitive matches. In modern kendo they wear armor and do well with it, but without armor sometimes they cannot move. If they had wooden swords or real swords I don’t think they could fight.

A drawback to not having competitive matches is that you lose the tension associated with matches. If you lose this tension you should try to bring back this feeling in your aikido training.

People who are worried about not having competitive matches in aikido are those for whom aikido is everything. The Japanese samurai knew that only one technique was not enough for the battlefield. You should know a minimum of three or four. In true martial arts, there is no such thing as enough.

A battle doesn’t have rules. If you don’t have a sword, you have to fight without one. Maybe someone will shoot at you from far away. You can’t say, “Please fight by aikido rules; I studied aikido.”

When did you begin studying at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo?

Inaba Sensei: At the end of 1962, in December of my third year of senior high school.

I did swimming until middle school but I didn’t do anything after I entered high school. I felt that my body was not in good shape. I felt that I had to get into shape. I had a friend who lived near Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Shinjuku. He said let’s go together. I went there just out of curiosity.

Two or three times a week I went there to practice, but not seriously. I met Mr. Kazushige Shimada. He was very knowledgeable about budo.

Because of Mr. Shimada I met many people. I became more serious about aikido. Mr. Shimada knew the true essence of martial arts, and he said that if I wanted to learn aikido, Yamaguchi Sensei was a good teacher. He brought me to Yamaguchi Sensei’s private dojo.

He also said that for the sword, Kunii Sensei was the best. He said I should go learn from him. He and I and Shigeho Tanaka Sensei went to Kunii Sensei’s dojo.

At first, even though I joined his dojo, I couldn’t get any teaching from him. One rainy day, nobody was there except him and me. He said, “Take a sword,” and gave me a very detailed lesson. When I struck at the teacher with kesagiri, I felt that this was the moment I had been waiting for, and I experienced pure understanding from deep within my body. I think the sword has something that reminds us of the Japanese spirit.

A short time before that happened, I had started training at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. There was a different teacher every day. I did not focus on one teacher, but once in awhile Master Morihei Ueshiba came to talk to us. I learned a lot from him.

A senior student of Master Ueshiba, Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei, had very soft body movement. He was very popular because of his smooth, elegant movement. I joined him privately as a student and I studied his movements and ideas. Then my mind and body were ready and I joined Kunii Sensei. At that time my feeling and timing were perfect, and that’s why my understanding developed.

From a Technique to Do (Way)

You said that in a real battle you can't be particular about rules or one type of martial art.

Inaba Sensei: Martial arts techniques are tools for fighting. You should know that an attack doesn’t have any limit. Let’s think about a real battle. In a battle the goal is to overcome the opponent’s power. Even if you lose the battle but you still have fighting spirit, the opponent will continue to fight. The goal of a battle is to conquer the opponent’s fighting spirit. Don’t we practice aikido that way? We use technique until the opponent gives up. When the opponent loses his fighting spirit, that’s the end of the battle. But sometimes people do not lose their spirit. They are called yusha (brave person; person of courage). That’s why in a real battle you kill someone or you die. If you kill someone unnecessarily, this is a bad thing. If the opponent loses the fighting spirit and gives up, the Japanese martial arts way is to stop the battle.

Sometimes in ancient Japanese battles, people claimed to give up but actually came back and beat the opponent. Eventually in Japanese history the rules evolved naturally and trust was developed.
The samurai came from the same family roots. Sometimes they had to fight each other. They knew they were the same and therefore they respected each other’s fighting spirit. This situation will create a certain type of fight. That was the root of ” Bushido”. That feeling still remains in the martial arts, I believe.

“Jutsu” — How to fight
” Do” — How to treat an opponent who loses.
When you lose, how to handle yourself.

You should know the difference between jutsu and do. Do has to do with one’s lifestyle. Jutsu is fighting technique. You cannot be serious only about jutsu. When you find do, then you can find jutsu. You can see it clearly. You will also see how you can train. You will find what interests you and you can be serious about it. If you find what interests you, you will clearly see the martial arts way. You will understand many things clearly–people, society, etc. If you do so, you will achieve a balance between jutsu and do. If you don’t understand this fundamental background to martial arts, you cannot talk about martial arts. Budo is now popular in foreign countries. But the term “martial arts” means simply “technique.” This feels like half the meaning of the word “budo.”

If the word “budo” becomes popular everywhere, people will understand just part of the meaning.

The premise of budo is that everything that is alive eventually will die. You understand that you have a limited life so you have to think about how you can use your life. You have about 30 years to really do anything in your life, and one-third of that time you are sleeping. Also you have to think about eating, etc. So how much time do you really have to create a pure life? Time is limited. If you don’t think about this seriously, you will waste your life.

My time is very important. You have to think that first, and then you have to think about what aikido is. If you feel this is not important. You should quit and look around for something else that is important to you. If you are looking for the true meaning of aikido and if you are looking for a teacher, when you find just the right person, then you have to try hard for your goal. Don’t be ambivalent; undertake serious training. If you are not training seriously, you are just wasting time.

What was your first encounter with martial arts?

Inaba Sensei: I guess it was when I saw the sword of Master Kunii Michiyuki (Zen’ya) of Kashima Shinryu.


After you graduated from Meiji University, what kind of job did you do?

Inaba Sensei: My father owned a small company that made sharpeners for metal and wood. I was expected to take over for him; that’s why I studied engineering. But I wasn’t interested and could not be serious. I had already studied aikido and met Kunii Sensei. His personality made a strong impression on me and I was obsessed with Kashima Kenjutsu sword style.

Mr. Shimada, Tanaka Sensei and I had letters of introduction from Shinto philosopher Ashizu Sensei. Then we joined Kunii Sensei’s dojo. Kunii Sensei deeply respected Ashizu Sensei. That’s why he treated us so well. A year-and-a-half after we started, Kunii Sensei died.

Kunii Sensei’s health wasn’t good. We always had that thought in our mind when we went to the dojo. We always felt that each day could be the last day of training. I forgot about school and studying and I did only training. But sometimes I had exams or a training camp to attend and I could not go to Kunii Sensei’s dojo for one week. Kunii Sensei sent a letter asking why I was not there. I thought about my teacher getting weaker and weaker. It made it difficult for me to take time off. So I went almost every day.

That’s why I ended up not taking over the family business and why I chose budo. Although I joined my father’s company, I could not be serious about my work. I wasn’t good at management or business. I discussed a career and martial arts with Ashizu Sensei and Mr. Shimada. They said if I chose budo, I would have to know about real fighting. But they said if I studied in a foreign country, I could get injured or die, and then that would be the end of it. In Japan I could join the riot police and gain some understanding of fighting. Then right away I became a policeman.

I experienced the student and government clashes of 1970. I thought that maybe that was enough. Next I thought I should study the Japanese spirit. If so, I would have to study Shinto. I joined a weekly newspaper company called “Jinja Shinpo.” It was small, but it was an opinion leader about the spirit of Japan. I was Ashizu Sensei’s driver/secretary/writer. That was my job, and I studied Shinto.

After the Shiseikan Dojo (the dojo located at the Meiji shrine) was set up, did you teach there?

Inaba Sensei: Yes, starting in October 1973.


People use the words “budo” and “bujutsu” interchangeably. How can we distinguish them?

Inaba Sensei: If you see this picture, you will see the roots of Japanese bu. This picture is from before the war. The famous Japanese artist Insho Domoto donated it to Kashihara Jingu. This portrait is of a fighter who may be the image of Emperor Jingu. That warrior’s right hand is holding a tree as an offering and the left-hand has a bow. And he has a sword at his waist.

Possibly Emperor Jingu holding tree and bow as offerings


(Possibly Emperor Jingu holding tree and bow as offerings)

The meaning of the picture has to do with “making a prosperous country of Yamato (Japan) and ensuring its people are happy and have enough to eat.” That’s the purpose of the picture. That’s why he has a tree offering. If you want to make wood you need one tree first. The first person plants one tree, and like-minded people bring a tree and offer their help for planting. Soon you will have a forest where a god can live. Then there will be a shrine for the god. This was the idea of Iwasaka Himorogi. You have to have a goal and work toward your goal even if you can only accomplish a little bit. This is very important.

If there is an obstacle you must fight in order to reach your goal. That is the meaning of this picture. Even if you dislike fighting, you will fight for justice.

You have to have the mind-set that you can “throw away life” at any time. But the technique of the bow does not tell you what you need to do. You have to find your own way. You cannot confuse bujutsu (technique) with budo (way). If you mix them up, your efforts to seek truth will be unsuccessful.

The goal and technique together make budo, right?

Inaba Sensei: Right. “Do” has a “goal.” If you want to reach your goal you need technique. And battle technique changes in each generation. A long time ago it was the bow, but now maybe it’s not the bow. That’s why it became kendo, judo, aikido. If you say aikido is best, your thought will stop there. You have mixed up “do” and “jutsu” and you’re heading in the wrong direction.

At the Shiseikan do you teach aikido and Kashima Shin-ryu? Do people who study aikido also take Kashima Shin-ryu?

Inaba Sensei: Yes. I teach both aikido and Kashima Shin-ryu. There are people who want to study only Kashima Shin-ryu or only aikido. But usually people who want to study aikido are also interested in the sword. They usually try the sword. But there are those who want to do only practical Kashima Shin-ryu. These people say they do not want to study aikido.

Even so, I usually tell them to do aikido technique to make themselves more flexible and soft. Then they can study Kashima Shin-ryu.

People want to do Kashima Shin-ryu usually read a lot of martial arts magazines and focus on the sword. That’s why they say they only want to practice the sword. But where does the sword come from? It’s from the mind and body. The important thing is, how can we develop the mind and body? I don’t think you can have total development without also practicing empty-handed techniques too while you are studying ‘ken’ (sword).


How do you separate or unify the technique of Kashima Shin-ryu and aikido?

Inaba Sensei: For each art I teach the basic form. But I always keep flexibility in mind and am not trapped by the form, while at the same time I do not neglect technique.

In my limited experience, I have felt that while teaching the technique, the important point is self-control, calming the mind, and “ki” energy.

It doesn’t matter how you are going to fight. Before you fight, you need to understand the situation, where you are at that moment, what situation you are in. If you misunderstand this, no matter how you use your technique, your moves will not work against your partner.

Having said that, how can we “read the situation?” Really, you have to calm your mind, size up the situation, know how the opponent will attack, and decide what your response will be.

At the same time, even if you can judge the situation and know which technique you need, if you don’t practice you will not be able to use the technique. That’s why you have to practice several different techniques all the time. Calm the mind, read the situation, and go through which techniques are needed in which situation. You have to internalize the movements all the time. Both mind practice and body practice are important.

Set up several situations and practice your technique. Calm the mind and remain centered. You have to make your body soft, focus the power, and use the technique.

It doesn’t matter which style of martial arts you practice; all you need for “bujutsu” (technique) is to read the situation, respond softly, and focus the power when you most need it.

Another way to say “ken” (sword) it is “tachi”. Tachi means “tatsu” (cutting off) and it also means “ketsudan” (decision). Collect the information and respond gently. Don’t misjudge the way you should go. Make a decision and focus. How you can do that is to focus on one thing and cut off everything else. If your mind is not calm you will not be able to judge timing in distance.


Many people think they cannot use “aiki” technique because they do not have as much strength as their opponent. Then they start weight training. They cannot use “aiki” technique because they cannot judge timing in distance. They form a bad judgment of the situation.

So, what are “timing” and “distance?” We cannot measure these with a clock or ruler. Timing and distance have to be grasped through each person’s intuition. If you are nervous or worried about something, this will cloud your intuition. But some tension is necessary.

You need cleansing, or purification (harai) training, as in Shintoism. You have to make your mind clear, like a mirror. There are many different ways to express how to grasp timing. I think when you purify the body and mind, then you can grasp timing.

However, even if you grasp timing, if you don’t focus your power or energy you cannot do anything. In the human body the area to focus power is the lower abdomen (kafuku tanden).

Power focused here is defensive power; power going out is offensive power.

How can you put forth offensive power? The first thing you have to do is to focus the power in your center. Offensive power will naturally flow if you focus your power in the center. That is forceful power (iryoku). It is a condition of focused energy that becomes center energy. In budo, people use the terms “bui” or “iryoku”, don’t they? Most important in martial arts is “iwoharu,” showing this powerfully focused energy. It’s not good to pretend that you have energy (karaibari). Try to use the energy in the lower abdomen. You can call this energy focused “ki” energy. If you don’t have center energy, you are bluffing. Really, you have to develop this energy. The energy will flow naturally if you can focus it in the lower abdomen. If you understand this point, you will understand how to develop your body and mind and how you should train.

If you forget this essential point, you’ll think only about winning, and you won’t have the power to keep centered. This power won’t be released and you will be destroyed.

You do exercises to straighten up your back muscles and relax your shoulders. Drop your focus to your lower abdomen. If you do that, you’ll find your center point and you will produce center energy. If your center is not developed, you won’t have ki energy available to project through your fingers.

If you take excess energy from the upper body and train the lower body as in sumo wrestling, and if you train the energy of the lower abdomen, you will develop your center energy. You use that power wherever necessary.

Even though you focus the energy in your lower abdomen, you will not be able to move the energy to the area where you need it right away. You have to think about how you are going to move it. You have to think about two things, gathering and filling up the power, and then moving the power to where the opponent will attack. Also if you have a weapon, you have to project energy through the weapon. If you understand this point, you’ll know how to train and what you need to develop. At the same moment you meet your opponent, you focus on your abdomen (hara) and project your ki where you need it. The result will be that you will shut down your opponent’s power. I understand that as the power of “aiki.”

I think that’s why it’s really important to develop the mind and body foundation. That is true not only for “aiki.” In karate when you strike you step in with your foot. It’s the same with kendo and sumo. I recommend sumo training. Sumo still includes basic body training for bujutsu.


Everyone at the Shiseikan often does sumo training. I think it’s good to devise ways to practice sumo in order to develop the lower abdomen.

Inaba Sensei: In sumo, you train the legs and hips. You attack and bring the elbows down to the sides of the body, and move the lower abdominal power to both hands and fingers. In kendo you take large steps and the power moves from your lower abdomen to the top of sword. If you do this type of training, you will be able to focus your power; your ki will be full and your body will develop. If your mind and spirit grow and your body develops, your ki will be full. If so, you will not have to worry about being captured by the enemy. You will feel that you have no rivals.

If you do not have enough of this type of ki, you will panic. You will wonder what to do and you will become stiff.

With any type of training you should think about developing power in the lower abdomen. In aikido, uke can train the lower abdomen better. When you throw forcefully you use extra power and lose energy from the lower abdomen. Kendo people are afraid of falling. That’s why they protect themselves from falling, and they get a little stiff. Karate people are afraid of the counterattack. Each martial art has strengths and weaknesses, but “aiki” is not afraid of the counterattack. If aiki people practice the ken they are not afraid of falling.

In this way, it’s better to think that aiki has two meanings: one is to train in aiki technique, while the second is to simultaneously seek “do” (way) as a Japanese.

These two ideas are separate but if, in a fight, your life is on the line, when you use the technique you will show your lifestyle, the way you live, and your spirit. You can see that you cannot separate the two points. But on the other hand, you have to practice technique separately. And “do” has to be thought about separately. If not, you cannot go deeper. We have to think about these two separately, but at the same time, they are intertwined.


When power meets power on the battlefield and you think about what aiki technique is, how can we overcome the opponent’s power and make it zero? I think this is the point of aiki technique. Make the opponent’s attack zero; take away the opponent’s way to attack again, and overcome the opponent’s fighting spirit. These points are important when you think about “jujutsu.” Daito-ryu uses the term aikijujutsu. Aikijujutsu is the correct expression. Initially, aiki neutralizes the opponent’s attack; then jujutsu is used to remove the means to attack thus also defeating the opponent’s fighting spirit. That’s why they say “aikijujutsu.” If the technique reaches a high-level, these two elements will occur at the same time. When the opponent attacks, he will be immediately thrown. That’s the level of an expert.

Originally jujutsu had both elements. If you look at “aiki” and “jujutsu” and you want to polish aiki technique, the point is that you receive several types of attacks and, at the same time, you make the opponent’s power zero. If you practice only one pattern of attack, then you lose the ability to apply techniques in different ways and they will become mere form. You must be able to respond to several types of attack. The crash of sumo, the punch of karate, and even the contact in rugby and soccer can be counted as types of attacks. A thrust from a small knife is the same. You have to respond. With each passing generation, the way to attack changes. When somebody points a gun, at the moment the trigger is pulled, how can you respond? This is also a situation where energy meets energy. You have to think about aiki technique, and deepen it that way.

There is an old proverb which is, “aiki yoroshikarazu.” What it means is if, in kendo, the opponent assumes the seigan stance with his sword tip pointing at the opponent’s eye, even if you don’t want to assume the same stance as the opponent, you follow along and the opponent gains the advantage. Another example is when a fight starts, the opponent attacks by boxing, and even if you don’t know boxing, you respond this way. You are drawn in by the opponent’s energy. In the situation the proverb says, “yoroshikarazu” which means “not good.” This is written as “aiki” in the Edo period but with a different kanji.

Tesshu Yamaoka of Muto-ryu explained this concept in another way. He used the phrase, “matsu kaze no koto” (pine tree in the wind). A pine tree is standing and the wind blows and tries to knock it down, but the pine tree tries to resist the wind. The pine tree makes its own shape. Near the beach or in the mountains, trees make beautiful shapes. From the side of a pine tree, when the wind blows, the pine tree resists the wind and adopts a new shape. That is definitely aiki. But the wind doesn’t want the pine tree to do so. It wants to knock down the tree and it focuses its power at the moment. This is the focusing power of aiki. Aiki has different meanings from different perspectives.

In contrast to the study of technique, thinking about the way to live and about the goal of fighting it is “do” and “bun”. This includes thinking about when to fight or when to avoid fighting.

We Japanese pursuing “do” are lucky to have “bushido” as a point of reference. I think when you look at our forerunners in “bushido,” how they lived, when they fought, what kind of fighting they did, how they died, you will see “do.” The study of both “jutsu” (technique) and “do” is a means to study aikido as a martial art. Of course, on the other hand, there are more people thinking about aikido as a recreational sport or for exercise. This is problematic. Until Japan lost World War II everyone recognized budo philosophy based on traditional culture. But modern society has forgotten the true meaning of budo. This is a critical time for budo of traditional Japanese culture


At this time I believe we need to rethink what budo is. In order to do that, we need to think about the relationship between the gods and budo; that is the fundamental point. The Japanese people have been evolving for two to three thousand years. In that history, there have been many battles. In those battles there have been the bushi (warriors), and those bushi became the gods of the shrines. The god of a shrine represents a lifestyle ideal of the Japanese people. In short, the god represents the Japanese people’s lifestyle and the essence of traditional culture.

The techniques of budo are battle techniques. But what you are really fighting is a matter of mind and spirit. You need to study what kind of fighting the bushi did and what kinds of spiritual feeling they had.

That is the god of a shrine. The warrior gods of mythology are Kashima, Katori, Sua, and Hachiman. This dojo belongs to the Meiji Shrine that is dedicated to the emperor who modernized Japan, and who won the wars between China and Japan, as well as Russia and Japan. The goal of budo is to think about the god’s martial art, lifestyle, and spiritual essence. For that you need to focus your mind and spirit. Then you use the martial arts techniques in modern society.

If you don’t pray to the gods, martial arts will just be fighting technique and just violence or bullying. Or you will have no fighting spirit and just be exercising. That’s why budo became recreational sports or “budo” sports. They are not going to raise national consciousness.

This is a big problem. Essentially, I think budo has to include prayers to the gods at a fundamental level. Having a shrine at a dojo is very important but this point is not explained. It should be clarified for the younger generation. I think they will understand the meaning and they will be encouraged.

When teaching budo to people from other countries we should also explain why the dojo has a shrine. If we don’t do that, I don’t think we’ll know why we are teaching budo.


I’d like to ask about some technical points. Today I observed your training. I saw you combine several elements in a step-by-step manner. But in most aikido dojos there’s a pattern where the teacher comes in, shows the technique, and asks students to do it. The students don’t understand the meaning and they just move. They end up sweating and thinking how good a beer would taste. They cannot see clearly what kinds of steps are needed or how they can improve.

For example, in sumo they practice “teppo,” “shiko,” and “butsukari.” They don’t use too much form or technical training; they do more basic training. In judo and karate practitioners do the same. Only aikido training repeats the technique while training. I think the way aikido trains is not organized.

Inaba Sensei: Teachers have their own ideas regarding that point. They teach according to their point of view. But generally, I think the meaning of budo has become fuzzy. In short, budo has lost its goal. That is to say, the larger view of the idea of a country and how the Japanese people should be has been lost. They don’t have a specific scheme; they do everything in a vague manner.

Even limiting the discussion to aikido, to define aiki merely as a technique is vague. That’s why many people say aiki is “love” or “harmony.” I don’t say that is bad, but if so, you lose the meaning of aiki’s martial aspect, and practicing techniques becomes less serious. The notion of how to live one’s life, to draw an example from bushido, is unclear too.

From the martial arts standpoint, the meaning of aiki techniques is unclear. How are you going to train, how are you going to learn, and how are you going to train your mind. Therefore. these points are extremely vague, and now anything is permissible. Basically, I think we should focus our thinking on what aiki is, what we should we do, what we are going to do, what kind of training we should have, etc.

In budo there is a belief that a person’s actions must match his words; also in life this belief exists. If somebody says that this is the way “do” should be, that person must put it into practice. Words without actions do not have power behind them and will not influence others.

If you say that the “do” of Japanese should be a certain way, it’s very important how you put that into practice. In Japan, the traditional budo spirit was destroyed after World War II. The value of fighting and the martial spirit were rejected because they were against peace. Fifty or sixty years have passed this way. For fifty years after World War II, the Japanese have not managed their own country in an independent way. That’s why people lack will power and an independent spirit. Japan cannot make a self-defense strategy. How are we going to develop these basic traits? We need to go back to the basis of martial arts. The meaning of budo is that each nation develops a spirit of independence. A budojo (martial arts dojo) teaches the martial arts spirit to people in a social context. If these dojo fulfill their role, the martial arts spirit will spread all over the nation. If that happens, I think the spirit will rise and society will be stable.


That’s so, even if ordinary training only repeats the form, you should not complain, and you need to have a goal and find some way to train yourself.

Inaba Sensei: Yes. In that case, how can we find out what to do? You have to seriously think about what the aikido you are doing is. In budo you have to have tension. That begins first by thinking about timing, as I said before. Humans have only one life, which is limited. But from there, we are also chasing eternity.

If you are not aware of this point, and do not care about timing, everything will be fuzzy and out of focus. If people do not care about their time, they will not care about other people’s time and will not keep their promises. When you think about life and time you will keep the right amount of tension in ordinary life; at the same time, at the dojo when you practice martial techniques that are related to life-and-death, you will develop a feeling of tension. This will be the basis of martial arts sensitivity, and dojo training and ordinary life will merge.

The phrase “time is money” is a foreign idea; it’s very American. But the idea that “time is life” is very important. This means, “I’m very young and I have a number of years to live.” Even if you think so, tomorrow you may die. You should have that type of tension and you should think, “My life is limited.” If you think your life is limited in anything you do now such as studying or aikido, you will ask yourself, “What is this, what is truth, is that important, and is this something I want to spend my valuable time on?” Then I think you can find what truth is. If you complain about others, it means that deep down you are dependent on them. If something doesn’t go well, you complain and put the blame on others.

I feel the process of aikido training is very difficult compared to other martial arts. For example, in sumo you will know if you are good or bad right away. In karate, if you dodge an attack but get hit, you will think you are not good enough yet. But in aikido, it’s really difficult to realize that point.

Inaba Sensei: That is also a problem. How can you measure an opponent’s power and your own technique and power? Here you have to measure these things with each technique you use. You need to understand, moment by moment. If you think hard about that, I can say that you’ll know your opponent in your pure mind and you will know yourself and you will improve. Also, if you look at aikido, which doesn’t have a long history from this point of view, you can say it is not a complete art. But if something is not enough, you can add something and you can fix it.

You have to study the attacks of other martial arts and use this for serious training because this will affect your way of thinking about the fight. Anyway, the point is how you are going to react in a fight. You have to question what a real battle is, what is useful at that time and train to deal with these things everyday. That’s the only way. Living is a continuous battle. In the battle of life you have to find your own way and you have to make your own technique for practicing your “do.” That’s why you study the martial techniques we have now and in the process you will also learn budo. If you learn the forms of the martial techniques we have now and this causes you to lose your independence and creativity, then your priorities are mixed up. The culture will not develop. Actually, when you are blazing your own trail you need to create new martial techniques–you need new methods. As you search for the meaning of budo, your ability to create techniques will be born. Therein lies the creativity of budo and bujutsu.

This is usually how the search for the way begins in daily practice. But to search for the way and try to put it into practice, you need to create new techniques. Thus there is a correlation between “do” and “jutsu”. The connection becomes deeper and will grow.

Translated by Osamu & Karen Sekiguchi

Inaba Sensei: We don’t have matches. That is one of Morihei Ueshiba’s ideas. One explanation for this is that in aikido we don’t want to have championships or choose a “number one.” More than striving to be “number one,” the emphasis is on self-development and reaching one’s full potential. That is one thought. But, on a deeper level, I don’t think the absence of non-competitive matches is really about not making a “number one.” The important point in the battle of life is what kind of game or what kind of fighting you can do.

There are no matches in aikido. How can we then set training goals?


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