AN INTRODUCTION TO AIKI-JUJUTSU AND MY BOOK
Aiki-jujutsu is a traditional Japanese combative discipline that has the potential to transform its participants. This transformation takes place of course in the realm of one's newly developed skills of self-protection, but it is also possible to experience profound spiritual realizations. I was once asked by a jujutsu instructor why I had "tacked on" this spiritual emphasis to what were arts of combat, and if I had not added this dimension to the arts that I was teaching, why was this dimension there to begin with? Over the passing years, I have reflected on that question many times. One of the issues that we have to deal with throughout our lives is the certainty of our own demise. Many of us have tried to put it out of our consciousness, with the thought returning only occasionally--perhaps late at night while lying awake, with no activities to distract us from the inevitable outcome of life. It is a fear that never leaves. Resolving this fear is vital for any person wishing to be at peace. In fact, it is this fear which has prompted religions and philosophies throughout history, for by encountering this ultimate fear, we in turn face other anxieties as well. We are then forced to consider what lies beyond our limited physical form and discover our spiritual natures. We have come to see these subjects, however, as being solely the domain of mystics and priests. At least, many of us find it strange to discover them outside the sphere of philosophy . . . especially in a martial discipline. Still, what better place to encounter one's mortality than in a combative art? Traditional martial arts involve, ultimately, the potential death of one or both participants. This is not facing death in the abstract--sitting alone with one's eyes closed, as in certain forms of meditation--but rather in the face of a rapidly approaching fist or weapon. In fact, if one does not come to grips with the true makeup of the human spirit, while at the very least, considering the issue of dying, it is impossible to make real progress in aiki-jujutsu. Of course, one can cultivate technical skill and appear formidable within the relatively safe confines of the dojo, or "training hall." However, when faced with a violent and potentially life-threatening attack, even in the dojo (but especially in daily life), few of us have the mental constitution to handle such an assault. We will "freeze" unless the mind has also been deliberately trained to deal with violence and the reality of human mortality. This mental training is essential for combative effectiveness, and it is not an issue that will simply "take care of itself " by engaging in hard physical practice, despite the fact that some martial arts teachers have tried to convince of the public of just that myth. Beyond combative efficiency, aiki-jujutsu gives us the opportunity to see ourselves clearly and to face our fears in a way that few people in society experience. These are not issues that have been "tacked on" to the Japanese martial arts, but are inescapable aspects that lie at the very heart of these disciplines. Nonetheless, one still needs a proper understanding of aiki-jujutsu to grasp the art. Misguided effort will not unlock the mysteries of aiki-jujutsu; and therefore, authentic instruction is vital. This book is an introduction to a dynamic and subtle martial discipline. The first half of "Unlocking the Secrets of Aiki-jujutsu" is an overview of aiki-jujutsu in general, while the second portion illustrates the techniques of Saigo Ryu, since this is the system of aiki-jujutsu with which I am most familiar. With the increasing popularity of aikido, a martial way that is derived from aiki-jujutsu, aiki-jujutsu itself is being drawn into the limelight. However, aiki-jujutsu training was not readily available to the public for most of its history, and this situation has only recently begun to change. Thus, reliable information about the art is limited, but the public's interest in this discipline is growing. Clearly, any little-known art that has managed to capture the attention of the public is in danger of being distorted and/or misunderstood. This has, unfortunately, already started in the case of aiki-jujutsu . . . before it has even had a chance to establish its legitimate principles. Hence, the need for a comprehensive, English-language introduction to the art is vital, and I have written my book for this reason, and because a number of senior Japanese and Western martial arts teachers have requested such a book. Aiki-jujutsu's essence is contained in its name. Ai means "to meet," or alternately, "harmony" and "union." Ki describes the vital life energy that animates all living things as well as all of Nature. Ju can mean "gentle," but in this context it is more readily translated as "yielding," "flexible," or "non-resistant," while jutsu indicates an "art." Thus, in aiki-jujutsu, one discovers an art with which to master conflict by means of harmonizing with the life energy that animates the opponent and pervades Nature. Through this all-embracing state of harmony, then, it is possible to overcome an opponent, or even to face the "tests" life sends our way, by arriving at a state of non-resistance. Students learn to manifest harmony by studying rigorous, effective self-defense techniques such as throws, pinning methods, grappling, strangle holds, and the use of Japanese weapons. These pragmatic combat arts are based on the state of "aiki," and they are depicted in my book. This state, however, is not passive but actually extremely dynamic. For example, imagine trying to push a ping-pong ball under the water with one finger. The ball will seem to yield to the force of the finger, only to whirl away and pop up out of the water again and again. Its unsinkable quality comes from non-resistance, not passivity. Through the study of genuine aiki-jujutsu we can become like this floating ball, responding quickly and flexibly to life's changes, yet never being overwhelmed by them.