Beyond being a self-defense, Aikido is maybe the only Art that has so many possibilities of applying its principles on a daily base.
Any human function and activity, from scuba diving to flying a fighter-jet and from horse riding to repairing a fence, can be done… in the Aikido way.
That is why any Aikido practitioner can, and should be, faster in learning, around anything that you might throw at him. There is no denying that an experienced Sensei is essential here, in order to direct the student in doing this, but once passed that point, you can practically extend your “on the tatami practice” into a… full time job.
And one of the directions that are most interesting to apply your skills on, is driving!

Man has created a number of machines. And in order to make our point here, we will divide them into two categories.
Machines that serve him and
Machines that extend his actions.
A coffee machine, a toaster, an elevator or a washing machine, are an example of “push button” serving machines. You push the button, you walk away, and you see the job done.
On the other hand, a bicycle, a computer, a cell phone or a car, are “extending machines”. In order for them to serve you, you must interact with them, “wear” them, and sometimes even become a part of them (and vise versa). Now each time we evolve an “extending machine” for the better, our interaction with them goes deeper and wider.
And it is our ability to extend through them that makes the difference (and where our Aikido training can apply!). Have you ever noticed how much faster a small kid adapts to these changes, with each new “toy” that hits the market?
That’s why also, on an emotional level, you will never say “I love my… elevator” but how many times have you heard the phrase
“I love my car”? I bet more than once.
From this point of view, it’s very interesting to look around you as if you have never done before, and seeing with a different eye all those machines that surround you.
You can practically re-discover them, in relation to you…

It’s a “Car Wars” out there
With the paraphrase “Car Wars” on its cover, the “4wheels” magazine (issue 111, December 1979) was, as always, more than prophetic for its time, with concerns about car antagonism, future conditions of driving and environmental problems.
Since then, cars improved, roads improved, regulations improved. The sad exception to the rule is that drivers did not improve.
They have probably even become worse, since “driver friendly” cars, are set up to have the feel of my… coffee machine!
But the main problem is elsewhere.
Almost everywhere in the world, the process of obtaining a driving license is done without any essential training. On a practical level, all you are taught is how to transport your car from place A to place B. And sadly, it is just like a well respected journalist once said on the matter: “nobody got ever killed while executing a parking maneuver”.
The main reason why so many people are killed on the roads today, has primarily to do with lack of sufficient training, before a person is put out on the streets to drive.
Poorly trained drivers transform their license to drive into license to kill. They are like ticking bombs that wait hidden for something to go wrong, and then go off, exposing all hidden weakness.
We sit comfortably surrounded by how many air-bags? While our entire driver’s training costs less than one of them!

With so much legal incompetence on the loose, it’s no wonder why driving rules have become so boring, and streets are built to be so “safe” they cause you to sleep on them. Most roads are a killjoy for any real driver and measures taken on them are oppressive and have the fantasy of a jelly-fish. On top of it, speed, the very essence of why you drive, is reduced to a proven stupid one, since in one of the best and safest roads to drive in the world (Germany) they are none! 
Of course there is still hope. You can become a… police car driver!

The question rises! What can one do?
Well, since it is a “Car Wars” out there, only one thing is left to do. Become a better “Jedi” driver through training.
Logically, one could start with additional driving lessons. Ideally, one can join a carting club (which is the best school for driving above anything else) There are as well many institutions (by car companies, car magazines, private clubs etc.) that will put you on a track and by the side of an experienced race driver…
Of course “logically” and “ideally” rarely or never go from theory to practice.
But there is one thing that will come your way, sooner or later, that can make a difference, if you put yourself to the task.
It is inevitable that at one point you’ll be called to buy a car, or renew your old one. And this is your chance to put the right order of priorities into your choice.
Let me point out strongly, that there is no car that can act as a “teacher” and make you a better driver. But consider the following:
A car with the right characteristics can be your training ground, since (inevitably, again) it is there, in your car, where you make most of your mileage!
Let me put it also the other way round. There are cars (or choices into a car) that make it difficult, or even impossible, for you to improve your skills.

In any Martial Art, the right choice of a sword is crucial.
And there is no “best” sword, since it must fit your “measurements” (that are a list too long, to fit here)
Something equivalent happens with cars.
It is said that cars, as they are today, are above anything else the most complex and complicated product ever made!
And this is one more reason that you must know how to…

…choose your ride
All you need is a car that “loves to be driven” and seeks an owner with passion!
And since John Carpenter’s “Christine” is not available at the moment, let’s see what we can find…

In pointing out what would constitute a good car, and why, we could literally open a parenthesis here at the size of… Oklahoma, and still not be done with. But a few (well put?) tips, could do the job as well, and have more chance of being followed.

Manual Transmission: …is an exception to the rule in the States. But automatic transmission is terrible to drive, if you want to have any control of your car. To explain this technically is… boring, so let’s make it fun…

Let us suppose that you buy or rent a big building for a large business.
The basement can serve as garage and storing of products.
Ground level could be reception and accordingly offices.
And floor by floor, you could separate different departments, reaching to the top, where no doubt, we have the chairman’s office along with the boardroom.
Everything interacts and nothing mixes, and you use elevators in order to move up and down, going to the floor level you need to be.
Now just imagine having this entire business, on one big ground floor building, that has no floors! Chaos!
Something equivalent is happening between Manual and Automatic Transmission (where the Manual is our multilevel building).
If you want to control the power of your engine, you will have to choose a Manual Transmission, which is allowing this in the best way. It is said that Semi-Automatic Transmissions (the ones where you shift gears with pedals that are located on the steering wheel) are supposed to be even better.
Well are they maybe better just because you are still shifting manually?

Rear Wheel Drive: It is a simple principal of basic physics.
Anything that can be pushed shouldn’t be dragged.
Yet, one by one, the entire car industry of Europe… betrayed car connoisseurs, by switching affordable cars into front wheel drives, which have floated the entire continent. Only few stood their ground! By now, and with the right support of misleading adds, most people need to be explained, why this is… upside down.

You will never see a bicycle or a heavy duty load truck, or a true sports car that is chosen from the top of the list, which is not a rear wheel drive. It is un-natural! Just look at the only animal that can exceed the 100km per hour barrier. Half of the animal is all… back legs. Even 4wheel drive cars (from the top of the list, please) give priority of power to their rear axle first.       
Front wheel drive is good when it is where it belongs, as an exception to the rule, and not the other way round.
Be my guest and… torture this choice as much, and as deep, as you like. You will come up with the same conclusion.

Personally, rear wheel drive is a school that I refuge to graduate from, and even if I wanted to, my mileage and… addiction doesn’t permit it. Shall I make it a poem? The superior feeling to control “overtaking yourself” and be content with it, is beyond description.

Traction Control: Practicing with your car, means that you must know its limitations and gradually push above them. The idea is for you to remain in control, while the car has past that point. So, you are called to “bring it back” remaining calm all that time.
No need to say (but I will) that this should be done on an empty and safe terrain, please.
Traction control denies you to “go there” above limits. And this can be a lifesaver for, going-to-work drives, but it is a… disaster if you want to practice.
Make sure that you can de-activate traction control manually on your (will be) car and make double sure that it doesn’t go back on automatically (!) just because you decided to stay for another round yet, of your 360 turn (I give you a blink of an eye here!)

Let’s close this with our… Martial punch line.
The death toll, the crippled and the wounded by car accidents, are so high in numbers word wide, they can match a big fat war going on. It is a proven fact (and not just statistics) that more than 95% of those accidents, are caused by human error!
So, is there anyone who thinks that “car issues” are out of place here?

*Carman is just a name for a concept that could constitute the ideal driver. He could be the “hero” (so to speak) of any person (male or female) that desires to be a better driver than yesterday, and loves to drive into far away and undiscovered, for him, new places.

September 8, 2007