Yoshimitsu Aiki-Dojo

…was named after Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1047-1127) a Samurai warrior who passed down in history as the “inventor” of Aiki-jutsu (Aiki-jutsu is, so to speak, the forefather of Aiki-do)
Records show that Yoshimitsu practiced operations on dead bodies, in order to understand human anatomy and thus improve his Martial Arts' techniques.
The deep desire of having “my own place to practice” took the shape of Yoshimitsu Aiki-Dojo in the fall of 1989.
Day in day out we practice ever since, and from very early on, we realized where our choices would take us, as a dojo.

Our dojo is, and likes to remain: Independent, from organizations, associations, foundations etc. (we like to sail our own boat) Private, in the way it functions and makes admissions (we consider our dojo as our home)
And Non-profitable, in a sense that we mean business, but we are no business! (we pay bills like the next man)

Practicing Aikido means for us to practice all, without exception, Aikido techniques. Aiki-taijutsu, Aiki-ken, Aiki-jo (plus Iai)
But in a circular, tight, program. That is, without allowing students to make “choices” over their training.

Our advanced students are not only well trained to execute Aikido techniques. But they are also always present, acting as front line volunteers, whenever problems, of any kind, appear. All you need is to shout “all hands on deck!”  
In that spirit, students learn from early on, to undertake duties and responsibilities, and not just hit a lesson and then take off.

If all the above disciplines bring to your mind the phrase “old school” then you’re not far from it.
It comes difficult to explain “who we are” because we probably like to keep low.
“Who we are not” suits us better!

Since day one, we never made advertisement of any kind, anywhere, and there is no sign at our door either.
We are not against any method of running a dojo, we simply have made our choice of how to run ours.
Our choice of silence, and solitude, has been mistaken by many, for too long, thinking that we do not exist.
But we are here!
And we would like, to make our silence a bit…louder!
Have you ever heard the Zen riddle “the sound of clapping with one hand”?

I use the term “we” and “our” because my students have earned it over the years, and have become decision makers about the dojo’s direction. I value and hear out their thinking.

Please let me put it also in another way, a more personal one.
When I was a young boy I was spending time, together with friends, discussing and dreaming that maybe someday we would find a “can you imagine” Martial Arts school that would be “like this” and would operated “like that” and everything would be “fair and square” there.
Guess what!
This dream of mine, was the only thing I did carry with me, from these early days of my life. I never gave up on it and I certainly did not forget about it, when it was time to open and run my own dojo!


Spartan spirit

Once upon a time in ancient Greece (but this is far from being a fairytale) one of its cities was under attack, suffering great loss. There was nothing left for them to do, but ask help from other cities, including the, famous for their warriors, Sparta.
Sparta replied that they would send help, so everybody was placing high hopes on that particular reinforcement to arrive.
Not much later, one man fully armed, stood in front of the gates of the city walls demanding to enter, claiming that he was the help that Sparta had sent.
Some thought, that this was some kind of a joke.
But those who were familiar with the ways and customs of the Spartans, knew that they were stone serious, and they opened the gates to let the lone warrior in.

Can you just stop reading and reflect on this for a moment? Can you imagine the sight of this?
Beside the fact that Sparta was the only city without walls to defend it (they claimed that the breasts of their men were good enough walls) spartans were living a life that has no comparison.
They would sleep on straw beds from king to warrior without exception, would bath everyday with cold water (even in the winter), they were eating a terribly poor combination of soups all their lives, they were considering silence a primery philosophical code, they would never ever part their short swords, they would train relentlessly (all of them, men, woman and children), when among other Greeks, would always dive first in battle and they were continuously mocking at the face of death.

But above these few examples of their habits, they had, what can be only described as a “Spartan spirit”
Even today, in modern Greece, the word “spartiatika” (as Spartans do) means to be simple, economic, ergonomic, but very powerful, sharp-minded and effective.
Spartans were unique in every way, harsh on their enemies, but first harsh on themselves. That is why when their time of rule was over, their decline was very short.
If anyone would rise the question “who were the Samurai of the West” Spartans could fill the term, no sweat.

Any Martial Art school, prior of having a roof and four walls, prior of having showers and tatamis and advertisement and support and money and students and a rank to show…prior of everything, must have, even a bit, of “Spartan Spirit”. Everything else can be made or can be achieved. But the cornerstone of a Dojo will always lie on its attitude.

Now where was I? Oh yes, I was telling the story of the “army of one". What were they thinking by sending one man? Probably, that this one well trained man could make a difference.
But still, can you imagine the sight of this?
Please do!


Absolute perfect

Question: How can someone, anyone, put down on paper high meanings for others to understand?
Answer: He simply cannot!

High meanings are not to be understood by reading, but they are to be conquered and then realized.
No wonder, that Japanese “philosophy” is full of koan, anecdotes and stories, which are supposed to take you…nowhere.
But remember, that this short of incomprehensive writing is closer to the truth than we will ever know.
Still people from all walks of education try to “get it” and…continue their reading.

Fortunately, from time to time some people have achieved the impossible. They have created “material” masterpieces that are actually proving that the term “absolute perfect” is not just a term.
It could be a car, a pair of sunglasses, a piano, a sailboat, a pen…you name it. “Things” that are unsurpassed, have outlived their inventors/creators, are with us fully functional, and with tiny variations, simply refuse to die!

So, a good start in understanding “high meanings” is to search for them in simple things, which have a…material form.
Let’s not forget, that before someone comes forward with a creation or invention, it was an idea in his mind.

“Absolute perfect” is a circle that is content as it is.
You can not add something to it,
neither can you extract anything from it.

And whatever this “absolute perfect” is,
to compare it, measure it, or analyze it,
puts even more distance between you and it.
In fact, doing any of the above, can bring you the “numbers” that you’re after,
plus a terrible gut feeling that something has just escaped you, no matter the logic of the numbers.

Please remember, that perfection fits so well into any surroundings, it becomes invisible.
But we become fully aware of it from time to time, by its sudden absence, or loss!

                                                                                     “Small things make perfection
                                                                     but perfection isn’t a small thing”

                                                                                                                        Fredrick H. Royce
(Co-founder of Rolls Royce)


An Art from the past, ahead of us

Aikido is a unique Art in every way. It is said, to be also the most difficult of all Arts!
It seems that it slips away from us, that it remains out of reach, always one step ahead of us.
Among those who practice it, only few get to master it.

It took generations of well trained warriors and Masters, with real battlefield experience, to put this Art together in one piece, as we have it today!
So, when you take it up to learn it, you cannot do it otherwise than following a very old path.
And the only shortcut you can take on that path, is the one that leads to failure!

So, you need a compass, a guide, a map for the road, to make the journey.

Aikido is usually (and quite correctly) practiced:
By the measures of a Sensei
By the measures of the need to learn
By the measures of accumulating ability
By the measures of rank requirements
And many more that could make a long list.

All those measures are good, and they will take you a bit further on the path you choose, but none is as good as one!
To practice by the measures of the Art itself.
This rule, this measure, will endure through times, and will never fail you!

Aikido is a unique Art in every way. And we are usually finding ways to make it difficult!