How many secrets do you keep inside?
How many sins do you have to hide?
The haunting masses have blackened the sun
You’ll pay for everything you’ve done, one by one

Poisonous Shadows – Megadeth

What is aikido? What is our goal in the keiko? I guess there are as many answers as there are practitioners of the art. I wrote some time ago about my ideas of tanto dori. I would like to have a tanto dori which is consistent with what I do in the rest of the practice we do in aikido.

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At Jorma’s seminar in Heggedal March 2016. Photo by Sigurd Rage.

Every day I arrive at the dojo I pass a place where somebody has spray painted on a low wall in Swedish: “Först maten, sen moralen” – “First the food, then the morality”. I find it a sad reminder of how the world around us works. Nothing is worth dying for. This is the reason why it has ever been possible for anybody to run a concentration camp. This is why people are going to work producing weapons of mass destruction which they know will be sold to people who will use them to kill lots and lots of people.

We are more concerned about filling our own bellies, and of the well being of ourselves and our family, than the consequences of the work we are doing. I find this terrifying and horrible. It starts with simple things. Like at work we have a rule: When we are finished with the day, we leave the locker unlocked, with the key in the lock, so that somebody from the opposite shift can use it. Still, there are no lockers with keys in them. They are either locked or open without keys. Everybody has taken the key home with them. We are not evil, we are just human.

So this is something we have to accept to live in the world outside the dojo, but I am trying my very best to keep this out of my keiko. My survival is not the final goal. The principles I believe in is more important for me than having a technique which would work on a resisting partner. Any person from the streets can resist a technique, so it should not be a sign of seniority to be able to stop the partner (because anybody can do that). Sure there are leverage based principles based on destruction and fear of damage. However, this falls outside the realm of what I have chosen to focus on. Actually it is the poison I am trying to escape, from the world outside.

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At Jorma’s seminar in Heggedal March 2016. Photo by Sigurd Rage.

How do we go about to end up with the tanto when we do tanto dori? How do we practice with our partner when we do tanto dori? Should it simulate an attack by an enemy in a war, or should we practice together like we normally do and research the principles of aiki from both the uke side and the tori side? I don’t know what is right or wrong, but I know where my interest lie.

Prying the tanto out of my partner’s hand using leverage and joint locks is a practice I consider compromised by the world we live in. There are so much violence, selfish thoughts and ego around us outside that it is so easy to bring it into our clean place, the dojo. I am not saying that it is easy, but I try to find a way for uke to GIVE the knife, by aiki, not by force.

The inspiration for this actually came from a teacher saying that a specific form is impossible to do because we will not get rid of the grab of the partner. I firmly believe that nothing is impossible, so I started researching how to go about to give the partner the feeling that he/she should let go of the hand. Most people will at least let go before they fall at the end of the throw, so I know it is possible. I discussed this earlier in a previous post. The natural next step is to apply this to the tanto. The challenge is greater now, as we have no possibility to move the parts the partner are holding on to, in contrary to if he/she is holding our wrist. And we have no way to sense the grab the way we could when the partner were holding on to our body. Still, the very same principles are valid.

When aiki hits, the eyes are expanded, the brain stops working, the spine arches backwards, the shoulders tilt apart, and hopefully, the fingers will open slightly. Not much, but enough to gently slide the tanto out without causing conflict in the partner. If all goes as I intend the partner’s arms are separated so the partner can neither take the knife in the opposite arm to attack, neither can he accidentally cut himself/herself. Aiki protects both uke and tori. I can sit around a table playing with this effect using an empty water bottle, or in the car using the casing of glasses, or at work playing with how the end of the pen affects my other hand.

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Jorma’s seminar in Heggedal. Photo by Sigurd Rage.

Of course I can’t really do it. However, for me that is not that important. I have no exam, no deadline, I can continue working on it for as long as I want. By doing so I feel that I am cleaning myself from the part inside there which causes me to despise myself. The dark side of me. I discovered very recently that when I see the news from the world, and hear about horrible things which has happened (which is happening all the time), I don’t hate the guys doing it. I hate myself, more, and more and more, because the same things exists inside of me. I am just like them, only it is hidden inside my darkness. We are all human. There are no enemies except ourselves. Hopefully this knowledge will help me to ultimately find a way to accept myself, and maybe even love myself? Who knows what the future will bring?

Enjoy your keiko. Aiki makes people happy!