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BOOK REVIEW

by James Loeser

Book:
Aikido - More than a Martial Art
author  Roger Taylor 


Roger Taylorís book, Aikido - More Than a Martial Art, is an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of work. It is the product of rigorous inquiry into the various aspects of Aikido and the unique development of the basic premises on which Aikido is predicated. It organizes an individual quest into the underlying principles of Aikido into a series of original discoveries. As most books on the topic rehash the original teachings of the Founder of Aikido, Aikido - More Than a Martial Art delves into the original teachings from a fresh and unique approach. Born out of numerous, in-depth debates about basic principles, the book categorizes insights and techniques into a highly structured compendium. Because the inquiry into the basic principles goes into depth, the book is intentionally repetitive on certain points. This can be likened to daily practice, and makes the reading very easy and instructive. Most important, however, the bookís expansive and original coverage of Aikido makes for a valuable and highly testable piece of work.

The book begins by providing a basis from which to approach Aikido. We learn that reason and intuition are self supporting and complementary and that it is essential that both be continually developed This first section exemplifies the thought provoking nature of the book. Because the views contained within are born out of the author's experiences and insights, he admits it is unlikely that everyone will agree with them and he does seem to suggest that each reader must discover for themselves what the basic principles of Aikido really are.

The author shares some interesting discoveries about the reality of Aikido practice. For example, because all attacks are unique it is essential that we learn how to develop our natural, 'non-martial', movements and responses so that they can be used protectively without conscious thought. In this way, we can work up a sense of security while accepting the continuously changing nature of reality. And this acceptance is a basic principle of honest Aikido training.

By covering important topics such as maintaining your center, good attitude, immediate response, and the moral issues of safe training, the book develops a sound basis on which to approach healthy Aikido training. By reiterating, "you get good at what you do," the author impresses upon the reader the significance of repetition, both of right movement and wrong movement. He recommends that the practitioner learn to slow down and do the movement right every time, lest he begin to pick up and maintain bad habits.

The author points out various potential emotional and social pitfalls of Aikido training, and he reminds the reader always to reflect on what they are learning. He also points out that while the theme of staying relaxed during Aikido movement is stressed on every level by almost all teachers, this relaxed state is not always easily achieved, and he provides some useful tips on how to cope with this, not the least of which is the wry, "remember not to hold your breath."

The inquiry into the basic principles of Aikido turns the authorís attention to the spirituality of Aikido. He questions the value of such considerations in the training of most students, and he finds descriptions of "Universal Ki" and achieving an understanding of "Universal Love" unhelpful. He draws attention to the fact that "Aikido is above all, a practical art for dealing with the real world - for making you aware of the here and now and perhaps helping you see the extraordinary in the ordinary."

The last part of the book includes insights into the techniques themselves. By setting the stage on how to practice effectively, the author advises the reader to have a clear picture in his mind of the movements to be made and, above all, the reasons for them. In this manner, the reader can see the application of the basic principles and put the pieces together to form fluid movement through slow and deliberate practice.

Before describing the techniques themselves, the author discusses features common to all techniques, such as body positioning and posture, atemi, ukemi, breathing. He also advises on such things as training partners, injury, and picking the right instructor. Although the descriptions of the techniques do not have accompanying illustrations, the text is heavily cross-referenced and incorporates the main points of previously discussed sections of the book.

Overall, this book is a concise (78 pages) compendium of original discoveries into the basic principles of Aikido. Aikido - More Than a Martial Art provides a rigorously logical basis on which to build a foundation for Aikido training. It offers suggestions on how the reader can put their own way of training and thinking to the test by adopting the same spirit of inquiry as the author. Because of its concentrated and cross-referenced structure it is a book that stands repeated study. Mr. Taylor's fluid style of writing and clear vocabulary (he also has twelve novels to his name) make reading both easy and enjoyable.

The book is available ONLY by mail order or credit card sale. Details are given on www.atlanticleisure.co.uk.

*****

© 2000, Aikido World, Inc.  All rights reserved


James Loeser has his M.S.from Northwestern University, in Biotechnology - Specializing in Medicinal Chemistry / Bioinformatics. 
Currently, James is a dental student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, practices Aikido, and is a board member of Aikido World, Inc.


Literary materials, film clips, and pictures are copyrighted by their respected authors and owners. Permission in writing to the owners must be made for any duplication, display, or reprint.

    
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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
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© 1978 C. Matrasko

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6/10/2001