What is Aikido Kokikai?

Aikido Kokikai is a way to develop greater inner peace, unify your mind and body, help you to be more calm and relaxed, realize your full potential, and enjoy life to the fullest. It just happens to be disguised as a martial art.

Several years ago, a co-worker asked me why I kept practicing Aikido, since I already had a black belt. I was at first struck somewhat dumb by the question. I told her (it seemed so obvious) that even though I had a black belt, I could easily spend the rest of my life getting better at Aikido. But in retrospect, that's not really the reason I keep practicing. I keep practicing because Aikido feels so good. And I've yet to discover anything else that gives me this wonderfully strange yet totally natural feeling.

So what exactly is this thing called Aikido? Okay, it is a martial art. The most effective martial art in the world, I believe. Because it does not rely on speed, or strength, or youth, or athleticism, or size, or weight for its success. It relies on your own internal mind/body state. And it relies on the fact that, when someone attacks another human being, that attacker has broken some unwritten universal law, and has thereby made himself vulnerable.

This site is devoted to teaching you about that internal mind/body state: Calm and relaxed, with correct posture and a positive mind. These are areas that you can improve on your whole life. The stronger your mind/body state, the less vulnerable you are to attack, be it physical, verbal, or anything else.

What may be totally new to you is that part about the attacker being vulnerable. It usually seems that the person being attacked is the vulnerable one. But the truth of the matter is, when someone attacks you, they commit their body to that attack - at least for an instant. And if, at that instant, you don't behave as expected - for example, if you move out of the way - that attacker will momentarily lose both physical and mental balance.

It would be like standing in a room and casually leaning against a wall, only to find that what you thought was a wall was only the thinnest of tissue paper. Even though your initial action of leaning was not violent, the aftermath (falling through the tissue-paper wall) would be. In a similar way, Aikido robs attackers of what looked like an easy target, and thereby makes them lose balance.

But Aikido Kokikai takes this idea even further. Suppose somebody else was standing next to that tissue paper wall. And just as they leaned against it and began to lose balance, you gave him a push in the same direction they were falling. How hard would it be to push that person? Pretty easy, right? Well, that's exactly how Aikido works. We first get the attacker to lose balance. Then we keep him off-balance, and move him where we would like him to go.

This is why you don't need to be big or strong or young or athletic to do Aikido. You make attackers feel light by taking away their balance, while you maintain your own strong mind/body state.

That's what makes Aikido an exceptional form of self-defense. But here is what, in my mind, is the most wonderful and fascinating fact about Aikido practice: It is constantly giving you feedback on your mind/body state. If you're more relaxed, or have a better sense of one-point, or you feel more positive, or have better posture, your techniques are easier and more effective. It's really an incredible feeling. But if you're tense, or upset, or bent over awkwardly, your technique becomes more difficult or impossible. In Aikido, you're constantly being rewarded and punished based on the quality of your mind/body state. As a result, you're constantly being nudged toward improvement.

So what's with the Kokikai? The Kokikai school of Aikido was founded by Sensei Shuji Maruyama, my teacher, and the one man I have met in my life who I feel is truly deserving of the title "genius". Maruyama Sensei studied with the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, and with Koichi Tohei.

Around 1966, Maruyama Sensei came to the United States to teach Aikido. Much to his surprise, many of the Aikido techniques he had learned didn't work too well against big American men who weren't afraid to resist this 5' 7", 135-pound man. (In Sensei's words, "When I first came to America, everyone looked like giants. Now, they look like ants.") This didn't sit well with him, so he worked hard to figure out what would make his technique strong.

I am not the best person to tell the story of Maruyama's years of experimentation and growth. But I can speak on the results. Maruyama Sensei holds with the softest touch imaginable, he moves with exquisite effortlessness, and he can throw with devastating power - or great gentleness.

Maruyama Sensei is truly an inspiration. But that fact alone would not be enough of a reason to practice Aikido Kokikai if he did not have many outstanding students. But along with being a great practitioner, Maruyama is a great teacher. He has been incredibly generous with his ideas, so they have freely filtered down to his many students - and from those students, to other students who have never even seen Sensei throw. I once heard the late Sensei Rod Kobayashi (another of Tohei Sensei's students) say, "I want to make my students better than me." Maruyama Sensei seems to be following this course, making it easier for us to become great like him - not just at Aikido, but at whatever is important to us in our lives.