Traditional Japanese Martial Arts for Adults
Student Question: Sensei, I frequently visit other Aikido schools when I’m traveling on business and I often notice significant differences in the way other schools execute techniques compared to us. I even notice some variations between instructors at our Aikido school. What accounts for these differences? Isn’t there a right way and a wrong way to do a technique, like, say “Irimi-nage”? Which is the right way?
Q & A with Harris Sensei:
Technique Differences between Schools
Harris Sensei's Answer: This question brings to mind a student I once had. He left after eight or nine months of training at our Dojo, sending us a letter in which he stated he only wanted to learn “Classical Aikido” and not the “different” or “variations of” Aikido that our instructors often brought back after attending Aikido workshops or seminars, and tried to pass on what they had learned to the students.
The short answer to this question is - there is no right way or wrong way to execute a technique. O-Sensei himself, evolved over his years of teaching Aikido, as he refined his techniques. O-Sensei’s students eventually went out on their own, and had their own concepts of what Aikido should be and developed their respective styles of Aikido, so that today, we have the different Aikido styles - Aikikai, Yoshinkan, Ki, Tomiki, etc.
If you would have the opportunity to observe the different styles as they execute the same technique, you will see that they are all very similar. The attack and defensive technique is almost the same. The differences are primarily in how you arrive between point A (the attack, and point B (the defensive technique). For instance, Aikikai style is very circular in movements, while Yoshinkan style is more angular in how they move. Some styles even incorporate a short “hop” into executing a technique.
Every Aikido instructor has given thought to the various techniques and how they are executed within the framework of their respective style. From this, he or she has usually developed their own particular style of what they think works best, and which they try to pass on to their students. Any student of Aikido, who gives some thought to a particular technique, can usually think of several different ways that a technique can be executed. We learn from each other as instructors execute a technique a bit differently than others.
So, a student of Aikido should always keep an open mind and approach any differences or variations they encounter, as a learning experience to expand their knowledge and understanding of Aikido.