by Alex Tighe
3rd Kyu

There is a tiny thumbnail picture on my laptop desktop of O’Sensei. One that I cut out and saved from a post on our dojo WhatsApp group.

O’Sensei’s words talk of the opportunity of a foe and an attack, being the chance to seemingly become one with the moment through blending with the sword, becoming the sword and moving into space, the only space you are supposed to occupy.

In my mind, I imagine a figure pouring himself into the openings of an attack, instantly, and acting without curation or hesitation. Truly one with what is, and relishing the chance to express what is, through movement and combat. This might be a sliver of a piece of what it means to truly master something. That the One would crack its door for you to blend with it, whilst you practice? No matter who is in front of you.

No matter who.

This got me thinking about my Aikido. What would the perfect expression of this art, this practice look like flowing through me as it did through O’Sensei? Not the same, not by a long shot! I’m 6 feet tall, genetically Celt, have a Western mind and worldview, starting the journey in my 40s and practice only twice a week. But like an acorn containing the entirety of a mighty oak tree, I believe there is Aikido in me that has the potential to reach the levels of awareness and experience O’Sensei is describing. Unique to me. I’m picturing Noro Sensei and Chiba Sensei. Both masters, but varying and unique expressions. If only we have the time, the conditions and the good fortune.

How to let it out? How to get a glimpse of the time I have left? I have a few ideas thanks to some who have come before me.


My Aikido needs to be planted. Find a perfect spot to put the acorn in the soil, it will not thrive otherwise. The dojo should be a nourishing, living, environment that gives an authentic Aikido expression the best chance of sprouting. Honesty, integrity, discipline, energy and, belief are all things I will need to bring, but these will not flourish unless the dojo values them and encourages them. Apples don’t grow on pear trees after all.


My Aikido needs to be tended, fed and watered by expert attention… but just the right amount. Too much might smother the fledgling Aikido, and begin to prune it before it has branches and leaves. Too little and it might be stunted or starve. I believe my Aikido will progress if it is shown the way and then it is allowed to flow, and supported to flow in that direction. Finding the right Sensei and Senpai must be essential here, and cultivating these relationships properly opens the doors for me and my Aikido to walk through. But I have to walk through them. If I allow it to flow, if I get out of the way, I believe my Aikido will progress. In this way, I have found, that the relationship with the self is key. How do we judge ourselves? How do we talk to ourselves? How are we tending to and paying attention to ourselves? Too much? Too little? Too harsh? Too lenient? This needs to be just right.


My Aikido needs to be tested and tempered. A young tree could easily be trodden down, nibbled on and overwhelmed by any number of things. So, as well as giving it everything it needs to thrive, the appropriate level of resistance and heat must be in place, encouraging resilience and anti-fragility. Getting stronger amongst adversity. This might come in the form of feedback that doesn’t feel good, a technique flowing and blending with one partner but not the next, coming to Keiko regardless of what your mind is telling you, failing again and again and again and getting back off the mat to try again. No pressure, no diamond. A blade is strengthened by being battered and folded, heated and cooled. But a perfect blade is the result of an artisan, a master craftsman controlling the fire and the hammer, just so.


Practice, practice, practice. Practice makes progress. Practice makes permanent. Practice does not make perfect. As a physical expression of this internal tempering, we have to practice so that our inner and outer selves have the opportunity to blend and synchronise, aligning to create the conditions for an authentic expression. Giving it as many opportunities as possible to manifest.

Final Thoughts

As my Aikido strengthens, and becomes both supple and robust, subtle and expressive, it will need less care and protection (I hope) and may even grow to support other saplings in the early stages of their journeys. The oldest Oak, once existed in the potential of a tiny acorn, how lucky it was to be given the opportunity to express itself so fully. How lucky are we to have that opportunity, to have this door opened to us, through the art of Aikido? Luckier still to share the journey with others.

I will count myself lucky if I ever begin to feel my authentic Aikido flowing through me in Keiko. Even a hint of what is waiting for me, as me, in potential. Perhaps initially in sparks, then maybe in flashes. Letting me know I’m on the right track. My track. My Aikido