Published on ADDitudeMag.com

Uke and Nage

Got dojo? Aikido teaches self-control, concentration and calm in the face of frustration. Sound like anything you could use?

by Bill Mehlman


Unlike many of the martial arts, which struggle to trace their roots back to an itinerant monk who got the idea from watching a lizard fight a crane, aikido has an unquestioned provenance. The form was developed in the early 1930s by Morihei Ueshiba, known to students as "O-sensei," the Great Teacher. Regarding the nature of the art, he said, "To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace." Which isn't to say that that those skilled in the art can't kick ass (see Seagal, Steven, who was a seventh-dan black belt and teacher — in Japan — before going Hollywood).

Like many of the martial arts, aikido depends upon inner focus, self-control and cultivation of one's ki (in Chinese, chi or qi), which translates roughly as one's life force. Any of this sound familiar? If I had little children, ADHDans or not, they'd be taking classes in aikido. It's not a panacea, but its principles and practices seem to mesh perfectly with the needs of a child who has issues with impulse control and concentration.

In a properly run dojo, respect and calm are taught before the actual physical training. I've seen a shihan (master, also referred to as a sifu or sensei) have young students help sweep the mats or check the locker area for trash. There is no subservience or exploitation implied in this; students do it to demonstrate respect and to maintain a clean and orderly facility. Don't get me wrong. There's no life-and-death tooth-gritting here. Aikido is one of the most cooperative, communal enterprises I've ever seen.

Beginning akidokata may find themselves working with senior students. Aikido students practice in pairs, alternating between the roles of uke and nage, which are, in the simplest terms, the attacker and the attacked, a system that seems to minimize the overly-aggressive tendencies cultivated by some other forms. The cornerstone of learning the art is to learn to be calm at all times, and even calmer when attacked. Again, ADHD or no, couldn't all of us profit from learning to deal with a stressful situation by relaxing and examining it rather than getting frantic and unproductive?.

I would be remiss, not to say disrespectful, not to mention the dojo at which I attempted (and, with more determination, could have continued) to learn aikido. The New York Aikikai is a non-profit organization serving as the headquarters of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF). The guiding spirit is Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, one of the most revered teachers in the world, and chairman of the board of the USAF. If you wish to see the personification of this wonderful art, he's the man. Go to YouTube and watch this. And if you like what you see and hear, it would probably be an excellent idea to find a dojo through the USAF, rather than go to the one with the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages.


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Source: Uke and Nage