Ichi-go Ichi-e

One of the most succinct answers to the question of why study Aikido (or any Budo for that matter) can be paraphrased as follows: To learn about tradition and to improve ourselves. (I have to admit that I cannot remember where I read this quote or who originally wrote it). One of the ideas that we hear about as part of training in Aikido and learning the tradition of Budo is that of Ichi-go Ichi-e–often translated literally as “one time, one meeting”. This saying is typically viewed as an admonition to cherish whatever meeting one is involved in. However, this idea can also be applied to our training where it has the sense of only having one opportunity and of focusing all of one’s energy and effort into the moment.

In my “day job” working with older adults, I have had an opportunity to think about this saying a great deal: We often lead our lives as if we have an endless number of opportunities to be with friends and family, and an endless number of moments. However, the number of moments in our life and the number of opportunities to be with friends and family is actually finite. Our mind can also lead us into believing that the moments that make up our life are similar; we lose sight of the fact that each moment of our lives is unique and never to be repeated in exactly the same way.

Applying this idea to our practice can add depth to our training: Each foundational movement (Kihon Dosa) practiced at the beginning of class is not one of ten, it is one and unique. Something to focus on fully in that moment. Often when practicing with a bokken, we move as if we are thinking about the next movement in the kata; not fully committing to the present cut either mentally or physically. It feels differently, and one’s partner often reacts differently, when we fully commit to each cut as something that is unique and not part of a series of movements.

To give credit where credit is due: These ideas are not new or original: I was first exposed to the idea of Ichi-go Ichi-e in an article by Kimeda Sensei and I have heard Mustard sensei express it as well. However, being exposed to this idea and understanding it as a concept is one thing; actually applying this idea to our training and outside the dojo is something else. Reflecting on these ideas and seeing their relevance to our training and to our everyday lives enriches our experience and relationships. It may also provide a partial answer to the question of “why study Aikido?”

Hans de Groot (Chief Instructor AYO)

This post is part of a series. For more insights into a variety of Aikido-related topics, please visit the other Aikido Yoshinkai Canada websites:

AYC Durham

AYC Hamilton

AYC Oakville

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