(This post was written by Aaron Ward Sensei, chief instructor at Vermont Aikido.)
There are things that, after years of training in Aikido, I see in a different light; things that in the past I may have overlooked entirely. These may be something as straightforward as the running of a seminar. Without a doubt, this year’s Santa Cruz seminar was one of the best organized and executed seminars that I have had the good fortune to attend. That in itself was a great accomplishment for the Santa Cruz dojo, but it’s not what I want to write about. What I would like to write about is the concept of giri, which loosely translates to “duty,” “responsibility” and “obligation.” For all too many people in the West, terms like duty, responsibility and obligation mean only one thing: a burden that has to be grudgingly undertaken. Something that we have to endure.
The value of giri is not what we have to do, but what we get to do or are allowed to do. The realization that every task reflects on you, your sensei, and your dojo. Knowing that a job is only done well if it is done with the proper spirit. My observation of the 2014 Santa Cruz seminar showed a dojo with members that live the reality of giri, undergoing their tasks in a wholehearted and joyous manner.
O-Sensei said, “Always practice the art of peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.” The truest form of Aikido is based in giri. A great deal of credit has to be given to the students of Aikido Santa Cruz, but my experience is that giri flows downhill: the people who have the deepest understanding of giri get this understanding from their sensei. Just as a student’s good basics can be attributed to their sensei, so can their understanding of giri. So Linda Holiday Sensei deserves a great deal of credit for the success of the seminar along with her students. Their giri led to a seminar that has left a lasting impression on me, not just as a person but the way I practice and study Aikido.