(This post was written by a senior student at Vermont Aikido.)
Imagine you are walking on a log bridge, and someone is walking towards you. You cannot both pass. What do you do? In Aikido, we must sometimes make a quick decision when we are approached by our partner. Based on the nature of the attack, the interaction must come to an end immediately. No questions, no choices.
With Matabashi, we move right through our partner, with no hesitation. We are strong, and we enter with purpose and deciciveness. We neutralize our partner. He falls. It would seem at first glance that as we cross the log bridge and enter this situation, we are out for ourselves. We are out to neutralize our opponent so that we ourselves will not fall into the rushing waters. Not so, says Aaron Sensei, chief instructor of Vermont Aikido. We move in and neutralize our partner, he says, because there is a wood chipper on the other end of the log. We move into and neutralize our partner because if he moves any further, he will step off the edge of the log into oblivion. We move in and neutralize our partner to save his life. We then may sling our opponent over our shoulder and carry him to safety, in the direction we ourselves are going. Matabashi is protection: not a selfish, but a selfless act.