Aikido and Go – Part 2

by Anne Beardsley

Aikido and Go – Part 1

Maai is a word that is common in both disciplines; and for the same reasons. In Go as in Aikido, one should confront the adversary from a safe distance – close enough to act and react, but out of the metaphorical kicking distance. In Go one learns to intuitively sense the proper opening distance for each situation. I’m sure if I continue to work at it, one day I will be able to sense the right maai in Aikido, too.

Two skilled Go playersTwo skilled players

A very old Go proverb states, “The enemy’s key point is also yours”, and it is true in Aikido as well. The opponent’s point of balance is very often where the Aikidoka wishes to be, moving uke into an uncomfortable position.

A graceful deflection of an attackA graceful deflection of an attack

Timing is essential. (I recognize that “speed” of play, which has nothing to do with the time a player spends considering a move, will not be very comprehensible to anyone who is not a Go player, but it is important and should be included.) It is a good thing to be slightly swifter than your opponent, but you should never attempt to leave him behind altogether. The word for such behavior is “pride”, and in Go as in life, pride is a fatal flaw. You must match your opponent’s speed, attempting to shape the flow of his play. In chess, it is possible for one player to separate himself from his opponent somewhat and act upon him. In Go almost all actions will be completed together. No matter how fierce the combat, both players must be aware of and merging with the opposing play at all times.

Samurai tying his shoe on an up-turned Go boardSamurai tying his shoe on an up-turned Go board

Go is a battlefield, but like Aikido, many games look to an observer more like a dance as the two opponents slide around and through the other’s positions, responding immediately to changes in direction, thickness, speed, or intent. A Go player must learn to focus on his opponent at all times, but not loose himself in a single problem, a single knot of stones. He must see the entire board at all times or risk winning the battle only to lose the war. Aikidoka also are taught to be aware of the entire situation, not merely the point of conflict nearest their face.

Continued—Aikido and Go – part 3