Often when training in Aikido dojos I have heard discussions about what style of Aikido is better, or the best.
I always think that trying to compare aikido styles, or schools, is a rather counter productive exercise.
My Sensei [Takase Shihan] lectured about this at one of his early instructors seminars that I attended and said basically that each dojo and every individual instructor was their own “style” of aikido.
I have found from experience that this topic is fairly prevalent with the lower grades and tends to diminish and eventually vanish as one progresses upward into the Dan grades. I have seen and experienced very marked differences with the basic teaching methods of differing styles as I have often invited instructors from other styles to come and give a class.
Once we organised an afternoon seminar where instructors from three different schools each took a class each teaching the same techniques so that all students could see the differences which were then analysed and discussed.
This generated great respect between the students of the different dojos as well as the instructors involved, particularly when the most senior instructor demonstrated the natural progression of the techniques evolving through the developing skill level of any given student. (Lesson elements heavily borrowed from Doshu’s class at the 8th International Congress in Tokyo, September 2000.)
The main point now is the fact that when Dan grades reach Nidan or Sandan there are very little, or no differences. The techniques have all developed to the same level, regardless of the path, and it is hard to spot who belongs to what school based on execution or delivery.
Often certain aspects of the techniques that may be emphasised by one school or another at basics level will develop naturally as the student progresses.
Doshu’s lesson mentioned above looked at the evolution of the base technique. He said that one must explore every variation and aspect of the technique, find what fits, then make it your own.
[Nobuo Takase Shihan, 7th Dan, is my Sensei and is head of Aikido Shinryukan the NZ Aikikai school. His Sensei is Seijuro Masuda Shihan of Shinjuku Hombu.]