By Don Levine
Aiki waza michi shirubi - "Aiki training is a signpost to the Way". This saying of O'Sensei has been a beacon for my life work ever since I came across it somewhere. Taking Aikido literally as The Aiki Way, I have searched for channels through which to express that commitment in various spheres of life. Much as I love training on the mat, I have long felt a responsibility to use that training not only to advance my personal growth but to apply what I learn thereby to bettering the condition of others off the mat.
This quest led me to look for other aikidokas with similar quirks and to form the outfit called Aiki Extensions. Incorporated in September 1998 and granted tax-exempt status as a nonprofit in December 1999, Aiki Extensions, Inc. ignites communication among aikidokas who pursue one or more lines of "extension work." These include psychotherapy, teaching at all levels, bodywork of various kind, work with at risk or incarcerated youth, business, law enforcement, mediation, fine arts, spirituality. AE also seeks to help us learn more about ways in which aiki ideas and techniques can be applied more beneficially in areas outside of conventional dojo settings.
Our primary constituency consists of experienced aikidokas - average length of training is around 15 to 20 years - who have professional qualifications as, for example, mediators, educators, managers, psychiatrists, Alexander technique or Feldenkrais teachers, and the like. This entitles them to be listed in our Directory of Affiliates (viewable on our web site www.aiki-extensions.org). Affiliates are organized into "clusters" according to these special interests. Just in the formative stages, affiliates in these clusters have already been communicating by email and begun to think about organizing research, writing, and outreach projects.
Let's get concrete. Here is a sample of things our affiliates do:
Besides the Directory and web site, our media of communication about such activities include a quarterly newsletter, an electronic listserve, national conferences, and a recently inaugurated publication series called Aiki Thought Papers. Although our core of affiliates is just under a hundred, AE is in no way exclusive. Less experienced aikidokas, or experienced aikidokas lacking a professional area of application, are welcome to access all our communications through the web site, to subscribe to our listserve, and to participate in our conferences (and see web site under Events for program of the May 20 - 21 conference in Columbus).
One byproduct of this networking has been the creation of a working ecumenical aikido community. AE affiliates come from six countries and every imaginable aikido organization. Our Directory does not list the rank or aikido organization of our affiliates, and when we come together at conferences, we train round-robin style. It has been refreshing and energizing to join with aikidokas from so many backgrounds in pursuit of O'Sensei's vision of the family of mankind.
Founder and president of Aiki Extensions, Inc., Don Levine is head instructor of the University of Chicago Aikido Club, where he has trained since 1979. He is also the Peter B. Ritzma Professor and former dean of the College at The University of Chicago. Author of several books, he has published articles on the educational value of martial arts training.