Why sweat the small stuff

Students often say, “why is it important to do the technique ‘precisely’ surely everyone is different – we can do it in our own way”,  or particularly for westerens “near-enough is good enough”.

Saito Sensei commented in his “Dos and Don’ts while training” (Volume 5 – Training Works Wonders page 41):

Perform Exercises Accurately

There is a saying that the slightest deviation renders a technique renders a technique ineffective. There is no need to conduct basic exercises with undue speed. Care should be taken not to leave out the cardinal points of the exercises and form a peculiar habit as a result of too hurried an approach. You are advised to follow faithfully the “Kuden” (Secrets of Aikido orally bequeathed by the Founder), which casts light on these cardinal points.

Hitohiro Saito Sensei explained in an interview with Aikido Journal:

AJ: The precision needed for blending is a valuable point.

“Saito : Anyone can blend in a general sense, but one should begin with more specific forms which will ultimately expand to the universal harmony the founder spoke of. First you learn how to blend with your partner “toe to toe ,” then how to pivot on your front foot. When you know how to pivot properly you will be able to execute an urawaza technique. One cannot express these things verbally; they can only be mastered by training. The founder said, “Practice comes first.” It is not that your partner blends with you, but that you should blend with him in everything: “Move, open, then take the lead. ” This is what O-Sensei taught Saito Sensei.
A mistake of one centimeter could make it impossible to execute a technique successfully. You can’t change the technique willy-nilly to suit yourself. There is a definite way to do each technique. Anyone, not just the physically strong, should be able to apply the techniques. Unfortunately, people neglect tai no henko. I can tell by watching people practice tai no henko and morotedori kokyuho what kind of practice they have been doing at their dojos. I do not need to see more. I think all the basics of the founder’s taijutsu are contained in these two techniques and ikkyo.
It is hard to find anyone who is able to execute a perfect ikkyo technique. I know this may sound insolent, but I think you cannot understand aikido without starting properly from these techniques.
If you have not mastered tai no henko, you will always end up clashing with your opponent in the other movements. The basic training it to enable you to solve the problems caused by wrong body movement. This is impossible to explain in words, as it has a deeper meaning, but I feel the only way to learn is to allow your partner to hold you firmly.”

Why sweat the small stuff – because it matters!