Ki-Gata….

During the seminar in the UK this year sensei talked about the importance of developing Ki-Gata. Recently I have been reading a lot of the founders lectures on Aikido and am truly astounded that the truth of what sensei is teaching us has been in plain sight for such a long time. Of course, over the course of time people that have had their own agenda, including the founder’s son have conspired to change this message, what a shame that the founders lamented even as he lived……

I have posted a section of one of the founders lectures in english where he talks about KI-Gata, why it is important and what it takes to develop it. I will attempt with apologies to his enduring spirit to help those of you that want to understand his idea for Aikido to be to interpret his talk.

 

 

 

“The aikido which I am doing now is a path that builds people A WAY OF FORGING AND TEMPERING THE BODY AND SPIRIT (this is TANREN).
It is not a way that injures others, nor is it one that wields against them the evil sword of death.

I humbly ask that you, too, give deep thought to these considerations.

 

The training in Aiki concerns itself most with the practicing of KI-GATA(the forms and movement of Ki) and the method of perfecting them.

The most important element in true Ki-gata is the quality of shinken shobu(quite literally a fight to the death with real swords – it implies a certain seriousness of your attitude whilst training).

In budo there is no so called “Shiai” or competitive matches of the type seen in sports.

If we were to have matches, in true Budo they must become life and death situations.

Nonetheless, the vain striving after victory is a big problem since in point of fact, destruction, injury and murder are major crimes against human life.

Balancing the budo which has come down to us from the ancient days of our country has stood the Buddhist commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ and ‘thou shalt not destroy’. The true bodo of our country is of great reconciliation and pacification.

IT IS MISOGI, ritual purification, of the spirit/mind and body.

In instituting on earth the rules of heaven and the purport of humanity, the first commandment of bu(concerns of a martial nature) is to PUT THE SELF IN ORDER AND TO BE ABLE TO PROTECT ALL THINGS.

On the contrary, though, in these times, we often find that those responsible for teaching bu have descended to passing on the not true budo of ancient Japan, but a later(more modern) militaristic budo of the medieval period.

This is deplorable and causes me sadness”

Morihei Ueshiba, The founder and creator of Aikido.

 

 

So we start of by the founder of Aikido talking about Tanren, I have spoken elsewhere ad nauseum about what tanren means, the process of change that the process is meant to bring about to the individual and their character. This process is ingrained in the ukemi of Aikido, in understanding the symbolism hidden within it of death and rebirth, and striving within the self to overcome fears and preconceived ideologies. It is important to note the founder speaks of not injuring the person, this is the reason ukemi deals only with connection, ki musubi, between uke and nage, and not with offering up resistance so as to cause conflict.

He then goes on to humbly ask that deep thought and consideration is given to what he is saying, yes, to him, his idea of what Aikido was supposed to be was that important, this my friends is Aikido, without personal agenda of misconstrued ideas or misinterpretation…….

He then tells us quite clearly that Aikido is about understanding Ki-Gata, the movement and intent of ki, quite literally, Aikido is about developing the intuition to understand and respond to energy, physical, mental and spiritual………

And now comes the most contentious part for the majority of people, and either the part that is disregarded or interpreted and not relevant to modern times, he tells us AIkido is about a fight to the death will real swords, he doesn’t say love he says a fight to the death. What he is trying to say is that train in an earnest manner, with every moment every interaction having the seriousness of a fight to the death, to train in a martial minded way, Sunao, means to be honest and earnest in your actions and interactions on the mat. See and know where you are vulnerable, experience the frailty of human existence, realise the preciousness that is life by facing the vulnerability of death, and do this over and over again….

I am not trying to say that the idea of love is not important, of course it is, but why do we feel we have to use the art of Aikido as a vehicle to teach human morality?

A person that studies Aikido should already have an understanding of morality. In the past to enter the founder’s dojo a person needed two referees that would vouch for their character before they were even allowed to enter the dojo. Perhaps this is the reason that they were made of the right stuff, they were of a quality that the tempering process would create a blade of exceptional quality, their character was either tempered or they left and never returned.

Love towards fellow human beings is not an ideology of Aikido per-se, it is just a high moral standard as a human being, it is a character that all humans should posess.

The love the founder spoke of was beyond morality.

To understand and fulfil your purpose for existing in this world is far higher than human morality, it is the very definition of benevolence, an all encompassing love that protects and nurtures all things in nature.

If we all find our true nature, our true self, then we will fulfil our purpose in this world. If all humans were to do this, then this world would truly be a world of peace, not a peace of morality, but a peace of universality.

The heart or essence of Aikido is not shallow enough to be dealing with what is relative, though it does use what is relative, but rather the essence of Aikido deals with what is absolute. Universal principle is absolute, man made morality is relative….

The symbolism hidden within the fight to the death is that each time we train the human being in us is struggling in battle between its human nature and its true nature. Through Tanren and with time and correcting of the heart and mind the victory of the true nature of the carnal nature is assured.

Next I need to address a larger issue as the founder brings to us the essence of what it means to train in this way based on his strict upbringing in the confucian doctrines, and namely the four books, which children of his era were drilled in with military precision at school. Actually recently I read a lecture by Hiroshi Tada shihan where he confirms exactly what I just had to say, (9th Dan Shihan, may know a little bit about the founder and Aikido).

Reconciliation of the world starts with the reconciliation of the self.

Above, the founder clearly states that Aikido, the art that he devised has only to do with reconciliation of the self.

Let me explain.

Confucius talks a lot about these things, a pretty smart guy that thought, as all great leaders and thinkers do, that world peace and universal harmony where pretty good ideas. He even created a formula to do this.

It’s actually quite simple really.

Reconcile the self, then reconcile the family, then reconcile the city, then reconcile the country, the reconcile the world.

Aikido, under the founder’s own admission deals with the first of these principles.

Anyone can see that if the first principle were to be obeyed in every household in the world what the flow on effect of this would be, he didn’t state that Aikido was going to jump right to the end, and where he does state this he supposes that people that study Aikido would have been morally educated enough to get what he was actually implying.

THAT TRAINING IN THE WAY THAT HE PROPOSED WOULD ELEVATE AND CHANGE THE HUMAN CHARACTER OF THE INDIVIDUAL DOING THE TRAINING.

I think the saddest thing for me in the context of modern Aikido training is what he states at the end. That he finds people that teach a watered down more modernised version of his creation fills him with great sadness. He wants and expects those that study this great art that he created to know that there are no better ways than the ancient ways where men of high moral character were forged in the fiery crucible of a life that went beyond what was thought possible.

Aikido is the vehicle if we just commit to the process, sensei says Aikido Yuishinkai is about making the impossible possible,

the revolution starts here…….

 

The Truth of The Ancient Ways……

I have spent a lot of time writing blogs and posts over the last few years. I have never been the type of person to shy away from the truth, as an avid history student, finding the truth and understanding historical, racial or religious context and social and ethical intricacies are par for the course.

I have found it fascinating that, in my Aikido research and study spanning decades the level of ignorance or aversion to what actually happened, and what the founder actually did(very important in the context of budo study) and what he said(almost of equal importance) has brought us to a unique point in the study of the art.

A tipping point if you like, where, if a change is not made, the chance that the Aikido the founder envisaged to be practiced and taught throughout the world has the potential to die out completely.

In traditional Budo students are not taught in the typical western way. I would go as far as to say that teaching in this way will never produce masters of the quality that were produced in the ancient days. The formula worked for generations, the shihan was the example(the literal meaning is model, or one worthy to be copied), and the students worked hard to steal the teachings that the master was presenting. In this way the art was preserved through the worthy, not the entitled. The universe decided, not the ego.

The founder of Aikido was no different, he didn’t teach in the western sense of teaching, but rather in the old way, a tradition he was trying to preserve, he didn’t need to say this, as the master he only needed to show it. The student had to intuit the teaching, usually through the art of ukemi, repeating it over and over again until the art of the lesson of ukemi had been mastered. I need to state here that the art of rolling, falling over or circus performing is not ukemi, they are just prerequisites to beginning to start to learn the art of ukemi, which is all about connection, absorption and redirection and not just about falling over. If you have read many of the interviews about the students that actually trained under the founder, they didn’t even begin to study technique until they had received ukemi over and over FOR YEARS. Yes, it really is that important.

TO DO WHAT THEY DO, YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT THEY DID, THERE IS NO SHORTCUT.

No, because you are from the west you don’t know better, you need to study in this way.

To truly understand and teach it, you have to have also studied this way.

If you haven’t, I would say your understanding is limited by your own ignorance.

In traditional Budo there is no way forward without looking back wards, this has been, and will always be the way. Training your way has not made you elevated or enlightened, it has made you delusioned……

Rejecting ways of training that happened in the past does not confirm a higher moral ground or a spiritual elevation, it confirms only fears and prejudices.

Hiding behind mantras of “that is not how we do it in my Aikido school” or “that doesn’t fit with what I think training should entail” means that you are not able to elevate yourself above your own ignorance.

Do you think that any of these masters that have travelled the world teaching Aikido stood on the mat of the founder’s dojo and said, “no, I refuse to do ukemi like that” – all of them could take high fall, break fall and all of them trained the body to the point of exhaustion. The reason was a simple one, the Japanese, who have been studying and teaching Budo for centuries understood this to be the only way for the essence of learning to seep into the bones, not just into the mind, but to penetrate the subconscious mind. Training this way changes the physical shape of the person, sinews tighten, grounding and intuition increase, awareness and perception become heightened, in short, and Aiki body is forged. 

 

“ In learning Aikido, one cannot divide the art into pieces and value only those parts which one finds suitable or convenient while disregarding the parts that one finds difficult”

Mitsugi Saotomi Shihan

 

I can understand that some people practice Aikido for a social practice, or for business or for health, and I find that is fine in isolation, but I believe that those teaching, that profess to some level of expertise or understanding beyond what they have read or intellectualised have to have trained in the way of the instructors that came before them have trained, to gain an understanding of the art the goes beyond what happens in the mind, to what happens to the mind when the body is forged. In this way the ego is removed, and opinion and theory based learnings destroyed.

 
“I think young people had better train hard while they are young, especially those who
intend to become instructors. Then they can become soft gradually. Being soft from the beginning is also worthwhile because, if you cause young people to train hard, some may give up aikido. In this respect, soft training has some merit.

However, those who want to become instructors cannot reach that level unless they train hard.

This type of training should include the mind. Unless the training is severe, you can’t reach that level. The reason Ueshiba Sensei reached that level was due not only to his natural talent, but also to the fact that he engaged in severe training.”

Rinjiro Shirata Shihan

 

Training in Aikido is Misogi Harai, a purification of the spirit. This is achieved through Tanren, forging the body through hard training.
In his youth until his adult life the founder of Aikido practiced austere training. He did cold water ablutions in the morning, even in the winter in Hokkaido. This form of Misogi or purification is difficult, and the founder realised that most people would not perform such rituals to elevate the spirit, but what he did realise was that Aikido, and in particular, the ukemi side of Aikido could replace these rituals.

Since at its essence ukemi represents death and rebirth, a surrender to the inevitability of one’s own fate, then it could symbolise, just like baptism in christianity, a washing away of the negative human traits and a chance to start again renewed. This negative energy or kegare is dissolved when ukemi, performed without prejudices or preconceived desire or fear is performed. This ukemi is done through Ki extension and trust, it is total surrender of the ego, this and only this can remove the “Kegare” that defiles the heart.

There has been a lot of talk recently about making the art of AIkido relevant to the modern world, but I say to you what could be more relevant than returning to a way of study that produced such great humans as O’sensei, Yamaoka Tesshu, Sukahara Bokuden and so on. I don’t see this change as an evolution of the founders art, but rather a de-volution of the aspects of spiritual understanding that is at the heart of the foundation of the art.

 

 

“There is a saying that one should “consult the past to learn the new”. By going BACK TO THE ORIGIN OF A DISCIPLINE and one’s purpose in pursuing it, one can ensure that one stays true to the Path. Only then can one look to the future and create something new. This is what is implied by the Japanese word for training “ Keiko “ Kei – having to do with “repetition”, and Ko – meaning “old ways”.”
Mitsugi Saotome Shihan

 

 

So if training means to repeat the old ways, then why should we feel we have to change them? Because it is far easier to talk about change than it is to make change. This is not just in the world at large, but in ourselves also. It is far easier to postulate an hypothetical training philosophy, then confirm mastery of the art through others that are of the same persuasion than it is to surrender to the processes that form true and lasting transformation in the human spirit.

The more people that support a theoretical understanding then the easier it is to legitimise a style of training as modern, hip and enlightened, and justify a training methodology that makes the old ways redundant.

Movement towards a perceived vision of world reconciliation through words and not actions is far easier a concept to sell than changing the heart through hard work and introspection.

It is exactly this vision that is the death of the Aikido that the founder perceived as being able to offer world reconciliation.

If we are able to rise above this modern delusional epidemic, return to the essence of training as the founder envisaged and his senior instructors experienced then perhaps we can gain an understanding, in our bones, not our minds of what Aikidos transformative power can truly be, to know this is to not just understand the heart of the master, but to live inside the heart of the master.

 

“AIKI IS THE HIDDEN TEACHING BEHIND THE HIDDEN TEACHING. IT IS THE LEVEL OF COMPETENCY WHERE VICTORY IS ASSURED EVEN WITHOUT A FIGHT. AIKI IS FORMLESS. OCCUPYING THE SAME SPACE OF NO COMPETITION AS THE MIND OF BUDDHA AND THE GODS, IT TRANSFORMS AND ENTERS INTO THE INCARNATION OF ALL THINGS. IT IS THE TIMELESS AND SPACELESS BORDER OF EXISTENCE THAT, LIKE THE SURFACE OF A POLISHED MIRROR, REFLECTS THE IMAGE OF THE WORLD.
WHEN, THROUGH PURIFICATION OF THE HEART, ONE ATTAINS A STATE OF NO-SELF, THEN ONE HAS NO ENEMIES.

THIS IS TO SAY THAT WHEN THE ENTIRE FOCUS OF LIFE BECOMES REVERENCE FOR “THE ONE IN ALL” AND “THE ALL IN ONE”, IT BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE TO TRANSGRESS UNIVERSAL LAW: ONE BECOMES UNITED WITH THE UNIVERSE AND EMBODIES ITS WAY. IN OTHER WORDS IT IS A LEVEL OF COMPETENCE THAT TRANSCENDS TECHNIQUE.”

MORIHEI UESHIBA

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RISE ABOVE – THE REVOLUTION STARTS WITH US…………….

Tanren – use the body to elevate the spirit

The following passage is from a lecture given by Yamaoka Tesshu to his students. In it he tries to explain the process of Shugyo.
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There are three methods the carpenter adopts when using his plane. They are rough planing, medium planing and finish planing.

To practice rough planing make your body firm, stretch out the stomach and brace the lower trunk then with equal strength in both arms plane to a rough finish. In other words use the strength of your whole body without relaxing it. If you do not use sufficient effort you will not manage to rough plane.

Next there is medium planing. With medium planing it is not merely a question of using all your strength. You must plane the surface flat by adopting a natural modulation of strength in the hands. This is to prepare it for the finish plane. However without the experience gained from rough planing it will not be possible to succeed with medium planing.

Finally there is finish planing. This time the wood that was prepared by earlier medium planing is made even smoother and free of flaws. To do this you must plane with one single stroke at a time, from one end of the timber to the other. If your heart is not calm when you make this single stroke, you will score many flaws and faults into the wood and if there are flaws then the timber has not yet been finished. For the carpenter in his use of the plane this is the most important stage.

First of all you must be in possession of mind, body and technique. For the carpenter mind, body and technique equals plane man and timber. If the man thinks to plane the plane will catch; if the plane is thought to plane it will rise off the timber. To possess mind, body and technique is represented here in the action of one place of plane, man and timber. If this is not mastered thoroughly then however much you train to be a carpenter you will never plane timber well.

In order to become proficient at planing timber the most effective way is to begin training in the way of rough planing. If you can do this well then you can also manage medium planing and finish planing.

However, in order to finish plane well there is a secret. Although I say it is a secret, actually it is nothing so special. Just put mind, body and technique out of your head and plane away. It is by doing it in this way that you do a good job. And here, without being aware of it, you will have mastered the secret of finish planing. There is something quite interesting about this secret, I think.

Before you have mastered this for yourself, nothing that has been taught you will be of any real use. Thus, there is no other way than to try to discover it for yourself. No matter what you do, there is no way that anyone can communicate this to you.

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While many run around seeking the fast way to technical invincibility, Tesshu would argue that if you haven’t found it within yourself, it can never really be yours. Train the body hard, overcome fears and narrow mindedness  remove opinion and ego – Always seek the truth within the basic movements, destroy the ego, uncover the truth. When you listen carefully to body mind and spirit, the true potential as a human being can be discovered.

Neither here nor there, nowhere……

A movement away from the view of harmony that is technical in nature represented by ki ichi hogan secrets of technique towards a greater understanding that true harmony comes from nothingness, this is any number multiplied by zero being zero.

Zero being the ability to nullify all technique, zero being the realm of no enemy, no self. In emptiness all things are as they should be, nothing added nothing taken away.
The idea of enemy arises in the self, this idea of doing (even intent to do) creates duality.

A person that is in harmony with the universe therefore does not need to create harmony with another person.

All principles in the universe act without conscious intent to their action.

We train the body to a point of realisation of this fact, then represent this fact in technique.

Training in, aikido is training to build an “Aiki body” (founders words, not mine).

First we train to get strength in the pelvis, legs and hips. This is in seated technique. Then we train body shapes through kihon waza and weapons technique. Training correct shape helps us to realise how to relax.

We do all this to create an immovable body. It is from this body that the mysteries of Aikido can be revealed.

Maintain one point – this is maintaining the centre of gravity in relation to our movement, both dynamic and static. I have always said a good test of this is looking at the shoulders, and if the scapula is pulled down towards the sacrum, and relaxed, and also the gluteus, if the but muscles fire, they do so to arrest movement from the central plane, ie, they fire to keep balance. You should be able to do all technique, at any point while giving yourself a nice, relaxed but massage.

Keep weight underside – this secret is in the feet, legs and waist (tanden ball), and the relationship of the human body to gravity, the source of all power in the physical realm.

“The principles of the true harmony of aikido can be found by training in the principles of gravity”

Morihei Ueshiba

It is in this realm we can get an understanding of the body functions of empty and full, open and closed and many of the others that I have taught.

Relax completely – not possible without understanding the previous two. This relaxation is not a “polite” type of relaxation, but one that permeates the entire fabric, when one is connected, the attackers feels the ground through the frame, not the frame. It is not enough to think you are relaxed, you have to know/experience this feeling. Within this feeling, and only within this feeling can we become “invisible” to the attacker. You cannot resist what you cannot feel.

Extend Ki – this is harder. It has to do with mind, intent and relaxation. This feeling is created through ukemi, and is linked absolutely to the last one. Through relaxation in ukemi we experience the ability to absorb, ground and redirect energy. This comes from Ki extension and connection, centre to centre. Anticipation and self preservation have nothing to do with this connection. Intention also has to do with what you intend to do to yourself, after all, true Aikido is not doing anything to your opponent, actually, in Aikido there should never be an opponent.
Extending Ki is not and has never had anything to do with “Jedi mind tricks”.

“This occult-style ki just isn’t possible. That which does not exist simply does not
exist, and that’s the end of it! Knocking someone over by glaring at them, for example.
It’s so obvious that that sort of thing is fraudulent. It’s just not possible! There are
some who would say that nobody knows aikido better than I do, right? So if I focus a
concentrated glare on you, are you going to fall over? I doubt it!”

Koichi Tohei Shihan

So let’s not fool ourselves here. Let our actions and our words be in harmony. If you can speak about it, yet cannot produce it, you don’t understand it. Don’t tell me about mind body integration, show me your mind body integration.

“We must practice, but not let our techniques turn into an aiki dance. It may be okay if we “dance” at the beginning, but gradually, it has to become an expression of budo. Ueshiba Sensei expressed aikido in a budo way. Religious people express aiki in religious terms. Aiki is expressed by singers in songs, and artists in their art. Aiki pervades everything. We merely express things which unite us with the universe.
I think this is as it should be…………….

However, those who want to become instructors cannot reach that level unless they train hard.

This type of training should include the mind. Unless the training is severe, you can’t reach that level. The reason Ueshiba Sensei reached that level was due not only to his natural talent, but also to the fact that he engaged in severe training.”

Rinjiro Shirata Shihan
“Aikido is not dancing!”
Just as bujutsu (martial techniques) teach shiatsu understanding, destructive intent teaches Aiki healing intent. One teaches wisdom about destroying and healing the body, the other teaches wisdom about destroying and healing the spirit. These concepts and wisdoms are intertwined, and together they bridge the physical training aspect of Aikido to O Sensei’s vision of healing the world.

Mitsugi Saotome Shihan

That know the true heart, see the true self.

I wonder sometimes where the art of Aikido veered of the path the founder set for it.
Truth is traditional Japanese arts cannot be studied in a western way, they weren’t designed to be, and were never intended to be.

Knowledge and wisdom come from two different places.

My focus in teaching this year is ukemi.

Below are many quotes from students of the founder. Read them to understand what he meant, and how learning in Aikido was supposed to be transmitted.
The art of Ukemi, true ukemi (this is not rolling, falling down, break falling or “performing”) is the path to understanding the hidden. It is linked to tanren(forging or tempering the body) and misogi harai (purification of the spirit).

There are not two ways, his game means his rules………… Enjoy!

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The “Riai” (principle/truth) (this is what is “hidden” (Ura) not what is taught) must be the base which gives coherence and reason to all things.

If we were to analyze or breakdown the Riai like a scientist might, we can call the things that we find manifested on the physical surface (omote) “Ho”, [that is to say a rule or method or law].
Aikido is one such Ho. It is one of the subtle laws of the heaven-sent truth of Takemusu Aiki (literally Bu generating Aiki).

We can also call it the “Way of Accord between Heaven, Earth and Man,” and therefore it can be described as the Way of reconciling the myriad essences and their multiple manifestations.

You must know that Aikido techniques are a Way of Misogi, [that is, of ritual purification] of the body and the spirit/mind (kokoro) and a way of training.

That fact is what makes us aware of the laws of the universe (ie, training as misogi Harai to purify body is what makes us understand universal principle, not thinking or chatting or intellectualising, but training) – and that same fact is the core truth of the workings of the Universal.
For these reasons once you have mastered this Aikido you will understand the Universal Rational and also come to a good understanding of your own self.

For example, if you move a sword you put into that action your entire self and unite with the whole universe for that movement.

In Aikido there is a subtle and mysteriously clever way of swordsmanship.

In this Way of the Sword, if you can not completely perfect the fundamental morality your art will surely become that of the
“Perverted Sword of Injustice and Wickedness”.

But just what is this. fundamental morality of humanity?
It is keeping to the virtues of fidelity, honesty and exemplary behavior, charity of heart and faithfulness. It is to make truth, joy, and beauty the foundation by which you protect and preserve them. Then by making one’s very best effort, to bring forth virtue.

We must strive in the direction of becoming more and more wise and sharp of sensitivity. It is necessary to have an absolute and all encompassing sincerity in all things. In short we have to proceed toward the “Way of Accord” in the spirit of Love congealed of Love.
In order to attain this sincere mind and foster it, we must start by over-coming ourselves!

Morihei Ueshiba
The Nelson kanji dictionary defines the two kanji that make up the word “rial” as meaning “reason,” or “ri-“ (principle, truth) with “coming together, meeting, or harmonizing (“-ai”). In other words, in budo, riai is the underlying principles behind a technique, it is in essence a realisation, of the “truth” hidden inside the form.
Henry Kono –

He never explained what he did, he just did it! This is what I mean by magician. He did it and if you couldn’t discern what he did, there was no way to figure it out. He never explained anything but he left hints which were very difficult to discern because of the way he stated his ideas in very short phrases that no one could understand.
I saw a tape of Shioda Sensei being interviewed in England. He was with O-Sensei for ten years from about 1930-40, he said O-Sensei never explained once in that 10 years as to what he was doing!

He wasn’t a teacher in the sense that he was teaching. The Japanese may look at that as teaching, but in the western sense it isn’t. You had to intuit what he was doing and saying, read between the lines, so to speak.
Henry Kono: O Sensei did not hide anything, everything was unveiled right in front of us but we could not see it. In fact, it has always been the norm for great masters of martial arts to take their knowledge with them to the grave. Ueshiba was no different. Alan Ruddock has a video of Gozo Shioda Sensei where he says that never, during the 10 years that he spent with O Sensei, the master explained what he was doing, not a single time. Shioda had to interpret everything by himself.
We were trying our best to reproduce what we saw him doing but with very little success. Besides, it is one thing that we could not reproduce what he showed but he, himself, constantly refused to explain us what we were not getting. If you did not get it, he would simply do the technique again and say “look carefully!” but never would he give any explanation. As surprising as it sounds, this was actually very typical of O Sensei’s way of teaching and to a larger extent, it was common to all the great Japanese masters of Budo. These men always took their secrets with them to the grave and O Sensei was no different.

I remember an interview of Gozo Shioda Sensei that he gave in England a few years ago where he explained that during the 10 years he stayed with O Sensei; never did he receive any explanation from the master about what he was doing. Therefore, Shioda had to patiently interpret everything by himself without any other form of instruction than watching his master demonstrate.
Henry Kono: Yes, I have seen videos where some Sensei say this. But it is precisely on this point that they missed the essential. Actually, Ueshiba Sensei only removed the notions of victory and defeat from his Budo. I think that he had been really shocked by what had happened during the Second World War, in particular with the two atomic bombs. He realized that if men were to carry on opposing each other, competing and making war, it would soon be the end. Therefore, he started from what he knew; Daito-Ryu Aiki-jujutsu, and used it to develop a system of harmonious resolution of conflicts. He could have used a completely different approach though. Despite this, the martiality and the efficacy were still very present, but freed from the visible aspect of opposition. It is obvious when you compare pre- and post-war videos. O Sensei often said “forget what I used to do before, this time is over. Now, I do Aikido!”

 

 

Rinjiro Shirata –
Beginners learned techniques from the uchideshi, starting with the ikkajo of Daito-ryu
Jujutsu. Techniques like ikkajo, nikajo, shihonage… There wasn’t any iriminage then, only techniques which, on later reflection, can be considered to be the antecedents of iriminage. Iriminage was originally developed by O-Sensei. Sensei’s techniques were always changing. Techniques which had their origin in Daito-ryu were transformed into aiki, and as he trained himself, gradually his techniques changed as well. That’s why the techniques Tomiki Sensei learned, the techniques we learned, the techniques Shioda Sensei learned, and the techniques Murashige Sensei learned before that, were all completely different.
Sensei sometimes said to me, “Shirata, my techniques have changed. Look!” So I watched him. They became circular in a way completely different from his earlier techniques.

Even though Ueshiba Sensei studied Daito-ryu, it does not mean that his art was Daito-ryu. O-Sensei went beyond that, and combined various budo
and created what we call “Aiki no Jutsu.”
Although some of the original Daito-ryu forms remained in his art, his way of thinking and way of moving the body were very different.
My aikido and Ueshiba Sensei’s aikido are quite different. The techniques of Tomiki Sensei, Shioda Sensei, and Saito Sensei are all different. There is nothing wrong with this. Since aikido is formless, we move according to how we feel. However, we must do this without forgetting the spirit of budo in ourselves.
We must practice, but not let our techniques turn into an aiki dance. It may be okay if we “dance” at the beginning, but gradually, it has to become an expression of budo. Ueshiba Sensei expressed aikido in a budo way. Religious people express aiki in religious terms. Aiki is expressed by singers in songs, and artists in their art. Aiki pervades everything. We merely express things which unite us with the universe.
I think this is as it should be.

There are many poems concerning the kotodama. The “Way of the Mountain Echo”
[yamabiko] is kotodama, and of course it also refers to aikido. If you say, “Ya-ho” [a mountain call used to produce an echo] and you hear “ya-ho” echoing back, this is called yamabiko.
This is kotodama. There are a great many poems entitled “Yamabiko no Michi” which refer to the fact that your mind and your partner’s mind are in mutual communication. I am proposing to Doshu that he proceed one step further in conjunction with the one hundredth anniversary of the Founder’s birth, and write about his state of mind. Otherwise, the essence of aikido cannot be understood. When we demonstrate techniques in the dojo, we should explain that this is kotodama. We have to show ki in realistic terms. We have to show that this is not a budo of competition.

Kotodama is not sounds.

It is the echo of ki which precedes the emergence of sounds.
Sounds are the next stage.
Kotodama comes first, and preceding it, there is ki.
Ki changes into many forms. It becomes sound, light, and kokyu. When two sources of ki combine, this results in kokyu. While breathing, it becomes sound, light, kotodama, and many other things.
Then it becomes hibiki [echoes], that is, the seventy-five sounds. Subtle changes of hibiki become the mystery of creation. First, there was the word and the word was God—this is kotodama and also aiki.
I think young people had better train hard while they are young, especially those who
intend to become instructors. Then they can become soft gradually. Being soft from the beginning is also worthwhile because, if you cause young people to train hard, some may give up aikido. In this respect, soft training has some merit.

However, those who want to become instructors cannot reach that level unless they train hard.

This type of training should include the mind. Unless the training is severe, you can’t reach that level. The reason Ueshiba Sensei reached that level was due not only to his natural talent, but also to the fact that he engaged in severe training.
Although material civilization and science have improved, people still struggle all the
time. When we reach the final stage, when fighting is considered evil, a different, aikido-like world will be born. Neither Christ nor Buddha taught this. As times change, various great wise men, whom we call messengers, are sent in turn to reform mankind. I think that this is a truly wonderful love. Although the wicked sons of the earth are absorbed in killing one another, heavenly messengers continue to come to the earth to lend a helping hand. I think this shows the true love of the kami. The purpose of the birth of people in this world is to realize the love of the kami in this world.
Ueshiba Sensei said clearly that human beings are “the children of the kami, the living shrine of the kami. Human beings by nature occupy a small space.” Everything is contained in these words. It is written simply and concisely in the Dobun. If you have trained sufficiently, you will understand it as soon as you read it. If you read only the words, you will be confused. We read them repeatedly, and gradually we understand what it was he said.

 

 

Gozo Shioda –

Today’s aikido is dimensionless. It’s empty of content. Now we see nothing but imitation, without any grasp of the real thing. People try to reach the highest levels without even paying their dues. That’s why it seems so much like a dance these days. Ueshiba Sensei was the only one who could do that sort of soft, fluffy movement. You have to master the basics solidly, with your body, and then proceed to develop to the higher levels.
We old-timers received our training from Sensei during the time his youth was still
in full bloom. But only O-Sensei was able to perform techniques without resorting to
power. Even if you are told not to use power, you still can’t do it. At one stage, you put
in every bit of your power and exert yourself in training. That gradually over time will
develop into aiki.

 

 

Zenzaburo Akizawa –

A big demonstration is held every year at the Budokan [in central Tokyo], but it’s really not much more than a pre-arranged display. Don’t you think that if things continue in this direction, aikido will become just some kind of dance?
There’s nothing wrong with a dojo being considered a place for healthy exercise, but from the point of view of budo, it seems that a little something is lacking.
O-Sensei was an astonishing person, that’s for sure! However, without doing some sort of spiritual training, no one can ever hope to become like him. People who are training today may well be folding their hands before the kamisama, but few are practicing Zen meditation.
Therefore, they cannot hope to become divinely inspired as O-Sensei did. That’s why we make progress to a certain point, but then find ourselves running into a wall.
I suppose it isn’t fair to compare, but I really am worried about whether or not people
nowadays have an acceptable level of strength. O-Sensei died, and gradually the people who were uchideshi are also passing from the scene. Those qualified to teach are becoming fewer and fewer. Of course, there are some wonderful teachers now, too. People like Saito, Shioda, and Shirata are really strong.

 
Koichi Tohei –

This occult-style ki just isn’t possible. That which does not exist simply does not
exist, and that’s the end of it! Knocking someone over by glaring at them, for example.
It’s so obvious that that sort of thing is fraudulent. It’s just not possible! There are
some who would say that nobody knows aikido better than I do, right? So if I focus a
concentrated glare on you, are you going to fall over? I doubt it!
Many people were surprised that I was able to throw the sumo wrestler Kurosegawa,
seemingly without touching him. People think, “Tohei can throw people without
touching them!” But that’s not right. I may not have been touching him with my hands,
but I was touching him with my ki. A person that comes rushing forward to attack is
preceded by his ki, and wherever that ki goes, his body is obliged to follow. (This is
why it is impossible to throw people who are not really intending to attack you.) So all
I had to do was evade his ki; I simply let him go where he seemed to want to go, and
he fell of his own accord.
Ki is something that is conveyed from one person to another. If you like someone
a lot, that person is bound to pick up on your feeling. The only reason it is possible for
me to throw a very large individual who is moving in with a strike or other attack is that
I am able to grasp his mind, his intention, the instant it manifests itself.
This is one of the things that Ueshiba Sensei truly wanted to teach. Much of the
aikido we see today has degenerated into mere fighting. I call what I do Shin Shin
Toitsu Aikido, because I don’t want to be associated with that kind of aikido. Aikido
is a path to harmony with the universe, and it should suffice to call it aikido (since the
name incorporates this meaning), but for the sake of clarity, I added Shin Shin Toitsu.
Abroad it is referred to as “Ki Aikido.”

 

 
Kanshu Sunadomari –

I seize my partner at the exact moment he grabs. That’s the point I’ve reached. In terms of body movement, it is enough to avoid the opponent’s strike. It is not necessary to move the attacking hand. When my partner grabs, he himself ends up being grabbed. When my partner touches me, I move to the inside faster than him. Your own feeling must flow at this point. Your power will pour forth just at the time you extend your ki naturally. The power has already gone there when you extend your ki to encourage his attack.
I leave everything to this power. We become as one body when I suddenly stop the flow of my power and have completely entered to the inside of my partner.
However, it is not merely a matter of the two of us being close together, but rather,
I become the center, and after I have moved in close to him, I can cause my partner to move freely.
Ueshiba Sensei often said, “It is a matter of who is the faster.” I used to think
superficially of speed, which involved collisions when I was still immature.

But I understood that it was not at all the case when I discovered kokyu power. As soon as he grabs me, I enter to his inside. I become the center and become as one with my partner, and am completely bound up with him.
When this happens, techniques freely emerge.
You must not act using unnecessary power. You rely on the point of contact with your partner.
If you do this, other kinds of power are naturally eliminated. It is a matter of feeling. It is not a matter of the mechanics of the technique.

Ueshiba Sensei clearly said to me before I came to Kumamoto, “There are no head
families (soke) in budo.” The fact that there are no head families in budo means that
aikido technique is limitless, and those who truly master the Way can transmit it. I think that one will not be able to comprehend Ueshiba’s Sensei true mind without practicing aikido with a clear understanding of this.
One’s aikido remains frozen.
By transmitting only unchanged form, you are led in a direction which is contrary to Sensei’s thought.
Your techniques become one if you study the spiritual aspect of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei.
You have to continually overcome barriers. Aiki is a matter of you becoming one with
others.
You have to create techniques which unite you and your opponent.
If you are not able to achieve this, you should not use the expression “Aiki is love,” in an ideologically sense.
This is something you can achieve through your body, and you should not think
that spiritual matters are separate.
I don’t think there should be various kinds of aikido. The goal of aikido is the study of
the spirit of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei.
The true world of harmony will be created through aikido, after the barriers have been overcome, when all human beings come to a realization of how wonderful aikido is. I think that this was the mission of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei.
It was difficult for O-Sensei to cause the flower of aikido to bloom and bear fruit. However, if Sensei hadn’t created the seeds, the Way of aikido would not have been transmitted. We students should assimilate the seeds, grasp the goal, so to speak, and decide what flowers should be made to bloom, what fruit should be allowed to ripen. If you wish to pursue the path of injuring and beating your opponent, something other than aikido will be best. There are many other arts for this purpose. Unless this is truly understood by practitioners of aikido, the art may end up being unfavorably criticized.

 

 
Michio Hikitsuchi

After the war the founders thinking about Budo had changed radically. And the way he related to people also changed. His fierce gaze had become more tender. One felt more like getting closer to him. It was as you see in photos taken in his old age. His eyes were still strict, but they were no longer so scary.

After the war, O-Sensei’s thinking about waza also changed enormously. Before the war, the purpose of waza had been to kill the attacker. And we had practiced like that. After the war, he urged us not to attack opponents or to think of beating them up. “If you do that,” he said, “it will be the same as before. I have changed how we do everything.”

O-Sensei told us that we must give our opponents joy. To do this, he said, we must become capable of immediately sensing their ki. And, to do this, we must unify ourselves, we must unify our words, our body, and our mind. We must become one with the workings of all things in the universe — with Kami and the forces of Nature. We must bring all three things — words, body, and mind — into harmony with the workings of the universe. “If you do that,” O-Sensei said, “true Budo will be born. The Budo of destroying others will become transformed into the Budo of offering joy and compassion to others.”

After the war the method of practice was the opposite of what it had been. We no longer attacked. We looked at our partners’ ki in order to see the whole of them. From the top of their head to the tips of their toes. Not just external appearances. We needed to become able to absorb our partners’ minds.

Training this way was more difficult. We couldn’t wait for a partner to attack. We had to have the ability to instantly perceive the partner’s suki (openings) and intent to attack.Where will they strike? How will they move? We had to train to cultivate these sensing abilities in ourselves.

Now all the techniques I teach are those of the postwar period. They are the true waza of O-Sensei’s Aikido.

If we look at our partners, our hearts will be taken by them. Never look in their eyes. If we look in our partners’ eyes, our minds will be snatched away by their eyes. If we look at our opponent’s weapon, our ki will be stolen by that weapon. So, we must not stare at our partners.

If we are always one with the universe, one with great nature, there is no space for the opponent to attack.

When opponents do try to attack, we must not rely on form alone, but spontaneously create technique.

In the old days, when the opponent attacked, we parried the blow and drove forward. After the war, things changed. The instant the opponent raised his arm to strike, even as he was raising his arm, we were already changing position. We had to act quickly. To do it well, we had to become one with nature and move without thinking.

Another aspect of postwar Aikido was O-Sensei’s even greater emphasis on shinji for spiritual purification at the beginning of every practice session. He’d always begin with purification.

 

 

And below, the secret to understanding riai…………

 
So for your first three years in aikido you were only uke?

Henry Kono – That was the concept. I used to ask, “I have been doing this for a year and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” They said, “Don’t worry Kono-san. Just take uke! It will come clear to you.” It was important to develop this body sensitivity and mobility.
Sensitivity is important…

Because I’m learning exactly what you are doing. You are really becoming yin. You have to be soft. Then the center starts to develop. That’s the only way to develop it.

****************************************

“DONT RESIST, RECEIVE UKEMI”

Maruyama Sensei

What profits a man, if he gains the whole world – yet loose his own soul…

There has been a big push recently on social media in Aikido circles, with many experts (some are, many are not) in the field asked to comment on various topics.
One item in particular peaked my interest, specifically speaking of the martial aspect of Aikido.

Those that know me know I have always pursued a martial understanding in my movements. I have trained this way since the beginning. I would not say that I was uninterested in the spirituality, on the contrary, I believe I have an understanding and grounding in spiritual philosophy, it’s just that I believed one could not be reached without training through the other.

Just as Christians would argue that God gave us freewill to choose between right and wrong to test our spirit and resolve, I would say that the same philosophy applies to martial spirituality. While love is a great ideal, when in an altercation – “being tested”, it’s having the ability to produce a lethal response, then executing the choice not too – this shows the higher spiritual understanding.

Anything in true harmony, and following true universal principles, is balanced through opposition. Light does not exist without darkness. The study of Aikido, truly harmonious Aikido studies both the lethal and non lethal in equal measure, then chooses, based on spiritual elevation, which path to pursue.

 

 

“Just as bujutsu (martial techniques) teach shiatsu understanding, destructive intent teaches Aiki healing intent. One teaches wisdom about destroying and healing the body, the other teaches wisdom about destroying and healing the spirit. These concepts and wisdoms are intertwined, and together they bridge the physical training aspect of Aikido to O Sensei’s vision of healing the world.”

Mitsuki Saotome

 

 

If we look at the students that the founder produced(not the students that were products of the “organisation”) we see a group of students that were amazing martial artists, Shioda, Shirata, Saito, all products of the founder. All had to physically “prove their ability, and all believing that training hard, martially was imperative to any Aikidoka that aspired to teach.

Maruyama sensei has said that the difficulty lay in transferring this mentality, the founder’s mentality to the west, where, when he asked people to train in a particular way, when he first started out in this endeavour to “spread the gospel” so to speak, was met with comments like “westerners don’t need to train that way”, as though we already knew better, or at least thought we did.

What we ended up with was a group of people that believe they understand the founders intention, even though they never knew him, that are more than happy to tell you what he meant based on their Aiki experience, an intellectual experience, where the Aiki that the founder created was anything but an intellectual experience.

Misogi Harai, purification through Tanren, forging the body was what his Aikido(and therefore all Aikido) was supposed to be. In his lectures, the amount of times he mentions physical austerity, or Shugyo(arduous physical testing) is actually quite the eye opener.

As philosophy developed in the west to be an intellectual pursuit, study of philosophical principles in Japan contained some element of movement. Shodo, Sado, Budo (and many other traditions) – all these “paths” have an element of perfection of movement. Through the perfection of movement comes the perfection of mind, an understanding of self devoid of intellectualism and fanciful thought.

 

 

“Man is a moving being. If he doesn’t move to what is good, surely he will move to what is bad.”

Musashi Miyamoto

 

 

There is not a view of Aikido that is outside the founders teaching, most importantly his traditional teaching of setting an example that is worthy to be copied( the true meaning of shihan). Aikido is not philosophy. Training in Aikido brings an understanding of a certain type of philosophy, but the action and the learning cannot exist separate of each other – they compliment each other.

There is no westernised softened version of what he created, if there is, it is no longer Aikido. How can it be? We didn’t make it, and we can’t pretend to follow it. If it changes then traditionally it becomes another art, call it what you like and name yourself “soke” – founder, just don’t pretend to offer solutions to things you can’t even begin to understand.

To reconcile the world must begin through reconciliation of the self, the self, according to the founder only discovered through elimination of the ego. Hard work, sweat and introspection – then even harder work.

We stand on the shoulders of martial Giants. To do what he could do, we need to do what he did. This is the traditional way. The student steals the teaching, the worthy inherit, the universe decides, not the “entitled”.

Train the spirit through the body. Train the mind through overcoming the impossible.

What’s love got to do with it?

[This Post is by Murray Loader]

Everything. Aikido is Love.

Nothing. It’s a martial art!

 

One of the biggest problems the world-wide Aikido community has is an historically accurate understanding of “Aikido is Love”, i.e. what Ueshiba Sensei actually said and actually meant by that. As a result there is a major disconnect within the Aikido world, with passionate and unshakeable beliefs, laudable in content and purpose, but unsupported by the sources.

This is made considerably more difficult by decisions the Doshu, O Sensei’s son, made after his father’s death. As shown by an interview he gave in Aiki News he endeavoured to fulfil his father’s wish that Aikido be spread all over the world in order to help spread peace and harmony. The Doshu succeeded in this admirably; however, this success was bought at a price that makes one doubt that O Sensei would have been happy with it.

Essentially the decision was made to significantly change the emphasis of the underlying philosophy of Aikido to suit Western audiences, with a re-focus to emphasise love, peace, and harmony which fitted the views of the Western youth-based counter-culture at the time and which has retained significant influence. Additionally, as well as significantly modifying the philosophy that O Sensei had actually practised and taught, an additional decision was made to simplify Aikido to make it accessible to a world audience, and this was also successful; basically, everything that made the Aikido of O Sensei and those of his uchideshi that “got it” so remarkably powerful was removed.  This was a rational decision, as the Aikido O Sensei wanted students to understand is complex, difficult, and an endless unravelling of a puzzle and very few understood it, so removing the complexity would provide an Aikido that worked well enough as a martial art and was within everyone’s reach. Until that point a beginning, omote (open) form of Aikido had been taught with the expectation that acute observation of both the feel and sight of O Sensei’s own more complex Aikido would/could lead a student into deep analysis and study that would gradually totally transform their body, mind, and technical Aikido. The decision to simplify things removed everything except the simple beginner’s Aikido, which became “Aikido”.

In Aikido Yuishinkai we call the material that was removed the Principles of Aikido. It is still taught in the private dojos of those surviving uchideshi, and in some of those Aikido ryu that rejected the Doshu’s changes, but the great majority of current Aikidoka have been brought up in styles and dojos heavily influenced by the Doshu’s decisions, not knowing they were neither practising the actual technical Aikido of O Sensei himself nor the actual philosophy of O Sensei. Imagine, success – but achieved by removing exactly what O Sensei actually wanted us to learn and exactly what enables Aikido’s philosophy to be practiced and exactly what would enable us to reach the standard O Sensei wanted for us…anyway…please bear in mind that what you may have been taught and what you may believe may not be what O Sensei intended you to learn and practice, both technically and spiritually.

As Aikido Yuishinkai is the study of O Sensei’s Aikido from the period of his last 15 years the changes in the post-O Sensei philosophy and technical Aikido are consciously avoided, as they represent a major and deeply unfortunate deviation from O Sensei’s Aikido.

To explore that let’s look at the “love” issue. This disconnect re “love” can be seen as four main streams:

  • Aikido is about love, harmony, spiritual growth, and the martial content is not important;
  • The above is rubbish, real Aikido is combat Aikido, it’s a martial art;
  • I just train, I don’t really care;
  • What O Sensei said and actually meant.

How do we know what he said, and what he meant? Where’s the evidence? Most students believe what their instructors believe and don’t check for themselves, so, what are the sources?

[A] Quotes from O Sensei. Most of these, for Westerners, are in translations of O Sensei’s books and the books and videos of his Uchideshi. The problem here is that, unlike academic literature, the provenance of the quote is not usually provided – date/where/who reported it/has it been verified by other witnesses, etc. The other major issue is that we are at the mercy of the competence of the translator, and of their impartiality, hoping bias and belief are not shading their translation.

[B] The mass of material collected and maintained by Stanley Pranin, available on http://aikidojournal.com/. This is a go-to site; the interviews, historical material, videos and discussions are extremely important for Aikido’s historical integrity.

[C] The direct transmission to us by the Shihans, particularly the Uchideshi, who spent years in O Sensei’s company, on and off the mat. Each will have his/her own take on things, but it seems that the Uchideshi who “got it” are remarkably consistent in what they say, what they do, and what they said O Sensei said, regardless of the name of the Aikido ryu they practice in. This consistency between them, regardless of style of Aikido, gives them serious credibility. It means that what they say is what they heard, what they do is what they learned. From O Sensei.

That last is a crucial point – many of the uchideshi are in their 80s now; when they were with O Sensei Aikido was still small. When O Sensei said “Aikido is me, I am Aikido” he meant that there was only one instructor, one source – him. The Uchideshi spent their days and nights with O Sensei, learning directly from the source for years. Now that Aikido is all over the world most Aikido students have no or limited exposure to these Shihans, the source of their Aikido knowledge being the knowledge of their instructor and that of the instructor’s instructor. How many of these instructors in turn have had direct exposure to O Sensei or the Uchideshi, and in what depth, for how long? The connection to direct knowledge of O Sensei’s Aikido grows dramatically thinner with each generation. This is why the Uchideshi still teaching are a treasure; they were there, O Sensei taught them, threw them, yelled at them, talked to them outside class. While they are still teaching we need to grab everything we can from them. When they are gone, the last direct link to O Sensei is gone.

The first issue we face is one of translation. For most English-speakers there is only one word for love, although there are several synonyms. In Japanese the root word for love is “ai”, which is also the word for “harmony” (a subject for a future article). However, the Japanese language uses the root (“ai”) in combination with other grammatical constructs to describe different kinds of love, where English only uses the one word. You can already see the major translation train-wreck approaching.

  • “ai” (noun) = an encompassing, benevolent, protective “love”; non-specific, universal. Note the “protective” and “universal” elements, they become important when understanding the quotes from O Sensei.
  • “aijo” = romantic love.
  • “ren-ai” = sexual love.
  • “seiai” = strong liking for music, a sport, animals, etc.
  • “ai suru” (verb) = love a thing, activity.

and more…but not relevant to this discussion. What is relevant is that O Sensei usually used “ai”. But most translations appear not to have explained the context and meaning, rather just using a generic “love” as the translation, and thereby both losing the actual meaning and also misleading a great many passionate Aikido practitioners, drawing them into a belief system that has an affinity with what O Sensei meant, but not a direct correspondence, and causing many to thereby misdirect their training. This applies to both the “lovists” and the “martialists”.

So let’s have a look at a few of the things O Sensei said about love and about how Aikido deals with conflict. The quotes below are selective (and I haven’t provided their provenance), but representative; I’ve replaced the English “love” by the Japanese “ai” to allow the reader to see what O Sensei wrote, not what the translator wrote.

  • “At that moment I was enlightened: the source of Budo is God‘s ai — the spirit of loving protection for all beings … Budo is not the felling of an opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world to destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature.” O Sensei actually defined here what he meant by love. He also means for us to keep the peace; obviously this is by dialogue and negotiation in the first instance, if our protagonist allows that, but should that fail O Sensei is also specifically saying we do Budo, an active loving protection not a passive one. Your ability to keep the peace and produce/protect/cultivate all beings in nature is the result of Budo and the transformation it makes in mind and body, as later quotes make clear.
  • “The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.”
  • “Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter — it is the Art of Peace, the power of ai.” O Sensei saw fully trained Aikidoka as Warriors, not priests or monks. A Warrior’s job is to actively provide loving protection, but a Warrior is not a soldier. A Warrior is a person fully developed martially and spiritually, in this case via Aikido.
  • “The real Art of Peace is not to sacrifice a single one of your warriors to defeat an enemy. Vanquish your foes by always keeping yourself in a safe and unassailable position; then no one will suffer any losses. The Way of a Warrior, the Art of Politics, is to stop trouble before it starts. It consists in defeating your adversaries spiritually by making them realize the folly of their actions. The Way of a Warrior is to establish harmony (‘ai”).” To do this requires real martial capability; emptiness of heart, spirit, and capability will persuade no-one. An explanation from Maruyama Sensei on this topic: “In ancient Japan, bujutsu (martial arts), and religious festivities were considered to be the same thing. Politics was also considered to be the same as religious festivities. This is why in Japan, politics is also known as matsurigoto (festival business). The ancient ancestors of the Japanese people always lived alongside their gods. In ancient times, in Japan, bujutsu (martial arts) was thought of as a way to soothe the soul of another person. The Kojiki uses the words “kotomuke, yawashi” (lit. to direct words at and pacify) to mean to make another person submit. This is literally referring to eliminating the other person’s fighting mind through kotodama. The founder would always say “It’s kotodama. Aikido means to eliminate the fighting mind of the other person.””
  • “In Aikido we control the opponent’s mind before we face him. That is how we draw him into ourselves. We go forward in life with this attraction of our spirit, and attempt to command a whole view of the world. We ceaselessly pray that fights do not occur. For this reason we strictly prohibit matches in Aikido. Aikido’s spirit is that of loving (ai) attack and that of peaceful reconciliation (my emphasis). In this aim we bring and unite the opponents with the will power of ai. By ai we are able to purify others.”
  • “To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.” This requires real Budo capability.
  • “Progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere.” Tanren, the forging of the self through deep analysis of what is felt and seen and heard, and endless training and self-analysis.
  • Instructors can impart only a fraction of the teaching. It is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries of the Art of Peace are brought to life.” Tanren and research, again.
  • “The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit.” And again.
  • “True Budo is practiced not only to destroy an enemy, it must also make him, of his own will, gladly lose his spirit (seishin) to oppose you.” Maruyama Sensei says it this way: “Aikido is Love means to take Uke’s bad ki and replace it by good ki. This is love.” Both are saying there will be physical conflict, and your transformed self is able to change their mind during the engagement or argument through martial capability that includes the ability to affect their mindset. This martial capability and ability to affect Uke is the direct result of mastery of the Principles of Aikido, not mastery of the simpler Aikido. The Principles include the tools to achieve this.
  • “Be grateful even for hardship, setbacks, and bad people. Dealing with such obstacles is an essential part of training in the Art of Peace.” Tanren.
  • “One should be prepared to receive ninety-nine percent of an enemy‘s attack and stare death right in the face in order to illumine the Path.” Heart, spirit and capability are developed via the Principles and Tanren, otherwise this is difficult.
  • “Understand Aikido first as budo and then as the way of service to construct the World Family. Aikido is not for a single country or anyone in particular. Its only purpose is to perform the work of the kami.” (My emphasis)
  • Tohei Koichi – “Ai and protect all creation”. Protect is active, not passive.

Saotome Mitsugi was a more senior uchideshi at the same time as Maruyama Sensei. His many books and videos repeat all the above, often with detailed explanations, they are worth acquiring and reading. For the place of “Bu” within “Budo” see his views here: http://tampaaikido.com/articles/balance-from-destruction-secret-teachings-of-o-sensei/

To summarise: It is clear from what O Sensei said, and what the uchideshi say, that the changes made to the philosophy and spiritual approach of Aikido and to technical Aikido after O Sensei’s death are by a large measure no longer the philosophy nor the technique that O Sensei himself practiced. The technical aikido of O Sensei requires intense practice of the Principles. Aikido Yuishinkai studies O Sensei’s Aikido, not the “edited” version.

In O Sensei’s view, repeated by Maruyama Sensei and in numerous articles, books and videos by other Uchideshi, the purpose of Aikido is to develop people in heart, spirit and body to be able to provide Ai. Not “love”, ai. The purpose of Aikido is not to develop people whose focus is martial, that’s just fighting. The purpose of Aikido is not to develop people who love each other and nature, but can’t perform to protect, that’s an empty, passive love. Ai is protective and benevolent; it contains “love”, but also contains action and commitment and formidable capability. Ai is the result of transformation, a transformation that is made possible by the intense study and training  and competence in the martial ways of Aikido which provide the ability (should the circumstances allow) to protect others and the opponent, to change their mind and to offer a different path.

Aikido is Budo. Aikido is Ai.

___________________________________________________________________________

This is an article by another student of O Sensei. A “Japanese” way of saying the same thing as above.

Thankfully, we are taught by the Founder “the spirit of the universe is the greater ‘love’ which fills all corners of the universe, in all directions, in all times” (「宇宙の心とは、上下四方、古往今来、宇宙のすみずみにまで及ぶ偉大なる『愛』である」). In other words, “the spirit of the universe” is the greater “love” of the universe.

To summarize this interpretation, “you must make the spirit of the universe your own spirit” means that you must make yourself one with the universe, and train and live with the love of the spirit of the universe.

However, although the word “love” is used here, this “love” is different than “love” as it is commonly used.  直江兼続

“Love” is something that seems to have great importance for Aikido. For instance, the Founder would say things like Aikido is “Ai (Love) kido” (「愛気道」), or that Aikido is “the Budo of Love”. Further, he wrote many times that “the Gokui of Aikido is love” and “you must make the spirit of the universe (‘love’) your own spirit”.

However, the “love” of Aikido is different than “love” as it is used in daily life.

If you check the dictionary for the common definition of “love”, the following is what appears:

  • A movement of feelings towards what is recognized as precious. Also, the appearance of that feeling.
  • Feelings towards someone that is cared for.
  • Feelings of wishes for the best for someone.

The “love” that is the Gokui of Aikido can be contained in the above definitions, but since, as written above, the “love” of Aikido “fills all corners of the universe, in all directions, in all times”, and because this is “the spirit of the universe”, there must be a different definition.

Incidentally, “all directions” (上下四方) is all of the space in three dimensions, and “all times” (古往今来) is all time past-present-future. In other words, the universe.

“The spirit of the universe” is “love”, this love is not tied to the time of the past-present-future, and fills every corner of space. Looked at in the micro scale, this may mean that there are no openings in your movement of in your ma-ai.

This is a special characteristic of the love of the universe, but another is that while the universe gives love it demands nothing in return.

The kind of love above also exists in everyday life. Looking at different cases, for example, there is the love between parents and children. When the children are small this is mainly something given from the parent to the child. This kind of natural love can be said to be instinctual. However, when the child grows up, if the parent demands some kind of return for their love, that love will come to change.

The love between a married couple is something that the couple gives to each other. It may be that there is some expectation of return, and appropriate give and take is the basis for harmony in marriage. At the least, it is good when gratitude is returned.

From these examples I would like to define “love” more simply. The explanation that comes out from my simple mind is “love is to think of standing in the other’s position and behaving that way”.

If you only behave while thinking of your own position the other will think that they are being ignored, and it will cause trouble. If you can stand in the other’s position, you know that if you do this then they will become happy, if you do this they will become sad, if you do this then they will become angry. It’s the same with flowers, or a tree, doing what you think is best for them. This is love.

I think that it may be that the reason that Aikido is called the Budo of Love is because we think of standing in the position of the other as we apply technique. For example, if we do this than the other will be injured so I won’t do that, the Uke must be in pain because they are not very flexible so I’ll stretch it out a little bit, or the other does not know how to use their body so I’ll guide them along.

Aikido is the Budo of Love does not mean that you just practice without any strength in order to avoid making your practice partner feel uncomfortable. This is Budo, so in order to feel the intensity of Budo you and your partner must practice to your limits so that you can train in a way that you can both become better. It is thought that through training to your limits that true “love” comes forth. Becoming better means getting closer to your goal, so in order to become better you must have a goal.

Since the love of Aikido is the love of the spirit of the universe, as I wrote earlier, it must fill the universe without regards to time or empty space, and must not expect a return. Of course, if you are teaching Aikido for a living then there must be some return, but even then love is necessary. However, in that case, as the Founder said, first you must give love. As a result there is some return. Putting forth “love” with an expectation of a return cannot have a good result.

When we unify these meanings of love and meanings of Aikido, one more definition of “love” comes forward.

In other words, love is the spirit of aiding the universe in its process of positive development, and the spirit extended to the objects of that development. In other words, this is because “positive development of the universe” (宇宙生成化育) is ‘the spirit of the universe”, “the spirit of the universe” is “love”.

Aikido as something that aids in the positive development of the universe, as the Budo of Love, and as “Ai (Love) kido” (愛気道) are all connected. There is a kind of love called “platonic” love (純愛), but perhaps the love of Aikido can be said to be the love of the Universe, or “planetary” love.

-Takashi Sasaki, 2013 [Nidan under O Sensei, presently 7th dan Aikikai]

True Aikido

I have written this article because both Peter and Martijn have asked me to clarify the connection between Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, and Aikido Yuishinkai.

I worry that people from overseas, who have grown up in a different culture, with different customs, may not fully understand the meaning of “true Aikido,” which the founder held up as his ideal. 

However, because I have been asked, I will write it, and if it seems at all foreign, please just take this as an insight into the Japanese mindset.

In the past, when I have been teaching overseas, I have been told things like “I’ll strike from one step back,” when practicing shomen-uchi iriminage, or “I won’t do something stupid like training with the Jo until I’m worn out!” or “it’s enough for us white people to learn the form!” It makes things difficult for me.

I’ll now get into the substance of the piece. 

In ancient Japan, bujutsu (martial arts), and religious festivities were considered to be the same thing. Politics was also considered to be the same as religious festivities. This is why in Japan, politics is also known as matsurigoto (festival business). The ancient ancestors of the Japanese people always lived alongside their gods. In ancient times, in Japan, bujutsu (martial arts) was thought of as a way to soothe the soul of another person. The Kojiki uses the words “kotomuke, yawashi” (lit. to direct words at and pacify) to mean to make another person submit. This is literally referring to eliminating the other person’s fighting mind through kotodama. The founder would always say “It’s kotodama. Aikido means to eliminate the fighting mind of the other person.”

This way of life was maintained for 10,000 years during the Jomon period, but in the Yayoi period immigrants came from the continent of Asia, and the bujutsu (martial arts) of right, that is the say the bujutsu of connection, transformed into the bujutsu (martial arts) of might. After the Second World War, the founder revived Aikido as a “martial art of connection.” The founder believed that conflict arose because of people forgetting their true state of being.

In other words, what you gain through Aikido is not the ability to win fights, but the ability to transcend the world of fighting.

Once a person does that, they return to their true, untroubled state of being. Today, there are many problems confronting the world. These problems arise due to the separation of body and soul.

The founder passed away part-way through his journey. I believe that it is the duty of Aikido Yuishinkai members to take on the mantle of the founder’s ideals and wishes, to receive the founder’s teachings through me, who sat by his deathbed, and to pass them on so that the next generation does not forget or mistake the “true Aikido” that was created by the founder, Morihei Ueshiba.

Koretoshi Maruyama
Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai

 

I will write a follow up post to this in the next few days……….

The Sword of No Sword

10469040_500958486706993_2226287093272076358_n-2

“the way is born, when the base is firm”


The sword forms the basis of Aikido techniques, and it’s spirit. The founder said “in empty hand practice, you should move as if holding a sword, in sword practice you should move as if you are not holding one.”

 


Aikido is the realisation of the hidden principles of the sword, expressed through intent by the body, connected to mind and spirit, manifested within movement.

Fundamentally, when we learn sword we are teaching the body, through its connection to the ground, to control the kensen. This is the line that the sword tip scribes as it slices through the air. We must learn to connect our body in such a way that the weight and mass of the body are at the tip, sitting just behind the actual steel of the blade as though pushing it through the air, or more realistically falling just behind it. We learn to move our body as though carrying the sword in an actual combat situation. Able to respond or cut in any direction at any time.

All aspects of this relationship need to be considered. The relationship between the arms, hips, centerline, feet, hands, sword position, shape, and principles of sword – Always move to the sword, never pull the sword back, the sword moves with constant forward pressure, the body preloaded to deliver the cut or to defend and counterattack. Centre always checks centre, arms stay relaxed ready to express power stored in the legs and Hara. The breath expands the body in 6 directions and a heightened sense of all things is the mental impression.

There are three levels to this understanding. Shu, Ha, Ri, essentially they are to learn, detach and then transcend.

First there is man and sword, then man becomes sword, and finally there is no sword.

 

 

This and only this is the secret to Aikido training.




13139122_810091839126988_4029186843092224557_n-2Mu-To, or no sword, is the epitome of katsujinken, the sword that preserves life.


There were two main sword styles that the founder studies, Yagyu Shinkage ryu and Kashima Shinto ryu. Many of us have now heard Maruyama Sensei talk of the spirit and ability of Tsukahara Bokkuden, founder of this style. Within the principles of his school is the concept of Shin-bu, “the divine martial way” in which one wins without ever fighting. To make this a reality was to develop oneself, both physically and spiritually, to the level of the Kami or the Divine. Through “Tanren” we temper ourselves and come to this great realisation – to win without fighting is katsujinken, the sword that gives life.

The word aiki was also used to denote the highest level of mastery in the Yagyu shinkage ryu sword style, we have also heard Sensei tell many stories of its founder Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Fujiwara-no-Nobutsuna. To be able to take away another man’s sword when you had no weapon was considered the highest achievement in the Shinkage ryu. Through training with the sword one came to realise a great truth – katsujinken, the sword that gives life.

When we have realisation in regards to these things, we see the sword not as a physical element of steel and wood, but rather as a unity of the fundamental elements of the universe.

10981739_624054084397432_4493614627633456910_n-2Principles that go beyond the desire to destroy, but unite and uplift. The sword the mind and the spirit become one, piercing all duality, creating balance and harmony.

 


The sword is the ultimate teacher, the hardest taskmaster, and leaves nowhere to hide.

Exposes all faults, punishes all failures, destroys the ego and elevates the spirit.

 


In his book, “A light On Transmission” Mitsugi Saitomi Shihan relays this dialogue between himse lf and Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. It should leave you in no doubt as to how the founder of Aikido sees sword training, and also why Maruyama sensei considers it integral to the understanding of the deeper principles of the art.



“Are you blind, Saotome? Isn’t that what I have been showing you over and over? What are you doing during practice?



Listen up! The only secret to sword is cutting and thrusting. The secret of ken-no-narai, the study of the sword, is the piercing, all the way through, of the course of your life with honesty and sincerity and the cutting away of negative thoughts and emotions – the excising of evil from your heart. Unless you first understand Masakatsu Agatsu Katsu hayahi, that true victory is self victory, and that this is instantaneous victory, then no matter how proficient you become, or how many arts you learn, just as it is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, in the end, your learning will be of no use.

First you have to know who and what you yourself are. For the person that studies the way of the sword, the putting right of his own heart is the essential training. The time honoured saying do-ki-itchi (the way and its instrument are inseparable) means that technique and heart-mind work congruently. In bujutsu, the sword, jo,and waza all work as expressions of the person using them; it is because they can be used both for preserving life(katsujinken) and for taking it away (satsujinken) THAT SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF TRAINING.

Bushido is the discipline that expresses the teaching of the saints in the way of the sword: it seeks to protect the world from wrongdoing, to preserve peace in society, and to foster the flowering of culture. In other words you need to understand the origins of the words Bu and Ken in order to clear up and rectify the MANY MISUNDERSTANDINGS and MISCONCEPTIONS that persist concerning the martial way.

 

image

The art of takemusu aiki is not for the purpose of fighting or felling an opponent. It is the fulfilment of the true purpose and goal of the martial path – the actualisation of a peaceful world and one family of man. So that is why young people like yourself who are intending to make the way of Aiki your life must practice vigilance and tenacity.; you must constantly ward against carelessness and pierce your own heart with the blade of understanding to examine its workings. Without that kind of resolve, attainment of the enlightened path of Shobu(martial wisdom) is difficult. So in answer to your question, the secret of the sword is not to be found in technique. It is to be found in the heart of the person using the sword. This is the meaning of the word Takemusu that this old man is always talking about. Within the realm of mushin (no-mind) life and death exist back to back with each other. As long as you are attached to life and death you can never progress. When you understand from the bottom of your heart that you are nothing, then you will have attained true freedom. The mind without illusion clearly sees all things, but that is still difficult for young people like yourself to comprehend.”image

Wei Wu Wei

img_1350True Intent

Having the mind and will focused on a specific purpose.

This is body, mind and spirit as one.

In relation to budo, true intent focuses the spirit through the body, incorporating our will free from our mental attachment, true intent becomes the physical expression of mushin or no mind, in action it is the physical representation of Wei wu Wei or acting without action/attachment.

True training in budo is to achieve this state.

The greatest adversary in budo training is not a sword wielding psychopath, but rather our own ego self or deluded self nature. In creating an environment that is the modern dojo, in particular one that trains with modern attitudes and thought values based on intellectual analysis, fear of litigation, insurance indemnity issues and a modern predisposition to attaining everything in the fastest and easiest way possible, the ancient and proven methods that were used to destroy the ego to find the true self nature, have all but been abandoned.

It is not possible to intellectualise enlightenment, it has to be experienced. True budo can not be taught, the heart teachings can only come through self realisation. In budo the way to experience this is through training to the point that the self is forgotten, the ego is banished and action happens spontaneously from the subconscious mind. It helps to realise that the true warrior does not have fighting mind, and values compassion and honour above all things, and paradoxically seeks to attain peace within the study of seemingly non peaceful actions. Their ultimate goal is the cultivation of benevolence, love that transcends human emotions and exists in the heart of God. For without benevolence, the greatest of emotions, the warrior is nothing more than a tool for warfare and destruction.

img_1268Excessive as some may see it, the true understanding of shugyo (aesthetic or arduous training) in the context of budo as a way to elevate the spirit was essential in a “way” (Michi) that uses kinesthetic learning processes, repetitive body movements to the point of exhaustion and feats of human endurance to attain a desired outcome.

As a path to enlightenment I don’t think that the study of budo is for everyone. There is nothing easy about repetitive hard physically demanding training. Constant introspection and self analysis in the context of budo is a difficult thing to achieve, as it is easier to look outside for the truth that is actually inside, hidden deep beneath layers of self righteousness and self importance.

 

Budo is, after all, complex physical exercise.
Issuesarise when a “way” has a spiritual or philosophical side that is supposed to be understood through the forging of the body to release the ego, but is usurped by intellectuals that refuse to acknowledge the truth or benefit of the ancient ways of training. They attempt to teach a path that has been trodden by another without actually following the steps and actions of the teacher that lead them to a state of higher conscience, in essence they try to shortcut a process to enlightenment.

Unfortunately, this path is relevant only to the individual that walked it, and is not a blueprint for any other person’s life.

Truly, the saying ” not to seek to follow the great teachers of the past, but seek what they sought” is very relevant to true budo.

They also deny the benefits of shugyo to a “modern” man in a “modern” society and hide behind long winded discourses that are nothing more than plagiarism from enlightened human beings that themselves understood the value of shugyo, and applied these techniques with great vigor to overcome the self formed through learning based on accumulation of knowledge and the creation of the ego.

img_0826To train in this way is to train in true intent. The process of Tanren (forging) laser focuses the mind and gives rise to an intent that pierces through all delusion, to see the truth of all things is to do all things while disregarding the discriminating mind. A mind free of duality produces intent that is unable to know defeat, as being free from duality, life and death cease to exist.

If mind leads ki, and ki leads body then true intent arises in the mind. True Intent is the first thought, the moment before the first moment, and the origin of the subtle workings of ki. True Intent comes before the birth of yin/yang, and represents the harmony of the relative and the absolute, in this way true intent is seen as the highest level of budo mind. True Intent allows all things to exist in their natural form, in a state of “everything according to its true nature.”

No human can control another, but through true intent, the space between the two is occupied by the absolute, therefore the space is controlled and the outcome decided before movement arises.
True intent is not exerting your will or desire on another. The moment desire arises in the mind, attachment arises and the mind is defeated. You cannot attack wrong mind with wrong mind. This is utilising the same mind, and creates a state of aiuch, mutual death. As the true essence of mind spontaneously emerges , it is unable to be controlled by the attacker, as no person can grab another’s mind. With true intent comes action free of the process of desire, the interaction becomes a single moment, and technique is banished to past tense.

Technique becoming the end result of the interaction rather than the precursor to action.

As such, the shape of the body follows the natural shape of true intent, if this occurs it is impossible for the attackers intent to occupy the same space and time. This is the essence of “to cut with a single beat”. Technique free of desire and human will, initiated with true intent is the highest level of budo, and the reason that shugyo is absolutely necessary if we are to transcend the mundane and overcome the ego.

img_1275If true intent comes from true nature then it cannot be anything other than an expression of the universal truth of unconditional love.