Short Topic Introduction (Feel free to skip this if you read last week’s)
Due to the esoteric terms, analogies, and metaphors that Ueshiba Morihei commonly used in his lectures, many, if not most, of the individuals present at his lectures stated that they could not understand what it was he was talking about. These statements were so ubiquitous, that it became commonly assumed, or common “knowledge,” that nobody could understand Ueshiba Morihei’s lectures.
This is a rather convenient assumption, isn’t it? It allows for the re-interpretation, and translation of, his message, by all that followed afterward. If one understood his lectures and could explain them, the bar would be raised for all others that attended the lectures to show an equivalent level of understanding, or suffer loss of face. If one understood his lectures and could explain them, the die would be cast. There would be Ueshiba Morihei’s explanation of Aikido, and everyone else’s.
Shirata Rinjiro was a pioneer in the early days of Aikido. He taught in Ueshiba Morihei’s place at Omoto’s paramilitary branch, the Budo Senyokai. He taught in Ueshiba’s Osaka dojo, and at the Asahi Dojo in Osaka. Shirata was around for the publishing of Aiki Jujujutsu Densho, which later was renamed Budo Renshu. And, he also took ukemi for Ueshiba in the 1935 film Budo. Before being called up to become the Commander of a Division in the war, Shirata was tapped by Ueshiba to become a ‘Professor of Aikido’ at the University in Manchukuo. (Tomiki Kenji went to Manjukuo instead.) After the war, he was repatriated to Japan. And in time, he was eventually called back into Aikido service by his teacher Ueshiba Morihei. Ueshiba asked him to look after, and support, his son Kisshomaru. So, he became head of the Tohoku region, head of Yamagata prefecture, and President of the International Aikido Federation, for a time. Unlike Tomiki, Mochitsuki, and Shioda senseis, Shirata chose not to distance himself from, and continued to work in support of, his teacher Ueshiba Morihei and the Ueshiba family throughout his life.
:In the last years of his life, Shirata sensei both wrote and taught until he could no longer do so. During this time, he finished the katas that were the summation of his study of Sho Chiku Bai Ken and Jo. He also wrote the essay that will be presented over the next several weeks.
The continuation of Shirata Rinjiro’s essay translated from:
Renewal Through Keiko
Create A New Self With Daily Keiko[i]
Shirata Rinjirō, Kaichō, Tōhoku Aikidō Renmei
Misogi ©1992 Yamagata Ken Aikidō Renmaei and Tōhoku Aikidō Renmei
Part 2 of Shirata’s Essay:
A person who correctly spreads and maintains the whole of aikidō is a model instructor. Not only are the personal views of imitators useless to him, but imitators and personal views are sacrilege to those who adore aikidō. Do not expound superficial simplistic methods, instead explain the founder of aikidō in an earnest straightforward way, keeping the training of those who adore aikidō and the awareness of the model instructor in mind. The founder said, “It is fine if you do not understand what I say. Your guardian deity understands perfectly and accepts it with great pleasure. Eventually, you will understand.”
Aikidō as Aiki
The founder said, “In ancient times there were martial artists who used the word aiki, but the aikidō that I advocate and what the practitioners of ancient martial arts call aiki are completely different.”
The founder said:
Aiki is not the art of fighting with an opponent or defeating an enemy. It is a way to unify the world and make human beings a single family. The essence of aikidō is to harmonize oneself with the movement of the universe, one has the experience of unifying oneself with the universe itself. Someone who comprehends the essence of aikidō has the universe within them and can say with confidence, “I am the Universe.” For me, this lead to a comprehension of the martial. However quickly and skillfully an opponent attacks, I am not defeated. That is not because my technique is faster than my opponent’s technique. I say it is not a question of fast or slow. From the beginning I am victorious because the opponent who has decided to fight with me, the universe itself (self in unity with the universe), decides to violate the harmony of the universe. That is, the moment a feeling of fighting against me arises, the enemy is already defeated. At that point length of time, whether fast or slow, doesn’t exist at all.
Aikidō is the principle of non-resistance. Because it is non-resistant, it is victorious from the start. A person who has malicious intent is already defeated. (Takemusu Aiki, Chapter 12, from the first page)
Allen Dean Beebe’s Commentary:
Concerning Aikido . . .
This section reads rather like propaganda in support of shihan “model teachers” doesn’t it? However, if one reads between the lines, it is in actuality a criticism of modern shihan, a laying out of what a true shihan would be, and an admonition to humbly study the words of the Ueshiba Morihei.
Shirata starts this paragraph with a qualifier:
“A person who correctly spreads and maintains the whole of aikidō is a model instructor. ”
This sentence put in another way reads like this: Any person who does NOT spread and maintain the WHOLE of aikido is NOT a model instructor. To Shirata, a model instructor avoids “personal views” and “imitators.” Here we must understand that since Aiki follows universal laws “personal views” are of little importance, or influence, on the “Way” of Aiki. As an analogy, my personal “view” of what gravity is, or isn’t, does not influence the law of gravity. The law of gravity simply “is.” The idea of “Imitators” run along the same lines. Either one, understands and complies to the law or “Way” of Aiki, or one does not. If one does not, obviously imitation is not a substitute for accomplishment. Again, as in the previous analogy concerning gravity, if one recognizes and conforms to the law of gravity, one can use that knowledge of the law to accomplish great things. If one does not understand and therefore cannot conform to the law of gravity, it better to learn about the law than to “imitate” the great accomplishments of those that do.
“Do not expound superficial simplistic methods, instead explain the founder of aikidō in an earnest straightforward way, keeping the training of those who adore aikidō and the awareness of the model instructor in mind.”
Presumably Shirata is attempting to “explain the founder of aikido in an earnest straightforward way, in this essay. Consequently, for Shirata, the training of the model instructor who adores aikido is none other than Ueshiba Morihei. Shirata then quote’s his model instructor:
“The founder said, “It is fine if you do not understand what I say. Your guardian deity understands perfectly and accepts it with great pleasure. Eventually, you will understand.”
This may sound a little far-fetched, but to Ueshiba, who was educated in a Shingon Temple, it would make perfect sense. In Shingon Buddhism, everyone is understood to have “boddhicitta.” That is the potential for, or “seed” of, enlightenment within. This being so, regardless of one’s past or present circumstances, and no matter how long it takes, one will eventually be enlightened. So, to Ueshiba’s mind, since Aikido follows universal laws, and since we are part of the universe, and therefore are also subject to, and participate in the laws of the Universe, we all carry within us the potential to understand aikido.
In a brief aside, let us look one again at boddhicitta. One might reasonably ask, “How is it that Shingon Buddhism assumes that everyone has boddhicitta, or the potential for enlightenment?” Interestingly, this assertion is based upon the nature of Yin/Yang relationships. If there is enlightenment, then, by definition, there must be un-enlightenment, the state from which one becomes “enlightened.” If there is the potential for un-enlightenment within individuals, (and it only takes a cursory look at the world around us to conclude that un-enlightenment does exist, at least conditionally), then there must also be the potential for enlightenment within individuals.
Aikido as Aiki
“The founder said, “In ancient times there were martial artists who used the word aiki, but the aikidō that I advocate and what the practitioners of ancient martial arts call aiki are completely different.”
Here, Ueshiba differentiates the Way of Aiki that he advocates from earlier references to aiki, since they are different both in purpose and principal. I would argue that Ueshiba is not thinking about the Aiki he learned in Daito Ryu while making this statement, but rather is referring to far earlier usages of the term Aiki. After all, one need only observe the dojo kun of most Daito Ryu schools to recognize that they share similar principles and values.
Daito-ryu Aikibudo Shugyo-kun
The training rules at Tokimune Takeda’s Daitokan dojo:
1. The Dojo is a place of the spirit, we begin with courtesy (rei) and end with courtesy
2. The Way becomes profound, single-mindedly condition and train yourself – never give up
3. Pride is the beginning of inattention, and the origin of destruction
4. Always be serious, sincerity is first
5. The ultimate level of the Way is Harmony, that is the goal of this Ryu.
“The essential principles of Daito-ryu are Love and Harmony”
“The goal of spreading Daito-ryu is ‘Harmony and Love’, keeping this spirit is what preserves and realizes social justice. This was Sokaku Sensei’s dying wish”
Tokimune Takeda, Soke of Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo
son of Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda
“Aiki Budo is the Way of Human Development”
Aiki is the fitting together of Ki.
Through this harmonious reconciliation all things under heaven and earth in the universe move peacefully without disturbance. This harmonization is Aiki.
As the Ki of Aiki is natural it unifies and reconciles without the slightest ill feeling or resistance.
The harmonious reconciliation that is Aiki must be the basis for the formation of human society.
This is the Great Circle of Harmony (Daienwa) of Aiki.
Through the principles of Aiki pacify and reconcile those threatening violence. Also when the enemy has already attacked, likewise transform and change according to the attack of the enemy through the principles of fitting together Ki and achieve reconciliation.
Enlightened people have received this transmission from the Founder, Shinra Saburo Minamoto Yoshimitsu, and must train devoutly in the basics of Aiki no Jutsu as well as Taijutsu (Yawara), Tachi no Jutsu, Sojutsu, and Bojutsu to attain the state where Aiki Budo is the Way of Human Development.
~ Sagawa Yukiyoshi
(For more information on this topic please refer to Chris Li’s blog at AikidoSangen Kai )
Shirata then again quotes Ueshiba to explain and differentiate Aikido from the “Aiki of the past.”
“Aiki is not the art of fighting with an opponent or defeating an enemy. It is a way to unify the world and make human beings a single family.”
This defines Aikido as different from “the Aiki of the past” in that, “the Aiki of the past” had the sole purpose of victory through the defeat of others. In other words, it followed the principal of: “Victory Through Defeat of Another” or “Victory through Resistance.”
“The essence of aikidō is to harmonize oneself with the movement of the universe, one has the experience of unifying oneself with the universe itself.”
Here Ueshiba defines the essence of Aikido, NOT as:
- a collection of techniques
- a strategy
- a knowledge, and taking advantage, of Anatomical and Neurological weaknesses or reactions
- a philosophy or religion
- a martial art.
“The essence of Aikido is to harmonize oneself with the movement of the universe.” So, here we are talking about universal forces* (not individuals, or even groups of individuals), and harmonizing one’s self (not resisting or avoiding) with these universal forces, both mentally and physically, within oneself. “one has the experience of uniting oneself with the universe itself.” This, because one has “harmonized” one’s mind and body with the universal movements (forces) in one’s self.
“Someone who comprehends the essence of aikidō has the universe within them and can say with confidence, “I am the Universe.””
One’s level of understanding the essence of aikido will be demonstrated by the outward symptoms and abilities reflecting the degree to which one has harmonized with the “movement (forces) of the universe” within one’s self. If one can do as much, one can confidently report that they ARE the Universe. One recognizes the inseparability of self and universe.
“For me, this lead to a comprehension of the martial.”
Here “the martial” is a translation of the Japanese “bu” as in “budo” or “bujutsu.” It could be translated as “war” but the English nuances associated with the term “war” are not the same as those associated with the term “bu.”
Since the term “bu” is now common in the West. Perhaps one can understand this utterance as, “For me, this lead to the comprehension of budo, or bujutsu.”
“However quickly and skillfully an opponent attacks, I am not defeated. That is not because my technique is faster than my opponent’s technique. I say it is not a question of fast or slow.”
Here again, in the instances of Aiki 1, Aiki 2, and especially Aiki 3, the nature of the Aiki itself renders timing superfluous to the outcome. This is because Aiki 1, Aiki 2, and Aiki 3 are non-resistant, (in a very particular way.)
“From the beginning I am victorious because the opponent who has decided to fight with me, the universe itself (self in unity with the universe), decides to violate the harmony of the universe.”
Before there is contact, before there is even the appearance of a fight, one in “unity with the universe,” having balanced opposing forces in the manner known as Aiki, is victorious. One is victorious because “True Victory is Self-Victory.” Self-victory being bringing one’s self into harmony with the movement of the universe, and true victory being the Universe itself. Once one decides to violate the harmony of the universe (by not engaging in self victory and uniting with the universe) one is doomed to failure. As a being of the universe, it does not do well to try to defeat the universe. After all, even if one succeeded, one would cease to be!
That is, the moment a feeling of fighting against me arises, the enemy is already defeated. At that point length of time, whether fast or slow, doesn’t exist at all.”
There is a counter point to the above statement that may be more pertinent and hopeful for us all. The moment a feeling of NOT FIGHTING against the universe arises, one already begins to enjoy the benefits of True Victory due to Self-Victory. At that point as well, “length of time, whether fast or slow, doesn’t exist at all.” This is Katsu (victory) Haya (fast) Bi (sun). Or, victory fast as light.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Aikidō is the principle of non-resistance. Because it is non-resistant, it is victorious from the start. A person who has malicious intent is already defeated.” (Takemusu Aiki, Chapter 12, from the first page)
Previously we learned the essence of Aikido:
“The essence of Aikido is uniting one’s self with the movement of the Universe.”
And now we learn what Aikido is:
“Aikido is the principle of nonresistance.”
How to unite one’s self with the movement of the universe, and the principle of nonresistance are all described in Aiki 1, Aiki 2, and Aiki 3.
As described above, one who is non-resistant, via Unification with the movement of the universe in the manner of Aiki 1,2,3, is victorious from the start. And a one out of accord with the Universe (due to malicious intent) is already defeated.
In this segment of Shirata’s essay, we see again the tying together of the micro cosmic (immediate physical reality) with the macro cosmic (universal implication.) Noting this repeating pattern will be useful in understanding the rest of the essay. It will also clarify what Ueshiba taught Aikido is, and how he taught it over time.
*movement is the result of an applied force
Next week we come to one of my favorite parts of the essay. Here Shirata sensei lays out Aikido in a linear progression that turns out to be a circle after all. It is very direct, and each section is probably worthy of a blog in and of itself!
Like most good writing, Shirata’s essay builds itself up to a climax and then resolves itself in the end.
There is much more Aiki goodness coming up!!
~ Allen Dean Beebe