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Exploring Aikido

本日の1枚は Philip Graham さんのお写真「Ink-wash Fuji」 をご紹介♪

I believe that French critic Charles Du Bos said it best, "The important thing is to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become." Aikido is endless, like the universe with infinite stars, solar systems and galaxies and like the body where “Life and death are simultaneous. 2,500,000 red cells are being born and consumed every second! We are living flames, burning at the edge of this incredible joy” Jacob Atabet by Michael Murphy,” “Aikido is an expression of who we are”:

(Dan Messissco sensei)

Aikido has been my journey since 1967 when I started training with Mitsunari Kanai Shihan at the New England Aikikai in Cambridge, MA. It has been filled with ups and downs and continuous growth both on and off the mat. I have trained in several styles with a number of teachers, many who studied with O’Sensei. As a result I have come to view Aikido as a way that will never be understood, only a path that is walked. Each of

us will have our own understanding of that path. It is said that there are many routes to the summit of Mt. Fuji, but only one summit.

What I am offering is a snapshot in time of my understanding. It was different yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. “Icho-go Ichi-e” (there is only now, there is only this opportunity). My current focus is on several things. They are not separate; they are all integral to every encounter.

 Intent  Yin-Yang (In-Yo)  Connection  Takemusu  Placement of the mind

Intent 心と意の合、意と気の合、気と力の合 – “Heart/mind leads intent, intent leads Ki, Ki leads strength/power”.

Morihei Ueshiba Aikido Sangenkai

“There are no Forms in Aikido. No Forms, the study of intent is everything. You must not let everything be subsumed by Form. This is because you will become unable to move with subtlety.” Morihei Ueshiba Intent, listening to the sound of the heart. Moving subtlety or with delicacy. Or perhaps moving as "beauty with inner implications". Sōetsu Yanagi

Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei recollects: “The Founder said “Destroy the Kata, create the Kata, Take Musu Aiki is continuous creation and growth”. For that reason, you must destroy the Kata” "Only the 'form" survives of anything created and then passed on in time, since creativity resides within what is formless and this formlessness cannot survive, having never existed. Therefore, only when the form is being consciously created in this moment is it truly useful and representative of its origin. Otherwise it is hollow and useless, simply a binding force, a limitation ." Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Motion From the start of my Aikido I found the focus on the form, stand this way, take uke's balance, do this and you will throw or pin uke. I am starting to understand that it is not necessary to "do" anything to uke. Uke’s balance is broken, not by doing something to uke, movements and shapes are yours and they will impact uke or not. You must be able to sacrifice your desire to throw uke. It is not necessary to "take" uke's balance however uke may unbalance depending on what you do. I am focusing my movements by not trying to blend with uke, not trying to do anything to him. Watching O'Sensei and a few contemporary teachers everything that needs to happen does as uke enters your space. O'Sensei said, "All I have to do is to keep standing this way." Soft movement and soft touch start to describe how you need to interact. The subtle contact necessary is something I am just beginning to understand. There is a saying in Tai Chi: “What skill enables you to use four ounces to move a thousand pounds?” This has started much exploring. It is a work in progress. No explanation truly describes a technique. One can only understand it by doing it - by being it. I am not saying that form/kata is unnecessary; in fact it is essential for building an Aki body. There is no takemusu without a strong grounding in form. There are no shortcuts. That said, at some point everyone moves beyond fixed forms.

Yin-Yang (In-Yo)

八力は、対照力「動、静、解、凝、引、弛、合、分、」「9-1、8-2、7-3、6 -4」をいいます。 “The 8 powers are opposing forces: Movement – Stillness, Melting – Congealing, Pulling – Loosening, Combining – Splitting / 9-1, 8-2, 7-3, 6-4” Morihei Ueshiba Aikido Sangenka

To hold the perceived opposites at the same moment is to experience unity. kokoro = “heart, mind, spirit” “The concept of yin and yang is predicated on the assumption that the continuum of change through which all phenomena in the Universe are constantly moving can ultimately be reduced to a flux between two alternating poles The terms yin and yang are an attempt to define the activity of these poles. It is important to realize that yin and yang are fluid, dynamic values and not static fixtures. The Chinese concept of yin-yang is that emphasize is on mutual completion and cooperation – rather than antagonism between highly contrasted opposites.” The Dark Warrior Guide to Chinese Medicine John Pirog 2014

If we look at only a tiny subset of the greater yin and yang as it refers to nage and uke we can see that the attack and response are both movements that can only end in completion. In fact due to the dynamic nature of yin and yang, Uke and nage often exchange roles during an encounter. Nage at the initial stage of an encounter will actually take the role of uke as he receives the energy of the attack. This allows an appropriate response. Uke’s receptivity to nage’s throw may enable him to execute kaeshi waza and reverse the technique. Thus the interplay of yin and yang continues. Another aspect of yin and yang is breath. “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” Thich Nhat Hanh “We come in on the breath; we go out on the breath”. Sufi saying. Long ago Mary Heiny Sensei told me to breathe in uke’s attack and breathe out the resolution. This serves to create a rhythm of the interaction. It helps nage to resist doing something to uke. It creates the flow. It allows one to begin to be in the body, to be in the present moment. The body is always in the present moment, it is the mind that fluctuates between past and future, landing in the present only when it is absent. Kokyu-nage which translates as “breath throw” is an expansion of ki during a throw. When we breathe mindfully we take in more than air. We fill with ki. When Henry Kono spoke to me about O-Sensei's statement to him as to why we could not do what he did, "Because you do not understand Yin and Yang", this solved for me the mystery I had been struggling with for many, many years. Your focus of attention should neither be on Yin or Yang but where they meet. This is basically the Chinese view, between Yin and Yang there is obviously a neutral point, why bother to mention it. In the Aryuvedic description of the movement of forces, there are Positive, Neutral and Negative areas described. This alternative view of the same situation may 'open the

door' for those who are perplexed at being asked to be somewhere which is 'nameless'. Alan Ruddock

. On the last day Takeda Sensei summed up his teaching by sharing the concept of "Zero Point" to refer to the place where everything meets at the centre, beyond space and time. At Zero Point, there is tremendous energy available and everything is possible. Marilyn Wolovick of Kootenay Aikido Kenkyukai (AKI Canada)

“When I say make everything zero that actually is a point. Don’t misunderstand and think that zero means nothing. You have to make each point zero.” He then went on to explain that from zero there is a plus and a minus. That is where 陰 in (yin) and 陽 yo (yang) appear. Most people flip between these from one moment to the next, but residing in the zero that those energies spin around is the foundation of kyojitsu. Masaaki Hatsumi Soke “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”― T.S. Eliot This, “still point”, “zero point”, “center of the universe”, is where you stand on the “floating bridge of heaven”. This point flows between yin and yang, yet always creates a center. This is the point where takemusu aiki springs forth from.

Connection 天之浮橋は丁度魂魄の正しく整った上に立った姿で、十字の姿にならなければならない 。The Floating Bridge of Heaven stands with Mind and Body correctly ordered, it must take the exact form of a cross. Morihei Ueshiba Aikido Sangenkai “It’s never about the throw, it’s about connection.”

Mary Heiny Sensei

Yamabiko the echo of the mountain is an aspect of connection.

Stand on the bridge that was built Through the Aiki of fire and the water In the great expanse of the void There is the Mountain Echo. On this very earth stand as firmly as a god. Flourish in the very center-the stance of love is the Path of the mountain echo Blend with (ki-musubi) the Universe of Heaven and Earth (tenchi) Stand in the center (of all) In your heart take up the stance Of "The Way of the Mountain Echo" Doka O’Sensei

Simultaneously you enter and receive, the Yamabiko: the Mountain Echo resounds both ways. Breathe him in, surround him on all sides with your kokyu. Ebb and flood, you float buoyant upon a sea, finding the rhythm of your shared motion. Standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven we straddle Earth and Heaven, letting fire and water blend to become a new creation, a union and a realization. Bjorn Saw O Sensei writings Yamabiko is changing how I do and understand Aikido. My movements are my own, in the shared space with uke and this creates a response/reaction from uke. Moving and being responsible for my body, I still stay aware of uke/or multiple uke. and there is no doing anything to uke. What is really impacting me is how subtle interaction with uke needs to be. Even on the level of touch and intention. If I even think that I am doing something to uke it is a subtle form of aggressive response. Even the grab. You do not grab uke, you make contact and squeeze your own hand, feeling uke, but you are only closing your own hand. The same with touch. Not reaching, not with any aggressive thought only with an awareness of contact, feeling it for what it is in that moment. Not having any idea of what it should be. Aikido on this level will change the person. I think this is what O'Sensei was talking about when he said Aikido of a way to change the world. Every interaction with uke is unique. It is a moment in time never to be seen again. Receiving uke's attack is actually very martial. In fact you are doing the technique on yourself. Watch/feel any one performing good ukemi. They just flow around you and you do the technique. At 73 I have a lot of trouble doing that sort of ukemi. I wish I had

learned this years ago. By totally receiving uke's attack you can reverse it at many points because you are not allowing uke to do something to you. You are a willing participant. It becomes natural to do the reversal. O'Sensei talks about understanding yin and yang. We can explore this in the uke nage roles. As you begin to weave Intent, Yin-yang and connection together you create the “attractive force.” Ueshiba talks about 引力 / "attractive force" as the force generated between two opposing forces when they are connected by Ki. In other words, Ki is generated by intent, which makes it work. Aikido Sangenkai “Takemusu is training to cultivate the ability to use gravitation”.


As uke attacks if Nage remains at the “zero point” and allows all of his movements to be his own not reacting or engaging uke an attractive force is generated causing uke to “stick” to nage. At this point by moving with uke his balance may be compromised, etc. If nage engages uke then it is strength, speed, technique or luck that determines the outcome.

Takemusu 「武産とは引力の錬磨であります。」 “Take Musu is the training of Atractive Force”

Morihei Ueshiba

Aikido Sangenkai

"Do not look into your opponents eyes, If you do, your mind will be absorbed by the eyes. One should not look at an opponent's sword, or else your mind will be drawn away by it. One should not look at his opponent, for your mind will be drawn away by him. True Budo is the polishing of the ability to absorb an opponent in his entirety. Therefore it suffices that I merely stand here." O’Sensei

That space is a space of freedom. Not bound by the past or the future. You are free to respond in the moment. Often we call this takemusu aiki. If we take a “stance” or even focus on uke we have entered into a contact of duality. Uke and nage form one shape. If we maintain our own moves our own integrity then uke with the intention to attack has already lost since there is no harmony in his thoughts or actions. Yin and Yang is not a set of opposites it is a dynamic interaction moving toward harmony.

I am starting to grasp Takemusu Aiki. There is a progression in understanding. First one must stand in a natural way, with full awareness (no openings) and then be totally receptive to uke’s thoughts, intentions and movements. In addition you need to be fully in control of your thoughts and movements. O’Sensei said, “your every movement creates a technique.” There are endless techniques and they are all the same. They are based on the interplay of uke and nage. This is where my Aikido is taking me. Every class, every encounter, at every level working to be receptive and responding accordingly.

Placement of the mind 合氣を学ぶものは天の浮橋に立たねばならぬ In order to learn Aiki you must stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven.

Morihei Ueshiba

Aikido Sangenkai

"Where shall I fix my mind? If I focus on the enemy's body movement my mind will be captured by the movement of the enemy's body. If I fix my mind on the enemy's sword, my mind will be taken by the sword. If I fix my mind in where I want to cut the enemy my mind will be taken by the place the enemy is cut. If I fix my mind on the place I don't want to be cut, my mind will be taken by the place I do not want to be cut. If I fix my mind on the opponent's stance my mind will be taken by that stance. In any event it can be said, that there is no place to focus the mind." Takuan Soho Zen priest and master swordsman So this begins to unfold, if you are not focusing you are expanding, you are filling the entire body with ki. The mind does not stop it continues to expand and it comes back to "All I have to do is to keep standing this way" We have many hints in our training. "Keep both hands alive, don't look at your feet, don't look at uke's attacking hand, don't hold your breath, don't hunch over." All of these point to expanding mind, expanding ki. This is the basis for takemusu. Receive uke's intent, his energy, his ki and move with it. Allow it to join with yours and the universe at large. Embrace uke and just move with him. No expectations.. This is not feeling uke’s energy and then thinking now I will do this or that. Respond without interval. If you do not then you are vulnerable. “With the speed of a flash of lightning, / Cut through the spring breeze”. (Fragment of a Buddhist gatha) Develop patience, allow uke to unfold his attack allow a movement to develop which may unbalance uke and resolve the conflict.

Patience during attack for example if uke strikes with knife he puts his mind into the hand and knife, he is then open. Same as if he punches or grabs. This is what O'Sensei and Takuan Soho refer to. Mary Heiny Sensei talks of the heart melting as uke attacks; this gives a whole different perspective if we look at the heart as mind. I am thinking that O’Sensei had this definition in his thought as he kept referring to opening the heart. Open the mind, let the big mind, the mind of the universe enter into you. There is no merging with uke (attacker), there is only one; there has always been only one. We with our limited perception think we are separate from the one, from unity. 1+1=1 I have long been attracted to this quote from Takeda Yoshinobu Shihan: “Gather your partner. Simply move together.� Much of what I have written stems from contemplation of that quote. It is not just Aikidoka that strive to be in the moment, poets, artists and anyone seeking to tap into creativity strives for that timeless state. To sum up. You cannot do Aikido, you must be Aikido. The perfect archery has no archer. Aikido is a truly spiritual practice. No attack, no defense Only Wind Turning Leaves This is a work in progress and a snapshot in time of my understanding of Aikido. It is formed from years of training and reading and interactions with teachers, students and partners. I have the deepest respect for this gift of Aikido. Jeffery Black

Exploring aikido  
Exploring aikido