…a feeling that wells up and comes out naturally…

by Motomichi Anno Shihan 

The ability to explain the spirit [of harmony and love] can be called kototama…  If a conversation is truly something wonderful, it is kototama.  If it goes no farther than ordinary conversation, it has not reached the level of kototama.

When the desire for everyone to be in harmony is present in what you say, I feel your words are kototama. If the heart of love and gratitude permeates every word, that is kototama. I felt that spirit consistently present in what O’Sensei said…He didn’t waste a single word. Whenever O’Sensei spoke, he gave us something to be treasured.

When O’Sensei chanted the sounds A…O…U…E…I… and other kototama, he would say that the sound had to emerge naturally, of its own accord.  “A”…is a feeling that wells up and comes out naturally in a sound.  While O’Sensei was sounding the kototama, he would say, with “A” the sound emerges naturally, and with “ME” the sound goes out and circulates. The sound a-me means “heaven,” as in Ame no uki hashi, the Floating Bridge of Heaven.

The way I understand it, the sound expands and moves circularly, naturally, like the movement of the universe. The movement of the Great Universe is expressed in sound, as a small universe. Then, moving with the feeling of oneness with all things, that feeling is expressed in the techniques of Aikido. It is natural movement, expressing yin and yang, Izanagi and Izanami, water and fire.  O’Sensei often said, “Suika musunde, tate yoko o nasu:  Uniting water and fire, create vertical and horizontal.” …

O’Sensei showed his kototama to us, but he did not teach us specifically how to do it ourselves.  We understood that his kototama, what he voiced, was the expression of the spirit; and we simply watched and listened. As I reflect back, it seems to me that O’Sensei’s kototama was neither mind nor heart, but rather something that welled forth from O’Sensei’s spirit, as a result of the [shu-gyo] of mind and heart that he had undertaken over the course of his life.

– – –  Journey to the Heart of Aikido,   pp.248-9

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