Category Archives: Articles

A change of optic:

Aikido is a gem of many facets – sometimes it seems that every one of O’Sensei’s students remembered a different teacher, and of course, many, many different styles have been preserved and developed – but here is one facet that clicked into focus for me recently:

what if O’Sensei spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo coherently pursuing what he felt to be his “mission in life”?…

what if he spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo creating and nurturing a network of dojos run by Omoto-Kyo, ex-Omoto-Kyo and Ko-Shinto believers ( hand-picked deshi,  some of them raised, almost, as members of his family) – - – and ex-Kamikaze pilots, too (!) – often with his own name on the sign -  in places – and close to shrines…

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…late in 1942…

“….On August 7, after consultations with the appropriate judges, [Judge Takano] released [Onasiburo, Sumiko and Isao] on bail, and they appeared in the outside world for the first time in six years and eight months….

“My cousin Yasuaki Deguchi…writes in ‘Founder of a New Religion’….’To the followers who came to see him, he would say with emphasis, “There will be no divine help in this war,” “This war is a war between devils, so do not get involved”….’

“….even now he did not hold back from his outspoken remarks. ‘On the day I left prison, Japan’s defeat in the war began,’ he said.

“On August 7, 1942, the day Onisaburo was released, American forces landed on Guadalcanal, and the first naval battle of the Solomon Islands began….

“He would say, ‘They did all this to Omoto and don’t even come to apologize. So Japan will be attacked by the foreign enemy and will be beaten.’….’God dislikes killing. Omoto will not cooperate in the war.’

“….Telling soldiers leaving for service overseas, ‘Fire your guns into the air,’ he would give them advice according to their respective destinations….To troops leaving for the front, Onisaburo issued special amulets on which were written the words, ‘Victory to the Enemy’….

- – - – from The Great Onisaburo Deguchi,  Kyotaro Deguchi,  tr. Charles Rowe, publ. Aiki News, pp. 285-9

…earlier in 1942…

“…by 1942, [the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai] became literally a part of government organization and it was managed under the direct and joint supervision of ministry of education, ministry of health, ministry of navy, ministry of army and ministry of interior. The headquarters of DNBK located in Heian Shrine was moved to the ministry of health. As a result of this governmental authority, DNBK controlled All Student Soldier Physical Education Promotion Association, Kodokan, Nippon Kobudo Association, All Japan Kendo Federation…

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…1942-1948 – Ubuya…

“It may be that, at the time, we [this young people's class in Iwama] were the only existing Aikido class in Japan – perhaps even in the world.”
- – - Kazuaki Tanahashi,   Aikiweb interview

“In 1946 when I was admitted into Aikido, the site of the Iwama Dojo with an area of more than 20,000 tsubo was just a forest of Japanese oak trees, dotted with the Aiki Shrine,  Dojo,  and a farm. The location of the Dojo almost eluded detection. The local neighbors had not the foggiest idea of what was going on inside the Dojo and would not dare approach it.”
- – - Morihiro Saito Shihan,  Traditional Aikido,  vol.5,  p.20

“For seven years, Ueshiba O’Sensei hid away in the mountains, and said not a word: he was silent. But by his silence he was teaching, making something very great, by saying nothing.”
- – - André Nocquet Shihan, Maître Morihei Ueshiba: présence et message  p.97


So what is happening here?…


So what is happening here? Is the dancer spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Depends which side of the brain you are using.

Left side: logical, language, methodic, concepts, like a serial processor
Right side: creative, emotion, direct experience, like a parallel processor

Can you get it to switch at will?
- by doing math in your head?
- by imaginging you are about to look at your hand?

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Since ancient times
Art and the Martial Way
and the good, hard
practice of both
have made the Body-Mind – - – wake up!!!

- – - O’Sensei

“At the very bottom is the question, ‘how do you prepare your mind to become a singer…

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“…I had many opportunities to accompany [O'Sensei] and during those times I would analyse intently  the pace and movement of his feet as I followed along behind him. I was interested in where he held his center of gravity and just how he transformed it as he moved along…”
- – - Gozo Shioda Sensei,  Aikido Shugyo  p.82

“…I was mostly focused on [Takeda Sokaku] Sensei’s footwork. I took notes on which foot came first or what he did to immobilize me – these are the points that I paid attention to and took down carefully in my notes. You students today…your attention is diverted by the form and how it looks overall.”
- – - Sagawa Yukiyoshi Sensei,  Transparent Power,  p.129

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All physical activity in the dojo tends to rewire the circuits in one’s head -  but none more so than the investigation of “kyo” :   the trajectory through air that feels like the path of least resistance for a staff or sword, and in particular the places where gravity and momentum are perfectly balanced so that the weapon seems to float.

The term “kyo” is a buddhist term – it’s one of the Japanese words for  “emptiness” in “emptiness is form, form is emptiness”.  And the experience of it is  profoundly counter-cultural.  Our culture, more than any previous  culture, surrounds us with a plethora of objects and leads us to interact more
with objects than with other human beings. Thus, we are entrained to  pay attention to the moment of grasping the object…

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A Shinden Isshin-ryu master talks about aiki in 1911 or 1912….

These days, most people understand that the word “aiki” has been used many different ways, in many different traditions, and has been for centuries. But here is a Shinden Isshin- ryu master, in 1911 or 1912, talking about aiki in – at times – strikingly familiar terms: the “wonderful aiki-no-jutsu”, “acquired only by long and patient study” that allows one to “place another under one’s influence,” “see in the dark, bring walking men to a full stop, or break the sword brandished to slay [one].”.

The passages below are extracted from a talk given at his dojo, to help E. J. Harrison write his wonderful book on the esoteric aspects of bujutsu, as the reporter learned and observed them between 1903 and 1913. This is a fascinating look into the world of bujutsu as it was during O’Sensei’s formative years….

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…Cold is a purifying agent…

…cold is a purifying agent – just like salt and alcohol (sake), flowing air and perfect words – like the first two, it is a traditional means of preserving food. When you perform misogi, not only do you stimulate the hind-part of the brain associated with altruism, and kick your blood circulation and your immune system into overdrive…. you also drop your body temperature to a place where many micro-organisms slow down or cannot survive.

But I’m realizing, as the temperatures in Boise hover in the single digits and the teens: this cold, and the snow and the ice, transform our walking, cycling, driving, into a meditation practice.

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