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There are many swords in aikido…

…the Itto-ryu that Takeda Sokaku Sensei practised:  which is in almost every aikido movement, and which creates the body and  sensitivities on which aikido is based (the relaxed shoulder from a  well-performed chiburi – or from 1,000 cuts, the experience of isshin with aite – or with one’s fellow members in a battle phalanx – , the constant and egoless contact of “sticky swords”,  the centered body – with arms protecting armpits – moving from the hara, the ki-musubi of tsuka and hara mushin…distant-mountain-gaze…)   …and indeed… and by good fortune…  the Iai that Nishio Shoji Shihan learned and practised was in the Itto-Ryu tradition.

…the basic Yagyu Shinkage Ryu kamae of hanmi  (or hito-emi), which O’Sensei valued as the physical manifestation of the ki of katsujinken – all the more so because the initial kihon solo exercises of the clan-related Yagyu Shingan Ryu Jujutsu, in which he held a menkyo, use a 90 degree “in-yo hanmi” and various sword-swinging movements as exercises in sensitization to ten-no-kokyu and chi-no-kokyu 1) . Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is probably the only sword ryu that O’Sensei studied formally, but the body of Ono-ha-Itto-Ryu is in every movement of Daito-Ryu.

…the Kashima Shinto Ryu that O’Sensei investigated,  I would guess, partly  for its primordial and Shrine-centered status…

from which last he developed…

…the kata of Sho-Chiku-Bai,  as exercises in the three flavors of ki-feeling that he felt arising in aikido…and in ki-musubi…and in sen-no-sen

…and Aiki-Myo-Ken: which is a way of talking about the phantom sword that is present to an empty-handed swordsman doing his sword movements as Tai-jutsu – and especially when he does them with a heart of katsujinken.

..and   …and…

1) Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heiho,   Osano Jun,  pp. 34-54

- – - – - – - – - – Lessons from Fire – - – - – - – - – - -

by Jolene Starr

In my search for a cure for the interminable depression that had consumed most of my energy for the past four years, I finally turned to shamanism.  Shaman and his assistant Lori, took me up toward Bogus Basin to perform a shamanic healing ceremony with me.

On the drive up, Shaman discussed the details of how the ceremony would proceed.

We’re going to build a fire,” Shaman said.  “Fire is cleansing. It can burn away sadness, anger, grief. You can have a conversation with the fire. Let the fire know what you would like it to do. But also listen to the fire. There will definitely be times where the fire will talk to you. Sit back and absorb what the fire has to say.”

We had gained about 1500 ft in elevation when Shaman pulled off the main road onto a dirt road. He drove a short distance, then parked.  “This is it,” he said.

I jumped out of the car and began walking up the trail while Lori and Shaman began to unpack the car. They had brought a box with firewood, camp chairs, an ice chest, and a blanket. They hauled them a short distance, to the other side of a large rock outcropping, where there was a natural clearing and a spot that had been used for a campfire before. Shaman and Lori argued briefly about the best way to start the fire. Shaman got it started, but then it died out. Lori took over. “Takes a girl scout,” she said.

Her fire caught and continued to burn.  While Shaman and Lori were getting the fire going, I wandered around and explored the area. There were a number of large boulders I could climb on, and I looked down into the valley. It was a clear fall day with only a few wispy clouds and we could easily see the city below. The temperature was in the low 70′s.

I came back from my exploration and I sat in a camp chair that was positioned close to the fire. The ceremony began with prayers to Mother-Father God and offerings of burnt sage to the four directions.  Chanting and dancing interrupted large spaces of silence.

Lori put a few sticks of wood next to me. “When you think of something you would like the fire to burn up for you, name it and put one of these in,”  she said.

OK,”  I replied. I grabbed a stick of wood.  “Shame,”  I said.  I gently tossed the stick onto the fire. “Here fire,” I said. “I want you to burn up all this shame. I have no need for it anymore.”

I stared at the fire as the stick began to catch.  The colors of the fire were intense:  blue and orange, in elaborate moving patterns. I glanced up at the enormous boulder that was on the other side of the campfire. Someone had sketched an outline of a face: large eyes, a mouth and a nose stared back at me. The face seemed alive. The expression was subtly changing. I looked back at the campfire. The small log that I had placed for shame was engulfed in flames now.

Here, fire,”  I said as I pushed another stick of wood onto it.  “burn up this  GRIEF.  I am tired of it.”  Sadness washed over me as I watched the fire burn.

I remembered Shaman had suggested that I have a conversation with the fire.  “Why did I have to be raped so many times?”  I asked.  The fire said nothing.  “Just karma, I guess,”  I mumbled to myself.  I looked at the fire; it crackled, then a loud pop.  “I’ll take that as a yes,” I said.

How did the rapes affect me” I asked the fire.

 “Stronger and more compassionate,”  the fire said softly.

What?” I asked.

STRONGER AND MORE COMPASSIONATE!”  the fire said firmly.

The words reverberated in my head. Stronger and more compassionate. Yes, I was stronger and more compassionate. Stronger and more compassionate than most people. I felt it and knew it was true, so I said it out loud, “I am stronger and more compassionate.” The words did not sound substantial enough.

I was strong, like Half Dome in Yosemite, like the 800 year-old Bristle Cone Pine that clings to a craggy outcropping of granite,  like the Caterpillar DC-979,  a huge earth mover that works in strip mines.

 I was a warrior for peace and justice. As a 19 year-old college student, when I’d stood up for justice, I’d been spit on by a bully. But I never crumbled,  never cried,  didn’t scream or fight,  just closed the door and walked away.

During my training as a young psychiatrist, I’d separated two young bucks bent on violence, a table flying across the room. Just risen from my chair and gave the command,  “Steve, you sit down. John, leave the room.”  They looked at me defiantly,  then they obeyed.

In my years at the VA.  I’d advocated for my patients with everything I had.  If someone needed a medication and it wasn’t on the formulary,  I fought with the pharmacy department. Once the Chief of Psychiatry came to my office to tell me that my patient, Ben, would no longer receive the treatment I had prescribed for him for the last two years. It was too expensive, a waste of resources. I had discussed the treatment with Ben. He was still benefiting from it and he wanted to continue. When Chief and I finished our discussion, Chief looked down sheepishly, said “you’re right,”  turned and fled from my office.

I was compassionate too. Maybe Mother Teresa had me beat in this department, but not many other people did. One cannot listen to death and destruction and the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man day after day without a huge dose of compassion. One of my patients said, “I know you understand, not by what you say, but because I can see the tears in your eyes.”

I looked at the fire. “I am stronger and more compassionate,” I said again.

The words did still not feel forceful enough, but I knew it was true.

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…

read more:

…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…

read more:

…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?

read more…


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…

read more…

Lessons from my Karate Master…


- – - by Jolene Starr


Hanshi ​ Isao Ichikawa,​ a Japanese man who founded Karatedo Doshinkan in the 1960′s, was only about 5’6” tall, but he had a huge presence.​​  ​

When he walked into a room, you  ​did not have to be coached.  You ​​automatically stood up.  ​ ​My first training with him was in June 1980.

He died in 1996 when he was in his 60′s, but until death took him away, he  looked vibrant and full of life. His face shone and his skin glowed. I ha​ve​
a picture of him in a hot tub holding a large goblet of beer; he  ​is​  luminous, almost a halo around him. In another picture, taken by a friend of mine in a dark gymnasium without the use of a flash, he fairly radiate​s​  light…
read more:

…ki-gata: movement and shape of ki-flow…

O’Sensei said that the two most important things for practising aiki are: “ki kata” and “tanren-ho“.  We think we know what tanren-ho is:  at its simplest it’s the repeated  striking at a bundle of wood with a bokken,  just as in those iconic pictures of O’Sensei and Saito Shihan in the fields at Iwama.   But “ki kata“?   Does that mean “kokyu-waza” (“aiki-waza” ) ?  Or is it possible that O’Sensei is thinking of kata not as physical forms…  but as ki-flow?  The shape and movement of ki-flow?  That, in fact, O’Sensei saw kata primarily as ki-flow – and maybe  he wasn’t watching physical form at all?

One thinks of Zeami’s remark that the highest form of singing in Noh theatre is the “singing of no singing” – where the performer is so focused on what they are doing to the audience – on the emotion that they are creating – that they are not consciously aware of  the sound of their own voice.

The more one translates O’Sensei’s words and thought, the more it becomes obvious that,  for him,  what happens in the mind is primary..

read more: