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Category Archives: Ame-no-Uki-Hashi
– – – by Takeharu Yoshi Renshi
- …being in Wu-Ji 1) stance – in shizentai – with completely relaxed upper body, such that you do indeed physically get that floaty feeling that the Tai-Ch’i Classics describe as being “centered on the ground “ 2) , and being like a fine-tuned, precision balance 3) . This is the Floating Bridge of Heaven. Maintaining visualizations of opening up to the universe, to everything around you… and a sense of being open to the universe, to everything around you… are helpful for achieving this complete relaxation…
As one discovers in training, all these metaphors of body, mind, physical sensation are absolutely a propos. They are always the best possible description – the best possible way you could say it – so that when your koshi starts to loosen up, perhaps, and you move a little, spontaneously, you realize, “oh – that’s ‘water’: the feeling of being on a moored row-boat, on gently moving water…” Or maybe you’re performing kawa-misogi, and you stay in the river for a while, and have the realization: “oh – t h a t ‘ s the feeling of being just part of everything around you – being part of the universe…”
Well, rocking back and forth to find the place in between back and forth, which is absolutely upright, is one thing. But to find that place and to be there with complete “tai ch’i” relaxation is another – right at that upright posture is effectively a zero-gravity point that feels like floating – not on water, but more gentle and with a little more up-and-down: like floating on air. The Tai Ch’i Classics talk of “floating, sinking, lightness, heaviness,” and more particularly, they say: you “stand like a balance scale so that the slightest change in lightness, heaviness, floating or sinking is instantly discernable.” 4)
And in ki-energy terms, ‘opening up to the universe’ means: make the inside like the outside. Make the outside like the inside.
Because when you set up your body correctly, it becomes an antenna. An antenna has all the properties of the things it picks up – and yet it doesn’t…
A Yagi antenna is a big long bar… it looks like a fish-skeleton. It was invented and patented by two Japanese professors in 1926, and it takes energies that are invisible and ephemeral and it amplifies them through the resonances of the spines – the “ribs” if you like – into a signal that the attached equipment can sense and work with. When you set your spine up correctly, it looks just like a Yagi. It is a vertical antenna, sitting in space.
And you know that if you take a wire, and you put it on a balloon, and you put it way up high, and you have a metal wire coming down: the flow of energy coming off it produces a huge static electrical charge. You can actually generate usable power from it.
So the physical structure of Ame-no-Ukihashi creates an antenna for ki. The body becomes an antenna for ki. And if you direct your mind to that, you can access all kinds of functionality.
And remember: you don’t reside in the body. If you think of your ki-tai, and beyond, you are a signal, a much larger field, that extends into all of space/time, and that signal – you too – is moving through the structure of your body.
Now, if you bend or kink an antenna you get a different signal than if you get it to unfold correctly. A lot of the exercises we do, are to open that antenna up. We unblock the spinal cord… I always felt that there’s something in the spinal fluid that is electro-physical in nature – you might even consider it a liquid antenna – and these days, now, we have liquid batteries. With memory.
And to complete the picture: the amount of neurons in your heart are vast – they are like your brain. And your gut, too, is another huge center of neurons. And this is the traditional Taoist picture of the three centers of the body. The brain, heart, gut – the three tan-t’ien – are communicating with each other through the spine, and the central channels… or not. If the flow of ki is broken in places – through tension, stiffness – then your body dysfunctions: and the ki cannot flow.
But with relaxation, and with practice, you can have this concept of Heaven and Earth – right here in the body. You have this antenna, and it connects the rarified Heaven energy, and the dense, Earth energy.
And at the center-point of the wave-form, right at the center of the arc, is your diaphragm. When you have correct posture, when you are in Wu-Ji, your diaphragm moves evenly between heaven and Earth. So your breath connects Heaven and Earth.
Now, O’Sensei tells us we should be standing on the ‘floating rainbow-bridge of Heaven’ (Ame-no-Uke-hashi) always… so this is about not simply standing in wu-ji, but maintaining a sense of wu-ji even as you move. Ba-gua has a word and an image for this: it is ‘you-shen’ – “swimming body”, like a dragon swimming through the clouds: or “swimming in ki”. So Ame-no-Ukehashi is wuji when you are motionless, and it is you-shen when you move.
And as always, the image is a practical metaphor: a visualization aid. The dispassionate, unassailable mind of the dragon is akin to O’Sensei’s “being at the center of the universe” – Ame-no-Mi-naka-nushi – and it can help to relax the occiput, the ming-men, and the spot between the shoulder-blades, that traditionally are regarded as the last, most stubborn blockages to ki-flow. And the movement of the dragon’s wings helps loosen up the area beneath the accupoints on either side of vertebra T12… and suddenly you can feel like you’re floating in the clouds – or swimming in the clouds…
…and our version of this is Ame-no-Tori-fune.
1) Wu-Ji is the fundamental relaxed standing position of Tao-ist meditation, Tai-Ch’i and Ba-Gua-Zhang. In the Tai Ch’i Classics, the Taijiquan Lun begins: “Taiji is born from Wuji…” (tr. Barbara Davis, The Taijiquan Classics, p. 103). It is named for the undivided mu that precedes, in the Tao-ist description of creation, the division into closely intertwined yin and yang that we see represented in the well known yin/yang symbol (tai-kyoku). In the Tokugawa-era overlay of this Tao-ist description of creation onto the Kojiki’s, which Omoto-Kyo inherited, Wu-Ji is
AME-NO-MINAKA-NUSHI , and
the yin and yang of the Tai-kyoku are
2) Astonishingly, the seal script version of the kanji for “center” could be a schematic of a person standing in Wu-Ji, connected to the Ki of Heaven and the Ki of Earth: .And “Earth”, according to the standard Tai Ch’i schematic of the human body (see above) is the center of the torso: precisely where one feels the physical sensation of “floating as if on a cloud, in the air.”
3) “The crown [of the head] is like the reference [mark] on a scale… The two hands are like the trays on the left and right of a scale. The [koshi] is like a balance beam contact point with its support…. [the koshi] is like a wheel that can turn in both directions around the mingmen point. It is also like a big infantry banner – [a big flag] – that can be waved and turned.” Taiji Pingzhun Yao Ding Jie in the Taijiquan Classics tr. Zhang Yun, with David Ho, Peter Capell, Susan Darley, pp. 370-71
4) Taiji Pingzhun Yao Ding Jie in the Taijiquan Classics tr. Zhang Yun, with David Ho, Peter Capell, Susan Darley, p. 371
Our tradition and our teachers’ teachers tell us that what we learn is very old. And we believe them because we discover that we are learning what a farmer knows, what a hunter-gatherer knows, what someone who rows a boat knows, and what someone who fights on horse-back knows – and what a swordsman who has fought to exhaustion knows – ways of holding our body, and of being in our body, and of knowledge that comes from that.
And we believe them because we hear that some of our exercises are reminiscent of First Nations movement ritual.
The oldest form of ‘centered’ is an upright with that metaphor of banner waving in the wind – both above, and below. And the oldest form of ‘straight and upright’ is a foot with no ankle: so with the weight resting behind the ball of the foot, on the Bubbling Well chakra.
You should do e v e r y t h i n g with musubi. If you do not do this, true power will not come forth. If you do not do this, you will eventually discover that – all of you – your keiko has been for nothing. But on the other hand, if you DO do this, you will discover that aikido is the aiki – the joining of ki’s – of Heaven and Earth: connecting – musunde – the true bu of the Former Heaven 1) with your Earth, [right here]. Using the sound of no sound 2), you must organize your spiritual ki. You have to stand on Ame-no-Uki-hashi, and be moving the ki of that place which goes dancing up and dancing down. And when you are doing this, you are also moving the ki of our planet’s ki-body [ – thus: the ki of the room right where you are – ] and much more… And so when you are turning the very wheels of Fate 3) – [performing furitama] – you will begin to discover that this is the very heart and center of our teaching.
– – – O’Sensei, probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan, published in Aiki-Shinzui, p. 28
1) the Former Heaven arrangement of the Eight Trigrams: the directional pattern of energies that can be sensed in Mu, and in Wu-Ji.
2) True kotodama: not the sound itself, but the impulse in the mind that precedes actual utterance. Sensing this impulse is a way to tune yourself to the collective sub-conscious.
3) “setting aright the past, the present and the future” is the standard Shinto expression…
Place your ‘nen‘ outside of yourself [ – just behind you – or in the distance, even – ] and you will return to the ki of complete emptiness, you will find yourself standing in that sacred and magical center of complete emptiness where you are above life and death. And it is this that is the “okugi of Budo” that you have so often heard talked about.
– – – O’Sensei, Aiki-Shinzui, p.80
Your nen… if you have quieted your nen inside your physical body, then there will be no re-incarnation… Once you start in on this purification process, this misogi, then you are on the way back to your original beginnings. And it follows naturally from this that, in respect of this, your budo shugyou: if your nen is in musubi with any kind of selfishness, then you will not be able to focus, and you will not make any progress. This would be bu that has gotten onto the wrong path. And if your nen is linked to your mind – but there is no connection to the body, then nenpi-kannon-riki will not arise. But if you can break a tachi or a katana, using the divine spirit of true emptiness – centered in the ki of emptiness – then it is with nen-power that it has been broken.
– – – O’Sensei, Aiki-Shinzui, p.80-81
At the point where you have succeeded in uniting body and mind, you will find that – as you continue to progress from this point – that this new state becomes the place from which waza emerge. That is: it will seem to you that from your nen – from the depths of your mind – an unlimited variety of waza emerge. And that these waza are necessarily in harmony with the laws of the natural universe, in a way that it is impossible even to talk about.
– – – O’Sensei, Aiki–Shinzui, pp. 174-5
In my case, for instance, when I perform shugyou, ki naturally starts to flow, and Ki of Heaven and the Ki of Earth, spontaneously being produced, it feels like what has been described as
twin kami standing side by side, sweetly guiding my breath and my ki, water and fire [iki]. They manifest like the pictures: standing side-by-side to gently stir the breath and the ki, water and fire, in spirals.
So that, secluding yourself deep in the mountains, in mysterious valleys, when you pray, spontaneously ki is created and emitted. And in this way, the aiki of your own heart and deepest impulses gets hooked up – musubarete iku – to the aiki of Heaven and Earth. Which is to say that: the aiki of your soul gets hooked up to the resonance of the Universe, and when that happens, you unfailingly become capable of great things.
– – – O’Sensei, probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan, published in Aiki-Shinzui, p. 89
So… because I arise from the activity of all these great kami, my body – which is what I choose to call my five viscera and my five bodies – was/were fashioned by this kami-activity as a creative, benevolent being in my own right: having charge and responsibility for my share of creation. My two hands perform the movements that are modeled in my head, and in doing so they channel the five sounds [ – the kotodama – ] and [whatever comes in through] the five senses. This is IZANAGI and IZANAMI [working together].
You cannot understand this unless the divine process of creation is happening through you, too. And this cannot happen unless you understand yourself as an aggregated phenomenon… and an aggregated phenomenon that is joined by musubi with the whole world, and with all of society. So, please, I would ask you all really to try and understand this point.
The organization of your ki comes from outside of yourself, it is out front of you, flowing into you as you step forward. And going to meet it and welcoming it is an education in love [“ai“]. It is n o t an education in slaughtering your fellow-man. But it is just like calligraphing a circle [ – an enso. ]
And this education in love [“ai“], is IZANAGI and IZANAMI turning and stirring the breath of yin and yang, of water and fire. The human breath, as it is uttered, goes in and out, as the continuous play of kokyu. And this, too, is IZANAGI and IZANAMI, nurturing the constituent elements of ki-energy. And as this ki-energy spirals and revolves, it becomes the love-energy of IZANAGI and IZANAMI.
– – – O’Sensei, probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan, published in Aiki-Shinzui, p. 94
Floating on Ame-no-Uki-Hashi, if there is true relaxation, uke and nage feel the same thing.
And that’s how uke learns.
Because musubi is the essential truth of aikido practice and life itself. A person who can find musubi realizes the universe hears them and they hear the universe.
– – – Takeharu Yoshi Renshi