Category Archives: Ten-Chi-Sui-Ka


The endless expanse of the sky…

– – – by Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan

The endless expanse of the sky,  the unknown depths of the sea… The way beautiful, white clouds drift in the blue heavens… Lovely flowers in Spring, the young green leaves in early Summer, the power that is hidden in the green plants of Summer… The fiery sun, which slowly  makes its appearance above the horizon. In the evening red, the mountains glow – second by second – a different color… in Fall, the leaves go a crimson red… It is impossible to get to the bottom of telling the wonders of Nature. Anyone who is aware can feel this:  the beauty and power of Nature.  For Nature is creating…incessantly.

Now,  Aikido has no Kamae,  and this  is [precisely] because Aikido is so natural:  there is no reason to be prepared.  The idea that one is better than all the others, or that one  m u s t  be better than all the others: you will find that all this disappears, and one becomes one with Nature.  Then one is simply a part of God’s art.   And in that moment, the wondrous life-force (ki) and the human-being itself become united.  And this unification makes everything possible.

So a  great teacher [is one who] has the technique that is closest to Nature.  And Nature seems at first sight to be so soft and loving – like our mother – and in fact, the Earth  i s  our mother – nevertheless there is more than this gentle manner:  there is also an extremely hard side [to Nature].  And there is immense speed:  faster than lightning.

So we try to take  O’Sensei  as our model, and we take pains to train each day.  And even so we find, [time and time again,]  that we are very, very far from being good enough….

– – – Bu-Iku: Ritterlichkeits-Erziehung,  Yasuhiko Kunimoto,  tr. Kiyoko Furumoto , p.12



TEN-CHI… Heaven and Earth…

– – – Kimbal Anderson Sensei

What we are working on is a natural truth, something that nature does. I like the phrase, “natural truth,” because: you can describe it a thousand ways, but what it is is what it is. You can argue over your definitions of what you want to call various forces, but that’s just linguistics. And at the point where you quit doing that any more, you can talk to anyone about it.

You can use their words. You really can.

So, for example, sometimes we say “as above, so below”.  This means that in small things, great things reside.  There’s some form to things. Form and function mate together.

Well, as above, so below, great stability allows you to work with tremendously dynamic forces.

And you can think about this: a ship can sail on oceans and wild waves and survive huge storms because its structure is stable – meaning that the ribs don’t fly apart and the planks don’t blow off – but that stability can have within it a kind of flexibility, but not much. It’s only flexing to maintain stability. Not maintaining flexibility. If you let something be flexible – and you get more flexible and more flexible until it falls apart, this is a cycle of decay. If you just watch nature, that’s how nature decays something.

So.  Stability, and within it, a kind of flexibility.

Now, when you get really stable in here, as far as being grounded and everything, what’s going on – that you may have not noticed yet – is that you’re relating to something of greater leverage and stability than yourself: the Earth.

So… you know how we do that experiment  where you imagine the arm a mile long and you can’t bend it and all that… that creates a greater leverage in a greater organization. A person of small organization is trying to deal with something of large organization and is absorbed by it.

And this is how Nature works. If you see little whirlpools, they get sucked into big whirlpools. Because they’re whirl-pooling together, and they relate… the little whirlpool will be drawn into the big one.

Leverage works this way.  For you on the mat.

If you understand about leverage, you can pick up giant rocks, like Stonehenge, and move them around pretty quickly… if you understand leverage.

What I’m trying to teach you to do, is find the concept of stability in yourself, but relate it to a larger energy.

That allows you to be nimble.

This kind of stability you’re developing allows you to relate to huge forms of energy… to sail on these huge forms.

One of the most stable forms is a pyramid, oddly enough. And if you could somehow make an independent pyramid, it would slide all over the surface of the Earth it would be virtually impossible to destroy. It’s just amazing what it does with forces.

There are certain shapes in nature that do that.

The megalithic cultures, the way stones were cut both in ancient Greece and in Peru is: they’re cut the same way because they survive earthquakes easily.  All that weird kind of pretty stuff we look at, wasn’t “oh, I have a rock… I’m going to try to fit it together a certain way…”  It wasn’t. It was “if we built it this way, it won’t fall over.”  Because they lived in earthquake zones.

And in Baalbek, there’s all kinds of wild rocks fitted together… how did they do it?  Well, they were relating great stability to a larger force, in order to take wobble-wobble-wobble easily.

In fact, the testing and shaking of something that’s stabilized correctly makes it stronger. It really does.  It organizes it. And it gets rid of any little bits that needed to be polished off. If the big stability’s there, a tiny little thing won’t knock it down. It’ll just grind that thing off.  Tanren renshu.

So – this idea of being very stable… …not all by yourself though – stability, through making the correct form in relation to a great energy, and then you entrain to it… and then your little thing becomes a reflection of the big thing.

And, as far as I can tell: this premise works on any scale you want.

So, this exercise of having aite sit on your knee, and your knee has to be precisely vertical: you can see you can take a pretty strong force. It’s the same thing, if I hand you a big rock or a bale of hay, and you relate to the ground correctly: you can take a big force…

Your body’s done this for thousands and thousands of years… it’s been able to do this.

So you   c o u l d  throw your children on your shoulder and walk across North America. You could… you could do it…because you did it right.  And people nowadays don’t know this anymore, because they’re depending on extrapolations of things, technologies, and they’ve forgot… <taps chest> this is what built it.

Okay. Now…

Great stability. Great connection…

SUI-KA…  Water and Fire…

– – – Kimbal Anderson Sensei

So.  Fire and water: sui-ka. ‘Ka‘ is fire, ‘mizu‘ or ‘Sui‘ are water. So that becomes: “fire and water”: ka-mikami nature… so it’s heaven and earth, and then the innumerable kami – all the combinations of fire and water that exist – in relation to delivering the energy and message of Heaven and Earth.

Now, after playing with this stuff over the years – and having basically learned the alchemy of growing plants from my father – I think that people have pretty much always been universal in their thinking, but we have created an “East” and “West” as part of a colonialism dialogue, and it has very little to do with anything else.

We find Zen in Shakespeare…

And going back to the Mongol florescence – when they were the high culture of two-thirds of the continent – they sent a hundred of their best teachers to Europe, and asked for a hundred in return.

There was a unified vision – only, under certain kinds of Christianity, it had to go underground.

So if we think that Great Nature is the informant of all things and that we all live in Great Nature… then – the vertical being Heaven and Earth, the horizontal being Fire and Water, we might use those terms, or in Europe they would use the alchemic terms: Mercury and Sulphur. And you can think of Sulphur being formed as the fire element: the sulphurous bowels of the Earth, vulcanism and all that. Mercury being liquid – a liquid metal that weeps from a stone. If you apply fire to this stone, it will weep metal-water.

And they have great uses… the sulphurous compounds, and the action of mercury.

And even in alchemic discussion: the ‘hermetic’ arts is a term… well… Hermes is the Roman name for Mercury.

O’Sensei, who was a universalist, uses the term ‘cinnabar field’ – you tend to read that in Chinese sources, but that’s not where that originally came from… it’s just that their records got saved.

Ten-chi, sui-ka

Okay. So this horizontal nature is the consonants, the vertical nature is the vowels.

Those are two points – there must be a third point. Well there is: that’s the harmonic.

So a word is composed of vertical and horizontal rotating. You can’t make a sound without rotation, because it has duration.  So – as I was talking about in the park – you have these three factors, three gems, that are interacting, producing our experience of time and space.

When we have memory – which is an echo of time and space – we have the hap-po or the ba-qua in two things at once:  the present moment, and the past moment…  a n d   the future moment.  Now we have three more rotating fields of energy.  Eight times eight is sixty-four. It’s a very interesting mathematical play.

I think that if you and I were living long ago, we would be reading word-plays, based on these numbers. And I could say: “there were sixty-four lords and ladies dancing” and you would know that I was talking about this alchemic story. “The king was created during the dance of the sixty-four”… and we would read into it all this knowledge.

Now, in aiki, the horizontal aspect is where people tend to get stuck because they get triggered on the horizontal – someone pushes, they push back: it’s all horizontal. Then they learn about the vertical, but it’s only “my vertical”, not an interaction of verticals. And then eventually they get where they understand that we unify verticals.

In fact, I’ve found that vertical tatate musubi is one of the most potent things to learn: when you start getting to where someone can push into you with all these dimensions of energy, and you can organize it through the vertical and unify with them, you have something quite potent.

But you don’t want to get stuck there…


…in my life… I’m always exploring my relationship to Nature. And if I had every resource, I would go back to being an archeologist, because I want the free license to explore the planet and see the underlying story… I love the story of humans… I would also like to re-introduce these deeper alchemic things into human lives because – as we’ve discussed – the world of appearances has taken over the world of being.  Alchemists live in the world of being and transformation.  Constantly transforming.

You can read about the alchemy of paint…

…sacred art was where most of this paint went. And they refined gems and such. And actually…

Stradivarius’ violins…

They were built in the city of alchemists. The varnish is full of gems. The wood had been through a transformation in the water: it had molded in a certain way – a particular fungus had penetrated the wood and made the fibers homogenous. All of it was perfectly homogenous. So whatever you apply to this perfectly balanced material has great effect. It’s not trying to overcome imbalance.

So, in training, I endeavor to convince you to look at things differently.

And one of those is: cease to train to correct the imbalances. Train as if balanced, and allow the body to follow that and become balanced.

Often, people have a model of self-correction that is punitive. But the correction-based approach will never be satisfied. It’s impossible. So even if you’re doing things quite well, and you’re at the verge of great unity, the mind-body’s been prepared to look for something wrong, and fix that last thing.

But when you switch, and be like the Stradivarius, where the wood has this totally harmonized nature. So that the shape and the varnish can profoundly and evenly work,  so there’s no longer a trying to work around imperfections. You don’t have a perfect surface: you have the most potentially yin surface – absolutely receptive – and the gems are yang.  And the shape is the third thing. Stradivari was so good with the shape. Given yin material and a yang varnish, and an understanding of form… you can look at a violin, and you can see the trigrams on it. You can look at the bridge…

For us in aikido, we have the potential to encounter transformative science, hermetic science… because I think O’Sensei was pretty clear about aikido being a hermetic science. He really was.  The whole idea was that he took an MMA level of violence and he said: let’s transform it. And then when people say, “well, you couldn’t fight in MMA…”… well you’re exhibiting the very thing that he said: “that will destroy us.”

But the form and the voice of Great Nature is why we’re here. It is the dialogue between the human and the universe. The translation machine  I think of its as the calligraphy. The form is the calligraphy. I look at the eight-sided thing, and what the properties are, and orient it with this day. With this particular day. Where the sun is and where the heat is doing something. And I look at plants and how they turn their bodies.

I see the order of things.

And I can just be the observer – I can just drink my tea and be the observer – but I’m not content with that. I want to dance. I want to ride the waves. I want to connect with the flow of things, to be that, to have it function through me.

And then you find that it gives rise to heroic impulses of creativity, and gentleness, and kindness and strength. And it also gives you power that you never necessarily had for yourself.

Because Nature steps in. It moves you beyond your fear. It corrects you if you’re listening. And that would be sui-ka – mercury and sulphur.

* – * – *

And fire always rises naturally.  And water always settles naturally.  So you now have the forces and the unity and the knowledge.

…in the dojo(81) – sword hands!!!…


Morihiro Saito Shihan on Ki-flow in te-gatana, hassho…

in Te-gatana:

When you thrust forward the edge portion of your Tegatana without bending your arm, the arm will naturally form an arc permitting your ‘Ki‘ power to issue forth. Tegatana, in itself, is not intended for aggressive purposes. It rather is used in a great number of techniques to make better use of consolidated ‘Ki‘ power.
– – – Aikido its Heart and Appearance,  p.24

in Hassho:

[in  Suburi #3:  1)] Point the sword vertically at the heaven above your head and breathe in deeply.  Inhale the spirits of the Universe thoroughly into your body through the tip of the sword, integrate yourself with Nature and fill every part of your body with ‘Ki‘ power…

– – – Aikido its Heart and Appearance,  p. 40

[Suburi #3: ] This is one of the kokyu, or breath,  techniques.  As the right foot steps back, the sword is raised directly overhead.  This alignment allows the universal ki  [ten-no-kokyu] to enter the tip of the sword and fill your whole body…

– – –  Traditional Aikido,  vol 1,  p.26-7

1)  The movement of Suburi #3  is very close to the first Yagyu Shinkage Ryu kata: Itto Ryodan.

…at the dojo(17)…

…at the dojo(21)…

…on mountain creeks as books…

Or you might look at the way a mountain creek flows: how well the water escapes through the gaps between the stones. And having seen the shape of this, practise an infinite variety of body movements. Or again, listening to it the way you would read a wonderful, sacred book, proceed by converting [the feeling of] that into budo. Just as if you were looking at the pure and undistorted image of the universe: this is how you should go about learning. This is how you should become awakened. This is how you should reflect upon yourself. This is how, again and again, you should go about learning.

– – – O’Sensei,  probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,  published in Aiki-Shinzui,  p.165