- – - by Kimbal Anderson Sensei
So… we were discussing tonight, in practice, the idea of the art of the hara. And I think that all practices – but especially aikido – come down to this one thing: haragei. Without understanding this, we can get into all kinds of discussions about techniques, and all kinds of factional arguments… “that’s jiu-jutsu…that’s not aikido…” …all that kind of stuff…
But essentially, aiki-ju-jutsu in the widest sense, this “aikido kind of stuff”, you might say – the grappling, and all that – is where it all started.
The slightly more sophisticated sumo. And sacred, too.
Call it “the nameless art”.
And then, down the years, judo branches off as a sport, jiu-jutsu as a kind of civilian application…and when the Butoku-kai wants to define, as a utilitarian category, all the tai-jutsu that’s still martially effective… well they come up with the name: “aikido”. And you notice that they are very definite that it’s a “-do“.
My own experience of this.
I started doing judo when I was 10. I’m 62. So at 10, some fifty years ago, I started practising throwing… and all that…and in t i m e , w h a t I began to understand is that we’re looking at developing a moral character that exactly matches the way we perceive the world. It cannot be in opposition.
And that’s why contests, to me, make no sense: they often just re-inforce ego-separation and such…
But. no-one knows the outcome of a battle. No-one. If you’ve ever been in an actual situation where people are trying to harm you…the weather, the stray thing, the bullet, the person… who passes out…no water…all the things that you don’t even think about really, truly control the situation. All you can do is develop a center that’s capable of feeling, understanding, coping… and – I want to say – anticipation, but I don’t mean that in a normal sense… I mean that your hara informs you of the proper state of being.
So when we train, a lot of the things we do, other martial arts students… well, they can’t even see what we’re doing. Because we’re really focussing deeply on this stuff. Because we know it’s more important than some MMA battle, where someone gets some money for beating some other person up. While we are looking at: “how does this transform our experience as a human being”, and “how do we hook up to the Universal?”
So – particularly for our dojo - my desire is to make your life better My desire is to make you feel better about yourself, from a true place – not self-esteem like “Oh… I can do this… or that… ” or “I have this belt”… or whatever… But you really get on a gut level, on a hara level, that you are a part of the universe. And it makes you capable to live well, to die well, but also to be a true friend. You know, a dojo, is somewhere you should develop true friendship. If you’ve never had it, this is the place to find it.