Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Aikido & The Eight Powers (Part ll)

         In the July post, I explained the first two sets of the eight powers. Before moving on, it may be useful to categorize them into yin and yang groups. The Yang powers are examples of expanding, or creative ki. The Yin powers are receptive and nurturing energy. 

They are as follows:

        Yang                                                                   Yin

Heaven            *          Unity                        Earth                   *          Separation
Thunder           *          Tension                    Wind                   *          Release
Fire                  *          Movement                Water                  *          Rest
Lake                 *          Expansion                Mountain            *          Stability

            Each of these four sets has a technical side, as related to the practice of Aikido, and a spiritual side, which relates to our daily life. In reality the four pairs complement each other and cannot exist as separate entities. The spiritual side of Thunder and Wind is health and vitality. The water ki of wind, nurtured deep inside our kidneys, creates our vitality and determines the length of our life.
            The next set is that of Fire and Water, the powers of Movement and Rest. The teaching is that Fire moves and water is moved. In other words, it is the mind that moves and the body that is moved. In Aikido practice, the projection of your mind must pass through your partner before physical contact is established. This pure and unrestricted movement of mind is the kototama of Shi and Su.
            Water is “rest,” yet this is not stopping. Aikido techniques must always be performed in motion. Water here symbolizes the tightly wound spiral of principle (Ri). It is conformity to this principle that redirects outside force, slowing it down and creating harmonious form. This is Takemusu Aiki. 
In Aikido practice the principle of fire and water manifests as Movement before contact and Kuzushi, taking your partner’s balance, upon contact. Unless we receive our partner’s power with rotation there will be a collision of force. The attempt to create form directly has the same result. Force against force kills Aiki.
At this point the spiritual aspects of these two powers should be somewhat clear. Fire is free movement, the creative aspect of mind. When this ki is redirected according to principle and higher reason, harmony and a peaceful environment are the natural result. This is impossible if we are self-serving or shortsighted in our outlook. In the words of Confucius “At seventy years old, I was able to do whatever I wanted and still conform to the way.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Aikido and the Eight Powers.

In the teachings of the founder we find. “Aikido is One Spirit, Four Souls, Three Origins and Eight Powers. Lacking an understanding of this Aikido cannot be grasped.” I have dealt at length with One Spirit, Four Souls, and Three Origins, yet it remains to clarify the meaning of the eight powers. The single ideograms (Kanji) representing each of the eight powers have been translated, yet only directly and without clarification of the real meaning intended or how it relates to our Aikido practice.
The Eight Powers are an overview of all natural power. The power of nature is never unidirectional or manipulative, but rather always the product of the balance of yin and yang forces. Considered individually, each of the eight powers are a priori entities. They have no actual existence until they interact with their opposites. Without the interchange of yin and yang, there is no Aiki and therefore no manifestation. 
To describe all eight powers here would be too lengthy and so I will begin with the first four and then follow up with the remaining four in a future blog. The implications are rich and numerous, yet it is necessary here to stick with a bare bones explanation just to introduce the subject for those who are truly trying to grasp the teachings of Ueshiba Morihei, O-sensei. 

Unity and Separation.                         Heaven and Earth
Unity is the world of ki, or spirit, and separation is the manifest, or physical world. In reality these are two inseparable aspects of one reality. Our physical movement should be independent from our partner, yet we must be completely unified through ki or mind. Only in this way can both freedom of movement and harmony with our environment be achieved. It is because we are completely unified with all things that we have the responsibility to move independently. Lacking this understanding we cannot avoid conflict. 

Tension – Release.                  Thunder and Wind {Wood} 
Tension is intent, the first manifestation of the life will itself. It is that which gives birth to yin and yang and therefore to movement and form. It is the explosive force of creative ki. In Aikido it is our De-Ai, coming out to meet our partner’s force. 
At the moment of contact there is release, yet ki remains extended. Saotome sensei refers to it as “Bio-feedback.” This allows for the absorbing and nurturing of ki inside. Spiral movement drawing ki inside creates ki-musubi. In other words sending our ki outward is for the purpose of physically receiving and unifying with our partner. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Aikido and Spiritual Development


           What is “Spiritual Development?” It is the main focus of Aikido training; that is the development of Ki. Ki has five dimensions which will be discussed later. Outside of these five dimensions of Ki, there is no such thing as internal power. Learning proper mechanics of Aiki movement is only effective once the whole body connectivity of Ki has been realized. 
          This opens up the deepest dimensions of our sub-conscious mind and leads to personal growth and transformation. When there is no longer any division between yourself and “the world out there,” the wisdom of enlightenment shines through you. Regardless of how this is achieved, spiritual development can only occur by opening up and strengthening the five dimensions of consciousness.

            In the words of the late Kisshomaru Ueshiba, “When you have reached a certain level in Aikido, you have already been psychologically transformed.” This doesn’t happen merely by the repetition of kata or basic technique. Kata contains the wisdom of the masters who created it, yet it will not reveal itself to you without great patience and diligent research.
            Furthermore, even developing your ki to a high level is not a guarantee of becoming a better person. Everyone starts from a different place and the power of ki can be misused. It is for this reason that the masters of old refused to teach a student until his, or her, character had been observed and proven over a period of time.
            Assuming that your intentions are correct and you pursue this path of development, you will encounter continuous difficulty. You will be distracted and the goal will often seem insurmountable. The things that you understand today will be shown to be inferior tomorrow, yet in this way, you will grow daily experiencing both breakthroughs and plateaus.

            In the end, the real level of your Aikido will be shown through you clear vision, character, and leadership. Many people become strong through repetition, yet they will never enjoy the fruits of spiritual achievement until they throw this power away and seek out the real meaning of ki in daily life as well as on the mat.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Aikido no Michi


       The path of Aikido is very powerful. If you practice diligently and sincerely, your growth will be deep and even visible from week to week, month to month, and especially from year to year. If however, you have been practicing for several years and the ability to realize wisdom and power has evaded you, you must seek out the obstruction to progress in your daily life.
            Aikido can’t be taught, yet if the proper method of practicing is followed, it will be realized as actual ability and wisdom. Even grasping the deepest secrets however, if your heart and mind are not correct, you will be unable to realize it. In the words of the founder, “Realization of the Divine Spirit is accomplished through practice. If there is the smallest separation from the Divine Spirit then the way is not being followed.”
            The path of Aikido unfolds as the function of spirit, mind, and body. Spirit is Makoto, honesty to yourself and others with no procrastination or excuses. Mind is the power of intention that manifest the power of ki. Body is the shrine, or temple, of our existence, the vehicle that we use to train the mind and spirit. The way should be as natural as getting up and putting your feet on the ground, yet without maintaining purity of body and mind it becomes like the words of Zen master Ummon, “To sweep out the garden, who has the strength. “

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Divine Cross


It is a uniqueness of universal order and principle that the simplest physical reality is eventually revealed as containing the highest wisdom and spirituality. In Aikido this is to stand properly and become the perfect receiver. Your ultimate response can only be correct to the degree that you have achieved this. This is no small feat.
It begins with what is called ki extension. Stretching the spine upward and down to become rooted in both Heaven and earth, you establish yourself at the center of the six directions. This is Irimi, the spirit of Aikido; sending your ki out in all directions to infinity; our own intention meeting and merging with the universal will. O-sensei called it the “Divine Cross.” This is the kototama of Tou or Tao, in Japanese pronounced Dou. It is the fulfillment of Michi, the highest level of Aikido. It is also the elimination of duality, or separation. It is called Gokui, “exteme will” or “radical faith.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heaven-Earth-Fire-Water.

The aikido of a true master will always appear to be fake. In fact if it looks real it is nothing more than the use of unreasonable force to manipulate another person. This is not truly aikido. The reason for this is that the arms, which create visible form, are not used in bringing your partner down or throwing. Bringing your partner down is the result of projecting your intention, or ki, from your Hara and the trunk of your body down and through your partner’s body to his spine.
            The trunk of the body is where the ki of Heaven and Earth function vertically, rising and descending. The arms and legs are the ki of water and fire, rising up and branching out horizontally. This distinction should be clearly understood if one is to practice properly. Standing at the center of these forces as the neutral receiver, real aikido becomes possible. Herein lies the real meaning behind O-sensei’s use of the words, “No Enemy.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Spirit of Aikido


Human beings are born from the interchange of Heaven (A) and Earth (U). Standing between the two, consciousness begins as (Wa=UA) Heaven refers to sunshine, the air we breathe, and even our highest aspirations. Earth is gross matter, the ground of being, and our physical body itself. When water ki (O) flows through the earth the vitality of the life force (Yo) is awakened from its slumber and the life will (I) begins to reach towards it’s highest aspirations (A), the manifestation of its own perfection. 
This process takes place in the life of every child, yet too often this fountain of youth runs dry and vitality is lost before wisdom can be realized. The balance of our soul and spirit needs to be maintain through proper training in Aiki. In this way we maintain and further develop the harmonious interchange between will (I) and vitality (O). When vitality becomes dominant over the will, we lose the unified focus of intention (Yi) and the wisdom of Aiki (Gokui) is missed. What an incredible waste