Aikido Essay

Short Topic Introduction (Feel free to skip this if you read last week’s)

Due to the esoteric terms, analogies, and metaphors that Ueshiba Morihei commonly used in his lectures, many, if not most, of the individuals present at his lectures stated that they could not understand what it was he was talking about. These statements were so ubiquitous, that it became commonly assumed, or common “knowledge,” that nobody could understand Ueshiba Morihei’s lectures.

This is a rather convenient assumption, isn’t it? It allows for the re-interpretation, and translation of, his message, by all that followed afterward. If one understood his lectures and could explain them, the bar would be raised for all others that attended the lectures to show an equivalent level of understanding, or suffer loss of face. If one understood his lectures and could explain them, the die would be cast. There would be Ueshiba Morihei’s explanation of Aikido, and everyone else’s.

Shirata Rinjiro was a pioneer in the early days of Aikido. He taught in Ueshiba Morihei’s place at Omoto’s paramilitary branch, the Budo Senyokai.  He taught in Ueshiba’s Osaka dojo, and at the Asahi Dojo in Osaka. Shirata was around for the publishing of Aiki Jujujutsu Densho, which later was renamed Budo Renshu.  And, he also took ukemi for Ueshiba in the 1935 film Budo. Before being called up to become the Commander of a Division in the war, Shirata was tapped by Ueshiba to become a ‘Professor of Aikido’ at the University in Manchukuo.  (Tomiki Kenji went to Manjukuo instead.) After the war, he was repatriated to Japan. And in time, he was eventually called back into Aikido service by his teacher Ueshiba Morihei.  Ueshiba asked him to look after, and support, his son Kisshomaru.  So, he became head of the Tohoku region, head of Yamagata prefecture, and President of the International Aikido Federation, for a time.  Unlike Tomiki, Mochitsuki, and Shioda senseis, Shirata chose not to distance himself from, and continued to work in support of,  his teacher Ueshiba Morihei and the Ueshiba family throughout his life.

:In the last years of his life, Shirata sensei both wrote and taught until he could no longer do so. During this time, he finished the katas that were the summation of his study of Sho Chiku Bai Ken and Jo. He also wrote the essay that will be presented over the next several weeks.

The continuation of Shirata Rinjiro’s essay translated from:

Renewal Through Keiko

Create A New Self With Daily Keiko[i]

Shirata Rinjirō, Kaichō, Tōhoku Aikidō Renmei

Misogi ©1992 Yamagata Ken Aikidō Renmaei and Tōhoku Aikidō Renmei

Part 3 of Shirata’s Essay (I apologize in advance for the irregular formatting. Mr. Walker’s formatting was spot on, but somehow between transferring that, to WordPress, and then WordPress automatically formatting for computer, tablet, and phone, the formatting gets a bit rough.  It seems to read best on computer, and worst on phone.)

Aikidō as Aikidō

I am probably not the only one who feels a strange kind of ambience every time I bow before the large scroll, “Aikidō Morihei,” that hangs in the honbu dōjō.[i] When sitting in contemplation of his photograph and “aikidō,” one feels compelled to bow in worship. One experiences the rise of profound emotions in one’s heart.

[i] Main dōjō of aikidō located in Tokyo, Japan

Aikidō is…

1. The same as the reading of the characters読んで字の如し
The way that joins Ki気を合わせる道
The way tying Ki together気を結び合う道
The way connecting the Ki of Heaven, Earth, Man[i]天・地・人の気結び道
Heaven Earth Man[ii]天地人
The way of the Spirit that Generates Ki [Kimusubi[iii]]気産霊の道
The way unifying Heaven Earth Man[iv]天地人一体の道
Aiki with the Universe宇宙との合気
Self as Universe — “I am the universe.”我即宇宙
2. The way connecting heart to heart[v]心と心を結ぶ道
The vital union[vi] of Ki to Ki気と気のイキ結び
The way of the Spirit that Gives Birth to Life [Ikimusubi[vii]]生産霊の道
The consciousness possessed by living existence[viii]生命の自覚
3. The way of unity和合の道
The way of harmony調和の道
The harmony of World Humanity世界人類の調和
The way of living together相共に生きる道
The way that is the harmony of Heaven Earth Man天地人の調和道

[i] 気結び kimusubi,ki tied together— significant wordplay see note 14

[ii] Alternatively, a person of heaven

[iii] 気産霊 kimusubi also connecting opposing forces, see note 12

[iv] Alternatively, Heaven Earth Man in one body

[v]kokoro, heart, mind, spirit i.e. the seat of consciousness

[vi] イキ結び ikimusubi, vital/living/breath connection of ki to ki, significant wordplay see note18

[vii]Ikimusubi is the triangle i.e. Mankind—between Heaven/Earth, In/Yō

[viii] Also, awareness of life and living existing things

Allen Dean Beebe’s Commentary:

Aikido as Aikido

Here Shirata Rinjiro clearly lays out in a linear fashion the progression of, and logic behind Aikido. The jargon that Shirata uses here will be familiar to some.  I have transcribed the Japanese into Romaji for non Japanese readers to “read” the Japanese so that they might recognize jargon they may have heard before.  Even though some of the jargon may be familiar, Shirata’s  outline assumes a level of understanding connected to the jargon that most of Ueshiba’s students, self admittedly, did not acquire. Hopefully, in conjunction with Shirata’s logical presentation, my previous blogs on Aiki will be of some help connecting Aiki theory with Ueshiba’s technical jargon. Let’s dig in!:

Aikidō is…

  1. The same as the reading of the characters 読んで字の如し

The way that joins Ki 気を合わせる道

“Ki o Awaseru no michi” Awaseru is to “match,” “put together,” to “meet” so Aikido is the Way that puts together Ki. Obviously, the implication here is that more than one Ki is being matched. Later we will find references to matching the ki of Heaven, Earth, and Man, and also In/Yo or Yin/Yang.

The way tying Ki together 気を結び合う道

“Ki wo Musubi Au Michi” Musubi Awaseru means to, “tie,” or “correlate.” So, Aikido is the Way that “ties” or “correlates” Ki. I was speaking to a friend that is a native Japanese speaker/reader, and he mentioned how the word “musubu” rendered the concept of “bringing together oppositional forces” much clearer to him.  The relevant point to him was, that when tying, one “pulls” the two things tied in mutual opposition to each other. This is of course, exactly what is meant to be done within one’s self, so the term “musubu” is a very appropriate and accurately descriptive.   Next, Shirata specifies what Ki is involved here.

The way connecting the Ki of Heaven, Earth, Manx 天・地・人の気結び道

“Ten, Chi, Jin no Kimusubi Michi” Aikido is the Way that “ties,” or “correlates” the Ki of Heaven, the Ki of Earth, and the Ki of Man.

Heaven Earth Man 天地人

“Ten Chi Jin” Aikido is “Heaven, Earth, Man”  So far we know that:  Aikido is the Way bringing Ki together, “tying” the Ki thereby unifying them, tying not just any Ki, but the Ki of Heaven, Earth, and Man.  So, when unified Aikido is Heaven/Earth/Man.

The way of the Spirit that Generates Ki [Kimusubi] 気産霊の道

“Ki Musubi no Michi” Here Shirata uses word play in the same manner that Ueshiba does. The “musubi” here has a similar meaning to the former musubi but consists of two completely different characters. 産- Giving birth, and 霊 – soul or ghost. The combination occurs in the name of a kami story relating to Izanagi and Izanami who also are commonly used by Ueshiba as referents to Yin/Yang.

So, Aikido is the “way of the soul that generates Ki.”

The way unifying Heaven Earth Manx 天地人一体の道

“Ten, Chi, Jin Ittai no Michi” 一体- Is one body. Aikido is the Way of Ten, Chi, Jin as One Body

Aiki with the Universe 宇宙との合気

“Uchuu to no Aiki” Uchuu is the Universe. Aikido is Aiki with the Universe

Self as Universe — “I am the universe.” 我即宇宙

“Wa Soku Uchuu” Wa is “self,” Soku can be “Instantly or Immediately” or “Namely.” In this case grammatically it is used in the sense of namely. But, wordplay cares little for grammar, so please keep in mind also the sense of Immediately or Instantly because this can come up later in relationship to Katsu Haya Bi. Aikido is the same as “Self as Universe” or “I am the universe.”

Are we beginning to get the picture? Ichi Rei would be the Universe. Ni – Ki, are In/Yo or Yin/Yang which constitute the universe. Ten, Chi, Jin is Heaven, Earth, Man. Ten and Chi have an In/Yo relationship that constitutes the universe, and Man in Unity with Ten, Chi, Jin IS Ten/Chi/Jin, that is Ten/Chi/Jin as one, and therefore logically one unified with One is, one as One.

  1. The way connecting heart to heartx 心と心を結ぶ道

“Kokoro to kokoro wo musubu michi” Aikido is the Way of tying or correlating heart to heart.

The vital union of Ki to Ki 気と気のイキ結び

“Ki to ki no I Ki Musubi” Here we get into Kotodama word play again. Ki and Ki are a straight forward indicator of two Ki that are going to be tied or correlated. It is the I Ki that defines the relationship of the two Ki. I Ki can be understood as breath, and understood as being symbolic of Yin Yang. Ueshiba used the term I Ki quite often. The term I Ki also sounds like another Iki which we will soon discover. Aikido is two ki, correlated or tied together as one Yin Yang, or one breath.

The way of the Spirit that Gives Birth to Life [Ikimusubi] 生産霊の道

“Ikimusubi no Michi” Iki here is “life,” so there is a correlation between the Iki of “life,” the I Ki of “breath,” and the I Ki symbolic of “Yin Yang.” Musubi here is the earlier Musubi combining the characters for birth and soul/spirit. Obviously, there is a whole lot of purposeful overlapping of symbolism going on. Let us not forget that all of this has a relationship with “Kokyu” as well! Aikido is the Way of the soul/spirit that gives birth to life (and breath, and Yin Yang.)

The consciousness possessed by living existencex 生命の自覚

“Seimei no jikaku” Seimei is life in a universal sense. Jikaku can be self-awareness or it can also carry the same meaning as “Samadhi,” or union with the transcendent. Aikido is the transcendent awareness of universal life.

Still with me? Let’s go through one more . . .

  1. The way of unity 和合の道

“Wagou no michi” Wagou as a noun is the harmonious state of things. As a verb it can also mean to conjoin as in “Tying the knot.” Aikido is the Harmonious Way (that conjoins.)

The way of harmony 調和の道

“Chiyouwa no Michi” Chiyouwa can mean “agree, accord, and/or harmonize.” Aikido is the harmonious Way (that accords or agrees.)

The harmony of World Humanity 世界人類の調和

“Seikai Jin rui no Chiyouwa” Seikai is “world,” Jinrui is “humanity.” So together, they mean the world of humanity. Aikido is the harmony of Humanity.

The way of living together 相共に生きる道

Aikido is the Way of living together.

The way that is the harmony of Heaven Earth Man 天地人の調和道

“Ten, Chi, Jin no Chiyouwa Michi” Aikido is the Way of Heaven, Earth, Man in Harmony (accordance.) Let’s look at the meaning of accord: correspond to, agree with, match up with, concur with, be consistent with, harmonize with, be in harmony with, be compatible with, chime in with, be in tune with, correlate with, dovetail with; conform to. It is important that we understand the nuanced implication here.

There is a proper way for all things to be. Aikido is the proper Way for all things to be. According to Ueshiba and Shirata, for us to follow the Way of Aiki we too must understand our role and follow along in the proper way that WE should be. This is not imposing our will upon the Universe, but our willing submission to the will of the Universe. Ueshiba saw the immediate physical manifestation of Aiki as proof of being in accordance with the will, or law, of the Universe. This may seem a bit naive, but we would do well to remember that Ueshiba also interpreted the events at the end of the Pacific War as evidence that he had acted in violation of will of the Kami and was being punished consequently.

Obviously, the focus of outline above is not jujutsu or buki waza. Although, equally obvious, jujutsu and/or buki waza can be, one of any number of, means through which one can display or express Aiki. Shirata followed Ueshiba from Micro cosmic to Macro cosmic again, but all of this is well grounded, at least initially, in physical reality. If you don’t see that anymore, please go back and re-read my first posts. The beginning is immediate and tangible even if the later implications seem a bit strained.

The “Aikido as Aikido” topic of Shirata’s essay is divided into seven sections. We have covered the first three. The first three sections are an explanation of the “essence” of Aikido, that is:

“The essence of Aikido is uniting one’s self with the movement of the universe.”

Each section, starting with section one, indicates how that is to be achieved. And, to be certain that the message wasn’t lost. Shirata sums the entire process up in the last line.

Aikido is the way that is the harmony of Heaven Earth Man 天地人の調和道

Are you beginning to see the repeating pattern? The Essence of Aikido, the Principle of Aikido, the Implication of Aikido.

Shirata opens the essay with three doka reflecting this pattern. In the second section, “Concerning Aikido,” we can understand Shirata’s criticism as an observation that these three topics must be understood, manifested, and taught in order to be a “model teacher.” In “Aikido as Aiki” Shirata again, quotes Ueshiba indicating these three topics, differentiating them from the “Aiki of the past.”

With the essence established in sections 1 – 3, in section 4 Shirata moves on to:

“Aikido is the Principle of Non-Resistance” and then sums up with “Bu as Love.”

We will cover these sections, 4 – 7 next time!

Like this:



Aikido has taught me how to roll and to fall and all that stuff, but Aikido has also taught me about peace, love, kindness, being grounded, awareness, and embodiment for all living things and myself.

Aikido for me is not a marshal art; it is a lifestyle that helps me think about advanced stuff like harmony for others, love, and peace; while teaching me to defend myself.

I love Aikido for its way of peace; you don’t fight the energy, but work with it, no opponents, but partners.

Aikido has pushed me to stay in my body, be confident, love all beings, go to the limit, open my awareness, stay big, and be powerful! I have loved Aikido even before I took a class because I saw it on the Internet and still love it four years later!

Sensei, you are the most wonderful teacher in all the world and I really appreciate how much you have done for me, you taught me how to live life better and how to defend myself while doing it!


– J. D.  (age 10)

The Benefits of Aikido

Aikido is a self-defense art and much more. Aikido enriches me by teaching me how to deal with myself by keeping an aware body and a balance between mind and body. Aikido also teaches me how to deal with others and understanding where their opinions come from. But from all these things and many more I feel the most important benefit that aikido gives me is the strength to face conflict; it gives me a very grounded place to be in.

Before truly understanding aikido I would let my mind wander and think A LOT! It took me a while but I realized how to ignore my thoughts and just do aikido, but then I had another problem. My method for calming my mind wasn’t working because I was thinking way too much, every time I tried to not think I would just keep thinking and it frustrated me. But recently in aikido I learned from sensei that it’s more about keeping a balance between the two because without one you are incomplete. So now with my body and mind I am trying to balance them and use more of one for the appropriate situation like now I’m using my mind to write this essay, which in fact I enjoy.

One of the traits in aikido I struggle with the most is feeling my body. Even though I consider multi-tasking to be divide-tasking there is a way to feel your body while I move or think. I think this will be my greatest goal: to cultivate energy while talking, running or if I’m tired to keep me up instead of coffee which I don’t and can’t use. When I was trying to not think, which doesn’t work, I found that when I try to exert energy I am actually tensing up. I found that if you surrendered to the energy that you let the world in and it gives you energy. So when I do my test and after I’ll try to feel the energy of my surrounding area including the massive energy a person gives out. I believe that at the highest point in aikido that only o’ sensei has reached you feel the universe’s immense energy and you become one with it.

Life can become complicated because everyone has their own different emotions and it creates a domino effect when people interact and become irritated. As students of aikido our duty is to turn the domino effect to good so everyone makes the world a better place to live. Aikido has helped me see how the world works and in return I try to help the world back. Even though helping people can be hard, aikido helps me again by giving me strength to deal with the conflicts that I face. Aikido’ s gifts are: First – showing me that I have this great might called Ki, Second – teaching me how to utilize Ki and use it to benefit me and others, and Third – giving me understanding and strength through sensei’ s teaching. As you can see aikido has benefited me in many ways.

To fully sum up the benefits of aikido and how they have affected and changed who I am I look at who I was before aikido and now. Before aikido I was shyer, less strong, less grounded, and had a vaguer understanding of the world. Aikido has given me courage, lots of more ground, and partly because of aikido and also just me thinking in my head I learned a lot about the world. I still have more to learn. I am now more confident, trying to help others, and still searching. I think the one thing aikido has done the most for me is make my life richer.

– J. S.  (age 12)

How My Relationship to Myself and Others has Changed

There are two things about a change in relationship to myself and others since I started aikido. This essay is easier for me because I started when I was kind of young and now I am in middle school.

First, I can diagnose my own feelings better. Most of the time, I have mixed feelings, and they can be similar like the fear and excitement thing we were talking about. Before aikido, I thought there were only five emotions: happy, sad, angry, scared, and sorry. (Hey! I was six!) Aikido and meeting new kids showed me emotions like annoyance, anxiety, and distrust. The aikido principles helped me work with them.

I have improved at working with others. Before aikido, I had trouble making friends, working in groups, you name it. This art has taught me how to work with a partner and be a helpful leader. People here are so excepting that it would be odd if you didn’t help a new person, younger or older, find their feet. I also have the thrill of seeing someone from class when I walk around town. For example, when the Analy Band played at my school, I was proud that I knew Nick.

Last but probably the coolest, I have gotten better at reading people in the last few years. I have begun seeing people as heat and colors of their chi. (If they have any.)

Maybe that’s where the phrase “true colors” comes from. I can sometimes tell if they are mad or scared or sick from these qualities.

In short, aikido has helped me work with and read people.

– C.P. (age 11)

What I Like About Aikido

L. F.  (age 7)

Why I Love Aikido

Over the last 20 months or so, I have been training to be in touch with my body, my heart, my soul and those around me. Aikido is not only a martial art and therefore a way to defend and protect yourself; it’s also a gateway to find what’s inside of you. In my time at the Dojo, I have felt more centered, calm and alive than I ever have and ever will.

I love the overall atmosphere and level of kindness in the Dojo.

Whatever happened at school or wherever I came from no longer troubles me. The kids, (and of course the teachers) have been extremely nice to me and to anyone else training.

It’s hard to describe the different levels of center and awareness I feel in the Dojo. I have to admit, Aikido isn’t always easy but when I am struggling with something I always have support. The feeling when I do a particularly big roll or when I get thrown across the room is truly magical. Out of all the things I love about Aikido, the thing I love most is training to, as O’Sensei once said,

“Move like a beam of light: fly like lightning, strike like thunder, whirl in circles around a stable center.”

In all my time doing Aikido, I have been learning to do just that, in the most peaceful, centered way possible. I love Aikido, and hope to be doing it for awhile.

– N.E.  (age 9)

How My Connection to Myself and Others has Changed

Since I have started Aikido, the biggest changes that I have noticed with my connection are the changes in the way that I connect to myself. I often see my friends tired in the morning when arriving at school, whereas I feel like I have the ability to wake myself up by feeling my body. This is something that I don’t think that I was able to do four years ago. I feel like I have a deeper connection to my limbs when moving, and a greater feeling of the ground under my feet.

However, an area that I feel like I need quite a bit of work on is my connection to the space around me, my awareness. I often get the “tunnel vision” effect when I am thinking too much, or when I am under more pressure than normal. When I get tunnel vision, I can also loose connection to my body. I believe that I may be able to remedy this with more practice of being in my body. If being grounded and feeling my limbs comes more naturally, then I may be able to stay in that grounded and connected place while under pressure. Since I have started to work with a deeper level of connection at the dojo, I have also started to work with my connection and energy flow at home. Sometimes when I am not doing anything else, I focus on my connection to my hands, and I try to extend out. Recently, I have also started to work with sending energy out of the center of my palm as well as my fingertips.

I feel that my connection to others has changed less than my connection to myself, but it has changed. I was recently in an argument with my parents about some small trivial thing, and I was able to mentally take a step back, see why the fight started, and see that it didn’t really need to happen at all. This is more of a mental connection, but I feel that my physical connection to my Aikido partners in the dojo has grown as well, and I am working with- feeling my partner’s direction and intention.

– N. C.  (age 15)

What does it mean to take a stand?

Taking a stand is something that is important to me in my everyday life. I think that taking a stand is something to be done when you believe in something, or someone is pushing you around etc. I think that taking a stand means to hold your position mentally, and have your physical presence be alert, but not rigid, so that you can have a little give.

I don’t think that you should be so steadfast to your position that you are not accepting and or responsive to others thoughts, and energies. I think that taking a stand includes your mental position as well as your physical being. For me, taking a stand is an everyday thing. For example, people making fun of me. Eventually, I just have to draw the line and take a stand, because if I don’t the insults and derogatory comments will just keep coming. In taking a stand, I don’t just go and try to beat them up or anything, I start by holding a mental line. That mental line is what really keeps the situation under control.

A mental line is what I think is the most important part of taking a stand. Without mental control, the body is useless. I am not saying that you have to totally think through everything and leave your physical presence out of it. The body is important, but can’t survive without the mind, and vice versa, so both have to work in unison. The mental line is your position, and opinions and centered-ness.

“Stand in the center of everything able to respond to, embrace and blend with anything offered, without conditions or preconcieved notions.” (The Essence of Aikido) This quote states almost exactly how I feel about taking a stand. I think that you should “Stand as firmly as god ” .(The Essence of Aikido) These quotes mean to me, to be centered and receptive. To be able to take an insult and blend with it instead of taking it and throwing it back or letting it get to you. The same with the physical aspect; if a fight breaks out, (which shouldn’t happen if the first place because you have blended with the energies) then you can blend and peacefully come to a conclusion. I believe that if you can center yourself well enough and blend with the energies well enough, a fight shouldn’t happen. This is something that I will hopefully, after years and years of training be able to accomplish. I cannot do it yet, but I am working on it when my brother and I argue or fight. This is something I can’t even hope to master in my near future, but I hope to master it someday.

I also think that taking a stand sould be respectful of others, so that they are not offended, scared etc by your actions. Taking a stand is very important to me and is an essential part of my teenage growth. If I never learn to take a stand, and get a little rebellious, I will never amount to anything. I don’t think that rebellion is everything, and I don’t think that it should never be done. It is essential to state your beliefs and what you feel to be right. If not, then my life will be lived following everyone’s every order, which would make me less of an individual. Overall, I think that me taking a stand is a struggle to be an individual and to show that I am not just a little kid who can’t or doesn’t speak for himself.

– L. C.  (age 13)

Aikido Orange Belt Essay:

This is what Aikido means:

Ai means loving and caring.

Ki means power or energy.

Do means walking down the path.

Aikido means walking down the path of loving and caring power.

In my own life I practice Ai by loving and caring for my dog and family. Ki is both mental power and physical power. I develop physical power by exercising and eating healthy foods. I develop mental power by staying grounded, focused and being relaxed. The way I live out “Do” is by going to school and going to the dojo. I think that the most important thing about Aikido is that it’s a peaceful art.

– B. P.  (age 9)

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