Aikido as the Way of Harmony

'Aikido is a martial art that has its roots in, and has developed from, a koryu-jujutsu (classic jujutsu) that was practised by Shinrasaburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu in the fourteenth century in Kyoto. His techniques were passed on to the Takeda family and became daito ryu jujutsu, and in the Edo period they were brought to Aizu in northern Japan. In Aizu a "palace" martial art called oshikiuchi was also being taught. During the Meiji period Sokaku Takeda combined the arts of daito ryu and oshikiuchi, and thus was born daito ryu aiki-jujutsu.

Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido, became Sokaku Takeda's outstanding student. Ueshiba was also a student of many other martial arts, and was a strong believer in the ideas of the Omoto religion. From the budo that he created within himself, founded what we now know as aikido. He taught that aikido is not simply a fighting art but a way of purification that has the purpose of bringing together the body and spirit (kokoro) in accordance with universal principles. It may be described as the budő that has as its purpose the realisation of harmony.

I entered the Ueshiba Dojo in the seventh year of the Showa period (1932) and have trained in aikido for over fifty years; it is only recently that I have come to understand the lessons that Ueshiba Sensei taught us.

In aikido, depending on the power of the other person, there are many basic techniques available to us. Even though the order of each technique is different, the principle that flows through all of the techniques is the same, for example, the stability of the body, changing the balance, leading the energy, and so on.

People who come to train in Aikido are often interested in the individual techniques - how can I apply second control, how can I make kote-gaeshi more effective, etc. but the true purpose of the training is to understand the techniques' common principles.

Once you have completely grasped these principles, you will naturally lose interest in the specific details of individual techniques. Then, depending on the individual circumstance, you will naturally adjust to each situation, and therefore you will have the ability to respond in whichever way is best for you. This means that instead of thinking "I will do this, I will do that," you will come to a level where, because you have a grasp of the principles, your own body will move by itself according to those principles.

Gozo Shioda unbalancing ukeThe most important thing in aikido is what is called 'yielding.' Usually a human being thinks, "I will do this, I will do that," and he is not able to become 'yielding.' In that case, whatever he does will result in collision with the person opposite him.

If you can look at the other person with an open heart, without ego, you will be able to see the other person's situation. What he is aiming for, what power he is using, where his balance is, what his feeling is and so on all will become clear. This cannot be understood by looking with your eyes or trying to understand through intellect. You must understand in an instant, with your heart. If you can realise the other person's situation and can guide it, then it is a simple matter to lead it to your own benefit. If you wish to be yielding when you are facing your opponent, you must be in a perfect stance. If you can do that, you will feel free and easy.

These "secrets" of aikido can be applied to the behaviour of people. By correcting your own position, and by making contact with the other person with a spirit of yielding, you will be able to grasp his spirit. At that moment, harmony is born.

In Aikido we don't have competitions, and that is the reason why we don't have a contest of winning or losing.

The purpose of aikido is to realise harmony, through rooting the principles of techniques inside ourselves, without the thought of conflict. As twelfth century budo master Kiichi-hogen said, "Harmonise with that which is opposing you," and it might be said that aikido is the Way of realising this saying.'

Gozo Shioda

It is said that aikido is the way of harmony.
I think it is simple to explain this saying.
If you face someone, and you can make
that person's animosity disappear,
by your own true character,
This is the harmony of Becoming One.
This is not a compromise.
Harmony is a matter of having strength yourself,
and then making the other your ally.
He becomes your partner.
This is "making harmony in opposition."
But, unless you accumulate virtue,
it is impossible.
To sum up, the foundation is
your own inner strength.