‘Budō[i] is a divine path established by the gods that leads to truth, goodness, and beauty; it is a spiritual path reflecting the unlimited, absolute nature of the universe and the ultimate grand design of creation’ (Ueshiba, 1991).
Morihei Ueshiba (also known as O-Sensei) founded the wonderful art that we practice, ‘Aikidō’, from his initial training in the centuries old art Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu (among others). In the early 1920s Morihei Ueshiba developed and taught what he termed Aiki-Budō and continued to progress his art until his death in 1969, leaving behind what we know today as Aikidō. Aikidō can trace its lineage back centuries and is steeped in Japanese martial traditions, but uniquely encompasses a spirituality that focuses on the journey to an enlightened state through a disciplined and harmonious approach to life. All we have to do is walk the path with an open mind and work damn hard – simples, right?
Wrong. I think the 26th President of the USA Theodore Roosevelt best summed it up when he said, ‘Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.’ As humans, and especially in this highly technologically advanced and modern world today, we often fool ourselves into believing that we should rest for long periods of time, ‘take it easy’, look for the ‘easiest’ way to do anything, and shy away from anything that seems overly difficult, arduous or risky. In truth, and in accordance with O-Sensei’s sentiments, these are all the ingredients that define a worthy, good, beautiful or ‘divine’ life. ‘Divine’, in this sense of the word, is not necessarily referring to something ‘supernatural’, it is more attuned to anything that inspires reverence and manifests goodness, purity, and beauty. This is where Aikidō comes in… and can be seen as a metaphor for life. Yoshinkan founder Gozo Shioda talks of ‘aiki soku seikatsu’, or aiki and life are but one. If we see the hardship we experience in the dojo equating to the hardship we experience in other aspects of our life, and the achievement in technique and health through this hardship as the achievement that comes to us from a committed and disciplined approach to a task in other aspects of our life, then we can start to understand what both O-Sensei and Shioda (Kancho) Sensei are proposing.
Now, I don’t pretend to have worked this all out… in fact, I am only scratching the surface at this point of my journey. But one thing that is becoming apparent to me in the teachings of O-Sensei and his contemporaries, is that revelations about life and achievement only come through hard work, difficulty and seemingly ridiculous challenges. I see one of the challenges as a call to action from O-Sensei, Shioda (Kancho) Sensei and Mori Sensei… a call to action in the sense that through training in budō and offering others the opportunity too through our dojo, we can reform our ‘perception of how the universe actually looks and acts; change the martial techniques into a vehicle of purity, goodness and beauty; and master these things.’ (Ueshiba, 1991) By ‘these things’, O-Sensei is talking about ‘harmony’ in all its forms, but most importantly (and most esoterically) he is referring to harmonization that links ‘heaven, earth, and humankind’, liberates us from our egos, and allows us to purify and forge the ‘self’ (Ueshiba, 1991). How might we do this? Well, as far as I have worked out… we train hard and serve others! Aikidō is the way, and the people we come in contact with daily inside and beyond the dojo are the vehicles. O-Sensei points out that we ourselves and all that we possess ‘should be dedicated to majestic causes; as warriors on the martial path, it is our duty to follow the [aiki path], externally and internally, and serve the people.
In budō, we guide the enemy where we please. The true purpose of [training in Aikidō] is to teach [us] how to receive and fill our mind and body with a valorous spirit…enlightened wisdom, and deep calm’ in the face of adversity (Ueshiba, 1991). O-Sensei sees the appearance of an ‘enemy’ (or someone that challenges us in any aspect of our life) as an opportunity to test the sincerity of our mental and physical training, to see if we are actually responding to the ‘divine’ (in the sense mentioned above) will. So, please enjoy the challenge of interacting with difficult people daily and test the sincerity of your training!
I know that I live to train in Aikidō, but more importantly, I now train to live in Aikidō; to live a life of what O-Sensei called the ‘divine’. I sincerely hope I can aid you all to do the same!
[i] Budō: The path of Martial Valour, the way of the warrior. This is a way of life dedicated to peace and enlightened action. Here budō is used in both the general sense of the Japanese martial traditions and the more specific manifestation of Morihei Ueshiba’s aiki-budō, which eventually led to the formulation of aikido.