The Spirit of Aikido, by Morito Suganuma

“Aiki means making the spirit of heaven-and-earth your own, fulfilling your mission by adopting the Great Spirit that loves and fosters all. The martial techniques of Aikido are nothing more than a way to help you reach this goal.”

Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido.

In the quote above, the founder of Aikido says that Aikido is making the spirit of heaven-and-earth our own … adopting the Great Spirit that loves and nurtures all. We may think of ‘heaven-and-earth’ as the Universe, Nature, God or Buddha. Accordingly, let us aspire to discard egocentric ideas such as: “As long as it is good for me…” or “As long as it is good for my country…” and keep an open mind that creates, protects and nurtures.

We tend to think that we live through our own effort, but the fact is that the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the warmth of the sun are all gifts of Nature. To these blessings we can add our ancestors, parents, teachers and friends. We are able to live thanks to the gifts provided by nature and the support and love of the many people around us. I don’t think we can really lead a humble and considerate life until we realize this fact and learn to appreciate Nature and the people who support us.

The most important thing to understand is, ‘What I have to do here, now’ and actually do it. This is what the founder called ‘carrying out one’s mission.’ It is not about other people, it is about each and every one of us.

In the second part of the quote the founder says, ‘The martial techniques within Aikido are nothing more than a guide to help you reach this goal.’

If we neglect our daily training in the martial techniques we practice at the dojo, like a ship without a compass, we will not know in which direction we are moving. It is through the daily practice of Aikido that we experience, understand and embody the laws of Nature. Zen master Dogen said, ‘The only way to realize Zen is to sit properly.’ He preached ‘The Way of Sitting Without Excuses or Explanations.’ As in Zen, so too Aikido, technique and spirit are one. That is why we strive to develop and master a technique that involves no wasted movement and complies completely with the laws of Nature.

‘Leave your wicked heart and selfish motives behind. Learn from the laws of Nature.’ (Morihei Ueshiba)