Aikido in Thought – The Martial Art of Peace
Morihei Ueshiba was the founder of Aikido, which can be translated as “The Art of Peace.” Morihei Ueshiba is referred to by the practitioners of Aikido as O-Sensei, “The Great Teacher”. The following quotations from the Art of Peace have been compiled from O-Sensei’s collected talks, poems, and calligraphy, and from oral tradition. You might also wish to check out O-Sensei’s short poems or doka.
The “counterpoint” to The Art of War–an inspiring collection of sayings and teachings on the peaceful resolution of conflict. Unlike other popular Eastern philosophies which accept the inevitability of violence as a means to victory–such as Musashi’s Book of Five Rings–Aikido fosters fearlessness, wisdom, and compassion and is based on the universal principles of harmony and love of life.
THE ART OF PEACE Teachings of the Founder of Aikido, Compiled and translated by John Stevens, Shambhala Pocket Classics.
MORIHEI UESHIBA (1883 – 1969) was history’s greatest martial artist. Even as an old man of eighty, Morihei could disarm any foe, down any number of attackers, and pin an opponent with a single finger. Although invincible as a warrior, Morihei was above all a man of peace who detested fighting, war, and any kind of violence. His way was Aikido, which can be translated as “The Art of Peace.”
The Art Of Peace is an ideal, but it developed in real life on many fronts. Morihei in his youth served as an infantryman in the Russo-Japanese War, later battled pirates and bandits during an adventure in Mongolia, and then, after mastering a number of martial arts, served as an instructor at Japan’s elite military academies. Throughout his life, however, Morihei was sorely troubled by the contention and strife that plagued his world: his father’s battles with corrupt politicians and their hired goons, the devastation of war, and the brutality of his country’s military leaders.
Morihei was on a spiritual quest and was transformed by three visions:
The first occurred on 1925, when Morihei was forty-two years old. After defeating a high-ranking swordsman by avoiding all his cuts and thrusts (Morihei was unarmed), Morihei went into his garden.
“Suddenly the earth trembled. Golden vapor welled up from the ground and engulfed me. I felt transformed into a golden image, and my body seemed as light as a feather. All at once I understood the nature of creation: the Way of a Warrior is to manifest Divine Love, a spirit that embraces and nurtures all things. Tears of gratitude and joy streamed down my cheeks. I saw the entire earth as my home, and the sun, moon, and stars as my intimate friends. All attachment to material things vanished.”
The second vision took place in December of 1940.
“Around two o’clock in the morning as I was performing ritual purification, I suddenly forgot every martial art technique I had ever learned. All of the techniques handed down from my teachers appeared completely anew. Now they were vehicles for the cultivation of life, knowledge, virtue, and good sense, not devices to throw and pin people.”
The third vision was in 1942, during the worst of the fighting of World War II and in one of the darkest periods of human history. Morihei had a vision of the Great Spirit of Peace, a path that could lead to the elimination of all strife and the reconciliation of humankind.
“The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood as a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek competition are making a grave mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst sin a human being can commit. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love.”
Morihei secluded himself in the country and devoted every minute of his life thereafter to refining and spreading Aikido, the Art of Peace.
Some quotes from the Art of Peace
The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.
One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.
All things, material and spiritual, originate from one source and are related as if they were one family. The past, present, and future are all contained in the life force. The universe emerged and developed from one source, and we evolved through the optimal process of unification and harmonization.
If you have not linked yourself to true emptiness, you will never understand The Art of Peace.
The Art of Peace is medicine for a sick world. There is evil and disorder in the world because people have forgotten that all things emanate from one source. Return to that source and leave behind all self-centered thoughts, petty desires, and anger. Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything.
The Art of Peace functions everywhere on earth, in realms ranging from the vastness of space down to the tiniest plants and animals. The life force is all-pervasive and its strength boundless. The Art of Peace allows us to perceive and tap into that tremendous reserve of universal energy.
Eight forces sustain creation:
Movement and stillness,
Solidification and fluidity,
Extension and contraction,
Unification and division.
Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead. The Art of Peace is a celebration of the bonding of heaven, earth, and humankind. It is all that is true, good, and beautiful.
Now and then, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life. Breathe in and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe out and bring the cosmos back inside. Next, breathe up all the fecundity and vibrancy of the earth. Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with that of your own, becoming the Breath of Life itself.
All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you. Life itself is the truth, and this will never change. Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together. When the myriad variations in the universal breath can be sensed, the individual techniques of the Art of Peace are born.
Consider the ebb and flow of the tide. When waves come to strike the shore, they crest and fall, creating a sound. Your breath should follow the same pattern, absorbing the entire universe in your belly with each inhalation. Know that we all have access to four treasures: the energy of the sun and moon, the breath of heaven, the breath of earth, and the ebb and flow of the tide.
Those who practice the Art of Peace must protect the domain of Mother Nature, the divine reflection of creation, and keep it lovely and fresh. Warrior ship gives birth to natural beauty. The subtle techniques of a warrior arise as naturally as the appearance of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Warrior ship is none other than the vitality that sustains all life.
When life is victorious, there is birth; when it is thwarted, there is death. A warrior is always engaged in a life-and-death struggle for Peace.
Contemplate the workings of this world, listen to the words of the wise, and take all that is good as your own. With this as your base, open your own door to truth. Do not overlook the truth that is right before you. Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything – even mountains, rivers, plants, and trees – should be your teacher.
Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature.
Do not fail to learn from the pure voice of an ever-flowing mountain stream splashing over the rocks.
Peace originates with the flow of things – its heart is like the movement of the wind and waves. The Way is like the veins that circulate blood through our bodies, following the natural flow of the life force. If you are separated in the slightest from that divine essence, you are far off the path.
Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout. Just as a lotus flower springs from the mire to bloom splendidly, the interaction of the cosmic breath causes the flower of the spirit to bloom and bear fruit in this world.
Study the teachings of the pine tree, the bamboo, and the plum blossom. The pine is evergreen, firmly rooted, and venerable. The bamboo is strong, resilient, unbreakable. The plum blossom is hardy, fragrant, and elegant.
Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the great ocean, and the highest peak, empty of all thoughts. Always keep your body filled with light and heat. Fill yourself with the power of wisdom and enlightenment.
As soon as you concern yourself with the “good” and “bad” of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.