Kajo #21

PART 1 : One spirit, four souls

The kajos are full of resources. Who would have thought they would lead us to this famous sentence, to the maxim inscribed in the heart of the cosmology of Aikido’s founder?

Most available commentaries about it are mere "copy paste" of Shinto and esoteric Buddhism notions, and they hardly teach anything that allows to connect O sensei’s sentence and the body work in Aikido practice.

It is annoying that the body is left behind for the body is not lower than the mind. But saying it so already implies an opposition between the two and expresses duality. So let's say that spirit and body are the two sides of the same reality and that this reality is expressed - in the world of matter - through the body. I haven’t been bitten by some fly, I write under the authority of Morihei Ueshiba: :

 By constantly assimilating the movement of the universe with his own body, the mind is assimilated through the body. — Takemusu Aiki, Volume III, first speech, Editions du Cénacle de France

In the same speech, the founder goes even further: he explains that divinity permeates the soul body, but - and this is crucial - that this deity has no existence outside the soul body it enters. In other words, in O Sensei’s mind, the body is the particular form of the mind, just as omote is ura’s particular form, the flesh is the tangible expression of the mind, its existence in this world.

I can not but think about the Gospel of Thomas, this IIIrd century Christian apocryphal discovered at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, which begins with, "Jesus said ..." and that logion 29:

If the flesh came into being because of spirit, that is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, that is a marvel of marvels. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty.

And I ask Christians who practice the rite of communion that they think upon O Sensei’s words "... the spirit is assimilated through the body." What does mean, actually, eating the body of Christ, and drink his blood ... if not a physical assimilation? And that cannibalism, is it not the strongest image that can be given to the fact that the human body is the assimilation and the incarnation of the spirit of God? The spirit of God and the human body are not different things, they are two aspects of the same reality, they are one, they commune.

It is therefore understandable why it is written that we should not seek the Kingdom of Heaven in some specific place, and most of all not at the outside for it is in man itself. And Ueshiba also states this strongly:

Takaamahara is in oneself. If one seeks in Heaven or Earth, there is no Takaamahara. One must understand that is is in oneself. (...) Rather than seeking Takaamahara in Heaven or Earth, we must first look in oneself.
— Takemusu Aiki, Volume II, 3rd cycle of speeches, Editions du Cénacle de France

I can not thank enough my friend Pierre Chassang for all the lessons he has given me, both on a tatami or around a coffee and some croissants. Among the many anecdotes which contributed to my education, there is this one.
Pierre, being one of the founders of the yearly Aikido seminar in La Colle sur Loup, would meet there every year Yoshimitsu Yamada from America, who he invited to teach. At the time of this story, he had just opened a restaurant in Manhattan, and Pierre teased him a little by saying:

So Sensei, it seems that you have become a "restaurateur" ?

Yamada, perhaps a little annoyed, replied:

And you Chassang , do you still do shiho nage?

Pierre answered simply:

Yes, Sensei.

He was 80 years old at the time.

Peter's answer was as wise as it was simple.

Indeed shiho nage is the body. It is a work of the body. And the mission of the body – as he is the only able to achieve it - is to act so that the spiritual soul can flourish. Without the soul body, the spiritual soul is impoverished, it does not have, alone, the capacity to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Yes, Chassang still does shiho nage at 80 years old, and he's right, because in this world there is no other misogi but through the body.

This is the teaching of the Founder of Aikido:

 (…) The work of the internal divinity, making the body an organ of creation will realize misogi by the body. — Takemusu Aiki, Volume II, 2nd cycle of speeches, Editions du Cénacle de France

To unite the world of light, a body of flesh is given.
— Takemusu Aiki, Volume II, 3rd cycle of speeches, Editions du Cénacle de France

The practice of Aikido is the necessary misogi for the development of the spiritual soul via the body work, and the advent of the harmony between body soul and spiritual soul..

Aikido is entirely in practice, nowhere else, and thus Ueshiba legitimates Chassang:

 Me, Ueshiba, I need to train more. (...) I can not show the way to people if I do not stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven. I can only teach through practice.
— Takemusu Aiki, Volume III, 1st speech, Editions du Cénacle de France

The Founder, interestingly, was also 80 years old when he said these words.
… And I wish you much prosperity to M. Yamada’s restaurant.

This long preamble was necessary, I think, to understand the following idea: given the importance of the body soul, as expressed in the speeches of the founder, it is not possible that 'ichi rei shikon sangen hachiriki could not be explained by concrete evidence in relation to the body work in Aikido.

I immediately add that precision: all this does not mean that there aren’t more levels of explanation. But I think it is good to start thinking with what we have. The tangible elements at our disposal, are the Aikido techniques and we now know the importance of the body soul.

Ichi rei, one spirit

This is the spirit of God, the spirit of the origin of things (Ame-no-Minakanushi). That is even before the opposition of being and non-being. It is elusive, but it may be known by the way it produces the line of beings. Because Ame-no-Minakanushi may be elusive but his work is not, and Ueshiba explains:

 This is work of the three deities Ame-no-Minakanushi, Takamimusubi and Kamimusubi. These three deities are themselves the unique origin. — Takemusu Aiki, Volume II, 3rd cycle of speeches, Editions du Cénacle de France

If these three deities are the unique single origin, it means that 3 = 1, ie Takamimusubi, Kamimusubi and are not different from Ame-no-Minakanushi, but they are the forms that his creative power takes to give birth to worlds.
Ueshiba then informs us on this form adopted by the energy of Ame-no-Minakanushi:

It is the interaction of Takamimusubi and Kamimusubi who, when they dance, create an ascending spiral on the right and a descending spiral on the left.
— Takemusu Aiki, Volume II, 1st cycle of speeches, Editions du Cénacle de France

The energy form taken by Ichi rei, the elusive spirit of God, in order to create existence, is the spiral, rising or falling, just like the cycle of the rain.
This is what Bansen Tanaka, a close and unknown student of Morihei Ueshiba expresses in the drawing below:

Shikon, Four souls

The four souls define the land of the dead that must be crossed. But how these four souls are translated on the physical plane, on a technical level in Aikido?
… Four laws. These are the four laws (ho) that we highlighted in the preceding kajos (cf kajo #13):


We have shown indeed that the ideogram (ho) has two meanings which are control and direction. But we have also seen the extent to which these meanings could be used:

  • Control only applies to immobilization techniques and does not apply to throwing techniques
  • Direction can be applied to each technical direction but does not take into account, at the same time, the 180 ° complementary symmetrical direction

The only word that can mean all the technical possibilities of Aikido at the same time is law.

Shikon is thus is the four diameters of the sphere, it is the four souls on which Ichi rei, the divine spiral, lays, depending on its curves, the techniques of Aikido.
And we understand now perhaps better why O Sensei always speaks of Aiki techniques by saying that they arise spontaneously, produced by the marvelous action of the deity (Takemusu Aiki).

Philippe Voarino, July 2012.

What is Traditional Aikido?

Aikido is not a sport, it is a martial art which laws (takemusu) are in harmony with the laws of the universe. Studying them allows the practitioner to understand his place in the universe. Aikido was born in Iwama, O sensei achieved in that village the synthesis of tai jutsu, aiki ken and aiki jo.

Where to practice Traditional Aikido?

The International Takemusu Aikido Federation (ITAF) brings to the practitioner the structure he needs in order to work as close as possible to the reality O sensei MU defined. The official national representations are the guarantee of a teaching faithful to the Founder's.

The weapons of Aikido, aiki ken and aiki jo

In modern Aikido, weapons are hardly taught, if taught at all. In O sensei's Aikido, on the contrary, aiki ken, aiki jo and tai jutsu are unified and form together a riai, a family of harmonious techniques stemming from one unique principle. Each techniques helps understand all the others.

Aikido, a martial art or an art of peace?

Peace is a balance between a human being and the world around him. The true martial art's goal is not to become stronger than one's opponent but to find in that opponent a way to realize harmony. There is no enemy anymore as such, but an opportunity offered to reach unified ki.

Copyright TAI (Takemusu Aikido Intercontinental)