Spiritual Development Article

To introduce you to this section I would like to talk a bit about why I have decided to put this on our Aikido web site.

If we read the word ‘Aikido’, and what it means, it says this:
Aikido: The way of harmony and spirit.

Or, in another translation, ‘Aiki’ means ‘the spirit of divine love’, and ‘do’ means path. By training in Aikido then, one should find the true spiritual path to divine love.

It does not mention fighting skills anywhere in either translation, and yet this is what we study first.

We also use the word ‘Takemusu’, because O Sensei gave this name to his art initially. The great Onisaburo Deguchi in 1926 gave O Sensei the name ‘Aikido’ with his blessing when he was told that O Sensei would move to Tokyo to share what he had learnt from his time with this master.

After teaching many students over many years, I am often asked by the students and teachers who have been practising for a long time if I think that they would benefit from or looking into healing and spiritual ways as well as training in Aikido.
They all agree that something within them has been ‘unlocked’ by Aikido. Now they need more… Or do they?

When one studies O Sensei’s life, one sees that he followed many paths, ranging from studying many different martial arts, becoming a bodyguard, and following his own religious beliefs.

In my thoughts I have made this conclusion: When we think of O Sensei, we think of an amazing person who was untouchable in his art and it inspires us to think that we also may one day be able to move on the tatami with such speed, and be able to deliver unstoppable power that comes from within, to a multitude of attackers.

To achieve this, how can someone living in the modern world find that same path that O Sensei found all those years ago? “Can it be found?” I have asked myself many times, “we live in such a different world now”.

I think it can…

We all have thoughts, we all have tragedy in our lives, we experience happiness and joy, but one thing we all seem to need at some stage is the hope that our life will be better in the future – how many times have we wished for that? Yet, we do not know how to achieve it. In many cases we just hope that some miracle will happen. It rarely does.

Going back to O Sensei: He trained in martial arts, and he was a bodyguard for the religious leader Onisaburo, travelling with him, and obviously listening to his words along the way. That must have made an impression.

Once, while on his journey, he was captured (with some others) and sentenced to death. He was later reprieved. (To find out more please read the numerous books out there on O Sensei to see for yourself and make your own conclusions.)

One question that stands out in my mind is how any of us would react if we were in the same situation as O Sensei.

My point is, if you were in the position of being sentenced to death and it was to be the next day, I think that most of you would want to come to terms with all that you had done wrong, so that you could go to the next world in peace, not carrying the burdens of your judgmental mind and riddled with guilt. The time factor would send you into a state that in normal life would be hard to reach.

Can you imagine clearing yourself of all your thoughts, being ready to die, and then being reprieved? What would you do then? Would it turn most people to religion, or to a stage of enlightenment?

For the purpose of this piece I would like to think that if it were me, it would do all of the above. Would I then need to follow a religion or would I just think that I had already made contact with the one god without putting a name or sect to it, in those few hours of life left to me?

When asked if I am religious, I answer, “not really”, as I do not believe in following a religion. Then I go on to say “but I believe in the spirit world, and like many, I speak to god in my own way”.

It is always difficult, because if I do not believe in a god and say I am not religious, then why would I go to that place in my mind? But when we are lost or in trouble, don’t we turn to the sky and say, ‘God help me to sort this out’.

I would like to say that with so many different religions in this world, no single religion can be the ‘right’ one if it does not fit in to life the way you see or understand it; perhaps that is why there are so many.

It appears that the turning point in O Sensei’s Aikido was at a stage in his life well after the many years of doing martial arts. He went off to the mountains and immersed himself in solitude.

Another story tells that when he was young, he would hit his head with rocks to harden his head.
If someone told you of such a person in everyday conversation you would assume this was a mad man and the last person you would follow for many years or the rest of your life, just to see if you can find what he had found.

So if we agree, he sounds quite mad. And to add to this, no-one understood him when he taught; the words that he spoke were not words that could be understood by everyday people, and definitely not by his Aikido students. This point has been made in many books many times. So why are we doing this art?

Many just do it because they enjoy the technical side of the art, just as I did. But as the years roll by, something happens to you, or it did to me and to many seniors. We have found that that Aikido has changed us over the years, and has led us to a spiritual place in our lives. When we have not found perfection within the movements that we have performed thousands of times, we have looked into ourselves, or started to look outside, to find more information to complete this puzzle.

Please start your own journey here. Like aikido, it will take many years to bring the knowledge together.

The links to web sites are here as a start. With your help it will grow, and it may help others to understand the spiritual world and a provide path to unlock more knowledge to allow us to see a greater world than we now know; or to confirm what we already think.

In my daily life I cannot work without keeping at one with my inner mind, guiding me in whatever I ask; it keeps me safe as long as I listen and do not use it as a crutch. My higher being, I had to find deep inside, through the journey of being guided.

All this is open for question, I recommend you follow your own mind, find one of the many paths to enlightenment, and hopefully the answer that O Sensei tried to impart to us all.
No-one so far has shown that they have reached his level; we are all still striving to be the one who achieves this.

I truly believe that to make Aikido work on the mat and in daily life at its highest level, you need to add something to your inner body; once the mind has fully incorporated it, then you should be as one. With many years of rigorous training you should have the answers you have been searching for. Then you will not need to search or have desires anymore.

All you need is to do is enjoy the ride and keep doing what you have spent your life honing within your body. Then no-one will attack you; you will be un-attackable.

Tony Sargeant