Hello and thank you for visiting AikiWeb, the
world's most active online Aikido community! This site is home to
over 22,000 aikido practitioners from around the world and covers a
wide range of aikido topics including techniques, philosophy, history,
humor, beginner issues, the marketplace, and more.
If you wish to join in the discussions or use the other advanced
features available, you will need to register first. Registration is
absolutely free and takes only a few minutes to complete so sign up today!
It's a secret, religious, weird, ceremonial rite of passage for girls that women know. Hopscotch. It was bizarre for boys, because they never played it, and as a boy, I was behind walls, going, ‘What - what happened? What did they do? What do they do here?' And they had a track laid out with numbers, mystic numbers, 1, 5, 7, 8, you know. A bit of a broken doll there, some girl keeping lookout with a skipping rope...
British-European comedian Eddie Izzard
The sound of a door shutting is heard from below.
The last line of A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen. Nora has gone, leaving behind her wedding ring and keys - and husband and family. She leaves for independence and freedom. Does she slam the door? Or does she close it quietly and firmly. Or gently. You decide.
3 March is Hina Matsuri - miniature festival or Doll Day - in Japan. It's Girl's day, 3/3. Boy's day is 5/5. Odd numbers in Japan are lucky. The real name of Hina Matsuri is momo no sekku - peach blossom seasonal festival. The name has an elegant feel. Girls used to dress up in special kimono with subtle make-up.
Originally small dolls representing girls were set afloat on a river. As they floated away they were supposed to take evil and danger away with them, leaving the real daughters of the house safe. Nowadays dolls dressed in Heian period style kimono are still displayed formally on tiers. Special food is eaten that day - chirashizushi - vinegared rice with assorted fish scattered on it.
we're like creatures of the wind
and wild is the wind
Ned Washington and Dimitri Tiomkin, Wild is the Wind
I have forgot much, Cynara!
Gone with the wind
Ernest Dowson, Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae
the wind of change blows straight
into the face of time
Scorpions, Wind of Change
A stormy wind signals the arrival of spring in Japan. It's called haru ichiban 春一番 - spring number one - the first wind of spring. It's strong and it blows bicycles and plants and signboards over. And then the warm weather arrives.
It's easy to get stuck in old ways of doing and thinking. Sometimes it's good to have a strong wind. Unnecessary things are blown away. Everything becomes fresh and new.
In Japan Fujin is the Shinto god of the wind. He glares ferociously and carries a bag of winds. He is rather like Boreas, the god of the wind in Greek mythology.
I talked about the wind before in wind forest fire mountain 風林火山 furinkazan, the motto of Takeda Shingen. In martial arts we have to be like the wind. To move like the wind. And to be free like the wind.
The title to the movie Gone with the Wind was taken from a poem by Ernest Dowson. I used to think gone with the wind meant that something was lost in the wind - youth, or the old order, or the past, say. But it really meant that he let himself be blown and tossed by the wind - and circumstances, and fate - trying to forget his lost love.
holding back the spring
but on a branch
The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country.
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (the great first line of the novel)
Keep the heart hot and the head cool in the Plaza de Toros - that is the whole secret.
Ballerina (Theme for Ballet) by Vicki Baum (the Plaza de Toros is the place of the bullfight)
In Japanese there is a saying, san kan shi on 三寒四温. Three cold, four warm. It can mean that three days of cold weather will be followed by four days of warm weather. But there's another meaning. Just when the weather is starting to get warm and you think the spring might finally be coming, the cold weather comes back again. Last week was warm in Japan and we thought spring was coming. Then there was a sudden snowfall. So the spring is not here yet.
In Japanese there are two basic characters for cold. The first is cold as in temperature: kan or samui 寒 (Japanese characters often have several pronunciations or readings). We use this word in the martial arts in kangeiko 寒稽古 - training at the coldest time of year. The second is cold to the touch: rei or tsumetai or hieru or sameru 冷.
There are two main characters for hot too. The first is h
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
I wanna shoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oot the whole day down
The Boomtown Rats
…so if you are ready, we shall call a cab and drive to Waterloo. I should be very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your pocket. An Eley's No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen who can twist steel pokers into knots. That and a tooth-brush are, I think all that we need.
Sherlock Holmes speaking to Dr Watson in The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mr. Bond, bullets do not kill, it is the finger that pulls the trigger.
The Man with the Golden Gun
…a 19-year-old in America can very easily get a pistol. That's very hard to do in Australia. So when there's a bar fight in Australia, somebody gets punched out or hit with a beer bottle. Here, they get shot.
While I write this letter, I have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other.
Sir Boyle Roche (1736-1807), Irish politician
A few days ago the Akihabara district of Tokyo reopened for pedestrians on Sundays. Akihabara - 'electric town' - is a centre for all kinds of otaku - obsessed fans. There are stores for electronics, computer parts, stereo parts, manga - comics, anime - cartoons, plastic figures… Maid cafés too. On Sundays it had been a quiet traffic-free zone for many years but in 2008 a man went on a killing rampage. He rented a truck and drove it into people walking in the traffic-free zone - killing three. Then he jumped out and b
Once too meeting by the Seine
The waters a moving floor of stars,
He had vanished when I reached the door,
But there on the pavement burning
Lay one of his familiar black cigars.
from Je es un autre, by Lawrence Durrell
I keep coming back to the idea of mask and truth. Someone makes a thoughtful comment and the train goes on to yet another station.
I started the first mask article by talking about the Tiger Mask manga. That was a comic about a sports hero. There is another kind of manga called shojo manga ostensibly aimed at younger women. The story is usually much more sophisticated than a simple sports story. There is one famous manga called The Glass Mask (Garasu no Kamen). It's about a young woman who wants to become an actress. With the help of a mentor she develops her own method acting and gradually becomes an accomplished actress. The glass mask is the fragile mask of an actor. If it breaks it reveals the actor's real face and real feelings.
As well as your face another part of your identity is your name. I used to get my hair cut by a Japanese guy who had lived in London. He liked speaking English. When I first called up I gave my full name but somehow it got mixed up and when I arrived the stylist called me Matthew. I corrected him but it happened the next time too. So after a couple of times I gave up correcting him and just accepted it. And so once every few weeks I became Matthew. It felt very freeing! In Japan in the past it was not uncommo
I'll play the hand I drew.
Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge
You can't handle the truth!
Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men
In Japanese culture there are many dualities. Omote and ura, front and back. Uchi and soto, inside and outside. Honne and tatemae, real and façade.
When I first came to Japan I was not very impressed by this concept of honne and tatemae. Honne means true sound. So in human interaction it means the real intention or motive. Tatemae means before building and it is usually taken to mean a façade. So this duality seemed to mean hiding your true feelings. And seemed sometimes to be dangerously close to deception.
Over the years as I came to understand Japan and Japanese culture - and Japanese martial arts - better I began to realize that tatemae did not have just the negative sense I had thought. Certainly it is sometimes negative and even many Japanese people only take the superficial meaning: the façade meaning of façade! Tatemae can mean the face of the building but it can also mean before building in the sense of time: the foundation.
The positive nuance of tatemae is not connected with romantic love - it is much more in the context of an overall view of society or community in Japan. But an easy way to explain it is with a romantic movie. For example in An Affair to Remember Terry McKay played by Deborah Kerr and Nicky Ferrante played by Cary Grant agree to meet at the top of the Empire State building. But on her way there Deborah Kerr
The typical noh mask is smaller than the face. They are usually shallow in construction and carved from hinoki wood. The masks are carved in such a manner that the expression of the face changes as the shadow and light change with the slightest movement of the head.
The Masks of Japan
Masks beneath masks until suddenly the bare bloodless skull.
We wear the mask that grins and lies
Paul Laurence Dunbar
There has been a strange thing happening in Japan in the last few weeks. It started on Christmas Day when ten new school backpacks were left at a children's home with a message that they were from Naoto Date. Naoto Date was a character in a popular manga called Tiger Mask. It was about a boy who becomes a professional wrestler who wears a tiger mask. He helps the children's home where he was brought up with anonymous presents from his fight prize money.
The anonymity of giving without wanting to be recognized or thanked struck a chord in Japan. Soon there were gifts being left all over the country with a message that they were from Tiger Mask or inspired by him. One man who was seen leaving a gift was even wearing a wrestler's tiger mask. People want to make a difference. Sometimes they just have to be given a hint.
In Japan it's the season for colds and flu and many people wear paper masks on the trains. There is even a new phenomenon of young people wearing masks all the time to help them feel more secure. A mask can hide identity or even
You can map out a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, it may not go the way you planned, and you're down to your reflexes - that means your preparation. That's where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you're going to get found out now, under the bright lights.
I have nothing against sports; they train the body and develop stamina and endurance. But the spirit of competition and power that presides over them is not good. It reflects a distorted vision of life.
Taisen Deshimaru, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts
To fight yourself is the toughest fight. To overcome yourself is the greatest victory.
I never met anybody who wanted to win as badly as I did. I'd do anything I had to do to increase my advantage. Anybody who tried to block the pursuit of that advantage, I'd just push 'em out of the way. Didn't matter who they were, or what they were doing.
A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without one, you'll never be enough with one.
from Cool Runnings
This week Yuki Saito, the number one draft pick in Japanese professional baseball, started his first training camp. There were 200 reporters there. He's a very talented and promising young pitcher. He became famous at Koshien - the high school summer baseball tournament - in 2006 when he kept wiping his face with a blue handkerchief. He was given the nickname the handkerchief pri
Aikido moves towards the perfection of the world, the perfection of mankind and the perfection of all on behalf of world peace becoming one life. In other words, Aikido is training in attracting all to you. Instead of having enemies you absorb and harmonize them into your self.
O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba the founder of aikido
I believe that world peace and the welfare of humankind must be realized through the spirit that judo brings about.
When you practice judo, you must perfect yourself and contribute to society through this practice and you must emphasize the importance of this during your teaching to others.
Judo is not merely a martial art but rather the basic principle of human behaviour.
Jigoro Kano the founder of judo
Sometimes people ask if crosstraining will help their training. It is a personal choice and crosstraining is certainly not necessary. In Japanese there is a saying: nito o oumono wa itto o moezu 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず. If you chase two rabbits you might end up not catching even one. There is a danger in being a dilettante dan collector. On the other hand crosstraining can help you understand aikido more deeply and can even make your aikido better.
In a judo forum there was a thread about what judo could learn from aikido. It was meant mostly in an organizational sense. But I think it is a good question from any point of view. And it's a good question to ask in
Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away
Simon and Garfunkel
Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow): "I - I'm not - I'm not very good at - at, you know..."
James (John Hannah): "Constructing sentences?"
In Germany they say "Guten Rutsch!" or "Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!" - have a good slide into the new year. I like this image of sliding into something new.
In budo we use suri ashi - sliding our feet on the ground. The movement should always be free.
My first aikido teacher Kinjo Asoh Sensei did judo and some boxing when he was young. But maybe it was in speed ice skating that he first really learned to move his hips freely and how to use the power of his back pushing leg. One of the most important lessons for budo from ice skating was that if you turn your face in the direction you want to move your body will follow naturally.
At the end of the year in Japan it's time for osoji - the big, special cleaning. Then you can start the new year with a clean place and a fresh spirit and the year will bring luck. In Scotland they have the same custom. Many dojos do this end of year cleaning.
There are different ways to clean the dojo. A traditional way in Japan is to sweep the dojo with a broom and then wipe the floor with wet cloths. I was taught to clean two tatami mats together - moving my hand in a big arc by swinging my hips and then to change hands for each new set of two mats. In