Misogi Practice in NY
Please click here to see (more) pictures of the NY Aikido Center Misogi Room
I would like to take a moment to introduce the newly constructed Misogi Room at our NY Aikido Center Dojo. Many years have passed since I was introduced to Misogi, a much-alluded to, yet seldom practiced ritual that was so much a part of O-Sensei's daily life. We have been treated to many stories over the years [please see http://www.aikidojournal.com/article...?ArticleID=213 as an example] and I have heard many anecdotes directly from Abe Sensei, about the important relationship between Misogi and Aikido as told to him directly by the Founder of Aikido, himself. Misogi is well known as a set of ascetic ritual purification practices. Many religious sects around the world have some form of purification rituals involving water. There are even teachers today that share this aspect of misogi with their students, teaching that O-Sensei was a proponent of Misogi.
In one sense, while there is a definite spiritual component to be found in the repetition of any particularly difficult practice, it is very easy to miss the meaning as to what misogi is, how it relates to Aikido, or even get lost in the religious underpinnings of the ritual, itself. However, as I have been instructed, misogi can also be looked at as a purely physical set of forms, or kata to use a term that may better serve to illustrate my point, that contain a single, common point of focus. The common point upon which each form hinges is kokyu which literally means, "breath out, breath in." Misogi allows us to discover a powerful form of kokyu-ho, or breathing method, which enables practitioners to develop kokyu-ryoku, or breath power. Over time, sincere practitioners may learn to apply kokyu-ryoku, and it is with this that we may proceed from merely practicing ‘waza" to manifesting takemusu aiki.
Misogi as a practice has been handed down to us as an oblique, but ever-lasting distillation of knowledge that can not be misinterpreted or watered down, to use a pun, as it is shared from one generation to the next. Given our very human nature to add to, refine and redefine our training methods and practices, Misogi-no-Gyo (the eight practices that make up the misogi ritual) remain as one of the single most important resource we have at our disposal. Kept intact, and passed from master to student, it preserves a direct link for future generations to what lies at the heart of the question, "What is Aikido?"
We are all aware of the many fascinating variations into which Aikido as an art has developed. There are many paths to follow, lead by many dynamic and even some reclusive Shihans and Senseis, Sokes, etc. We often ponder questions like, "Am I learning the real thing?" or; "How do I rectify the two seemingly contrary ideas that Aikido, as an art form, is a martial art of war and the art of peace?" There seems to be no easy answer. However, we have each heard the expression, "When you seek the truth, look inside yourself." Misogi, as a practice is basically a daily opportunity to confront this very question and actually receive an answer.
Personally, I have always believed that it is important to preserve this practice and share it with anyone who may have a sincere interest in Aikido. I have adapted what I have learned from Abe Sensei over the years to be able to practice misogi every day without the need, or ability to travel to a river, stream or waterfall. Misogi, as a practice is very flexible by design. One can practice using cold water, cold air, hot air, wind, rain, and many other elements found virtually in any place on Earth. However, I have always dreamed of being able to share this in the environment in which I was introduced to it in Japan.
Now that I have opened a dojo in New York, I have finally been able to gather the resources to construct a smaller version of the Misogi Room in Abe Sensei's Osaka Dojo I have longed to be able to practice it in the form Abe Sensei had originally shared it. With the opening of the Misogi Room, I am now looking forward to introducing Misogi, as it was practiced by O-Sensei and passed down to Abe Sensei. I will be formalizing day-long Misogi-kai, once a month, which will be open to anyone who is interested in sincerely learning and practicing this aspect of O-Sensei's daily training. The misogi-kai will be by invitation only, as we are limited to a certain number of introductory practitioners on any given weekend. However, I invite everyone, and I do mean everyone, to contact me directly and inquire about participating. I will post more information here, as it becomes available.
Imaizumi Sensei (Shin Budo Kai - NYC) does Misogi annually the last week in Jan. Just finished this year's practice (Jan. 20-23).
Looks like NY is turning into a Misogi hotspot.
I happened to wander in to the Shin Budo Kai, NYC on that very same weekend several years ago. Imaizumi Sensei was very nice, as were the students. It is a shame that the rent in NYC is so expensive so as to make larger training halls more accessible to teachers that have a large following... Of course, I just hijacked my own thread. I digress.
My plan is to create a workshop environment, where after showing a video I have of Abe Sensei explaining each of the Gyo, in depth, working with each individual over an extended period of several months. I will be mapping growth so that each participant will see how they are improving.
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