Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Relating Aikido and Christianity
Budo -- Poor in Spirit
Relating Aikido and Christianity
(I wrote this for a more general audience, but it seems appropriate. It is what I have learned from those who have taught me, and I claim no merit of my own views.)
Budo, while a Japanese term, is a universal teaching in the martial way of life. Budo is often seen as somewhat mysterious. But this is only because budo is, in fact, based on an extremely simple truth.
Truth is beyond particular culture. We should hardly be surprised if we find truth wherever we look for it. Western minds like to break things apart to understand them. Simple things are hard to break because they have few parts. Wabi is Japanese word for simpleness, humble materials. Wabi is the spare, simple style of materials used in the training hall. Budo trains the body and mind in this simple spirit. Jesus Christ taught the virtues of this ideal state -- being poor in spirit.
A thing you are not prepared to lose can be made a weapon against you. It is done in this way. An enemy will threaten what you dare not lose. This disturbs your attention. Attention is focused upon it to the exclusion of other things within your awareness. If attention focuses on the one thing, attention is lessened elsewhere. Increased focus creates its unavoidable complement, a blind spot in your awareness.
The attacker exploits this opening, this blind spot. Disturbing your calm, fully aware mind, he grabs, concentrates and also limits your attention. Using this disturbance, he can strike where attention is thus weakened.
An opening is called suki. A warrior who is without suki is not invincible. But an attacker who strikes a person without suki cannot be successful without serious injury, and very likely, death.
The highest attainment of budo is to disregard the likelihood of one's own death in battle. This quality is positive, not negative. It is in fact an evidence of greater wholeness rather than nihilism. Nihilism is the desire for nothingness, and desire is the problem.
The warrior prepared to lose his own life has no suki. He has nothing he is not prepared to lose. There is not one opening through which his spirit may be disturbed.
No vulnerability, weakening or imbalance is created in his physical defenses by the disturbance of his mind. His enemy can succeed only at the same cost he is willing to suffer. He may be physically beaten or destroyed by overwhelming force. His spirit and intention cannot be defeated by this means. This was, in fact, the concrete example of Jesus Christ.
As with most great truths, budo is a paradox, an open secret. Plainly visible, it is yet not seen. The open secret of budo is the same peace in spiritual poverty taught by Jesus Christ. He said :
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." St. Matt., 10:34
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." St. John, 14:27
Understanding budo, one can understand the truth of these teachings -- a peace not found in material circumstance, not as the world gives peace. A peace of mind that must therefore be found anywhere one may seek it, even if it be in the very midst of the chaos of battle, a flowing fountain of fear.
In learning budo, to be without suki we accept that can own nothing we are not prepared to lose. The concentration and desire necessary to an effective attack is itself an imbalance that creates suki. Thus, in arts employing the aiki principle, we close even the suki inherent in attack. The pinnacle of this detachment must include dispensing with even the desire of aggression. Aiki-budo (or Takemusu Aiki) teaches that we do not even choose to attack, but join with our attacker in harmony with his intention. We learn to wait for our attacker's intention to form, and we join in turn in the manner that he chooses.
Budo is wabi, poverty of spirit, the awareness, even enjoyment of what immediately is, however unrefined, even if it is immediately fearful to us. If we have eyes, we must see. If we have ears, we must hear. To act, we must see what is -- not what we desire to be or to avoid. This desire is also attachment, imbalance, suki. Impoverishing our spirit in budo, accepting of the attacks upon us without fear or concern in the manner taught by O-Sensei, we can accept the meaning of the foremost blessings spoken of by Christ:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. … Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." St. Matthew, 5:3, 5, 7, 9
G.R. Erick Mead