Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 11
V: The Danger of Words or,
The Elephant in the Dojo: Distinguishing the Jumbo from the Mumbo
Part 1: Morihei Ueshiba's Elephant
These columns are intended to be the outline of a discursive history of aikido: not a dry narrative of facts, however, but something more like an exploration, perhaps a meandering journey round the aikido version of Kukai's 88-temple circuit in Shikoku. There is, of course, the journey itself, from the start to the destination, but the best journeys are enriched by many pauses to look at the scenery and by diversions off the beaten track to examine places of unusual interest.
The last few columns have discussed the effects of ‘the war' (called, depending on one's viewpoint, the Fifteen Years War [1931-1945], the Second World War [1939-1945], or the Great Pacific War [1941-1945]) on the activities and thinking of Morihei Ueshiba. In terms of narrative history, what still needs to be considered are the effects of the same war on Ueshiba's son and heir, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, especially to what extent he was led to change the future direction of aikido. I myself believe that the war had immense effects on the thinking of Kisshomaru, but I also believe that these effects need to be seen in the general context of ‘early postwar Japan': the overall effects of the war on the thinking and attitudes of the Japanese as a whole. The generation gap plays a role here, also, for I think that Ueshiba Senior and Ueshiba Junior saw the war in quite different terms.
Before we can deal with these questions, however, there is one more major issue relating to Morihei Ueshiba that needs to be discussed. Ueshiba developed the habit of giving long oral discourses, sometimes in the dojo during training, and some of these have been collected and published. These discourses are notoriously difficult to understand and it seems that many of his closest students (who sat in increasingly numbing seiza
, waiting for training to resume—or to leap up and take the best ukemi
of which they were then capable) understood them hardly at all. Nevertheless, they all went on to become expert at aikido—or so the received wisdom goes. Whether it was actually aikido, or Morihei Ueshiba's aikido, or their own, is still a moot point, but the point to be stressed here is that hardly understanding Ueshiba's discourses was no impediment to their increasing proficiency. We will return to this point a number of times later on.
The topic I would like to discuss here is that of language itself, as applied to aikido. Given that language both shapes the world of the speaker and is also an instrument of communication by that speaker, I think it is necessary to consider Morihei Ueshiba's discourses at this, more basic, level. To see the problems here, we should return to the propositions from which I began this series of columns:
(a) Morihei Ueshiba made no attempt to ‘teach' the knowledge and skills he possessed to his deshi.
(b) The latter all gained profound knowledge and skills during their time as deshi, but it is by no means clear that they gained all the knowledge or that all gained the same knowledge.
(c) Morihei Ueshiba appears to have made no specific attempt to check whether his deshi had understood what they had learned from him.
(d) On the other hand, all the evidence indicates that Morihei Ueshiba worried very much about passing on the art to future generations and finally designated his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba as heir and inheritor of the art.
(e) Kisshomaru Ueshiba seems to have changed the inheritance he received quite radically, again, with no clear reaction from his father, such that it has been stated that the aikido taught by him and by his successors nowadays is no longer Morihei Ueshiba's aikido.
I should really add another proposition somewhere, perhaps as a bridge between Transmission
(c-1) Morihei Ueshiba eventually spent much time talking about what he had created—but in terms that virtually no one understood at the time.
I think there are two major issues here. The first stems from the fact that Morihei Ueshiba began to discourse about his art. We cannot state exactly when, but from the content of the discourses it is very unlikely to have been before he met Onisaburo Deguchi and became a believer in the Omoto religion. There is a certain irony here. In several places Ueshiba, who trained constantly all his life and believed that he continued to progress, stated quite plainly that progress in his art would never come from talking about it—yet he became conspicuous in breaking this rule, to such an extent that the deshi
often wondered whether he would ever get down to the ‘real' business of the art and do some waza
. The irony is all the more exquisite in that he often broke the rule in discussing the importance of language
training—the crucial value of something called kotodama
The second issue is consequent on the first. How much attention do we need to pay to these obscure discourses, and how much was the obscurity a factor in the radical changes made by Kisshomaru Ueshiba in his inheritance? Kisshomaru Ueshiba produced a stream of books about the philosophy and practice of aikido—in which kotodama
never figures as something of any importance. It is relegated to the background, as something that was part and parcel of his father's private religious practices. Are we to understand Kisshomaru's disregard of kotodama
as an evolution of aikido in some way, or was an important baby being swept away with the prewar bathwater?
Of course, since Morihei Ueshiba is no longer around, we have to approach the issue of his language from the other end, so to speak, and look at the language of aikido as the art is practiced and discussed nowadays, especially in discussion forums like AikiWeb
. In this respect, it is important to understand how radically the situation has changed, even in the mere half-century since Ueshiba lived and taught. In a typical early postwar dojo, the Sensei was all-powerful, there was not much talking during training, beginners, especially, were seen and not heard, and there were no books. If Sensei did speak, his words had an oracular quality, to be pondered on, but never to be regarded as part and parcel of the general dojo conversation, which could be accepted or discarded at will. Now, we have the great leveler of the Internet, where information and advice, albeit sometimes of very dubious quality, is freely sought and even more freely given, often by those least qualified to give it.
I think that the evidence of the communication, non-communication and miscommunication in Internet discussion forums such as Jun Akiyama's AikiWeb
should in any case lead us to consider the general question of aikido and language. Why is it that language is so necessary for aikido that we need to fill acres of Internet space in discussing the art—and in telling each other with great fluency that IHTBF (It has to be felt
): that mere words cannot really explain what aikido is? Why does language succeed so much—and also fail so gloriously, when dealing with an art like aikido? Moreover, when we read his discourses, can we consider that Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of the art though he was, was any better at using language to express his thoughts about aikido than we think we are? From a glance at the discourses, it would seem that we he was not, for they appear to be virtually impossible to understand without detailed explanation and commentary. This might seem offensive, but it is not intended to be. I am simply pointing out a fallacy—which is that, since O Sensei was the creator of aikido, he was better at explaining in words what he had created than anyone else.
For reasons of length, I have followed a precedent begun with earlier columns and split this discussion into two parts. The first part is an examination of Morihei Ueshiba's language and style of discourse. I have chosen a few representative texts and present a detailed analysis of these texts. Here I am assuming that Morihei Ueshiba is a language user on the same level as all those who participate in AikiWeb
discussions. Of course, there are some differences, but the point I wish to stress here is that Ueshiba had the same problems in expressing himself in his native language as we all do in ours. In the second part, to appear as Column 12, I will broaden the discussion to include issues about language itself, but always in relation to Morihei Ueshiba's own discourses and the contemporary discussions in the AikiWeb
The Language of the Man Himself
When we approach the discourses of Morihei Ueshiba (I use the term discourses
to indicate a middle ground between something spoken and something written), another problem arises, which is more difficult to deal with than those sketched in the previous section. This is because to some who practice aikido, O Sensei's words have a special, quasi-biblical, status—they are the aikido equivalent of Holy Writ. The following is one example, from AikiWeb
‘Almost everyone looks to the teaching of O Sensei for guidance in their practice of Aikido.'
If I look back on my own training history, I am certainly one of the exceptions. I never encountered the writings of Morihei Ueshiba until about six years after I had begun training. I was living in the US and saw Kisshomaru Ueshiba's Aikido
in a Cambridge bookstore. Having purchased the book, I looked at the aphorisms collected in the last part of the book (pp. 177 -- 181) and was somewhat shocked. The English sayings were devoid of any context and just stood there, on the pages. I acquired another book after coming to Japan, a small volume entitled The Art of Peace
. It is a collection of statements, sayings, aphorisms, also totally devoid of any context. I am quite prepared to accept that some may find the book very useful, not to say inspiring, but I myself found the book unsatisfactory and was pleasantly surprised to find corroboration in the AikiWeb
‘Well, I'll say it: the emperor has no clothes. Every time I pick up tAoP, I always think how pointless and uninstructive a collection of context-free sound bites it is. Despite the many meanings that people infer into those little nuggets, they really don't say that much—except, perhaps, to those who have already in their minds the message that they're seeking. I don't get literal meaning from them, I don't get figurative meaning from them, and the only "effect" I get is one of annoyance.'
So, it is clear that some contemporary aikido practitioners have given Morihei Ueshiba's discourses a special status, but do they deserve this status and does the alleged status have any effect on how they should be treated? Are they any different from the treasured family heirlooms that we keep in our attics—and put back there after occasional respectful scrutiny?
Since I knew at the time I bought the Aikido
volume that Ueshiba was a formidable martial artist, some of the aphorisms made sense. However, all the references to God and the Universe suggested that aikido was a religious activity and this was something that none of my teachers (all of whom had been deshi
of O Sensei) had ever even alluded to. In fact, when they taught, they never mentioned Ueshiba's teachings at all. So, even apart from the issues of cultural differences and the adequacy of translation, some of the aphorisms suggested that what Morihei Ueshiba himself was doing when he trained was quite different from what we ourselves were doing.
Many years later, I had learned enough Japanese to have discussions without the aid of a translator and had met and talked to Morihei Ueshiba's son and grandson. Even though Kisshomaru Ueshiba was the author of the book I had bought, he himself suggested that his father's waza
were never the same and that his sayings had to be read primarily in relation to his own training and Omoto religious beliefs—which he himself did not particularly share. The important thing was that aikido had changed since O Sensei's time and was still changing: as Doshu, it was the task of Kisshomaru and of his son Moriteru to discern and transmit the essence that remained constant. Clearly there are some issues here, which go right to the heart of understanding what Moriteru Ueshiba was about. Nevertheless, regardless of any ‘political' implications relating to the position of Doshu as the leader of the Aikikai, I received the impression that Morihei Ueshiba was a man of his time and spoke in a certain way. The discourses were relevant for illuminating a certain period in the development of aikido. In any case, everything that we read in English by O Sensei has already undergone a complex process of editing and translation, primarily at the hands of his son, and so we actually encounter him at second or even third hand. Another way of putting this is that we do not encounter what O Sensei actually said, but what one or several people thought he actually said—and I shall go on to show that there are significant differences.
Since acquiring some proficiency in reading Japanese, I made my own acquaintance with Morihei Ueshiba's discourses in the original. It was easy to see that his translators had many problems—and that they coped with these problems as best they could. In my opinion, the best way for an aikido practitioner who believes that Ueshiba's discourses have a special status is not to have blind trust in the translators, but to take the trouble to examine Morihei Ueshiba's language for themselves, carefully and without any preconceptions, first in as a ‘raw' state as possible, and then to look at how it has been translated and adapted for presentation to Japanese and English-speaking readers—and this is what I have attempted here. In previous columns I have quoted Morihei Ueshiba extensively, but the emphasis has always been on what he said, rather than how he said it. In this section I focus as much on his language and style as on the content. It should be noted, therefore, that this column is somewhat different in content from the previous columns. There is much close analysis of written Japanese and this might not be to everyone's taste. To begin with, a few basic remarks about written Japanese will be in order.
[Essential Digression I:
The Writing of Japanese
In any spoken and written language there are four essential components:
(1) Vocabulary, which enables the speaker to make essential cognitive connections with the items in the ‘world';
(2) Grammar, which gives the speaker the structural means to make utterances about the world;
(3) Phonology, which gives the speaker the structural means to relate the grammar and vocabulary to the capabilities of vocal output, in terms of sounds and syllables; and
(4) Script, which enables (1) to (3) to be expressed in written form.
It is clear that (1) changes more frequently and radically than the other three and that (4) is the last item to appear chronologically. There appear to be one or two cases (tribes in remote jungles) where it seems not to have appeared at all. There are also languages where (3) is not fully known, since there are no longer any native speakers.
Very barely and briefly stated, the Japanese grafted on to their existing spoken language [which is the combination of (1), (2), and (3)] the characters—and the way to read the characters—of Chinese. This process began a few centuries after the beginning of the first millennium CE and was intensified at the time when Buddhism made it way from China to Japan via Korea. Since spoken Japanese was not a ‘tone' language, the Chinese readings themselves were ‘re-pronounced' as Japanese. Of course, the Chinese language did not remain static during this process and over a lengthy period the same characters were reintroduced into the Japanese language, but with different readings and meanings. The basic building blocks of the characters themselves were 214 elements or radicals
, some of which were complete characters and some of which were parts.
The eventual result was a hybrid system of great complexity, with Chinese characters used for all the components listed above, but which was also undergoing a gradual but continuous process of modification. This latter process was perhaps similar to the development of the alphabet, as used in Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, and Latin, except that the development did not go this far. (Note that I am not making any value judgments here: I am not saying, for example, that alphabet systems evolved because they were superior to character-based systems.) If we look again at the four components listed above, we find that in Japanese:
(1) The vocabulary items were eventually all written in Chinese characters, but were read in a modified ‘Chinese' way, as well as in the original ‘Japanese' way. These items were generally read for their meanings, not for their sound, but there were some exceptions, later called ateji
, as in 寿司 sushi
(the Japanese food), 倶楽部 kurabu
(club), 珈琲 kohi
(coffee), where the meanings of the individual characters are irrelevant.
The point about deriving sounds as well as meanings from Chinese characters is quite important, for virtually everyone who practices aikido comes to assume that the characters 合, 気, and 道 are read as they are in virtue of their meanings and not of their sounds. In this case it is true, but is not necessarily a general rule. People also go into major mental contortions trying to work out the correct relationship between the three characters and argue that aikido is not an ai
's someone's do
(as it might seem from the order), but a do
's someone's ki
, because this is what the three characters actually ‘mean'.
Another issue here is whether the meaning also comes from the internal connections among the characters that make up the compound word, apart from the order in which the characters are written. In the case of珈琲 kohi
(coffee), the characters do not have any meaning relevant to the word apart from the sound. Thus 珈ko
has to come before 琲hi
and it would also be a pointless exercise to argue that the coffee we drink is so named in Japanese because an ornamental hairpin (珈) is attached to a string of pearls (琲: for the evidence, see pp. 728 and 732 of the revised Nelson Chinese character dictionary). With aikido
the situation is somewhat different and there is a considerable body of evidence that合気 aiki
has a definite meaning, over and above its use in the compound aikido
. In fact, Morihei Ueshiba used the term with both meanings (a do
and also a do
's someone's ki
(2) The grammatical distinctions were also picked out by Chinese characters, but these were bereft of their meaning and read for their sound only. They were called manyo-gana
(after the earliest collection of poems, called the Man'yoshu
[万葉集], where they first appeared). Later, they came to be called okurigana
(3) The phonological distinctions were covered by the same characters, also read for their sound. These systems are commonly known as syllabaries, but are more specifically systems of moras (a mora音字 onji
is a sound unit, as can be seen from the expression of my surname in Japanese: Golds-bury
has two syllables in English, but five moras in Japanese: ゴールズベリ / ゴー ル ズ ベ リ). The syllabaries evolved from the manyo-gana
Chinese characters to the sound systems of (a) hira-gana
, which are whole characters written—originally by women, who were not allowed to use kanji
—in an easy, cursive, way and (b) kata-kana
, which are parts of whole Chinese characters and were developed by—male—students of Chinese Buddhist texts. There is an overlap here between (2) and (3), since the kana systems are used to depict both grammatical distinctions and phonological aspects of Japanese.
(4) Thus, the Japanese language is written in combinations of four different systems: Chinese characters, hiragana
and also the Romanized alphabet. The following statement, made by Morihei Ueshiba, is a typical modern example of written Japanese, with kanji
all occurring in the same sentence:
キリストが「はじめに言葉ありき」といったその言霊が ス であります。
Kirisuto ga "Hajime ni kotoba ariki" to itta sono kotodama ga SU de arimasu.
This word-soul which Christ uttered "In the beginning was the Word" is SU.
In this statement キリスト (Kirisuto
= Christ) is written in katakana
, as is ス (SU
). There are two words written in Chinese characters: 言葉 (kotoba
= word + ha
= leaves) and 言霊 (kotodama
= word + tama
= spirit / soul). The remainder of the sentence is written in hiragana
, of which some mark grammatical items, such as subjects (が ga
), particles (に ni
, で de
), and tenses (いった
). There are two subjects and three verbs in the sentence, the main subject being ‘kotodama
'. So, we have:
This word-soul (その言霊が: sono kotodama ga)
which Christ uttered (キリストが…といった: Kirisuto ga … to itta)
"In the beginning was the Word" (「はじめに言葉ありき」: hajime ni kotoba ariki, in quotes)
is SU (ス であります: SU de arimasu).
Note that if the original Chinese manyogana
characters (and there was a choice of characters) were substituted for the katakana
, the sentence would be pronounced in the same way, but would be much more difficult to read:
機利須止我「波自女仁言葉阿里貴」等怡都太所乃言霊賀 須 代英利万州。
Writing the same sentence in hiragana,
きりすとが「はじめにことばありき」といったそのことだまが す であります。
or in katakana,
キリストガ「ハジメニコトバアリキ」トイッタソノコトダマガ ス デアリマス。
quite possibly makes it easier to read, but the absence of Chinese characters necessitates that the meaning of the vocabulary items is understood entirely from the context, with no help from the logographic message conveyed by the Chinese characters that are used. In view of the enormous number of homonyms that exist in Japanese, this would make reading very difficult and this, I think, is why Chinese characters have never been banished from the written language.
It is probably not so surprising then, that someone like St Francis Xavier, who was used to the relative simplicities of the alphabet, thought that Japanese writing was invented by the Devil. Those accustomed to the alphabet might well also ponder at the immense rote-learning process expected of every young Japanese entering the Japanese school system, in order to master reading and writing the 5,000-odd characters required for day-to-day written communication in Japanese.
End of Essential Digression I]
Of course, part of the reason why St Francis Xavier believed that written Japanese was the work of the Devil is that he was not well served by his translators, who did the best they could in very difficult circumstances. Since Xavier was one of the first westerners ever to set foot in Japan, there were no translations ready-made to assist him and his interpreters were learning, as much as he was. We shall find that one of the biggest problems in coping with Morihei Ueshiba in Japanese is his style of writing, which the Japanese themselves find as hard to deal with as we do. Do we take him literally, or was he writing in some sort of code, which, if we break, will illuminate everything, especially our own aikido training?
I have chosen four paragraphs that have appeared under the name of Morihei Ueshiba. The first two are taken from the introductions to Budo Renshu
(1933) and Budo
(1938), respectively. They are virtually identical. The other two, quite different in content and tone from the first two, are taken from Aiki Shinzui
(translated into English as The Secret Teachings of Aikido
) and Takemusu Aiki
. I have reproduced the Japanese text, together with a transcription in italicized Roman script and a translation in bold type. For ease of reference and comparison, I have divided each paragraph into numbered sections.
A: Budo Renshu
This book was privately issued in 1933. The title on the front cover reads: 「合気道開祖植芝守高（盛平）著 武道練習（合気道）」The English version of this, reproduced on the back inside cover, reads: Budo Training in Aikido, written by Moritaka (Morihei) Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido
. The book is basically a collection of illustrations of 166 waza
. The illustrations are sketches and brief explanations are also appended to each waza
. The explanations are preceded by a general explanation of methods of attack. Shigemi Yonekawa, one of Ueshiba's original students at the Kobukan who was uke for the Noma Dojo photographs, stated that one really had to know the waza
, in order to understand the drawings, but the fact remains that the book is a record of Morihei Ueshiba's technical ideas about his art, considered as a martial system.
The book was re-issued in 1978 with an English translation made by Larry Bieri, a longtime student at the Aikikai Hombu, and his wife Seiko. The translation was added to a photocopy of the original Japanese text and the result was an elegant hand-sewn, traditional Japanese-style volume. The Japanese text of the technical introduction is immediately followed by the English translation on unnumbered pages. The Japanese text was written by hand, but it is very unlikely that the writer was Morihei Ueshiba himself. One possibility is that the transcription of the text, as well as the creation of the sketches, is the work of Takako Kunigoshi, since all the Japanese I have so far consulted assure me that the handwriting is ‘female' and I have seen enough handwritten Japanese over the years to be convinced that there are differences in the way that boys and girls are taught to write kanji
This paragraph reproduced below is part of a longer section dealing with attacks from the rear. The section is the last part of a lengthy technical introduction to the waza
sketched in the book. The introduction considers aikido (actually, the art was Daito-ryu
at the time the book was produced) solely from the viewpoint of the type of attacks that are likely (or were considered likely by Morihei Ueshiba). These, in order, are: strikes to the face; strikes to the neck & shoulder; shoulder grabs; grabs to the collar (from the front); grabbing the wrists; rear waza
; grabbing the collar (from the rear). I have chosen the section on attacks from the rear because these are commonly thought to be difficult to do and even to be lacking in sense.
The paragraph reproduced below has three parts. There is a general account (Sections 1 to 3) of dealing with attacks from the rear, which is followed by a discussion (Sections 4 to 8) of the difficulties involved in making such attacks. Finally, there are hints (Sections 9 to 14) on the necessity and frequency of the training required to cope with such attacks.
Ushiro-dori wa nikutai no tamashii ni gotai wo gubi seru ichijingaku no hataraki wo nasu yo ni bujutsu no renshu wo suru.
Ushiro-dori demands that you train yourself in Bujutsu until your body, soul (tamashii) and the five senses work as a single integrated personality.
A. I believe that both translators have produced interpretations rather than strict translations (though the rendering of the Bieris seems to me to be closer to the original). I think one needs to suspect translations that make the translation more ‘reasonable' than the original. Because of our aikido training, we feel we can extrapolate and somehow guess what Ueshiba means—what he's ‘trying to say', but the danger here is that his explanation is then made to sound very ‘reasonable' to contemporary aikido practitioners, used to the verbal culture of western contemporary psychology and to breaking the components of training into ‘bite-sized', easily-learnable portions, and so one should seriously question whether this was really Ueshiba's intention. This is especially important in the case where Ueshiba was writing in a sort of code, using terms that already had a recognized meaning.
B. Japanese uses markers to denote, roughly, topic (wa
, は, ハ), subject (ga
, が, ガ), object (wo
, を,ヲ) and particles (no
, の,ノ; ni
, に, ニ) and the verb is usually at the end of the clause or sentence.
C. There is an ambiguity in the sentence that is best expressed by the use of commas.
In terms of grammar & vocabulary, one can split the predicate part of the sentence into several clusters, denoted here by square brackets. Ueshiba asserts that the goal of training is [the hataraki
(working or acting)] of [tamashii ni gotai wo gubi seru ichijingaku
(the integrated individual, which becomes endowed with five ‘bodies' in the spiritual soul)] in [the nikutai
(肉体 physical body)]. Thus the central focus of this interpretation is the working (or transformation) of the physical body
, where the goal of bujutsu training in attacks from the rear is to enable the physical body to be transformed, that is, endowed with the spiritual soul and the five ‘bodies', all working in unison. A ‘translation' into modern Japanese would read:
Ushiro tori wo suru tame ni wa, [tamashii ni gotai wo tomonatte iru ichijingaku] ga ugokuyouni [nikutai ga] ugokuyo, bujutsu no renshu wo shinakereba naranai.
As with the first interpretation, in terms of grammar & vocabulary, one can split the predicate part of the sentence into slightly different clusters, again denoted here by square brackets. Ueshiba asserts that the goal of training is [the hataraki
(working or acting)] of [gotai wo gubi seru ichijingaku
(the integrated individual, who displays / becomes endowed with five ‘bodies')] i
n [the nikutai no tamashii
(魂 soul / spirit of the 肉体 physical body)]. Thus the central focus of this second interpretation is the working of the spiritual soul in the physical body
, where the goal of bujutsu training in attacks from the rear is to enable the spiritual soul in physical body to be transformed, by the working of the five ‘bodies', all working in unison. The ‘translation' into modern Japanese would also be slightly different:
Ushiro tori wo suru tame ni wa, [gotai wo tomonatte iru ichijingaku] ga ugokuyouni [nikutai no naka no tamashii ga] ugokuyo, bujutsu no renshu wo shinakereba naranai.
D. So a more direct translation that retains the ambiguity (a translation of the words, as much as the thoughts—see the discussion in the next column on John Locke—largely in the order in which they appear), would be: ‘With respect to attacks from behind, one
(subject unstated) does training of bujutsu, in order to bring about the working of one integrated individual endowed with the five "bodies" in the soul of the physical body.
' Or, ‘With respect to attacks from behind, the causing to work of the one integrated individual, who is endowed with the five ‘bodies' in the soul of the physical body, is the aim of training in bujutsu.
E. In other places Ueshiba talks about the goal of training for the sake of 魂 tama
and not 魄 haku
and we will discuss this in more detail later. It appears that he is using a distinction that was originally Taoist. The point here is that the translation must ensure that the relationship between 魂 tama(shii)
and 肉体 nikutai
is brought out clearly and not lost.
F. The Bieris translate go-tai
(五体) as the five senses
, but it has a wider meaning (although the five senses are obviously involved). There are various traditional explanations of the five 体 involved: four limbs plus the head, all working together; or muscle, pulse, flesh, bone, skin; or forehead, both elbows, both knees; or head, arms, torso, legs, heart; or head, neck, chest, hands, feet. The important point of this section, however, is the clear emphasis that every aspect of the individual should be operating in complete integration and unity—which, it needs to be emphasized, is not
the usual state. In modern Japanese 五体 is usually translated as ‘whole body' and is contrasted with karada
etc. This leads to an important point concerning Japanese kanji
, which needs a short digression (really intended for those who are learning Japanese reading skills and are coming to grips for the first time with dictionaries and the ON
distinction in reading).
[Essential Digression II:
Reading Japanese Kanji
The fact that Chinese characters are used for reading and writing Japanese imposes a particular discipline on reading and on using dictionaries. Let us take五体 gotai
as an example. This is a noun, written as a compound of two separate characters 五 go
and 体 tai
. There are two ways of finding the meaning of the word.
The first way is to use a general bilingual or monolingual dictionary. Thus, on p. 901 of Kenkyusha's Japanese-English Dictionary
, we find the following entry:
"ごたい 【五体】the (whole) body. [⇒ しんたい]
▶ 〜満足 ⇒ごたいまんぞく ▶〜が震えている. He is shaking all over [from head to foot]."
The reference to しんたい shintai
yields a much longer entry (p. 1353). Here all the entries define shintai
as the body, considered as a physical system, as in: to have a robust constitution
; each part of a human body
; to be deprived the use of one's limbs
The reference to ごたいまんぞくgotai manzoku
yields examples like, ‘a perfectly healthy
baby'; ‘to be born without any physical defects
'; ‘I'm in perfectly sound health
[sound in wind and limb] so I cannot complain'.
The Japanese Kokugo Daijiten
has a slightly different definition (p. 943):
The first definition given is: the five parts of the 身体 shintai
, as listed in Section 1 E, above. This yields the general meaning of: 全体 zentai
, both meaning ‘the whole (physical) body'.
The second way is to use a Chinese character dictionary. Since the revised Nelson dictionary lists all the entries by the first character, we need to start by looking up 五 and searching for the compound 五体. On p. 51, we can find the entry:
"Five component parts of the body; the whole body; five styles of calligraphy
The Kanji Dictionary
by Hadamizky & Spahn (for details, see Reading
, at the end of this column) lists all the entries under any of the constituent characters, so the entry for gotai
appears in two places: on p. 52, under 五; and on p. 186, under 体. In both places the meaning is the same: ‘the whole body'. Incidentally, the defect with the Hadamitzky & Spahn dictionary is that the way of listing all the entries considerably limits the space for the definitions. However, the advantage is that it allows one to see the whole range of compounds listed under one character. Thus, for the character 体 tai
, there are almost five columns, listing all the compounds containing the character 体. In some cases it is possible to see how the meaning of the individual characters ‘blends' to constitute the meaning of the compound; but in many cases this is not possible and the meaning is actually quite different from what one might expect.
In the monolingual character dictionary, 大字源 Dai Jigen
is listed on p. 61, under 五 go
. The definitions are almost exactly the same as those given in the Kokugo Daijiten
, above, and the older character for tai
is also given This is 五體
, which Morihei Ueshiba uses in the Budo
The discipline imposed on the use of dictionaries by the Japanese writing system makes the looking up of a word extremely complex and time-consuming, especially with someone like O Sensei, who often used the old forms of characters and also made up words, such that the meaning of the compound words has to be guessed from the meaning of the individual characters—usually a very dangerous method of deciding the meaning of a word. The advantage, however, is that one can see clearly both aspects of the writing system. A good monolingual dictionary will enable one to understand the development of a particular Japanese word or concept and the way it has been written in different Chinese characters. For example, tai
is the modified Chinese way of reading / pronouncing the character 体 (and would normally be written in capitals, as TAI
). The Japanese way of reading the character is からだ karada
, but there are several characters that are also read in this way: 体, 身体, 躯, 軀, 躰, 體. Apart from the last one, they all contain 体 and/or身. Similarly, a good character dictionary will enable one to study the Chinese character itself: the origin, the differing meanings, and changing use in different compound words. Of course, this discipline is developed by and goes hand in hand with extensive and intensive reading: of newspapers, magazines, articles, books—including older texts written by people like Morihei Ueshiba.
End of Essential Digression II]
Ushiro ni taisuru no seishin wo binkan ni hatarakasu no ga mokuteki de aru.
The goal is to use intuition when moving your mind against the rear.
A. The term 精神 seishin
is translated here as ‘mind' and敏感 binkan
by the more questionable term ‘intuition'. This gives the statement an ‘intellectual' flavor that is lacking in the original. ‘Intuition' is usually rendered by 直覚 (= chokkaku
: immediate awareness / experience), whereas 敏 bin
is agile, or alert; 感 kan
is feeling: the combination generally meaning ‘sensitive' (as in ‘sensitive skin' or being ‘highly strung'). The characters for move
動く and work
働くare quite similar and it might be that Ueshiba regarded them as interchangeable when this text was written. ‘The goal is bringing about activity of the mind / spirit in a sensitive fashion against the rear.
Itsu ushiro kara tori ni kitemo ushiro ni me wo tsukete ite kokoro no mado ga zenshin ni hirakare fui no tekishu ni atte mo sassoku ushiro ga reitai icchi shite binkatsuna hataraki wo nasaneba naranu.
Whenever an enemy comes to grab you from the rear, you should open on to your whole body the window of the spirit (Kokoro), which has eyes facing even to the rear. Your back must move instantly and vigorously with soul and body unified in response to the unexpected attack.
A. By comparison with English, the construction seems quite loose. There is a new sentence, but the subject (an enemy
) is unstated in the Japanese text and the various phrases and clauses are loosely assembled. The diagonal strokes isolate the various clauses and phrases:
Itsu ushiro kara tori ni kitemo / ushiro ni me wo tsukete ite / kokoro no mado ga zenshin ni hirakare / fui no tekishu ni atte mo / sassoku ushiro ga reitai icchi shite / binkatsuna hataraki wo nasaneba naranu.
B. I hope readers can see the metaphors used here. Ushiro ni me wo tsukete ite kokoro no mado ga zenshin ni hirakare
:Open on to your whole body the window of the spirit (Kokoro) which has eyes facing even to the rear.
The Bieri translation has reproduced the metaphor almost exactly as the Japanese reads (which will be relevant when we consider Section 14, below). However, there are really two metaphors: ushiro ni me wo tsukete ite
, which has the sense of keeping, maintaining, the gaze of the eyes to the rear (compare the English phrase, ‘I have eyes in the back of my head'); and kokoro no mado ga zenshin ni hirakare
: ‘the window of the spirit opens to the whole body'. Thus, a more nuanced translation would be: ‘You should constantly keep your eyes focused on the rear and the window of (your) spirit (should) be opened to your whole body.
C. Whereas ‘having eyes in the back of one's head' is a metaphor that ‘works' in English, ‘opening the window of the spirit / mind on to the whole body is' is less easy to deal with. Stevens (see below) combines both metaphors into one thought: ‘Open the eyes of your heart and the window of your mind', but we will discuss in the next column whether it is really illuminating to talk of hearts having eyes and minds having windows.
D. There is the same emphasis on integration as in the last paragraph. Here, 後 ‘[the/your] back' (that is, the side that immediately faces the attacker) has to act
(again the verb is 働く: work
, not 動く: move
), but here it is a verbal noun, qualified by the adjective 敏活な binkatsuna
(similar to 敏速な binsokuna
), which has the sense of swiftness and efficiency. This work can come about only if the 靈体一致して reitai icchi shite
(the more specified—and Cartesian—modern term is 霊肉一致 reiniku icchi,
has the meaning of physical flesh: niku
is what one buys in the shops in order to cook a meal): everything that makes up the individual is acting together.
E. The important point here is Morihei Ueshiba understands the attacks quite literally: they are in no way watered down, as they are in some dojos, where the attacker first faces the opponent and then moves round the back. The latter is clearly one way of training, but the overall goal, in Morihei Ueshiba's terms, is complete integration of the person, in the face of an entirely unforeseen attack from the rear. This lack of watering-down also entails that the training required for such attacks is likely to be long and difficult.
Ushiro kara tsukamu to iu koto wa toruhou demo hijouni kiken ga tomonau mono de aru.
Grabbing from the rear is very dangerous even for the person attacking.
A. Ueshiba now moves on to a very different topic, which might seem surprising for those who believe that aikido is a purely defensive art: the dangers involved in actually attacking from the rear. The crux of the issue here is the interpretation of 捕る
: the person carrying out the toru
. Compare this with 捕り
the way / method of carrying out the toru.
Sore wa teki no kyo wo tsuku to iu koto ga kokoro ni yudan wo ataeru kara de aru.
This is because in making a ‘surprise' attack, chances are that somewhere his own mind has been left unguarded.
A. The concept ‘his own mind has been left unguarded
' is expressed negatively, but in the Japanese text the thought is positive. Ataeru
has the sense of causing damage: the kokoro
(is affected by
—however, the verb is active in the above sentence) yudan
B. What does this is the敵の虚を衝く teki no kyo wo tsuku
(the enemy's surprise attack).
C. The usual character for tsuku
is 突く, familiar in aikido as tsuki
= punching, in waza
, and this character appears in the Budo
text, below. The meaning is ‘strike', or ‘thrust' (usually with a weapon). The character used here (衝く) is clearly intended to include the same sense, but it has the wider sense in modern Japanese of generally clashing or attacking.
D. Note that here Ueshiba is discussing the actual process of attacking and the point he is making is that if the attacker makes some sort of surprise attack, it is possible that there is some sort of negligence in the attack.
Ue ni fui ni omou wa nu fukaku wo torukoto ga aru.
Therefore he may suffer an unexpected defeat.
A. The consequence is clearly stated here. 不覺を取るfukaku wo toru
means to suffer a defeat and the particular way of defeat is unexpected—and has not been taken into consideration.
Oi-ni chui wo yo suru tokoro de aru.
This point calls for particular care.
A. Ueshiba constantly stresses the importance of regular training, but also of paying attention to important aspects of training. (So it is not simply training, in order to have a good workout, or to feel good about oneself or the universe etc—though this might well be a consequence.) If we bear in mind these sections (Sections 4 to 8) in the way that the Bieris have translated them, attacking from the rear needs constant training just as much as coping with these attacks. The reason is given in the next section.
Tato-e teki ga mukou wo muite itemo onore yori ude ga ue no toki wa teki no karada niwa ushiro ni bujutsu no seishin ga jujitsu shite iru kara kaette abunai.
Even though your enemy may be facing the other way, if his skill is greater than yours, his body will always be full of the spirit of Bujutsu, even to the rear, and it will be dangerous [for you to attack him].
A. The sentence is composed of the following clauses/phrases (which the Bieri translation usually separates with commas): Tato-e teki ga mukou wo muite itemo / onore yori ude ga ue no toki wa / teki no karada niwa / ushiro ni bujutsu no seishin ga jujitsu shite iru kara / kaette abunai.
B. The sense of mukou wo muite
is someone facing the other away (in this case, in relation to the one attacking). This conditional clause thus makes far greater sense if understood from this viewpoint. (Compare this with the Stevens translation below.)
C. Ueshiba them makes a point that is consistent with his whole discussion of attacks from the rear: if (the conditional is more precisely when
) the enemy you are attacking is superior in skill to you (onore yori ude ga ue no toki wa
), his body will be replete with the mind/spirit of bujutsu
directed to the rear (teki no karada ni wa ushiro ni wa bujutsu no seishin ga jujitsu shite iru
). In other words, he will ‘have eyes and spirit in the back of his head' and as a result (kara
), on the contrary / contrary to what you might expect (kaette
), it is dangerous (abunai
Ushiro wo torareta toki ni wa sayu ni kahashite tadachi ni teki ni taisu.
When being grabbed from the rear, turn your body to the right or left and promptly take him on.
A. Ueshiba now turns to discussing how to handle the situation when being attacked.
B. The kanji for kahasu
(the modern form is kawasu
) can be written in several ways 交わす, or 躱す (where the radical
身 is already part of the character). When the phrase already contains the radical
, as here, the verb is sometimes written in hiragana.
The central meaning is exchange: doing something in response to something else. It does not simply mean ‘turn'. Thus, one can deflect an attack by turning, as is stated here, or dodge a flying ball or even an awkward question. Thus, Gozo Shioda's classic response to a frontal attack is also an example of kawasu
Onore ga mi wo kahasu tame ni teki ga taoreru yo ni renshu wo tsumu koto ga hitsuyo de aru.
[To accomplish this] it is necessary to gain training experience until you are able to take him off balance when you turn your body.
A. Again, Ueshiba stresses the importance of training and this is underlined by his use of the verb 積む tsumu
, which generally means to pile up, stack, load something on to a vehicle, or accumulate by means of repeated activity. The sense here is of constant and repeated training until the response is completely second nature—in the same way that Ueshiba himself was able to discern the intentions of the attacker. He is definitely not talking about waza
here, though he does use the term 術 in the next section.
B. Teki ga taoreru
敵が倒れるis translated here as ‘take him off balance
' and this is closer to the original meaning than the Stevens translation (see below). The real sense of the Japanese is that you train in order to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the enemy ‘falls'. This might well involve ‘taking his balance'—but does not necessarily involve throwing or executing waza
. To see the issues here, consider the Aikido Journal
interview with Minoru Inaba, about projecting power, and also the classic way that Gozo Shioda projects ‘power', in such a way that the uke simply bounces off him, as mentioned above. Of course, in some sense Shioda ‘throws' his uke, but in my opinion he responds to his uke's attack—and uke falls, as is stated in this section. The additional element here is that the attacker is behind, not in front, but the dynamics are the same.
Sunawachi reikan wo osei narashimeru tame ni nasu sube de aru.
These techniques are done to develop vigorous powers of intuition.
A. Compare this statement with those made in Section 2, above, and Section 13, below. Once again, ‘intuition' is used, this time for 靈感 = reikan
(靈 is the older character for 霊 = tamashii
soul; the Chinese reading is rei
). The usual modern translation for 靈感 is ‘inspiration', as in having a flash of inspiration or a sudden brainwave. I can see the problems faced by the Bieris, but intuition and inspiration have somewhat different connotations in English. For example, in modern Japanese, 霊感商法 reikan shoho
is the fraudulent sale of goods or services claimed to bring supernatural
benefits to the purchaser. Intuition would not really fit here. More recently, I asked some Japanese friends (none of whom practice aikido) the meaning of reikan
and they all agreed that some people were possessed of reikan
to a high degree and others less so. Intuition was a part, but only a part. It was an affinity for the spirit world and could be more, or less, active (= osei
), or sensitive (= binkan
), on certain occasions.
B. Here I have read 術 as sube
, not as jutsu
, since I do not think Ueshiba has in mind waza
such as shiho-nage
. Thus I believe that ‘techniques
', as commonly understood in aikido, is a mistranslation. Ueshiba is discussing something much more ‘basic' and difficult to acquire, like a means, way of doing something, or skill. The entire discussion is about an exquisite state of the whole integrated personality that precedes the execution of waza
. I think that the closest state to this in Ueshiba's thinking (and experience) would be possession by a deity.
C. The benefits of the sube
will be to bring about 旺盛of the 靈感. 旺盛 (osei
) is vigor
, as in brimming with energy. Another example is, 「出撃を前にわが軍の将兵はきわめて戦意旺盛である。」: Shutsugeki wo mae ni waga gun no shohei wa kiwamete sen'i osei de aru
. ‘As they are about to sally forth on a mission, the officers and men of our army have an extremely strong & vigorous
Jintai no ushiro wa seishinteki ni bujutsu ni hataraku you ni dekite iru.
The back of a human body is made so as to move spiritually when doing Bujutsu.
A. The way that this statement has been translated makes it somewhat extraordinary, as if one's back has been independently favored by evolution. Compare the use of dekite iru
here with the conditional dekitara
in Section 14. Here dekite iru
is translated to mean that some part of the human body is built or has evolved in a certain way. In Section 14 it is translated to mean that a certain skill can be acquired. Thus, a translation that does not rely so much on evolution might be: ‘With respect to the back of a human body
人体の後は, one is capable of acting
働く様に出来てゐる mentally / spiritually / from the heart
精神的に in bujutsu.
' In other words, bujutsu
enables one to act as if one has eyes and feelings in the back of one's head.
B. Thus Ueshiba is expressing the same thought here as he expressed in Section 2 and 3, above, when he talked of ‘causing the mind to act sensitively against the rear
', or, ‘You should constantly keep your eyes focused on the rear and the window of (your) spirit (should) open to your whole body
Soko de hibi no renshu wo tsunde reikan wo masumasu binkan narashime neba naranu.
Therefore, you should train hard every day to make your intuition keener.
A. Compare this statement with that made in Section 2, above. The terms used here are 靈感 reikan
, as used above, and 敏感 binkan
, as used in Section 2. By means of constant and repeated training, the 靈感reikan
(inspiration) becomes progressively 敏感binkan
(sensitive). Again, we encounter the less satisfactory term ‘intuition'.
Kore ga dekitara teki ga tori ni kitara mae ni susumu koto ni yotte teki ga taoreru.
When this is accomplished, as the enemy comes to grab you from the rear you can defeat him by simply stepping forward.
A. This translation interprets 前 (mae
) in terms of distance, not of time. So, in all attacks from the rear, the person attacked defeats the opponent by moving forward. However, I think this is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. First, the Japanese does not actually state that the attack has already occurred; it states that the enemy comes to take
(to make the attack). Secondly, the word susumu
already contains the concept of advancing, which could include moving forward, so mae
is redundant. Thirdly, moving only forward would limit the range of possibilities open to the person being attacked and Ueshiba has been at pains to stress in the previous sentence—and indeed in all that has gone before—that daily training aims to make one's reikan
more and more binkan
: to increase the possibilities of unfettered and creative response.
This volume was produced five years after Budo Renshu
, in 1938. The number of waza
explained has been reduced to fifty, but it is remarkable that the technical introduction is virtually the same as that in Budo Renshu
, but with one or two significant additions and emendations. The Japanese original has never been published, but an English translation, made by John Stevens, was first published in 1991. The Japanese text was not reproduced with the translation, so students of Japanese cannot judge the accuracy of the translation by comparing it with the Japanese original, as we will do here.
Reproduced below is the same part of the introduction as in the Budo Renshu
volume, above, with the very similar explanation about attacks from behind, together with the Stevens translation (which appears in the book as one paragraph on p. 37). Perceptive readers of Japanese will notice several differences from the Budo Renshu
text. The okurigana
, which are the endings that indicate grammatical aspects, are written in katakana
, some words are written with older Chinese characters (which is curious, since Budo Renshu
is supposedly the older text) and more detailed explanations occur in some places. In some places, also, the translation is crucially different. The paragraph has been separated into the same numbered sections, for easier comparison with the Budo Renshu
1. 後業ハ大攻撃ノ心身ヲ以テ初メテ敵ノ後ヨリ打チ又切ル事ヲ得、又敵ヲ我ガ思フ儘ニナスヲ得ルモノナリ、然レドモ敵不意ニ後ヨリ立向フ時肉體ノ魂ニ五體ヲ具備セル一人格ノ働 ヲナス様ニ武術ノ練習ヲナシ
Ushiro waza wa dai-kogeki no shinshin wo motte hajimete teki no ushiro yori uchi mata kiru koto wo toku, mata teki wo waga omou mama ni nasu yo eru mono nari, shikaredomo teki fui ni ushiro yori tachimukau toki nikutai no tamashii ni gotai wo gubi seru ichiningaku no hataraki wo nasu yo ni bujutsu no renshu wo nashi
Through the practice of rear techniques, one learns how to prepare one's mind and body against attacks from all directions, beginning with attacks from behind, and how to handle opponents freely, when an opponent unexpectedly appears from behind, all your senses must be alert, allowing you to discern his movements—this is an important part of bujutsu practice
A. Most of the notes on Budo Renshu
, above, are also relevant here.
B. The section supposedly deals with後業ushiro waza
, rather than 後捕ushiro dori
. This is quite a major change and is relevant, in virtue of the central sections of the paragraph, which Stevens translates quite differently from the Bieris.
C. In comparison with the first section of the Budo Renshu
extract, this section is much more wide-ranging, with a detailed section inserted before nikutai no tamashii ni gotai wo gubi seru
etc. So, if we add commas and periods to the Japanese text,
we can make a closer translation, which would go something like:
With respect to rear techniques, once one has a body-mind focused on all-out attacks, one can (1) strike and cut from the back of the enemy and (2) handle the enemy as one wishes. Nevertheless, when pitted against an unexpected attacker from behind, one should train in such a way that one's body works as if the whole personality is endowed with the soul plus five ‘bodies' / one should train in such a way that the soul of/in the body works as if the whole personality is endowed with five ‘bodies'.
ushiro ni taisuru no seishin wo binkan ni hatarakasu no ga mokuteki de aru,
the key to rear techniques is immediately to sense the presence of another person behind you,
A. Here Stevens avoids the issue of intuition and the artificialities of ‘placing the mind against the rear', and talks in terms of sensing of the attacker.
Itsu ushiro kara tori ni kitemo ushiro ni me wo tsukete ite kokoro no mado ga zenshin ni hirakare fui no tekishu ni atte mo sassoku ushiro ga reitai icchi shite binkatsuna hatara wo nasaneba naranu.
as soon as the opponent attempts to grab you from the rear, you must open the eyes of your heart and the window of your mind, follow your intuition, and move swiftly and surely to the proper position to counter the attack.
A. Compared with the separate statements in Budo Renshu
(1 -- 3), the equivalent statements in the first three sections here are expressed in one long continuous sentence. To show how ungainly this would be in English, I have punctuated the Stevens translation in the same way. Stevens, of course, does not do this, but breaks up the thoughts into complete sentences.
Ushiro kara tsukamu to iu koto wa toruhou mo hijouni kiken ga tomonau mono de aru.
Attacks from the rear are extremely difficult and dangerous to deal with.
A. If the translation of these few sections (4 to 8) is compared with the equivalents in Budo Renshu
, it will be seen that here there is a completely different interpretation. In Budo Renshu
, the translation places emphasis on the actual difficulty of attacking someone from the rear, whereas here, the emphasis is firmly placed on responding to attacks from the rear. The Japanese text, however, is identical, except for the okurigana
and some older Chinese characters.
B. In this opening statement, John Stevens has actually avoided the issue of whether Ueshiba is discussing attacking or being attacked: both are ‘attacks from the rear' and are ‘difficult and dangerous to deal with'. However, in doing so, he has made a paraphrase, rather than a real translation, and has omitted the awkward phrase 捕ル方toruhou
(= the person attacking).
Sore wa teki no kyo wo tsuku to iu koto ga jiko no kokoro ni yudan wo ataeru kara de aru
If you are caught off guard and inattentive to an unseen enemy,
A. The insertion of jiko
in the second part of the sentence is special to the Budo
text and does not appear in the Budo Renshu
text. However, the addition does not radically affect the sense. A translation that is closer to the actual text than Stevens gives would be something like: ‘This (the point of the previous section) situation is when the enemy attacks unexpectedly, and because of this there is negligence affecting one's own
mind.' Stevens interprets jiko
here to refer to the defender, but the Japanese text really requires that it apply to the attacker.
B. A translation that is closer to the original would be: To make a surprise attack can cause negligence to affect the attacker's own mind.
yue ni fui ni omo wa nu fukaku wo torukoto ga aru.
you will be caught unaware.
A. On either interpretation (that of the Bieris or Stevens), the situation leads to an unexpected defeat, due to circumstances that are unforeseen.
Oini chui wo yo suru tokoro de aru.
It is essential always to exercise care in this regard.
A. On either interpretation this statement would be true and important.
Tato-e teki ga mukou wo muite itemo onore yori ude ga ue no toki wa teki no karada niwa ushiro ni bujutsu no seishin ga jujitsu shite iru kara kaette abunai.
Even though the opponent is in front initially, if he has a keen bujutsu sense, he will be able to get behind you despite your counter moves, and put you in a precarious position.
A. The translation here appears to rest on a different interpretation of mukou wo muite
(facing away from you), being more like mukau wo mukaite
(facing towards you).
B. Given this scenario, the danger is in allowing a person of superior skill to move behind you and attack. Why the attacker would choose to do this, when he/she is already in front and thus can attack more easily (always assuming that he/she is superior in skill—which is implied here) is left unexplained.
C. The reference to countermoves does not explicitly appear in the Japanese text.
Ushiro wo torareta toki ni wa sayu zengo kokoro no mama ni tensen wo satori henka shi tadachi ni teki ni taisu
One must train diligently to develop the enlightened ability to adapt and turn freely to the left, right, front or back in order to avoid and down opponents.
A. Compare this statement with the corresponding statement in Budo Renshu
, above. In the former text,
Ushiro wo torareta toki ni wa sayu ni kahashite tadachi ni teki ni taisu.
When being grabbed from the rear, turn your body to the right or left and promptly take him on
we have simply sayu ni kahashite
(=counter by turning to the left or right
Here we have something more explicit and detailed:
sayu zengo kokoro no mama ni tensen wo satori henka shi
enlightened ability to adapt and turn freely to the left, right, front or back
A translation that is closer to the text than Stevens provides would be something like:
When the rear is being attacked
(ushiro wo torareta toki ni wa
), recognizing & adapting
(tensen wo satori henka shi
) freely / as one likes
(kokoro no mama
), to left, right, forwards, backwards
), immediately confront the enemy
(tadachi ni teki ni taisu
onore ga mi wo kahasu tame ni teki ga taoreru yo ni renshu wo tsumu koto ga hitsuyo de aru.
It is essential to train against grabs from the rear.
A. The translation here is really a kind of summary, rather than a strict translation of the text. A closer translation, which follows the order of the Japanese thoughts, would be: By means of you yourself turning your body in response
(onore ga mi wo kahasu tame ni
) / in order that the enemy will fall
(teki ga taoreru yo ni
) / it is necessary to put in serious ‘mileage' of training
(renshu wo tsumu koto ga hitsuyo de aru
). Thus a closer translation, that includes all the thoughts but better fits English word order, would be: It is necessary to accumulate serious ‘mileage' of training, in order that the enemy will fall, by means of you yourself turning your body in response.
Sunawachi reikan wo osei narashimeru tame ni nasu sube de aru.
Rear techniques are meant to develop one's sixth sense.
A. Develop one's sixth sense
is the phrase chosen by Stevens for reikan wo osei narashimeru
. Compare the Bieris' ‘vigorous powers of intuition.
Jintai no ushiro wa seishinteki ni bujutsu ni hataraku yo ni deki te iru.
In this kind of bujutsu we learn to function intuitively.
A. Again, the translation is completely different from the text.
Soko de hibi no renshu wo tsunde reikan wo masumasu binkan narashimeneba naranu
Everyday, we must drill ourselves in order to develop intuition and swift responses.
A. Again, a translation that keeps more closely to the Japanese would be: By repeated training every day hibi no renshu wo tsunde
/ in this kind of bujutsu soko de
, / we must develop reikan ‘inspiration' that is progressively more binkan ‘sensitive' reikan wo masumasu binkan narashimeneba naranu
. Both translations reach the same conclusion, which is the importance of daily training, but mine follows the thought of the Japanese more closely.
kore ga dekitara teki ga tori ni kitara mae ni susumu koto ni yotte teki ga taoreru.
If this is mastered, we can handle any opponent as soon as he attempts to grab from behind by proceeding to the front and throwing him.
A. In some respects Stevens seems to realize the issues involved here more than the Bieris. He shows more awareness of moving before
the enemy has actually attacked.
B. However, we then have the strange statement of ‘proceeding to the front
', as soon as the enemy attempts to grab and I wonder whether the translator was aware of how incoherent this seems. If an enemy attempts to grab from behind, ‘we' are already in front and there seems no point in ‘proceeding' there again. The phrase mirrors the similarly odd, ‘move swiftly and surely to the proper position'
,in Section 3, which is not explicitly stated in the Japanese original.
means to fall, not to throw, or cause to fall. Ueshiba's thought is that if we mae ni susumu
as soon as the enemy makes the attempt to grab, he/she will fall. This is not at all the same as throwing and in my opinion the translation reveals a preconception about aikido that was not in O Sensei's mind in 1938, or in 1933.
There is the same division into three different topics as in the Budo Renshu
volume. The style of Japanese is crisp and clear, the only problem being the long sentences with no apparent grammatical subjects and the nuances of ‘mental' concepts such as reikan
, kokoro, haku, tamashii
. These are quite difficult concepts to deal with in terms of western psychology and so there is the great danger that Ueshiba is translated in such a way as to make him ‘palatable' to western readers.
There are some significant differences. The first section (1 -- 3) has been expanded to include mention of waza
and greater stress placed on the importance of ushiro dori
as a foundation for dealing with attacks from all directions. Secondly, the middle section (4 -- 8) discusses the difficulties of dealing with such attacks, not of making the attacks. The final comments are also expanded slightly, with greater importance placed on moving in all directions in response to such attacks. The major issue is the middle section (4 -- 8). It is remarkable that exactly the same Japanese original has been translated in such a way that the meaning in the two works is almost directly opposed.
It should be clear that the translation of the Bieris and of Prof Stevens involves making a series of judgments and I have been at pains to consider the kind of issues they faced, the judgments they made, and the alternatives. Those who consider that Morihei Ueshiba's words have the status in aikido of Holy Writ need to remember this. There is a long tradition of translating the Bible over and over again, with each fresh translation gaining—and possibly also losing—something. This has never happened with Morihei Ueshiba, largely because aikido is a relatively recent art and because the publication of his discourses has been tightly controlled. In fact, Prof Stevens has largely had a monopoly of translating Morihei Ueshiba, with the Bieris his only ‘competitors'.
In practical terms, the general impression from these texts is the crucial importance of individual training. Some have said that proficiency in aikido should really take far less time than is commonly assumed (from phrases like, ‘the 20-year technique'). This might be true with respect of waza
, but is clearly not true in respect of accumulating training ‘experience', as stated here, in order that one's perceptions and movements become both second nature and also very finely tuned.
It is also of some importance that the precise nature of this training is left unstated and this, of course, makes Ueshiba's statements more open to scrutiny, for another point of note is that 呼吸 kokyu
(breathing) is not mentioned once in either of the above paragraphs. Of course, there are many actual ushiro waza
sketched and explained in the Budo Renshu
text and a general statement at the beginning of the Budo
text, but the introduction to theformer text does not discuss waza
even once and neither introduction gives any explanation of how to apply specific waza
in any particular situation. So it is my belief that the training in question is not restricted to waza
. It might well include them, but will also include much more.
The introduction to both volumes, in fact, reflects the actual training methods that Ueshiba himself used, certainly up until 1938 and probably long after. There are those who state that the type of training portrayed in these two volumes is pre-war and that aikido and aikido training changed significantly after the war. I have purposely chosen material dealing with attacks from the rear, in order to point to the limitations of this thinking.
The two texts from Budo Renshu
are examples of technical discussions, but there is some anecdotal evidence that they were actually written, not by Morhei Ueshiba, but by Kenji Tomiki. However, in accordance with common Japanese practice, they have been published under Ueshiba's name and clearly had his endorsement. Of course, if it is true that Tomiki was the author, the inevitable conclusion is that Ueshiba never wrote any technical explanations of his art. With the second pair of texts, we can be sure that Morihei Ueshiba was really the author, but we also enter a completely different world.
C: Aiki Shinzui
This book is a collection of articles that appeared in Aikido
and The Aikido Shimbun
, the newspapers produced by the Aikikai, as soon as this organization had reestablished itself in Tokyo after the war. The following extract is the first paragraph of a discourse, entitled,
Tamashi ni kaminaroute iku onore no iwato biraki
Opening your stone door by listening to the gods,
which is part of a larger general section, entitled,
Aiki to wa misogi de aru.
Aikido is Purification.
The Japanese text appears on p. 140 of Aiki Shinzui
). The English translation is by John Stevens and the text may be found in The Secret Teachings of Aikido
. (It is the fourth and fifth paragraph on p. 103, in the chapter entitled, simply, Misogi
For me, there are two issues here. One is the value of a translation that does not take any account of the cultural context. The two previous paragraphs from Budo Renshu
consisted of detailed explanations concerning training, of a practical nature—such that they can be examined in a dojo, and the only problem was dealing with terms that are not easily rendered in the rather Cartesian-based vocabulary of English-language psychology, with its rigid dualism of mind and body. However, in the following paragraphs Ueshiba gets to what he thinks is the very heart of his message, for he is talking about essences (shinzui
神髄, as is seen from the title, but not, of course, western ‘philosophical' essences) and telling us how things really are.
This leads to the second issue. Though the Japanese seems more simply constructed than in the previous paragraphs, even when adequate cultural context is supplied, the statements still seem quite starkly bizarre. Ueshiba's deshi
did not understand because even they, Japanese native speakers though they were, lacked knowkedge of the cultural context, mainly due to their previous education. It is even more unlikely that we, who are doubly lacking, both in language skills and in a lived knowledge of Japan's ancient culture, will be able to grasp what Ueshiba is saying. Actually, this second issue was recognized quite early on and Ueshiba was told by no less a person than the Zen expert D T Suzuki that his discourses were limited by the thinking in which they were couched.
Of course, the following are merely two paragraphs from lengthy chapters and one could argue that I have taken them out of context. However, this has happened anyway, such that it is very difficult to decide on the correct context. As I stated before in another column, the texts in Aiki Shinzui
are separate discourses that later appeared in different issues of the Aikido Shimbun
, quite out of sequence, and have been edited under the name of Kisshomaru Ueshiba (they were actually collected, pieced together, and edited by Masatake Fujita, with the aid of recording machinery) to form one group. Stevens has gone a step further and edited the discourses to form separate continuous chapters, so without looking at the Japanese text, it is impossible to see where the separate Aikido Shimbun
discourses begin and end. Since the Japanese text is not given, this does not really matter, but I wonder how much the general reader will be able to understand a chapter spattered with italicized phrases like sho chiku bai
, odo no kamuzawa
(on p. 103: this is actually a misprint for the correct kamuwaza
,), ichirei shikon-sangen hachiriki
, none of them with any explanation.
[Essential Digression III:
Thus, I myself believe that, as a first step, it is essential to be aware of the background that Morihei Ueshiba takes for granted, so reproduced here are three major items. The first is the summary of the section of the Kojiki
that appeared in Column 8, which deals with the original ‘opening of the stone door'. The second is an excerpt from an essay on kagura
(a traditional sacred dance) and its relation to the myth of the opening of the stone door. Kagura
is still performed in some parts of Japan and my aim in giving this second excerpt is to offer a more popular treatment of the myth than might be assumed from reading Morihei Ueshiba's discourses. The third is an explanation of the myth by none other than Masahisa Goi, who was a close friend of Morihei Ueshiba in the latter's later years. This third item is especially relevant to this section, since it contains an explanation that Ueshiba himself might have accepted.
1: The Stone Door in the Kojiki
1. The behavior of the deity Susa-no-o (his ‘victory rage' at having beaten the Sun Goddess Ama-terasu in the contest to make oaths and bear children—one of whom was Masakatsu-agatsu katsu hayabi), led to one of the most famous events in the whole mythology. Ama-terasu opened Ame-no-iwa-ya-to
[Heavenly Rock Cave Door] and shut herself inside. This had a similar effect to that of the howling rage of Susa-no-o, mentioned above. ‘Myriad deities appeared like summer flies', it was constant night, and ‘all manner of calamities arose'. The deities (there were ya-ho-yorozu-no-kami
[many myriads of deities—in modern Japanese, eight million] at this point) held a meeting in the riverbed of the Ame-no-yasu-gawa
[Heavenly Tranquil River] and gathered the cocks of Toko-yo
[eternal world]. (This land is thought to be the home of the earthly deities and corresponds to the Takama-no-hara
, where the heavenly deities dwelt. The cocks were made to crow in order to summon the sun at dawn.) The deities called upon the counseling services of Omoi-kane-no-kami
[Thought Combining Deity], to make a good decision, and then took decisive steps to deal with this unprecedented situation, which the Kojiki
describes in exhaustive detail.
2. The deities first took hard rock from the river Ame-no-yasu-gawa
and iron from Ame-no-kana-yama
[Heavenly Gold/Metal Mountain] and enlisted the services of Ama-tsu-mara
[Heavenly Blacksmith] and a mirror maker, named Ishi-kori-dome-no-mikoto
[Stone Cutting Noble Deity]. Another deity, Tama-no-ya-no-mikoto
[Jewel Ancestor Deity], was commissioned to make a long string of maga-tama beads and two other deities were commissioned to perform futo-mani
[solemn divination]. These deities were Ame-no-ko-yane-no-mikoto
[Heavenly Baby/Little Roof Lord] and Futo-tama-no-mikoto
[Solemn Jewel/Spirit Lord]. They removed the whole shoulder bone of a deer from Ame-no-kana-yama
, produced some hahaka
[cherry or birch] wood and performed this ritual (which was similar to the ritual performed when Izanagi and Izanami failed at their first attempts to produce children). The two deities then pulled out a sakaki
tree by the roots. The strings of maga-tama
beads were attached to the upper branches and the giant mirror was hung from the middle branches. White and blue cloth was hung from the lower branches. Finally, Futo-tama-no-mikoto
somehow held these objects in his hands, while his colleague Ame-no-ko-yane-no-mikoto
[solemn chanting]. Another deity, Ame-no-Ta-jikara-o-no-kami
[Heavenly Hand Strength Male Deity] stood behind the door, while Ame-no-uzume-no-mikoto
[Heavenly Formidable Female Deity] became divinely possessed by turning over a bucket and stamping on it, with ma-saki
vine in her hair and bundles of sasa
leaves in her hands, and exposing her breasts and genitals. Then Takama-no-hara
‘shook', ‘as all the eight hundred myriad deities laughed at once.'
3. This elaborate ceremony had the required effect, for Ama-terasu
opened the door a tiny crack and wondered aloud why Ame-no-uzume
was singing and dancing and all the deities were laughing. Ame-no-uzume
responded that they had found a deity superior to Ama-terasu
. At which point Ame-no-ko-yane
brought the mirror and showed it to Ama-terasu
. As the latter approached the mirror, Ame-no-Ta-jikara
pulled her out and Futa-tama
extended a rope behind her, saying, "You can go back no further than this". Light was restored to the Takama-no-hara
and to Ashi-hara-no-naka-tsu-kuni
[Central Land of the Reed Plains = Japan].
2: The Opening of the Stone Door in Kagura
"Of the traditional ritual dance forms in Japan, the one that is most obviously influenced by Shugendo is
kagura. Kagura is the oldest known type of music and dance performance in Japan, naturally and historically connected with the celebrations of kami
matsuri. It is even considered to be
matsuri's most ancient form.
"The characters forming the word kagura can be read as entertainment for the kami, or kami music, but most agree that kagura is a contracted form of
kami no kura, or "seat of the kami", implying the presence of kami in the
kagura performance itself
. Tradition connects the origin of kagura with the myth of "Opening of the Rock-Cave Door" (
iwatobiraki), recorded in the
Nihon Shoki. This myth describes how the sun-goddess Amaterasu Omikami was lured out of the heavenly cave, where she had hidden herself. At the climax of an elaborate ritual, the goddess Ame no Uzume performed a shamanistic dance in front of the cave, a dance which stirred the sun goddess to open the door and allowed the other gods to pull her out. This ritual dance of revitalization, later combined with the rites of spirit pacification (
chinkon), was called
iwatobiraki myth describes a shamanistic ritual, and Ame no Uzume's dance is understood as a dance of possession. Several shamanistic elements in the myth were incorporated into later Shinto ritual and into
kagura. One is the
torimono, or "hand-held props". The
torimono serve as "chanelling devices" that attract the kami spirits to descend and lead them through to the body of the shamaness, and also as a means to activate their power. Other elements include stamping the feet, a magical means to pacify the spirits of the earth, also understood as a sign of possession. Dance itself served to introduce trance and as the contextual manifestation of it, that is, the possession of the dancer by the kami.
(This extract is taken from an essay by Irit Averbuch, entitled, "Dancing the doctrine: honji suijaku
thought in kagura
performances". The essay is part of a collection edited by Mark Teeuwen & Fabio Rambelli, with the title, Buddhas and Kami in Japan:
Honji Suijaku as a combinatory paradigm
. The extract is on on pp. 315-316 of the collection. It is a summary of a larger work by Averbuch, entitled, The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura
3: Masahisa Goi on the Opening of the Stone Door
I found the following text on a Japanese website via Google.co.jp (which yielded no less than 11,500 entries concerning the topic of Opening the Stone Door of Heaven). The site (http://goiway.sakura.ne.jp/goi_sensei/604
) gives the Japanese text of various writings of Masahisa Goi and the Japanese text presented here is relatively simple and easy to understand.
Ama no iwato-biraki to wa
(What is) the Opening of the Stone Door of Heaven?
Ama no iwato-biraki, to iu no ga arimasu ne.
You have heard of the opening of the Heavenly Stone Door, haven't you?
Amaterasu O Mikami to iu kami-sama ga arimasu.
Kami-sama no hataraki no namae desu.
There is Amaterasu O Mikami. The goddess's name is derived from her function.
Shikashi, minna kakujin no naka ni Amaterasu O Mikami ga aru wake desu yo.
However, Amaterasu O Mikami assuredly exists inside every single person.
Sore wa hikari desu ne.
That is light, isn't it.
Kokoro no naka ni Amaterasu O Mikami, Kami-sama ga atte,
Amaterasu O Mikami dwells in your heart.
Sono kami-sama ga hiraku koto ga, ama no iwato biraki to iu no desu
When this Deity opens, (namely, opens your heart) it is called the Opening of the Heavenly Stone Door.
Dakara jibun no satotte shimatta koto wa, jibun no ama no iwato-biraki dashi,
Thus, when one has become enlightened, this is the opening of one's own heavenly stone door,
Jinrui ga satoreba, sore ga jinrui no iwato-biraki nano desu ne.
and if all humanity becomes enlightened, then this is the opening of the stone door for all humanity, isn't it.
Sore wo nanka mukou no sekai no youna ki ga shite ne
I feel this is something like the other world.
Amaterasu O Mikami nante iu to, nandaka wake ga wakaranai.
If we speak of the Amaterasu O Mikami, there is something that you don't really understand.
Ame no Minaka Nushi no Mikoto to ittatte,
If we also speak of Ame no Minaka Nushi no Mikoto,
Nandaka wakaranai desho, Shinto igai no hito wa…..
there is something you probably do not undertand, if you are outside Shinto…….
Sono yoni, Kojiki no hanashi nado
Such things as talking about the Kojiki are…
Jibuntachi ni toi yona ki ga shite iru yona hito ga zuibun aru
considered by many people to be far away from their own concerns.
Tokoroga, jitsu wa jibuntachi no sugata nan desu ne
However, deities in fact are somehow the form of ourselves.
Jibuntachi no sugata wo, Kami-sama no namae de minna arawashite iru wake desu
We all describe characteristics of human beings by means of the names of deities.
text appears to pay much more attention to Amaterasu's entry to the cave and the successful attempts to entice her out, than to the overall effects of her emergence. Haya Susa no O no Mikoto was punished, but there is no discussion of the benefits, other than that the sun shone again. The kagura
text, however, points to the ritual aspects of the dance organized by the deities and emphasizes that this aspect was a form of chinkon kishin
(quietening the soul and returning to the deity), intended to achieve possession by the deity. Evidence that Morihei Ueshiba was fully aware of this aspect can be found in the Aikido Journal
interview with Mariye Takahashi, epecially towards the end of the second part. Goi Masahisa's explanation points to a different idea: the day-to-day spiritual effects of the opening the door and inviting the deity into the hearts of individuals, which is not quite the same as the effects of the ritual.
End of Essential Digression III]
Aiki wa wa to toitsu ni musunde iku no de aru. Ume to matsu no shikumi de aru shochikubai no oshie.
Aiki is peace and harmony, the pine and plum together, the teaching of sho chiku bai.
A. The grammar here is deceptively simple. There are two sentences. In the first, the topic (は wa
) is aiki
, which is also the grammatical subject and the remainder of the sentence is the grammatical complement, ending with the verb de aru
, which is equivalent to desu
). So, we have the form: Aiki
A second sentence follows, with the subject understood (to be aiki
): It is also c, which is b.
This simple identification of aikido with various ancient myths and rituals is disconcerting, but this is what Morihei Ueshiba does. Any translation has to take account of this.
B. The content is also deceptively simple on the surface and I have much sympathy with John Stevens here, who appears to have been required to achieve the near-impossible task of making a translation that is meaningful for those who who practice aikido and seek inspiration and guidance from O Sensei, but who lack the time or inclinaton to study the myths recorded in the Kojiki
. However, these will have no clue about the significance pine or plum, or the Japanese phrase sho chiku bai
, so I think the translation cannot be judged successful. I think Prof Stevens would have done better to produce an interpretative paraphrase, as he has done in the next section.
C. A translation more closely tied to the actual text would be: Aiki is coming together with peace. It is the teaching of pine / bamboo / plum which is based on the arrangement / device of pine and plum
D. Of course, if we know nothing about pine, bamboo and plum and their ‘teaching', we are none the wiser. The combination is ubiquitous in Japan, for when I typed in the Japanese characters 松竹梅, the Japanese Google
top page recorded 774,000 entries. Abe Seiseki Shihan has given a general explanation in his commentaries on O Sensei's doka
. The doka
in question is:
錬り清めゆく(neri kiyome yuku)
気の仕組 (ki no shikumi)
いつここ/ いずこに生るや (itsukoko / izuko ni naruya)
身変るの水火 (mikawaru no iki)
(The Japanese text of Abe differs from that of Stevens in the fourth line.)
The pine, the bamboo, and the plumThe make up of Ki that we are training to purifyFrom where do they arise?The Water and Fire of the change in the self.
, Vol IV, 67): "Taoism being fundamentally a religion of the Cosmos and its subdivisions, old Chinese Cosmogony is its Theogony. It conceives the Universe as one large organism of powers and influences, a living machine, the core of which is the Great Ultimate Principle or
, of which, respectively, Heaven and Earth are the chief depositories. These two souls produce the four seasons, and the phenomena of Nature represented by the lineal figures called
". In fact the
produce by the power of their co-operation all that exists, man included. Ancient Chinese philosophy attributes to man two souls:
"Thus the kwei
is buried with the man and the shen
lingers about the tomb. Marking the distinction between the two souls, there existed in the legendary period, according to the ‘Li-ki', a sacrificial worship to each soul separately: the hwun
returns to heaven, the p'oh
returns to earth. These two souls are composite; in fact all the viscera have a particular shen
. ‘There are medical authors who ascribe to man an indefinite number of souls or soul-parts, or, as they express it, a hundred shen
. Those souls, they say, shift in the body according to the age of the owner; so, e.g. when he is 25, 31, 68 or 74, and older they dwell in his forehead, so that it is then very dangerous to have boils or ulcers there, because effusion of the blood would entail death. At other times of life they nestle under the feet or in other parts and limbs, and only in the 21st, 38th, 41st, and 50th years of life they are distributed equally through the body, so that open abscesses, wherever they appear, do not heal then at all. Such pathologic nonsense regulates, of course, medical practice to a high degree' (De Groot, IV, p. 75). The liver, the lungs, and the kidneys correspond to the spring, to the autumn, to the winter, as well as to the east, the west, and the north. The soul may be extracted from a living man; the body may still live when left by the soul, for instance during sleep; the soul of a dead man may be reborn into other bodies. Ghosts may enter into relation with the living, not only in dreams, but they may take revenge on their enemies."
is usually translated as the pillar, around which Izanagi and Izanami danced, before they produced the Japanese islands, not a bridge. Ueshiba's own spiraling chinkon
rituals with the ame-no-nuboko
, the spear that he kept in the Kobukan, seem to be closer to the contents of this section.
C. Thus, a translation that takes more account of the Japanese text might be: A, O, U, E, I are the heavenly pillars, SU, UU, YU, MU. Aiki is the arrangement of ki. There is the material yin soul and the immaterial yang soul. The material soul will polish the strings of the immaterial soul of the universe,
Tama ni kami naroute iku onore no iwato biraki de aru.
Listen to the gods and open your own door to the truth.
A. A closer translation would be: which is divine training in the soul and the opening of your own stone door.
Haku no ibuki tama no ibuki, kono futatsu no iwato biraki, soshite uchu wo onore no dojo to suru.
The breath of matter and the breath of spirit—these two elements open the door to the truth. When this occurs, the universe becomes our dojo.
A closer translation would be: The breath of one's body (earth soul) and the breath of one's spirit (heaven soul) -- when these two stone doors are open, the universe will be one's own dojo.
8. 宇宙にすべて神習うてやるのである。天の浮島「三千世界一度に開く梅の花」。宇宙の成立から今日に至るまで、なお未来永遠に至るまで気の仕組みである。気育、知育、徳育、 常識の涵養と相まって体育、すべてのこと。
Uchu ni subete kami naroute yaru no de aru. Ame no ukishima ‘san zen sekai ichido ni hiraku ume no hana'. Uchu no seiritsu kara konnichi ni itaru made, nao mirai eien ni itaru made ki no shikumi de aru. Kiiku, chiiku, tokuiku, joshiki no kanyo to aimatte taiiku, subete no koto.
The entire universe—with its energy, wisdom, virtue and consciousness—has and always will flow from the gods.
NOTES: Again, this is really a short summary, rather than a translation, which would be: We practice all divine training in the universe. Ame no Ukishima ‘san zen sekai ichido ni hiraku ume no hana (flowers of plum open in the parallel universes of shinkai [divine world], reikai [spirit world], and genkai [earthly world])' is the arrangement of ki, from the birth of the universe through today to the future, which means physical education, or everything including education of enegy, intelligence & ethos, and gaining common sense.
It should be clear from the above discussion that I have some reservations about the quality of the translation that Prof Stevens has produced. It is correct as far as it goes, but only as far as it goes: it does not convey what Ueshiba meant in his own words and I believe that this is essential in a translation. In my opinion, it is unwise to rely on transferred (i.e., metaphorical) meanings until the possibilities offered by the primary meanings have been exhausted. On the other hand, even with a detailed commentary, which illuminates all the references and allusions, we can only go so far in understanding the discourse. We will discuss this fully in the next column, but in my opinion, Ueshiba has to be taken as literally as possible in discourses such as this. Otherwise we do him a great disservice.
D: Takemusu Aiki
In previous columns I have explained the provenance of these discourses. The Byakko Shinko-kai
was an offshoot of the Omoto religion. It was founded by Masahisa Goi, who was previously a member of an earlier Omoto offshoot called Seicho-no-Ie
. The audience is therefore likely to have had some initial understandng of the background.
The following extract is from pp.85 onwards (since no English translation of Takemusu Aiki
has been published, I have supplied my own). The extract comes at the beginning of a section entitled:
合気道は言霊の妙用 / 宇宙みそぎの大道である
Aikido wa Kotodama no Myoyo / Uchu Misogi no daido de aru
Aikido is the Marvelous Working of Word-soul / The Great Path of Universe Purification
The title itself is a clear statement of the contents: Aikido is kotodama
; aikido is misogi
; aikido essentially
involves chinkon kishin
. In the discourse Morihei Ueshiba takes for granted the theory of kotodama
expounded by Onisaburo Deguchi and Omoto and without some understanding of this background it is impossible to understand the discourse. However, we need to be clear about what Morihei Ueshiba implies in these discourses. He identfies aikido with two things: the kotodama
(Souls of the Words
, in William Gleason's phrase) that created the universe; and with the misogi
ritual of ridding the universe of the dross and impurities acquired—for whatever reason. The cultural background gives the context, but it is important that it does not soften Ueshiba's stark message. In a few places Ueshiba announced that he was the reincarnation of the deity Izu-no-me-no-kami
[consecrated-woman-deity], who came into existence with two others, in order to rectify the evils caused by the visit of the deity Izanagi-no-Mikoto to the underworld (See Column 8).
Here we will focus on the style of the extract, more than the content. The paragraph reproduced gives an account of kotodama
sounds and also alludes to the logos
statement in the Gospel of John. The following digression gives some essential background.
[Essential Digression IV:
Kojiki and the Gospel of John
I have reproduced here the summary given in Column 8 of the very first chapters of the Kojiki
(based on Philippi's translation), and the beginning of the Gospel of John
(the transcribed Greek text with a very close translation).
1. In the Kojiki
, creation of heaven and earth begins with the creation of deities, who simply ‘come into being'. The first three are: Ame-no-minaka-nushi-no-kami
[Lord Deity of the Center of Heaven]; Taka-mi-musubi-no-kami
[High Generative Force Deity], also known as Taka-ki-no-kami
[High Tree deity]; and Kami-musubi-no-kami
[Divine Generative Force Deity]. These three deities were single deities (not pairs—see below) and lived in Takama-no-hara
[Plain of High Heaven].
2. The next two deities came into being from ‘reed-shoots', when the ‘young land' resembled floating oil and drifted like a jellyfish. These deities were: Umashi-ashi-kabi-hiko-ji-no-kami
[Excellent Reed Shoots Male Deity]; and Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami
[Heavenly Eternal Standing Deity].
3. Two more single deities came into existence: Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami
[Earth Eternal Standing Deity], corresponding to Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami
, above; and Toyo-kumo-no-no-kami
[Abundant Clouds Field Deity]. These were followed by six pairs of deities, of whom the last pair were most important for the future of Japan. This last pair comprised Izanagi-no-kami
[Inviting Male Deity—possibly] and his spouse, Izanami-no-kami
[Inviting Female Deity].
Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verses 1-14
1. En archee een ho logos, kai ho logos een pros ton Theon, kai Theos een ho logos.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with the God and God was the word.
2. Outos een en archee pros ton Theon.
This (= the word) was in the beginning with the God.
3. Panta di' autou egeneto, kai choris autou egeneto oude hen, ho gegonen.
All things were made by him (came into being on account of him) and without him not one thing made which was made (not one thing came into being which came into being).
4. En auto zoee een, kai he zoee een to phos ton anthropon,
In him was life, and the life was the light of the men,
5. kai to phos en tee skotia phainei, kai hee skotia auto ou katelabon
and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome / conquer it.
6. Egeneto anthropos katastalmenos para Theou, onoma auto Ioannees
There came to be a man who was sent by the God, his name John.
7. Outos eelthen eis marturian, hina martureesee peri tou photos, hina pantes pisteusosi di' autou
This same man came for witness, in order to bear witness to the light, so that all might believe through him.
8. Ouk een ekeinos to phos, all' hina martureesee peri tou photos
This man was not the light, but was to bear witness to the light.
9. Een to phos to aleethinon, ho photizei panta anthropon erchomenon eis ton kosmon
There was the true light, which gives light to all men (and was) coming into the world.
10. En to kosmo een, kai ho kosmos di' auto egeneto, kai ho kosmos auton ouk egno
He was in the world, and the world was made by him (came into being on account of him), and the world did not know him.
11. Eis to idia eelthe, kai hoi idioi ou parelabon
He came to his own, and those who were his own did not accept him.
12. Hosoi de elabon auton, edoken autois exousian tekna Theou genesthai, tois pisteuousin eis to onoma autou,
Those who accepted him, he gave to them the power to become children of the God, those who believe in his name,
13. hoi ouk ex aimaton, oude ex theleematos sarkos, ouk ex theleematos andros, all' ek Theou egeneestheesan
born not of descent, nor from the will of the flesh, nor from the will of a man, but of the God.
14. Kai ho logos sarx egeneto, kai eskeenosen en himin, pleerees charitos kai aleetheias
And the word became flesh and dwelt with us, filled with grace and truth.
End of Essential Digression IV]
"Kotodama wa koe to wa chigau. Kotodama to wa fukuchu ni akai chi no tagiru sugata wo iu" Ueshiba Sensei wa konoyoni oshiete kudasaimashita.
"With respect to the word-soul, it is different from the voice. Word-soul has the form of red blood seething in the abdomen." Ueshiba Sensei bestowed his teaching in this way.
The paragraph begins with a quotation given by Hideo Takahashi of a statement made by Morihei Ueshiba. The statement announces that koto-dama
, which I have translated as ‘word-soul', is different from voiced utterances and originates in the 丹田 tanden
2. 五井先生は、言霊とは、文字や音声にいずる想念以前のひびき、即ち光そのもののひびき、神である、音声や文字に出た時はすでに言霊の役目、働きが果たされあとのものである 、と説明して下さいました。
Goi Sensei wa, kotodama to wa, moji ya onsei ni izuru sonen izen no hibiki, sunawachi hikari sonomono no hibiki, kami de aru, onsei ya moji ni deta toki wa sudeni kotodama no yakume, hataraki ga hatasare ato no mono de aru, to setsumei shite kudasaimashita.
Goi Sensei bestowed on us the explanation that word-soul was prior to words and voiced sounds, in other words, that word soul was the deity that vibrated light itself, and that the time that it came forth in sounds and letters was the remains of the previous working of word-soul.
Goi expands the brief statement of Ueshiba, above.
Mata, ko mo setsumei shite kudasaimashita.
In addition, he also gave this explanation.
The subject of this sentence appears to be ‘Goi Sensei
', who goes on to give an explanation by Morihei Ueshiba of kotodama sounds.
4. 植芝先生が、〝アオウエイ〟〝カコクケキ〟と言霊をとなえていらっしゃる時、アのひびきをもった神、オの働きをする神、エの神、イの働きをする神々が、植芝先生に招ばれて 、神つどい集われるのであると。
Ueshiba Sensei ga, "A O U E I" "Ka Ko Ku Ke Ki" to kotodama wo tonaete irassharu toki, A no hibiki wo motta kami, O no hataraki wo suru kami, E no kami, I no hataraki wo suru kami-gami ga, Ueshiba Sensei ni yobarete, kami tsudoi ni tsudowareru no de aru to.
(Goi Sensei stated that,) At the time Ueshiba Sensei chanted the kotodama "A O U E I", "Ka Ko Ku Ke Ki", the deity which had the A vibration, the deity doing the working of O, the deity E, and the deities doing the working of I were invited by Ueshiba Sensei and came together in a gathering of deities.
"Ueshiba Sensei ga
"is the subject of a sentence that announces a long quotation, which begins in the next section and which ends long after what is quoted here.
"Ichi-rei shi-kon san-gen hatchi-riki no dai genrei ga, hitotsu naru O-kami no mi-sugata de aru.
"The great foundation spirit of one spirit, four souls, three fundamentals, eight powers has the form of one great deity.
There is an excellent account of one spirit, four souls, three fundamentals, eight powers in The Esssence of Aikido
, by John Stevens, pp. 31-35. The point here is that Ueshiba identifies these with the great deity who created the universe.
O-gami ha hitotsu de ari, uchu ni michi michi te ikeru mugendai no iyasaka no sugata de aru. Sunawachi ten naku chi naku uchu mo naku, daikoku uchu de aru.
The great deity was one, and had the form of a formless mass of increasing brilliance that filled the universe to the brim. There was neither heaven, nor earth, nor the universe, but a great empty void.
A. The text here and following reads somewhat like the account in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis
, especially Verse Two: The earth was a vast waste, darkness covered over the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the surfaceof the water
. The difference is that God is separate and takes part in the process only by giving utterances, such as ‘Let there be light.
7. その大虚空に、ある時ポチ一つ忽然として現わる。このポチこそ宇宙万有の根源なのである。そこで始め、ゆげ、けむり、きりよりも微細なる神明の気を放射して、円形の圏を描 き、ポチを包みて、初めて⦿の言霊が生まれた。
Sono daikoku ni, aru toki pochi hitotsu kotsuzen toshite arawaru. Kono pochi koso uchu banyu no kongen nano de aru. Sokode hajime, yuge, kemuri, kiri yorimo bisainaru shinmei no ki wo hosha shite, enkei no ken wo egaki, pochi wo tsutsumite, hajimete ‘su' no kotodama ga umareta.
In this great void, one point suddenly appeared. This point was the source of the entire universe. Then, first, divine light, which was weaker than steam/vapor, smoke and mist, expanded, described a circle, enveloped the point, and the original word spirit ⦿ was born.
The Japanese here and in what follows is quite clear and precise.
Korega uchu no saisho, reikai no hajime de arimasu.
This is the earliest/very beginning of the universe, the beginning of the spirit world.
Sokode udai wa, shizen to kokyu wo hajimeta. Shinten ni wa, su-hyaku-oku-man no mukashi to arimasu.
Then the great universe started breathing naturally. According to divine documents, it is stated that that happened several billion years ago.
Soshite sumikiri sumikiraitsutsu, sunawachi ippai ni kokyu shitsutsu seicho shite yuku. Seicho shite yuku ni shitagatte, koe ga deta no de aru. Kotodama ga hajimatta no de aru.
The word soul had been growing with full breaths and as the word soul was gradually growing, the sound SU was voiced. Thus word soul began.
10. キリストが「はじめに言葉ありき」といったその言霊が⦿ (ス) であります。これが言霊の始まりである。
Kirisuto ga "hajime ni kotoba ariki" to itta sono kotodama ga su de arimasu. Korega kotodama no hajimari de aru.
The word spirit that Christ uttered: "In the beginning was the word", is SU. This is the original word-spirit.
A. Ueshiba's explanation, recorded by Masahisa Goi and transcribed by Hideo Takahashi, continues for a number of paragraphs.
B. Ueshiba indentifies the word that opens John's gospel with the SU
mora, which was the original word-spirit. It is not clear from his statement whether he ever studied the vast amount of literature relating to the origin and evolution of the concept of logos
in ancient Greek philosophy, Stoicism, and Christian theology. John regards the entire prologue as a reference to Christ and this is particulary clear from his references to John the Baptist and the Incarnation. Thus, Ueshiba's statement is strictly incorrect, since it is John who is speaking, but about Christ.
C. However, since Omoto was a syncretistic religion, the foundation of which was a belief in one Great Universal Deity, of which the Hebrew God, the Christian triune God, and the Muslim Allah, were manifestations, it is quite likely that Ueshiba believed that the Johannine prologue was a restatement of the same truth as the creation myths in the Kojiki
and also the Book of Genesis
D. Nevertheless, Ueshiba makes statements that are similar to those made by Johannine scholars in their analyses of the logos
statements, which is that kotodama
was actually a deity whose actions preceded the specific content of the term: just as the work of the Word-logos
preceded any human utterances, the work of the deity called by the name koto-dama
actually preceded the various utterances of kotodama
, as the term is normally understood. In other words, Ueshiba restated the fundamental Omoto belief that SU
and the Word-logos
were two aspects of the same thing: the Great Iniversal Deity.
General Conclusion: The Nature of Morihei Ueshiba's Elephant
I have spent some time analyzing the actual discourses of Morihei Ueshiba as closely as possible, in order to spell out the difficulties involved for anyone who tries to get to grips with these discourses, especially those who seek to give an accurate translation that is divorced from the culture in which he lived. In some respects it is easier to divorce the first two extracts from their cultural context than the second two. There is an immediate practical context to the extracts from Budo Renshu
that is lacking from the second two and somehow needs to be supplied. Otherwise the words will make no sense. However, even when the complex cultural context is supplied, with as much detail as possible, problems remain in understanding the discourses. Since this discussion was split for reasons of length, I will discuss these problems, including the issues of translation, in Column 12, as part of a more general discussion on aikido and language.
The texts and translations of Morihei Ueshiba's discourses have been taken from the following original sources: 武道練習Budo Renshu
, Translated by Larry & Seiko Bieri, Japan Publications Trading Company, 1978. (Alas, this bilingual edition is no longer in print and the only second-hand copy I have seen was priced at over US$ 750. A ‘bowdlerized' edition, shorn of all the Japanese, is available, entitled Budo Training in Aikido
.); 武道 Budo
, unpublished Japanese text produced in 1938, translated by John Stevens, Kodansha International, 1991; 合気神髄 Aiki Shinzui
, Yahata Shoten, 2002, translated by John Stevens as, The Secret Teachings of Aikido
, Kodansha International, 2007; 武産合気 Takemusu Aiki
, 1976, Byakko Shinkokai Press. For the doka
, a very good place to start is John Stevens, The Essence of Aikido
, Kodansha International, 1993.
The Japanese writing system is dealt with in two works. The first, by Hadamitzky & Spahn, is a guide to modern Japanese writing, principally the 1,945 joyo-kanji
in common use, but with an excellent introduction (Wolfgang Hadamitzky & Charles Spahn, Kanji & Kana: A Handbook of the Japanese Writing System
, Revised Edition, 1996, Tuttle Language Library). More complex and detailed in scope is a history of Japanese writing by Christopher Seeley (Christopher Seeley, A History of Writing in Japan
, Brill, 1991, paperback edition, Hawaii U P, 2000).
Those who wish to explore Japanese writing by reading texts will need two types of dictionary: a normal bilingual or monolingual dictionary, and a monolingual or bilingual Chinese character dictionary. The Japanese-English dictionary that I myself use lists all the words in hiragana
and then gives the various meanings in English (Toshiro Watanabe et al, eds, Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary
, Fifth Edition, Tokyo, Kenkyusha, 2003). The enormous multi-volume monolingual dictionary I use also lists all the entries in hiragana
and then gives the various meanings (日本国語大辞典, 小学館, 2003). For Japanese-English Chinese character dictionaries, there are several possibilities. The classic edition is by Andrew Nelson and has been revised: John H Haig et al, eds, The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary, based on the Classic Edition by Andrew N Nelson
, Tuttle, 1997. The perennial issue with Chinese character dictionaries is the organization of the entries: where to find a particular character. Nelson organizes the entries according to the 214 radicals, classified according to the number of remaining strokes (i.e., apart from the radical). Another edition, more convenient than Nelson, is by Wolfgang Hadamitzky & Charles Spahn, mentioned earlier: The Kanji Dictionary
, Tuttle, 1996. The monolingual Chinese character dictionary I use is 大字源, published by 角川書店, 1992.
Apart from dictionaries, two handbooks of classical Japanese give good preparation for dealing with Morihei Ueshiba in his own language (Haruo Shirane, Classical Japanese: A Grammar
, 2005, Colombia U P; Classical Japanese Reader and Essential Dictionary
, 2007, Colombia U P).
Japanese mythology has been published in many Japanese-language editions, usually giving the kambun
text, with a modern Japanese translation and scholarly notes. The edition I have used here is 古事記 日本古典文学全集, Vol. 1, published by 小学館, 1997. There is an interesting manga
edition by Ishinomori Shotaro (石ノ森章太郎), first published by Chuokoron Shinsha (中央公論新社) in 1998. There are also some splendid lavishly illustrated children's summaries available (with no translation). Translations into English have been made by Basil Hall Chamberlain (The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters
, 1882, Asiatic Society of Japan; 1981, Charles Tuttle—with occasional excursions into Latin, in order not to shock his Victorian readers), and by Donald Philippi (Kojiki
, 1968, Tokyo University Press). William Gleason gives a detailed description of the concepts that figure in the discourse by Ueshiba quoted from the Takemusu Aiki
text (William Gleason, The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido
, Destiny Books, 1995). Gleason has recently produced a sequel to the earlier book (William Gleason, Aikido and Words of Power: The Sacred Sounds of Kototama
, Destiny Books, 2009).
Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Professor at Hiroshima University, teaching philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 7th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada