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Old 04-19-2007, 05:04 AM   #1
Karol Kowalczyk
 
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If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it be?

Hi everyone, I have been doing Aikido for about 2 weeks now, and as this is my first thread, I feel as nervous as during my first time on the mat!

The summer holidays are coming, and my dojo is going to be closed for about 2 months during that this period, because it is located in a school gym hall. As, by that time, I will only have trained for 3 months, I thought that it would be a good time to bring myself closer to the spiritual side of Aikido by reading about it (and also, I wont have access to the internet for most of that time then either, because Im going to visit my mummy!).

I'm aware that there is a 'book reviews' section on this site, and I can also go through the (literally) hundreds of reviews on sites such as Amazon, but I really wanted to hear what book(s)has/have helped the people on this forum the most, because some books have very few reviews, but high ratings, and also it's hard to tell how much experience some of the reviewers have on other sites.

So, my question to you all is: "If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it be?"

(I'm limiting myself to one book because of financial considerations, as well as for ease of carrying in a rucksack, but if you think there is more than one indispensable book, then please tell me.)

Thank you all for any help you can give.
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Old 04-19-2007, 06:12 AM   #2
Beard of Chuck Norris
 
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

As a newbie myself i find Tohei's books such as "ki in daily life" to be a worthy addition to anyones collection.
Also "the dynamic sphere" is very cool.

peace and love

Jo
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Old 04-19-2007, 06:34 AM   #3
KamiKaze_Evolution
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

I have own "The Spirit of Aikido" by Nidai Doshu, his words are very deepful and i can't understand that

KamiKaze
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Old 04-19-2007, 06:37 AM   #4
Fred Little
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

The Catalpa Bow, by Carmen Blacker.

It's actually about Japanese shamanism broadly, rather than aikido spirituality narrowly, but it also contains a full account of Onisaburo Deguchi's transformative shamanic experience, so it is directly relevant. All told, it provides the most thorough body of background information about the native Japanese practices that informed the Founder's views available in one place, it's well-written, it's a solid piece of scholarship, and it doesn't suffer from the tendencies toward bliss-ninny hagiography or idiot-sectarianism that riddle most of the works treating "the spiritual side of aikido."

Best,

FL
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Old 04-19-2007, 06:44 AM   #5
Eric Webber
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Gonna go out on a limb here and say Wendy Palmer's "The Practice of Freedom." She is open and honest in writing about her own spiritual journey and struggles, offering a look at how to apply aikido principles in a spiritual practice rather than just talk about them abstractly.
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Old 04-19-2007, 07:00 AM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Quote:
Karol Kowalczyk wrote: View Post
Hi everyone, I have been doing Aikido for about 2 weeks now, and as this is my first thread, I feel as nervous as during my first time on the mat!

The summer holidays are coming, and my dojo is going to be closed for about 2 months during that this period, because it is located in a school gym hall. As, by that time, I will only have trained for 3 months, I thought that it would be a good time to bring myself closer to the spiritual side of Aikido by reading about it (and also, I wont have access to the internet for most of that time then either, because Im going to visit my mummy!).

I'm aware that there is a 'book reviews' section on this site, and I can also go through the (literally) hundreds of reviews on sites such as Amazon, but I really wanted to hear what book(s)has/have helped the people on this forum the most, because some books have very few reviews, but high ratings, and also it's hard to tell how much experience some of the reviewers have on other sites.

So, my question to you all is: "If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it be?"

(I'm limiting myself to one book because of financial considerations, as well as for ease of carrying in a rucksack, but if you think there is more than one indispensable book, then please tell me.)

Thank you all for any help you can give.
Hello,

If you are going to choose just one book, will your choice be based on the recommendations offered in this thread, or from the reviews on Amazon's website? How will you judge the ratings?

As for Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, by Westbrook and Ratti, I think the book is like a ladder, very useful to help a beginner to climb higher. However, once you have climbed the ladder, you will then in a position to see the book's limitations and perhaps see the advantages and limitations of books and videos as training devices, or as substitutes for what should be mastered internally, by hard training.

This problem is somewhat like that of undergraduate introductions to philosophy. They cover all the issues and do their best to prepare students for the more interesting issues, should they wish to pursue them, but do not really deal with these more interesting issues very satisfactorily. With philosophy (and I have taught this subject to Japanese university students for the past 25 years), I believe it is better to plunge students in at the deep end and initially allow them to sink or swim. The swimmers are in a position to accept

I think I read Westbrook and Ratti during my third year of training. It was the second book I encountered on aikido, the first being a big illustrated book by Koichi Tohei entitled, This is Aikido. If you can find this book in a library, read it (I think you will not be able to buy it, if your budget is just one book).

Since you have been practising for a very short time, I should tell you that I think it is much more advantageous to learn the spiritual side of aikido by training in a dojo, with a real teacher capable of teaching these aspects, than by reading a book. If you want to study the spiritual aspects of aikido, you should start by reading about the spirituality of Japanese traditional arts (for example, Zeami's books on Noh), or about Japanese martial culture (for example, Musashi's Book of the Five Rings).

Or go right back to the beginning and borrow from the library Donald Philippi's translation of the Kojiki. If you read the Kojiki, you will be in a good position to understand (note my wording here) O Sensei's discourses on the spirituality of aikido. He is the Source, but you need to put yourself in a good position to understand him.

Alas, apart from all this, I think that there are virtually no satisfactory books in English on the spirituality of aikido.

Best of luck with your training, and your reading.

PAG

EDIT. I second Fred Little's suggestion about The Catalpa Bow, but also think it might be difficult for you to relate the spiritual practices described in Blacker's book with the spiritual practices in the average US aikido dojo. But who knows? I was in the US in 1973-75, so these days they might be closer than I experienced. When I myself trained in the US, aikido spirituality meant making sure that the waza (techniques) actually worked, but not using raw physical strength to make the waza work.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 04-19-2007 at 07:10 AM.

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Old 04-19-2007, 07:09 AM   #7
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

I would recommend Terry Dobson/ Riky Moss: "Its a lot like dancing", if you are just starting with your practice, because it has heart, so to speak. It inspired me then and still does. Then, in a few years, if you are still in Aikido, get Ellis Amdur's "Dueling with O-Sensei", to put it all in a more critical yet equally humane perspective. Good luck to you.
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Old 04-19-2007, 07:39 AM   #8
dragonteeth
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

If you are looking for something to review basic techniques, terms and such at a beginner level, I found both the Aikido Student Handbook and Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training very useful. Another book I really like is Shioda's Total Aikido: The Master Course, because it shows close-ups that the other technique based books do not, as well as common mistakes. However, if like me you are not practicing in a Yoshinkan dojo, the names may throw you off a bit (ikkajo vs ikkyo and so on).

Once you've been in it a few months, then you should pick up Dynamic Sphere. In our class we lovingly refer to it as "the college textbook." As a newbie, I found it to be a little, well, too involved? Maybe a little overwhelming? The last half was more useful to me at the beginning than the first. Kind of reminded me of what it would be like to pick up a quantum physics textbook while in 9th grade physical science with no calculus background. It's definitely worthwhile later to help understand certain concepts.

On the spiritual side, I second the recommendation on Tohei's Ki in Daily Life. Very well written, very easy read. However, I had to laugh. I finished reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, that trendy new self-help book that's on the best seller list right now, before I read Ki in Daily Life. Funny thing is - it's almost as if Byrne picked up the chapter on how positive and negative ki influence what happens to you, and made a book out of it. A lot of Deepak Chopra's stuff has been running in the same vein over the past few years too, but I think Tohei's book predates them all. Makes you wonder....LOL

Hope that helps!
Lori
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Old 04-19-2007, 08:58 AM   #9
Erick Mead
 
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
If you want to study the spiritual aspects of aikido, you should start by reading about the spirituality of Japanese traditional arts (for example, Zeami's books on Noh), or about Japanese martial culture (for example, Musashi's Book of the Five Rings).

Or go right back to the beginning and borrow from the library Donald Philippi's translation of the Kojiki. If you read the Kojiki, you will be in a good position to understand (note my wording here) O Sensei's discourses on the spirituality of aikido. He is the Source, but you need to put yourself in a good position to understand him.

Alas, apart from all this, I think that there are virtually no satisfactory books in English on the spirituality of aikido.
Sadly, I think this is true, at least in the sense of providing a native understanding in English and in terms of Western thinking that elaborates these concepts drawn from the holistic, systemic ideas in Japan and originating in, in part from China. I tend to agree that going back to the Kojiki, and then piecing together O Sensei's statements regarding that tradition is a very fruitful way to approach it, but there is no one work that compiles his thoughts and the ways in which he addressed the Kojiki, much less how he saw the operative aspects of reading the Kojiki through the lens of the kotodama system he adapted to his own use.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
When I myself trained in the US, aikido spirituality meant making sure that the waza (techniques) actually worked, but not using raw physical strength to make the waza work.
Ideally, in almost every system of spiritual work I have heard of, spirituality should ultimately be expressed, not in words, but in practice -- in action. But there are things you can study to help connect these seemingly alien concepts to our own Western traditions on knowing and acting, in useful ways. These are my understandings of some of the connections that you can research to your heart's content.

"There have never been people who know but do not act. Those who are supposed to know but do not act simply do not yet know." Wang Yang-ming. This Neo-Confucian thought directly influenced the stream of interpretation of the Kojiki that flowed from the Kokugaku school in the late eighteenth century in Japan, primarily though Motoori Norinaga. This formed a significant basis for all subsequent teaching and uses of the Kojiki.

Very useful connections can be made between these things from seemingly disparate traditions. The Neo-Confucian doctrine of "innate knowing" (liangzhi) informed Norinaga's explication of that line of thought in his commentaries on the Kojiki. His concept of natural spontaneity ordered by kami is the cognate idea in Shinto of "innate knowing." Those commentaries formed O Sensei's primary interpretative base of received knowledge on the Kojiki.

Because Norinaga also had to work out the differences in an older kana system in doing so, because of the changes in writing since the eighth century when Kojiki was written, he also developed major ideas of Japanese grammar. For this reason, Norinaga's commentaries necessarily related to the fundamental concepts of kotodama that O Sensei practiced (O Sensei, himself specifically related the root kotodama in his system to a root Western concept of the "Logos," the divine Word of creation).

The many "new religions" such as Omoto-kyo were in reaction to the subsequent development of State Shinto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which aggrandized the Imperial cult for political purposes. Their doctrines, which O Sensei espoused, hearkened strongly back to the themes in the earlier traditions outlined by Norinaga.

O Sensei necessarily would have read Kojiki with that background in mind. Western ideals of intuitive moral conscience, and the "indwelling spark of the divine, are tied to thoughts of the Logos and God-as-Love in the Christian tradition. These can very easily be related to the Shinto concepts that Norinaga expounded from the Kojiki.

I think that a Westerner has to read these things differently given our cultural foundations. A good start, if you are serious about interpreting his thoughts in ways that provide connection to your own Western roots of symbolism is in understanding Jung and his process of symbolic interpretation and operation. This is particularly well expressed in his three works on on the tradition of symbolism and symbolic operation in alchemy, . "Psychology and Alchemy" is the first in that series. It is expressed also in somewhat different terms in his archetypal psychology.

One of his chief students, John Hillman, wrote a work using Jung's process of interpretation applied to wholly Western sources called "A Terrible Love of War." That examines the deep relationship between love and war from sources in Classical mythology. This is a good starting point to find connections between the Western system of symbology and that in the Kojiki and what O Sensei means in stating his spriritual revelation of Aikido as "True Budo" and that "True Budo is Love."

It is that concept, primarily, in my view, that crosses all cultural boundaries most easily, and thus provides a bridge between them (another powerful and important image in both traditions). The Kojiki speaks of the Floating Bridge between heaven and earth. I would note in passing that the oldest extant title of spiritual leadership in the Western tradition, from pagan republican Rome through Empire and on down into present Christian times is "pontifex maximus, "Supreme Pontiff" -- the title still held by the Pope. It means "the greatest bridge-builder" (pons + facere).

Having said all that by way of suggesting things to go read about, you have to dig further and figure out what this all means in terms of your own learning, spiritual background, practice and knowledge. Every one is necessarily his own cook in matters of the heart.

The words of spiritual observations are the recipe card. They are not the base ingredients, nor the spices, nor the finished dish, which is comprised of all three -- but is far more than the mere sum of them together. You have to do a lot of precise and intentional work to make it more than a mess of stuff in a bowl. You certainly can't eat the recipe card, or at least, I wouldn't want to.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 04-19-2007 at 09:08 AM.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 04-19-2007, 09:25 AM   #10
Don_Modesto
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

I've posted several books in this vein in my response to your other thread on one aikido technique book.

Peter Goldsbury's suggestions are rigorous. Actually, I'm surprised that he didn't recommend that you learn Jpn and read in the vernacular (he has in the past...)

Fred Little's suggestion is excellent, as you will always find with his suggestions. Should your budget expand (or should you get a library card--God I love interlibrary loans), I also found these two to help me, especially the last:

Kurozumikyo and the New Religions of Japan by Helen Hardacre (Kurozumikyo is another of the New Religions. Many of the things true to it will be true to Omoto, too.)

Shinto and the State, 1868-1988 (Studies in Church & State) by Helen Hardacre

Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami by John Breen and Mark Teeuwen

Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm by Mark Teeuwen

The Weaving of Mantra by Ryuichi Abe (An clear and well-written introduction to esoteric practice)

Don J. Modesto
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Old 04-19-2007, 10:05 AM   #11
tedehara
 
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

As others in this thread have indicated, this is the first step on a life-long journey. Hopefully your interest will last more than just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido.

For you, I would recommend KI : A Road That Anyone Can Walk by William Reed ISBN 0-87040-799-6. The author is an American who moved to Japan to study with Koichi Tohei. Since he has worked as a translator, his explanations of Japanese thought is especially clear for an English reader.

This book is out-of-print but has sold cheaply over the last few years. However I believe people are beginning to see the value in it and the price has been rising.

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Old 04-19-2007, 11:09 AM   #12
Mark Uttech
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

One book? Then I wholeheartedly recommend 'Zen Mind/Beginner's Mind'. That one book I have been reading for over 30 years, and it was my textbook for raising a family and also practicing/teaching aikido.

In gassho,

Mark
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Old 04-19-2007, 06:43 PM   #13
Jerry Miller
 
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

If I could buy just one book. Not me, and not in my house. It is like eating just one potato chip. It could never happen.

Jerry Miller
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Old 04-19-2007, 09:19 PM   #14
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

I think one can use the history of Japanese culture, Osensei, and Aikido, etc., for some things, but if these things become the "keys" to one's own journey, especially when the journey is spiritual, I feel something is going to come out cold or dead. When I was in graduate school, we made a clear difference between scholarship on spiritual traditions and the practice of spiritual traditions. In fact, as academics, we would often look down upon the practitioner that wanted to tell us something about his/her spiritual tradition, especially the history of that tradition. Well, if we did that, then it would make sense to me if they wanted to look down upon us when we wanted to tell them something about the subjective experience of the spiritual practice, even the subjective experience of their tradition's history. In other words, scholarship may inform one's cultural or historical understanding of a practice, but it cannot, and should not, form one's experience of a practice.

Spiritual practice is first and foremost about experience - so I would agree with others when they say look to participation above all else. However, texts, commentaries, etc., have long found their way toward being a part of spiritual cultivation. So, it's not like looking toward such things is completely out of place. In my opinion, however, when it comes to texts that are part of the practice, when it comes to books for example, there are only two types of books that one should look to: a) Original texts (e.g. Bible, Kojiki, Bagavad Gita, Heart Sutra, etc.), and b) Texts written by other practitioners of a spiritual tradition on their experience of that spiritual tradition.

So, if I had to pick one book to pass a given period of time - and I do not understand the original poster to be saying that they are planning on only ready one book ever - I would take a book from the second category (i.e. a text written by other practitioners of a spiritual tradition on their experience of that spiritual tradition). For me, then, I would recommend:

"Enlightenment through Aikido" by Kanshu Sunadomari.

Last edited by senshincenter : 04-19-2007 at 09:22 PM.

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Old 04-20-2007, 12:14 AM   #15
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Look at the diversity! Aikido and the Harmony of Nature is tragically underrepresented.
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Old 04-20-2007, 01:20 AM   #16
Russell Pearse
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Quote:
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... bliss-ninny hagiography or idiot-sectarianism ...

FL
Fred - wonderful choice of words.

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Old 04-20-2007, 08:23 AM   #17
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Quote:
David Valadez wrote: View Post
I would take a book from the second category (i.e. a text written by other practitioners of a spiritual tradition on their experience of that spiritual tradition). For me, then, I would recommend:

"Enlightenment through Aikido" by Kanshu Sunadomari.
Absolutely. That one and Aikido and the Harmony of Nature are my top two choices if we had to limit the field.
- George

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Old 04-20-2007, 09:15 AM   #18
ChrisMoses
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

While most people probably wouldn't consider it a book on the spirituality of Aikido, I would recommend Stan Pranin's "Aikido Masters" because it offers the kind of concrete background on what it was like to take instruction from OSensei, and what kind of person he was. I feel this kind of perspective is critical to approach the many interpretations of exactly what it is/was that Aikido attempts to teach. While many authors express a clear and cohesive idea of OSensei's messages and words, I find that the historical record does not read as clearly. This book does not spoon feed the reader however, it requires the same kind of attention that a historian would pay to primary sources. There is a lot of room for interpretation and speculation, and I feel that's very important to carry forward when reading other authors' take on the legacy of OSensei. Perhaps an odd choice, but in my mind, this is the ONE book that every student of Aikido should read.

Chris Moses
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Old 04-20-2007, 09:21 AM   #19
Karol Kowalczyk
 
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Thank you all so far for your suggestions.

To respond to some of your comments (if that's at all necessary):

I feel like I have opened up a 'can of worms', there are so many suggestions I think I would need a whole new lifetime to go through them all! However, I will not limit myself to only one book if I get the chance to buy others, the one was just a starting point, for the 2 months I have to spend away from the dojo, and I know the spiritual side is best developed there rather than from a text (oh yeah, and also in real life too, i guess ).

I am well aware the question was not an easy one to answer, as all questions about the spirit probably would be, but I guess I have fallen into the 'commercial' trap of thinking that there could be a 'definitive' book about it all, kind of the "All you ever wanted to know about the spiritual side of aikido but were afraid to ask'

I also notice that almost everyone has their own 'favourite', more so than for the other thread I made about the techical side, so as to how Im going to choose in the end, well...I will follow my feelings of course, and some of the suggestions here have been repeated in my other thread about the techniques of aikido, so maybe I can get a good 'two for the price of one' deal . But ultimately, I dont have access to large bookshops, or well stocked libraries where I am, and I also have the problem that I live in Poland, and want to read the books in English, but when I go to visit mummy in England, I will be limited by what the bookshops have, or what they can order.

Thank you all again for your suggestions, and I hope others will still post their suggestions if they havent done so yet!
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Old 04-20-2007, 09:26 AM   #20
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido by William Gleason is another good one.
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Old 04-20-2007, 09:40 AM   #21
kironin
 
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

I would pick a book already mentioned "This is Aikido" by Koichi Tohei because it covers both the spiritual side and the technical. That is one of my favorite books. The only downside is that it is not the first volume in a series. That would be amazing if there were a multi-volume set of books with this level of detail and advice and clealy laid easy to follow picture sequences. They could have filled several more volumes with Tohei Sensei and then the same book team done it for other teachers such as Saito Sensei and Nishio Sensei, it would have been an amazing record. Incrediably expensive though. I haven't seen any other books really come close to this quality.

Used copies can sell for over $100 if you can find them so hopefully you have a library with a copy.

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Old 04-20-2007, 11:57 AM   #22
rulemaker
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

My choice is:

The Spirit of Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Followed by:

Aikido and the Harmony with Nature by Mitsugi Saotome
Enlightenment through Aikido by Kanshu Sunadomari.
KODO by Kenshu Furuya
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Old 04-20-2007, 02:22 PM   #23
statisticool
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

My vote is for

The Spirit of Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

A secret of internal strength?:
"Let your weight from the crotch area BE in his hands."
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Old 04-22-2007, 01:34 PM   #24
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Or go right back to the beginning and borrow from the library Donald Philippi's translation of the Kojiki. If you read the Kojiki, you will be in a good position to understand (note my wording here) O Sensei's discourses on the spirituality of aikido. He is the Source, but you need to put yourself in a good position to understand him.
There is also a Basil Hall Chamberlain translation of the Kojiki available in the web.

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Old 04-22-2007, 06:41 PM   #25
Aikibu
Dojo: West Wind Dojo Santa Monica California
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Re: If you could buy just ONE book about the spiritual side of Aikido, what would it

Terry Dobson's fantastic book "Aikido in Everyday Life." comes to mind. Written in the 70's it is still one of the best books on the spiritual side of Aikido and how to apply it to daily living I have ever read. I refer to it often.

"Enlightenment through Aikido" by Kanshu Sunadomari is a very close second.

William Hazen
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