Monthly Archives: April 2012

Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder

Profiles of the Founder, BAB Japan 2009
開祖の横顔 (Profiles of the Founder) was published in Japanese in 2009 by the publisher of Gekkan Hiden ("Secret Teachings Monthly"), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.
It contains 14 interviews with direct students of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. None of these, to my knowledge, have been translated into English, but some of them are quite interesting.I’m not going to translate any large portion of the interviews, but I’ll pick out a few interesting sections here (note: I haven’t included the Japanese because, unlike Morihei Ueshiba’s own explanations, the speech of his students in these interviews was very straightforward).

Aiki, Iki, Kokyu, Heng-Ha and Aun, Part 2

Heng Ha Er Jiang (哼哈二将, the two Generals Heng and Ha), from Fengdu China
Above are two more Kongo-rikishi ("Guardian King") statues of the type that we talked about in Part 1 of "Aiki, Iki, Kokyu, Heng-Ha and Aun".This time the statues are from the ghost town of Fengdu China – which is an entire city modelled on the Chinese Hell of Taoist mythology, built more than 1800 years ago. The City of Ghosts was a place of worship before the flooding of the Three Gorges due to the Three Gorges Dam Project.  Today it mostly lies underwater – except for the sections that have been reconstructed (with some of the original structures used) for the tourist industry.In the picture above the General Heng stands on the right – 哼, for inhaling. Note that his mouth is closed and his abdomen is contracted (this is the Naraen Kongo in Japan, with his mouth closed in the "un" syllable of "Aun").The General Ha stands on the left – 哈, for exhaling. Note that his mouth is opened and his abdomen is expanded (this is the Misshaku Kongo in Japan, with his mouth open in the "A" syllable of "Aun").

Aiki, Iki, Kokyu, Heng-Ha and Aun – Part 1

Kongo-rikishi statues at the gate of Horyuji Temple
The Kongo-rikishi statues that guard the gate to the inner sanctum of Horyuji Temple are the oldest in Japan. These "Guardian Kings" were said to have traveled with Shakyamuni Buddha, in order to act as his bodyguards. The one one the right (Misshaku Kongo) has his mouth open in the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet ("A"). The one on the left (Naraen Kongo) has his mouth closed, representing the last letter of the Sanskrit alphabet ("un"). "A-un" is generally used to represent the breadth of existence – the universe existing between the combined In-Yo opposites.In the west this is sometimes pronounced as the Indian "Om" or "Aum". In China this is associated with Heng-Ha breathing exercises in the practice of…martial arts. There the statues are called the Heng Ha Er Jiang (哼哈二将, the two generals Heng and Ha).Getting back to Aikido – here’s a short tidbit from Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba:
The martial art of Takemusu is the power of the principle of A-un breathing (kokyu)

Aikido and the Floating Bridge of Heaven

The Gods Izanagi and Izanami on the Floating Bridge of Heaven from the series "An Illustrated History of Japan" by Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1847-1852Honolulu Academy of Arts
The "Floating Bridge of Heaven" ("Ame no Uki Hashi") is an important part of the Japanese creation myth. According to the Kojiki ("A Record of Ancient Affairs"), the first gods summoned two divine beings into existence – the male essence Izanagi ("The Male who Invites" /  伊邪那岐) and the female essence Izanami ("The Female who Invites" /  伊邪那美命). These two beings were given the task of creating the first land masses on earth.  Taking the jeweled spear they were given, the two divine beings stood on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and stirred the sea with the jeweled spear, creating a vortex. Drops of salty water falling from the spear formed the first island, whereupon the divine beings descended from the Bridge to the earth below.There’s a lot more (the Kojiki is a great tale, one of the world’s first soap operas), but for now let’s get back to how this relates to…Aikido.

Aikido without Peace or Harmony

Cover of "Budo Hiketsu Aiki no Jutsu" ("Secret Methods of Budo Aiki no Jutsu")Published in Meiji Year 33 (1900)
Aikido is often known as the "Art of Peace" or "The Way of Harmony". Sometimes it is described as "The Way of Harmonizing Ki". "Do" of course, is "The Way", and the word "Ki" is so common these days that it can probably stand just as it is. Then we have "Ai" – which means neither peace nor harmony.