Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aikido at Sword Mountain

Aikido is a modern martial art originating in Japan with roots in the koryu combative arts. For some, what distinguishes Aikido from other martial arts are flowing, graceful movements ending with fabulous throws or pins; for others, what distinguishes Aikido from other popular martial arts is its explicit philosophy, which, depending upon who explains it, may include love, harmony, protection, non-competition, and so on.

In a simplified sense, Aikido's founder, Uyeshiba Morihei, found his understanding of the universe's workings in Oomoto Kyo, a religion with Shinto roots, and saw Aikido as an expression of those principles. However, Oomoto Kyo is quite esoteric; even most of the founder's earliest Japanese students, today regarded as master instructors, reportedly did not understand what must have sounded to them to be mystical babbling.

But even in the earliest days of Aikido, there is evidence that some first generation students of the founder thought it reasonable to substitute the more mainstream, more accessible Zen practice for Oomoto Kyo practice. Today, in some Aikido lineages, Zen studies are offered as an adjunct to Aikido practice, and vice versa – you are free to pick and choose what suits you.

At Sword Mountain, we are working to tightly couple our Patriarchal Zen koan and meditation studies with our Aikido teaching so that they are mutually supportive and so that each is seen as a clear manifestation of what we are ultimately studying. We continually return to the Aikido founder's purpose masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi – true victory is victory over oneself right now – and the founder's objective, takemusu – the spontaneous generation of an appropriate response (martial, in this case) to your situation – in our practice. We consider the name of the art itself, “the Way (Do) of Harmony / Love / Joining (Ai) with Ki,” and consider what it means to us as students of both Zen and Aikido.

If you are interested in joining our Aikido practice, please contact us. Beginners through advanced Aikido practitioners from any style who share an open mind for Zen practice are welcome to join us.
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