Inspiration

Each and every master, regardless of the era or the place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit – love.

– Morihei Ueshiba

Many have come before, been inspired, trained endlessly, and expressed the spirit that is Ki.  Their path is their path. Our path is our path. But much can be learned from studying and observing their ways, practices and habits.

Below are some of the many words and images that have inspired me in my journey. May some of these examples of commitment and dedication inspire you as well. New posts will be highlighted by way of Twitter.

dan

Progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere.

– Morihei Ueshiba

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| Words

A simple, yet effective summary of Ki-related sayings from Koichi Tohei.

A classic, must read for anyone looking to expand their study of spirit and Budo. Endless passages and advice to return to day after day.

R. Moon’s inspirational work of self reflection, life lessons, and the place of aikido in daily life. Moon’s writings are deep, insightful, yet easy to read.

Ralph Pettman’s wonderfully concise, yet spiritual theme-based approach to aikido for daily mastery.

Guillaume Erard’s wonderful summary of the origins and purpose of solo practice in Aikido. Given Aikido’s reliance on the dance between uke and nage, Erard’s treatise is unique in providing a valuable overview of options to grow your aikido practice when flying solo.

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| Moving Images

Endo Sensei demonstrates in this video some of the finest examples of soft technique, with a flow and center which almost jumps off the screen. Watch this video over and over, and you will be surprised how you notice something new each time.

Although in Japanese, without translation, observing Tohei Sensei demonstrate the power of his ki requires no words. Many moments of pure light are within this video – so mute the language if you’re not fluent in japanese, and observe a master. Simply watch how he stands to learn how it is to stand with one point and coordination of mind, body and spirt.

One of the most impressive sub 7 minute videos you can study. Although not focused on Aikido per se, Sensei Kuroda exhibits some of the finest Ki-based techniques and principles today. His center and silence are stunning.

Although a bit overproduced in parts, it is a very approachable video for those who have never experienced Aikido, or may have their doubts regarding some of the basic principles. Although the title claims “the samurai spirit”, there is much that the video does not address to make this claim…but then, any video would struggle with such a task. Enjoy it anyways.

One of many videos of Kuroda on the web, but in my opinion, one of the most impressive in demonstrating his mastery as he teaches others. You need no words or interpreter to appreciate the depth of his expertise and study. Of particular interest is the segment at 1:55 of the video – the velocity and intensity of his motion leads one to believe that the video was altered. But watch the segment over and over to appreciate the importance of complete and utter relaxation in achieving such a strike.

A wonderful demonstration of grace and mastery in the simplest of movements. The lifetime of study is so clearly evident in the pure presence of movement. He is the embodiment of Ki throughout this short demonstration – no opening for an attack at any point throughout the demonstration. Even during the simple motion of a slow downstroke (3:11 onward), he shows nothing but pure and infinite presence.

A touching and fascinating visual record of two masters – one from the world of music, the other from the world of Aikido, exchanging ideas and sharing thoughts openly, freely. Yehudi Menuhin’s body language alone is worth the watch. As for the insights into Aikido , they are numerous and deeply rooted in the teachings of Tohei Sensei.

Beautiful cinematography providing a wonderful example of Aikido. I’ve used this simply delightful imagery to showcase to colleagues or family “what is Aikido”. The technique is smoothly executed, but more importantly, the spirit of Aikido shows through in the flowing lines, slowly highlighted accents and graceful sweeps.

Courtesy of aikidojournal, this clip showcases one of today’s leading figures in western Aikido – Harvey Konigsberg. His description of the importance and essential mastery of center is worthy of repeated listening – and learning.

One of the most humorous, touching and profound TED lectures by Sir Ken Robinson, who eloquently speaks to the importance of how formal structures of schooling are limiting creativity. From the perspective of Aikido, I took from this the importance of training, but not in the rote sense, but in developing the skills to adapt to whatever comes before us, be creative in response, and contribute to the world during our short journey. Ken’s recent April 2013 TED talk is also a stunning discourse on the importance of education…many lessons which can be applied on the mat.

Seishiro Endo demonstrates in this wonderfully produced video the simplicity, but critically important ability to disrupt uke’s balance. I was especially intrigued by his comments starting at 3:48, where he speaks to the impact of grabbing uke, vs. disrupting balance – both are not the same! A master class in flow, grace and true power.

Seishiro Endo has captured through a series of over 10 DVDs! a remarkable display of technique, spirit and presence. Although most may not be able to afford the full series (…over 49,000 yen…), the YouTube channel is a wonderful introduction to this excellent display of what circa 50 years of aikido practice can produce. Enjoy! (P.S., the way of mastery is also on Vimeo, for those who prefer the Youtube alternative).

Award winning author Daniel Kahneman speaks at a recent TED talk about the difference between experience and memory. Although the talk is presented in the context of understanding what might determine happiness, I was struck by Daniel’s description of the experiencing mind vs. the mind of memory. I could not help but think that the experiencing mind is another way to describe the hara. Unlike the remembering mind, which is based in past memories, or in the aspiration of future ones, the experiencing mind is based in the absolute present, the infinity of space, in nothingness, where past and future are irrelevant, and only pure experience is felt. I am left to ponder if coordination of mind, body and spirit occurs when the remembering mind serves the experiencing mind, and not the other way around – arguably the typical way most of us operate.

David Shaner presents in a recent TEDx event the practice of coordination of mind and body, in an approachable and easy-to-understand way. His metaphor of the iceberg as the potential underlying coordination of mind and body is a good start – one that you can expand upon if exploring coordination of mind, body AND spirit, in which case i would approach the iceberg metaphor as body = above the water, mind = below the water, and spirit = THE water itself…

Christophe Depaus presents an elegant, yet straightforward argument for aikido as an alternative education system for life. Of the only few TEDx talks dedicated to Aikido, it is a worthy reference to those looking to discuss and present aikido as more than a martial art, but rather, as a basis for life, a way to harmony with life.

In this TEDx talk, Jonathan Poppele, founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Oneness and the creator of the Embodied Leadership program, presents the application of numerous ki-aikido principles to our daily lives. Like many ki-aikido videos, the actual effects presented may be difficult to grasp or actually believe – so welcome and observe the various practices as glimpse into the world of ki, ki practices, and ultimately the essence upon which aikido – the way of harmony with the universe – is based.

Manuel Radons’ beautiful documentary trailer, which unfortunately continues to be difficult to secure in its full length version. At least the trailer presents a few moments with Senseis’ Endo and Tissier, both of which showcase a lifetime of dedication to the art of aikido.

A wonderful journey with Seishiro Endo from a 2014 workshop. Sensei Endo’s center, balance and poise produces what is arguably the most graceful aikido ever. Although most may not understand his words, even his tone of voice exemplifies his center, balance and harmony with the universe. A true inspiration for what can come from a life of practice dedicated to the art of peace.

Miles Kessler Sensei, founder of the Integral Dojo in Tel Aviv, presents his views on the value of aikido as a basis for life – an aikido operating system, so to say. His views are based on a mix of aikido and vipassana, which produces some wonderful insights into the application of the art of peace off the mat.

Many martial arts films rarely portray the stillness and mindfulness that masters are expected to show in the face of adversity. In the film After the Rain, such a display is presented in the form of a bokken duel. Note the masterful stillness that the master shows to his many adversaries.  Most enjoyable is to see the portrayal of full stillness in movement, where the adversaries struggle to even find a glimpse of an opening – an honourable goal for anyone pursuing the way.

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| Sounds

  • The Five Dakinis

Ken McLeod has been a prolific Buddhist teacher and lecturer. Furthermore, his website http://www.unfetteredmind.org, is a great repository of Ken’s teachings and lectures, both in audio files as well as transcriptions. An interesting segment which relates to practicing on the mat was found in the five elements, five dakinis practice.

www.unfetteredmind.org/five-elements-five-dakinis-practice

From about minute 3:00 to about minute 20:00, Ken walks his students through an exercise in pushing, where attention on our responsiveness to the external forces is emphasized. For anyone who has ever done Vipassana, you may find this practice familiar. For anyone who has ever done aikido, this practice may open some insight into how tension and stress arises – in some cases almost instantly.  You may also wish to reference page 225 of Wake Up to Your Life – a summary of the cycles which Ken speaks to during this revealing session.

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| Links

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