Spiritual Teachings of Aikido

Ueshiba Morihei 18

Aikido study, regardless of the pedagogy followed or the “style” practised, requires a deep and constant application that may lead to achieving some technical skills, particularly when the student possesses the requisite attributes and sufficient talent. Unfortunately, many believe that to be good aikidoka is not necessary theoretical, spiritual, symbolic and cosmological knowledge of the Art


This belief is further encouraged by the ideology that is dominant in the world in which we live: our contemporary world increasingly drives human beings towards the more pragmatic, materialistic and utilitarian aspects of living, those directed only towards the outward appearance of things. In order to understand how far this is from Aikido, we should remember that O’Sensei felt ecstatic amazement at the harmony of the laws of nature and at the same time a humble admiration for this infinite and higher essence, for this manifestation of the Divine.

A human being is part of a whole, the Universe, and is a part limited in time and space. We live in a sort of prison and our task is to get rid of it, widening our compassion in concentric circles, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its infinite beauty. The attitude of the “initiated” practitioner before the mystery of the Universe must be that of the mystic, that is the one who – in silence – was initiated into the mysteries of the Art. For us humans, mysticism represents the opportunity to gain access to an awareness and an awakening that are beyond technique, words and rationality. It’s the possibility to work at a metaphysical level.

Aikido is steeped in mysticism and symbols, which provide access to upper levels of awareness and understanding. A key feature of mysticism is, as Einstein said, the need for knowledge, the desire to grasp or let themselves be grasped by the mystery of the Universe. Other keys are curiosity, awe and a sense of wonder. He who wishes to penetrate Aikido’s secrets and its wonderful potential must strive to understand the mystery of the Universe, seeking to infer its laws through rationality, with assiduous practice, sacrifice, determination and absolute will. Also must speculate on its symbols, while – at the same time – striving to purify his subjectivity, to get into an intuitive resonance with the laws that govern nature and the universe.

A human being has two ways to live: one outward, the other inward. Turning inwards, he looks at what is not manifested, going outwards he sees and approaches what is manifest. Aikido provides us with the tools to integrate and make vibrate in unison these two ways of living. Aikido can be the gateway between what in the world is already manifest and what is not. At a very high level, practical techniques become formal, symbolic: a form of ecstasy or the point of contact with what is non-manifest. Let’s not forget that the Founder spoke of Inori Budo, indicating by these terms that Aikido is like a prayer in motion.

Aikido should be for those who are not content to just practice techniques, those who aspire to enter the wonderful world of this Art, where the study of spiritual symbolism, esoterism and Spiritual Alchemy become tools and paths that are essential to achieve a higher level of knowledge.

Are you wondering which was O’Sensei’s philosophical vision? What is the purpose of Aikido? Why is it that the Founder used the three forms of the sacred square, triangle and circle to build and practice his “Divine Techniques”? Why did O’Sensei indicate the development path of the Aikido student with a pyramid? Why is it that so many Aikido movements are expressed through the Infinite symbol?

We will try to answer these questions and many more. A path of the martial kind, if lived in a particular way, it becomes a complex initiation process that unquestionably goes beyond the mere deconstruction of the Ego for which it was undertaken.

Copyright Paolo N. Corallini ©2012
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