The book: “The Philosophy of
Aikido” by well published author Professor John Stevens is an
excellent educational examination on the development of the philosophy
behind the training and discipline of Aikido, the martial art.
This book is not
your typical book on Aikido or martial arts, but rather lifts the
reader or Aikidoist to other levels of understanding of Aikido. In
doing so, it expands your perspectives, tickles and peaks your
understanding of Eastern thought and philosophy.
Stevens introduces many other religions and philosophies to
illustrate some of the similarities and differences in philosophical
thought that influenced Aikido. While we find that many other cultures, philosophies, and religions have
many differences from one another, we are also reminded that there are as many
book is well sectioned, giving you the
theory behind the philosophical influences of Aikido, and then
explains the theory at work in the practice of Aikido movements,
stances and weapons.
Essential Principles - Stevens introduces us to the following Aikido principles:
- Stevens uses other
authorities such as Taoism, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and
Christianity and their own principles of non-violence, to convey give
more depth to the meaning of muteiko.
agatsu katsu hayabi - which essentially means that true victory
is won when one is victorious over one self.
Gratitudes - basic things we should feel grateful for.
Virtues – Are gifts to humankind – making our earthly
existence with the Four Challenges livable and pushes us towards a
greater being in the universe.
Pillars - many of us will recognize these as basic and essential
training techniques, dealing with directional, blending, control,
various encounters, which relate to the Aikido techniques that are
currently in practice such as tenchi, shiho, kaiten, irimi, etc.
Aikido, Nature and Health, Stevens points out that
nature is the lifeline of Aikido, and he ties in the various
characteristics of human nature with the universe, and how they function together as one.
shikon sangen hachiriki, the principle that nature plays an
important part in Aikido - one spirit, four souls, three
fundamentals and eight powers.
or Eight Powers is described as the forces that give the universe
its life: movement, release, contraction, unification, calm,
solidification, expansion, and division.
also explains that musubi is the force that brings the forces of
Ichirei shikon sangen hachiriki together.
Aikido as Tantra – or the realization of where
you fit into the grand scheme of nature and the universe. John Stevens
sees the Aikido and Tantra path as similar, and that both paths involve both physical and mental
training. Repeated exercises in weapons, techniques, kototama, kamae (stance), misogi (cleansing or purification of both
mind and body), chinkon (meditation) are all necessary to keep the
individual mentally and physically fit.
Aikido and Art
– In this section, we are introduced to several authorities such as
Onisaburo Deguchi, Reb Elimelekh, Dante, Sir Thomas Aquinas, to name
only a few, to provide the reader with an understanding of the kinship
of Art and Aikido. This is done through discussing the relationships
between Art and truth, Art and God, and Art and beauty, Art and
religion, and Art through the perspectives of it’s creator at a
particular point in time. An excerpt from Stevens' book:
In true art, a pleasant
harmony exists between the artist, the art, and the viewer (or
Aikido and Global Society – Aikido is reminded that
it has a definite relationship and responsibility between itself and
it’s universe (Tantra). When we practice Aikido the martial art, we
only use the martial aspect to maintain
peace and harmony, within our
universe. Most of us are aware that Ueshiba was ever so serious of his
commitment and devotion to the welfare of society, that he was
arrested and shackled with Onisaburo Deguchi, in Manchuria.
In this chapter, John Stevens sums up everything, for the reader
in actual practice, using both photographs and explanations. While he
explains that this book is not a technical manual, it is technically
outstanding because he is able to bring the theory and the principles of
Aikido together for reader to understand. For instance, the Four
Gratitudes and Nine Pillars, etc., are illustrated
in techniques. An assortment of photographs of Morihei Ueshiba, Rinjiro Shirata,
Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and Stevens himself, show the fine points of the
Aikido principles in kamae, iriminage and kaiten (of the Nine
Pillars), Aiki-jo and bokken, etc.
It is my usual practice in
reviewing/reading new material to
give it a preliminary fast scan. At first glance of John Stevens work, I knew
this was a good educational book for the serious Aikido instructor and
Aikido student. I was more thoroughly convinced of this as I read
through the book, taking notes for this review. It is not
your usual Aikido literary work. It gives its readers a good
foundation into the soul of Aikido, meanings behind the training,
techniques, and the development of the Aikidoist. I found it
particularly appealing because Stevens uses internationally famous
authority figures of the past, present, with vastly different religious
and philosophical backgrounds to create a bridge of communication to his diverse audience. This book is an excellent
educational tool into the study of Aikido, its principles, lifestyles,
roots, and philosophy behind Aikido, the martial art.
you to Professor John Stevens and his editor Elizabeth Floyd, of Kodansha
International Ltd., Tokyo, Japan.
received to display book's cover and quotations used for this review
from Kodansha International Ltd.,
and are Copyright © by Kodansha International
© 2001, Aikido World,
Inc. All rights reserved
Cheryl Matrasko is a Network Analyst for the department of Networking and Communications at a prominent Chicago hospital. Formerly the LAN Administrator for Northwestern University Medical School - Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology, and assistant LAN Administrator to the previous MIS of the School of Law.
She started Aikido in 1965, studying under Isao Takahashi as her first instructor. She enjoyed working out under many well known Aikido instructors during her tenure with Takahashi Sensei, and thereafter following his death in 1971. Cheryl has dedicated time with instructors in Northern Shaolin Long-Fist, Seven Stars Praying Mantis, and Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu to extend her martial arts education and perspectives. Currently, she is instructing Aikido at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus and supporting Aikido World Journal.
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