Life and Death
About 20 years ago, I remember Mitsugi Saotome,
Shihan said in an Aikido class here in Chicago:
Budo prepares you how to die ...
Hearing him say this on the mat I was intrigued
to know more of this interesting perspective. I recall that my sinuses suddenly cleared in
spite of the hay fever season and I listened very intently. Budo is the preparation for
death. But in learning how to die, you learn how to live, respect, and appreciate life.
Martial arts is combat, and there are only two options: survive and live on ... or die.
To press further, some people shun the martial
art aspect of Aikido. While there are many that wish Aikido to a be a peaceful and
beautiful recreational activity, it is my belief currently at this stage of my life that
to fully understand Aikido is to accept it in its totality. To deny Aikido its martial
arts side is to disrespect Aikido itself.
To try to dissect Aikido from its martial arts
or Daito-ryu roots is to ignore the meaning of Aikido. It is a martial art --- a form of
combat. And to study both aspects, should not depreciate Aikido but rather add to its
understanding and meaning, in pursuit of serious study. To do this you must indulge in
what made Aikido work and what essences it took on during it's evolution to Aikido.
In the case of refusing to recognize the
"martial" of Aikido, we can look at different aspects of life to find out why
doing so is so very much a hypocitical stand for those that say they are Aikidoists and
practice Aikido. For instance, just because someone doesn't like the way the rind
of the orange tastes, doesn't mean you throw away or forsake eating the orange itself.
There is always something to learn from the things that one is more apt to avoid and
dislike immensely. In our culture, we like to dissect things. We dissect thoughts and all
sorts of things into two classes: things we like and are comfortable with ... and those
things we don't understand, dislike and fear. We dissect animals too, but when we do ...
we kill them at the same time, by doing so. It is much the same when we try to take off
the "martial" from Aikido --- we take away its life and meaning.
In life, it is not unnatural for the female wolf
to fight to protect her young. Furthermore, when an animal is cornered, normally it will
not submit with its underside upwards but will attack with its last breath of life. Even
the most smallest of animals will display this type of behavior. I have seen it rats and
dogs. This is purposeful combat, meant for survival and the preservation of life.
Sometimes in learning how to fight and kill, you
discover how important and fragile life really is. Unfortunately, there is no better
lesson to this unless you have witnessed someone being hurt or abused, murdered, or have
watched someone pass away in front of your eyes as a result of an accident. It is good to
feel remorse, regret, and sadness. It brings you that much closer to appreciating life,
nature and all living things. Death is as much a part of living --- as life is as much a
part of death. They are diametrically opposed, but yet ... are so very much dependent upon
one another. Without death, we would not appreciate life. We would not grieve. We would
not have regrets at death. We would not have deep compassion for living without death as a
reference, and visa-versa. They both compliment one another.
Morihei Ueshiba's martial history not only was
the magnificent accomplishments of Aikido, but he took on much agony, pain, effort, and
life-risk to attain this goal. His form of combat was very warlike in his earlier years.
He was very aggressive in competition. And most people feared him. But through all his
years of training and work, Aikido was given life. Ueshiba's unique and wise perspective
of martial arts allowed Aikido to evolve into more than just a mere form of combat. It was
enabled to transcend its boundaries by jointly demanding excellence of one's integrity as
an honorable gentleman or lady as in Bushido and looking towards the perfection of Budo.
Aikido in its totality adds much to the appreciation and meaning of Aikido, as a martial
art and an honorable way of life. Both can be reached together, but it is the life-long
effort that makes this way of living richly rewarding and precious.
These pages are created as a meaningful perception on Budo
and Bushido, and are always being worked on. These literary works are meant for purposeful
discussions, with the intent of stimulating conversation and thought. I am not the
foremost authority on these subjects, but am an Aikidoist who is expressing thoughts on
Aikido, sharing and documenting experiences. Thank you.