Unite yourself in mind and spirit to become one with nature and you are experiencing the essence of Aikido.
But this is actually only the basic concept and it is not all so easy.
The ultimate goal of becoming one with the universe and obtaining peace of mind is fostered through strenuous physical training and meditation which demands strict mental discipline.
Sensei Sadao Yoshioka, chief instructor and 6th degree black belt at the Aikido Headquarters in Honolulu has been training in the art for 20 years. He has received instruction from a host of top instructors, including senseis Yamamoto, Takahashi, Sugimoto, Kimura, and Tohei, who is 10th degree. He also trained under Kisshomaru sensei, the son of Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, and Ueshiba himself.
Yoshioka describes his art as consisting of three dimensions, the physical, mental, and spiritual. When beginners enter the school, they are exposed mostly to the physical training. The body is easier to understand than the mental or spiritual aspects.
They must attempt very complicated techniques. Yoshioka feels that the difficulty of the moves forces the students to concentrate.
"When you are concentrating to do the movement, at that time your mind and body are in 'oneness'," Yoshioka says. "This coordination of mind and body is the first step up the road. It is the do part of Aikido. Once you reach the end of the road you have reached the aiki part or the phase dealing with the mind."
The physical training is used as a means for developing the ki. Ki is a concept very hard to explain. Yoshioka compares it with electricity.
"You can control it; you can use it and yet you cannot define it. The only time you realize it is when you touch it. Ki is colorless, odorless, weightless, and yet you should be able to control it and harness it. It belongs to the universe."
The spirit and mental attitude act as conductors for the ki just as metal acts as a conductor for electricity. And like water, the ki is soft and pliable, but is capable of great force. Unlike a solid object which moves when pushed in one spot, water will continue to flow around the opposing force.
The arm is like a water hose, he said. The more water that flows through the hose the stiffer that hose becomes. Similarly, the more ki that flows through your arm, the stiffer the arm becomes, hence the principal of the unbendable arm.
Everything came from the universal ki, Yoshioka said. There appears to be four forms of ki, the inanimate, plant, animal, and human. In the human stage, you have the power to reason and control life through the knowledge you have gained. How well you have developed your mind determines how well you can control a situation.
He warns that this leads to becoming a slave of the mind. Every moment you have to think. Sometimes you are a failure and sometimes you are a success. Failure is the problem; you become frustrated.
According to Yoshioka, this is what you have to break away from and go to the next level of no mind. No mind does not mean 'blank' or 'dopey.' It is one with nature. He emphasizes the point that being able to lie down under a shady tree and enjoy it is not oneness with nature, it is laziness.
Oneness with nature, he says, is when you can lie down on the pavement in the parking lot and have the same feeling as when you're lying in the grass under the tree. Being one with nature is not only enjoying the beauty but also the 'bad' part as well. There is sunshine and there are thunderstorms and both are nature.
Yoshioka finalizes his point by saying oneness with nature really means 'peace of mind.' And peace of mind comes through meditation. Just before you go to sleep, the subconscious and the conscious cross. In meditation you want to stay in this state for a long period of time. Think about your biggest problem.
He used the example of overcoming fear, the fear of dying. Nothing can scare you if you are prepared to die. There are two ways he mentions of overcoming that fear. One is to become physically strong, and the other is to become mentally strong. After you become physically strong however, it is part of your discipline to learn to control it. You can't jump at every little provocation. You have to control your mind which in turn will control your body.
Yoshioka says a little shove shouldn't irritate you. You get worse beatings in class, and if it does provoke you, you belong in the beginners class where you can start your training all over again. You cannot allow yourself to be dragged down to a lower level. All the hours of training will have been wasted.
This all relates to Yoshioka's philosophy of winning without fighting, which he terms to be the highest form of fighting. This involves developing an attitude which permits you to ignore a conflict situation without it having any conscious or subconscious effect on you.
However, he asserts that in reality there may be times when it is necessary to fight. His attitude is fight to the death. This is justifiable in the event that your life is in jeopardy. His emotion is, if you don't want to die or you don't want to kill, don't fight.
Yoshioka's Aikido School does not hold or enter any competition. "We are trying to understand nature, and we are all one in the same family," Yoshioka says. "You try to help people, not show them that you are better than them."
An interesting point is that Yoshioka does not consider blocking a kicking attack or learning how to kick to be of importance to him. He believes that your feet were intended to remain on the ground. Yoshioka doesn't worry about a defense against a karate kick because he feels that a karate person has no reason to come up and kick him.
"I don't have to prepare myself to defend against a karate man, because I have no trouble with them. If I have trouble with a karate school, then it makes sense to train to defend against a karate attack." When you prepare, you are looking for trouble. In the higher levels when you are looking for enlightenment you will not get it because you are looking for it. When you are ready spiritually, mentally, physically, you will be enlightened by the Man up there, he will be the judge.
So Aikido stresses both the body and the spirit. A person who is simply powerful and able to overcome a number of opponents may not be able to overcome the most important opponent, himself. A complete human is one who has unified his body and spirit and harmonized with the universal ki. The ki must be allowed to flow through the body without resistance, and this ki is not to be used to hurt others, but instead to make yourself healthy and strong.
Although only a few sentences are marked as direct quotations in the original article, it seems to be mostly Yoshioka-sensei's own words. I have added bold-face type to emphasize those sections. [ST]