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The following excerpts are from a biography of the Founder of Aikido written by Kanemoto Sunadomari entitled: Aikido Kaiso Ueshiba Morihei. The contents of this book are based on interviews and material collected by both Kanemoto Sunadomari and his sister, Fukiko Sunadomari, in the late 1960’s. The book was penned by Kanemoto, published by Kodansha in early 1969 with the Founder`s permission, and released prior to his passing later that year. It was later published again under the title Bu no Shinjin and has recently been reprinted due to renewed interest within Japan.


The Martial Technicalities within Aikido

This excerpt was taken from pages 226-230 of the original addition of the biography and translated into English to introduce the content to a wider audience. Some Japanese terminology with multiple or ambiguous meanings has been inserted as parenthesized footnotes within the text, and minor additions (including bolding some text) have been made to facilitate readability.

Readers with Japanese language ability seeking clarification are encouraged to read the original.



The martial techniques trained within the discipline of Aikido can be principally classified as training in the use of the sword (ken), the spear (yari), and techniques employing the physical body (taijutsu: this term is also often translated as empty-hand techniques). First and foremost, in Aikido emphasis is placed on taijutsu training. This is because in the process of training martial technique, the basics lie in taijutsu and all techniques incorporate the use of the body as their base. The emphasis on taijutsu indicates that it is the creation of this as a base which is given first priority.


The fundamental postures of taijutsu within Aikido can be classified into three levels: heaven, earth, and man. Tachiwaza (hereafter, referred to as “standing technique”) corresponds to “heaven”, hanmi handachi waza corresponds to “man”, and suwariwaza (hereafter, “seated technique”) corresponds to “earth”. In addition, these postures can be further correlated as follows: standing technique as “flowing”, hanmi handachi technique as “soft”, and seated technique as “hard”. From the perspective of movement, it is within the practice of standing technique that infinite change through the physical body is made possible, this is followed in descending order with hanmi handachi and then finally seated technique.  


At the elementary level of the martial training process, physical training should first begin with seated technique since it is seated technique which corresponds with “earth”. It is from the starting point of seated technique that one begins to progress into the higher levels of practice and by doing so is able to infinitely evolve as expressed by the laws of nature. Before starting the practice of seated technique, one begins in the seiza posture. The posture of seiza is one of “immobility” and it corresponds with the natural form of mother earth and the condition of “stillness”.  “Stillness” is the starting point of all movement, and the practice of seated technique conveys a feeling of “hardness” and of being inanimate. Through this practice, the universal basic movements are conveyed, and the fruits of training in seated technique will later reveal themselves in both hanmi handachi and standing technique. Hanmi handachi  technique, given its position between heaven and earth, represents the harmonious connection between both a “flowing” state and a state of “hardness”, as well as the middle ground between seated and standing technique. The hips and midsection (koshi) lie at the center of rising ki energy and sinking ki energy (and are essential in the performance of technique). From an anatomical perspective, it is the hips and midsection that are located between the upper and the lower body making them the root of universal movement between the two. It is the practice of Hanmi handachi technique which places particular emphasis on the hips/midsection and in practice derives its movement from their employment.  


Standing technique, as mentioned previously, corresponds with both “heaven” and a “flowing” state. In this sense, standing technique is a state which allows for all ranges of physical movement and in doing so allows for infinite variations and rapid response in all situations. Yet, it is only through sufficiently training in both seated technique and hanmi handachi that standing technique too can be perfected. Once one has comprehensively trained in all three and can employ his body freely, one can begin the practice of both the sword and the spear and in turn this practice will serve to mutually enhance overall mastery. 


In comprehensive Aikido training, movement of the physical body takes place through the smooth and efficient use of individual body parts enabling them to properly fulfill their function. However, it is the movement of the heart and mind in its natural state which is purely manifest in the hands; hence it is the hands that should be given precedence over the whole of the physical body. The heart and mind (shinki) serve to manipulate the hands and it is through the hands that intention (ishi) is ultimately put into action. Looking even deeper within the physical body past the hands, one finds that the movement of intention (i) and energy (ki) are often also expressed in the face and eyes. However, in reality it is the hands that serve as the physical starting point for any interaction, and the freedom of movement of the hands cannot be accomplished through the use of other parts of the body.


In the study of the kotodama, the word ‘hand’ (te in Japanese) is correlated with the sound “de” and the Chinese character meaning “to come out, to appear, to start, or to leave”. The (action of the) hands are a clear and concrete expression of the intentions and thoughts that spring forth from an individual’s internal spirit and thus they are an area of the physical body where one’s intentions are superficially manifest. Hence the use of the sound “te” (de) to refer to the hands.


In the physical training of Aikido, the comprehensive movement of the entire body is ultimately employed through the hands. In addition to the ‘hands’, the ‘feet’ (ashi in Japanese; also conotes the leg) are also simultaneously employed in any action. However, the feet differ from the hands in that they are an important medium for unencumbered movement of the whole body. If the hands are representative of the movement of ‘heaven’, then it follows that the feet and legs perform the movement of ‘earth’ and hence are responsible for a different role. In the physical training of Aikido, the feet and legs are used as such to fulfill their role and the movement of the physical body is dependent entirely on their employment. Therefore, the movement of the physical body is exclusively up to the operation of the legs and feet, and they are responsible for the bulk of the load of the entire body when standing or falling. During a period of his early training, the Founder of Aikido did at one time include techniques using the feet and legs directly in his training regime, but at present such techniques are not included. The use of such techniques is unnecessary and useless in the practice of Aikido; Instead the feet should fulfill their respective role and in doing maintain a normal state as a result of one’s training. Mastering harmonious whole-body movement which employs the hips and midsection(koshi) as the core and the hands, legs and feet acting in union with this center is the goal of training the physical body. 


There is a tendency to describe the techniques of Aikido as ukemi (or being “passive” in nature); yet the training of any technique (in Aikido) includes relative roles of both attack and defense. Furthermore, just as defense exists within an attack, an attack exists within defense. Yet, when examining training from an individual perspective, there are those who favor an emphasis on attack in their training and those who are inclined toward defense, such a preference is determined by the nature of one’s heart. That being said, the central spiritual tenet within Aikido is to train with a state of heart that seeks neither attack nor defense. This is the ideal posture (for training).


Aikido, as a martial art that seeks to accept the energy (ki) of our partner, effectuates what may be termed an unfettered heart (mushin) or a state of “no-self” (muga) that when manifest through a unified body and mind is capable of receiving the force (ki) of another. In ages past, it was said that “to attack is simple but to defend is complex”. Likewise, to construct something is extremely difficult, yet to destroy it is easy. From a technical perspective, the ukemi  technique of Aikido involves neutralizing destruction on an internal level (within oneself) and maintaining a constructive aspiration which seeks a path that breathes (gives) life to a dying situation. In other words, (Aikido) is a way that serves to revive life. It is a way of harmonizing oneself and uniting with others, and ultimately, the martial technique of Aiki is (a way of) great construction.

Translation by Dennis Clark 

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