Selected Teachings

Selected Teachings of O-Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba)

The universe is our greatest teacher, our greatest friend. Look at the way a stream wends its way through a mountain valley, smoothly transforming itself as it flows over and around the rocks. The world’s wisdom is contained in books, and by studying them, countless new techniques can be created. Study and practice, then reflect on your progress. Aikido is the art of learning deeply, the art of knowing oneself.

Aiki is an inexhaustible fountain of wisdom. It is the source of all the true knowledge contained in the world’s classics. But aiki is not something you can master in four or five years. It takes at least ten years to grasp the basics of aiki, and it is dangerous to foolishly strive for some grandiose experience that you think will render you instantly enlightened. Never consider yourself an all-knowing master. You must always be training and studying with your students.

The practice of Aikido is an act of faith, a belief in the power of non-violence. It is not a type of rigid discipline or empty asceticism. It is a path that follows the principles of nature, principles that must apply to daily living. Aikido should be practiced from the time you rise to greet the morning to the time you retire at night.

Aikido is non-violence. Every human being has been entrusted with a mandate from heaven, and the victory we seek is to overcome all challenges and fight to the finish, accomplishing our goals. In Aikido we never attack. If you want to strike first, to gain advantage over someone, that is proof your training is insufficient, and it is really you yourself who has been defeated. Let your partner attack, and use his aggression against him. Do not cower from an attack; control it before it begins. Nonviolence is the true practice of Aikido.

In my Aikido, there are no opponents, no enemies. I do not want to overwhelm everyone with brute strength, nor do I want to smash every challenger to the ground. In true budo there are no opponents, no enemies. In true budo, we seek to be one with all things, to return to the very heart of creation. The purpose of Aikido training is not to make you simply stronger or tougher than others; it is to make you a warrior for world peace. This is our mission in Aikido.

Many paths lead to the peak of Mount Fuji, but the goal is the same. There are many methods of reaching the top, but they all can bring us to the heights. There is no need to battle with each other – we are all brothers and sisters who should walk the path together, hand in hand. Keep to the path, and nothing else will matter. Then you lose your desire for things that do not matter, you will be free. Those who desire nothing possess everything.

First of all, you must put your own life in order. Then you must learn how to maintain ideal relations with your own family. After that, you must work to improve the conditions in your own country, and then how to live harmoniously with the world at large. This is our duty as practitioners of Aikido.

Keep your hands, hips, and feet in a straight line and your body and mind centered. Your hands are the key to systematically guiding and controlling your partner. If you partner pulls, let him pull, but become one with that pull yourself. In training, discern that which the opponent lacks and then supply it. That is Aikido.

In order to practice Aikido properly, you must not forget that all things originate from One Source; envelop yourself with love, and embrace sincerity. A technique that is based only on physical force is weak; a technique based on spiritual power is strong.

War must cease. We are all members of one big family; now is the time to eliminate fighting and contention. This world was created to be a thing of beauty. If there is no love between us, that will be the end of our home, the end of our country, and the end of our world. Love generates heat and light. That is the spirit of Aikido training.

Aikido is good for the health. It helps you manifest your inner and outer beauty. It fosters good manners and proper deportment. Aikido teaches you how to respect others, and how not to behave in a rude manner. It is not easy to live up to the ideals of Aikido but we must do so at all cost – otherwise our training is in vain.

Keep your movement circular. Imagine a circle with a cross drawn through it. Place yourself in the center of that circle and stand there firmly in a triangular stance. Link yourself to the ki of heaven and earth, pivot around the front foot, and lead your partner around that center.

In the old days, a swordsman would let an enemy slice the surface of his skin in order to cut into his enemy’s flesh; sometimes he would even sacrifice his flesh in order to slash through to the enemy’s bone. In Aikido, such attitude is unacceptable. We want both attacker and defender to escape unharmed. Rather than risk injury to attain victory, you must learn how to lead your partner. Control an opponent by always putting yourself in a secure, safe place.

There is no place in Aikido for pettiness and selfish thoughts. Rather than being captivated by notions of “winning or losing,” seek the true nature of things. Your thoughts should reflect he grandeur of the universe, realm beyond life and death. If your thoughts are antagonistic towards the cosmos, those thoughts will destroy you and wreak havoc on the environment.

Train hard, experience the light and warmth of Aikido, and be a real person. Train more, and learn the principles of nature. Aikido is becoming established all over, but it will have a different expression in each place it takes root. Continually adapt the teachings and create a beautiful, pure land.

Abstract taken from Shambhala Guide to Aikido
by John Stevens (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1996)