What the ‘Aikido’ philosophy teaches us about creativity and courage

An illustrated introduction

I was recently reading the teachings of one of my new favourites: Morihei Ueshiba.

I was struck by how inspiring and relevant to today his writing was.

His words bring a much-needed freshness and vigour to the distracted and stressful lives many of us can live.

What I like is how he often uses the natural world as a metaphor to help us more deeply understand how to live bravely.

Morihei Ueshiba (1883–1969) was a Japanese martial artist. He was known to be an invincible warrior. He was very much against fighting, war and any violence. This seems at odds with being a warrior, except that he promoted a form of defensive engagement.

He understood that continued fighting with others, ourselves and the environment, will ultimately ruin the Earth. And so he taught ‘Aikido,’ translated as ‘The Art of Peace.’

Aikido is a creative mind-body discipline, taught as a practical way to handle aggression, external attack, and as a philosophy to deal with life creatively.

So not only did his teachings apply to the physical martial art itself but also to how we can live in harmony with others and the world.

Ueshiba called his grand vision: ‘Takemusu Aikido’ — ‘Courageous and Creative Living.’

I have taken some of my favourite sayings, which especially apply to our everyday lives as artists. His words are in italics.

One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.

If you have life in you, you have access to the secrets of the ages, for the truth of the universe resides in each and every human being.

Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead. The Art of Peace is a celebration of the bonding of heaven, earth, and humankind. It is all that is true, good and beautiful.

Now and again, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life. Breathe in and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe out and bring the cosmos back inside.

Fill your body with ‘ki’ and sense the manner in which the universe functions — its shape, its colour, and its vibrations.

Next, breathe up all the fecundity [meaning fertility] and vibrancy of the earth.

Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with your own, becoming the Breath of Life itself.

Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature. Your body and mind will be gladdened, depression and heartache will dissipate, and you will be filled with gratitude.

Do not fail to learn from the pure voice of an ever-flowing mountain stream splashing over the rocks.

Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the highest peak, and the deepest ocean, empty of all limiting thoughts.

As soon as you concern yourself with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticising others weakens and defeats you.

Life is within death; death is within life; you must exist right here, right now!

Never fear another challenger, no matter how large; Never despise another challenger, no matter how small.

Loyalty and devotion lead to bravery. Bravery leads to the spirit of self-sacrifice. The spirit of self-sacrifice creates trust in the power of love.

Those who are enlightened never stop forging themselves. The realisations of such masters can not be expressed well in words or by theories. The most perfect actions echo the patterns found in nature.

Face a single foe as if you are facing ten thousand enemies; face ten thousand enemies as a single foe.

Iron is full of impurities that weaken it; through forging, it becomes steel and is transformed into a razor-sharp sword. Human beings develop in the same fashion.

Instructors can impart a fraction of the teaching. It is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries of the Art of Peace are brought to life.

Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout. Just as a lotus flower springs from the mire to bloom splendidly, the interaction of the cosmic breath causes the flower of the spirit to bloom and bear fruit in this world.

The Art of Peace is the principle of non-resistance. Because it is nonresistant, it is victorious from the beginning. Those with evil intentions or contentious thoughts are vanquished. The Art of Peace is invincible because it contends with nothing.

When your eyes engage those of another person, greet him or her with a smile and they will smile back. This is one of the essential techniques of the Art of Peace.

[Author’s note: And one of the best ways to continually sharpen your courage and increase your sense of joy.]

Always practice the Art of Peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.

The physical center is your belly. If your mind is set there as well, you are assured of victory in any endeavour.

In the Art of Peace, we aim to see everything at once, taking in the entire field of vision in a single glance.

In the Art of Peace, we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control. Never run away from any kind of challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it.

[Author’s note: applies to negative thinking and judgment, also. Creativity is rooted in observation and using flowing energy constructively, rather than resisting it].

Progress comes to those who train and train; Reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere.

[Author’s note: This applies to any skill. There are no shortcuts — only the fruits of action accumulated day after day.]

In your training, do not be in a hurry, for it takes a minimum of ten years to master the basics and advance to the first rung. Never think of yourself as an all-knowing, perfected master; you must continue to train daily with your friends and students and progress together in the Art of Peace.

Cast off limiting thoughts and return to true emptiness. Stand in the midst of the great void. This is the secret of the Way of the Warrior.

[Author’s note: this will particularly set you apart in our smart phone world, where there is always a fix to impending boredom.

The ‘warriors’ get comfortable with the ‘void.’ The ‘void’ is where you can access your spirit — the true source of creativity and courage.]

Clap if you found this useful. It helps keep me going!

Thank you.

With special thanks to John Stevens, who translated the teachings of Ueshiba, so that I could use them here. His book the ‘Art of Peace’ is here.

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Originally published at steemit.com on September 11, 2017.