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Founder of Aikido (23): Kotodama to Takemusu Aiki

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #52 (January 1983)

We would like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

Morihei Ueshiba

In addition to instructing at the Ueshiba School, the founder engaged in the teaching of groups of youngsters at the request of Master Onisaburo. The main purpose seemed to be to give the children some grasp of proper behavior and, in general, to instill discipline among the youngsters.

The founder decided that it would be better to give them some sense of a common goal and proposed the formation of a fire defense organization. The headquarters was a simple “fire house” built next to the dojo but it was furnished with good equipment and was especially well equipped for the time. The young members devotedly rushed to put fires out everywhere and after a year or two they were known as the “Famous Omoto Fire Defense Brigade of Ayabe.”

The founder focused his efforts on establishing discipline while, at the same time, trying to create a place for communication among the members. They had a battalion, companies and platoons and severe military-style training three or four times a week. This attitude, however, applied only when they were actually practicing and the “fire house” soon turned into the youngster’s “hangout,” and a place to let off steam. Fire Chief, Brigade Commander Ueshiba, genuinely enjoyed making noise with them and they used to sing loudly together and have plenty of fun.

It is clear that the role the founder played at Omoto in terms of human relations was very important. But perhaps the opening of his spiritual eyes which came from so much direct contact with Master Onisaburo was more vital to him personally.

It would be impossible to analyze this enlightenment in detail, so let us look at the concepts of kotodama and musubi as examples. In Japan, kotodama has been thought to manifest a person’s holiness. Whether or not a person embodied kotodama would decide the superiority of his character. It was believed that there dwells some mysterious universal life force, a sort of spirit power in “words that one utters at the extreme peak time of his mind and body.” Kotodama is the nucleus of each “word” in our “language” and if we look at the vibrations that form the actual words, kotodama takes the form of “voice,” “sound,” and “rhyme.” In its purest form it may become as abstract as “air” or “breath” surpassing human knowledge and can only be labeled as “soul.” This, then, is a purely intuitive kind of wisdom, that brings one to the level of inspiration. Here “the Word” is “with God.”

In the past, the concepts for “god,” “ghost,” “soul,” and “spirit” were all labeled “tama.” In opposition to these were the “mono,” a word representing materiality and that which was disruptive of spirituality. When spirituality is disrupted both the ki and the breath (iki) are thrown into disorder. In this case, what was intended to be a soul possessing tama can only function as “mono.” Words, then, are empty sounds, and speech becomes as sort of “toying with empty words,” the antithesis of the kotodama.

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