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Founder of Aikido (35): Birth Of The Kobukai Foundation

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #64 (November 1984)

The following is a chapter summary published with the kind permission of Mr. Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Aikido Doshu.

I met a university professor at the New York dojo a few years ago. When I asked him why he was so interested in aikido he answered, “I have been doing Zen (zazen seated meditation) for some time… But… after I started practicing aikido, I felt like the feeling of Zen had come right into my body. I realized that this must be “moving Zen”. Now, I intend to study both together.”

Surprisingly, many people practice aiki and Zen relating them to each other as a way to “enlightenment,” one representing the plane of action and the other the plane of quietude. What is more, many believe that the founder practiced Zen although, in fact, the founder never showed much interest in the sect. He would humbly admit the value of a genuine and deep study of the way of Zen but he strongly disliked dabblers. Still, some great Zen masters like Mr. Daisetsu Suzuki wanted to meet him. Dr. Suzuki later related his impressions to Master Akitsuki who had introduced him:

” I would not say that Mr. Ueshiba has experienced Zen. But I think that (his) is certainly one form of “oriental enlightenment.” … Aikido will definitely become a “worldwide aikido” in the near future. (But) it will be quite difficult to back it up ideologically if (as O-Sensei did) one uses only the special terminology of Shinto… It may not appeal to Mr. Ueshiba, but it would be good for both aiki and Zen to fortify aiki with a philosophy (based on) Mahayana Buddhism, especially in its Zen form. I say this because, from the philosophical viewpoint, aiki and Zen naturally link together.”

Mr. Sogen Omori is known as a great modern-day master of Zen, swordsmanship and iai. He is also the author of the famous book, The Sword and Zen. Master Omori also spoke to Master Akitsuki about the founder:

“I was at a meeting when I saw a small-built old man sitting bolt upright. His body revealed no unnecessary strain and he showed a complete and selfless calmness; he did not have the slightest opening. I intuitively knew that a martial artist who could sit like that could only be the famous old Ueshiba. And I was right.”

The founder’s friends came from many fields but he was not the type who loved all people with a god-like magnanimity. He had strong preferences. His acute insight into a person’s authenticity made him severe and at times he refused to let certain people come near him. On the other hand, his experience of hardship and his “self-realization of the love and protection of all beings” helped him see people not critically but with understanding. This together with his natural warm feelings attracted people to him. He responded to their inner personality rather than their outer appearance and they opened up their hearts to him with respect.

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