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Zen And Aikido

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by Diane Bauerle

Aiki News #90 (Winter 1992)

Our third English book publication is now at the printer and will be available in February. Most readers of Aiki News are aware of the connections between aikido and esoteric Shinto beliefs, and have heard that, unlike many other Japanese martial arts, aikido has little actual relationship to Zen. What many may not realize is the extent to which Zen philosophy has permeated Japanese martial culture—a martial culture in which Morihei Ueshiba was very much involved during his years of training in aikijujutsu, sojutsu, kenjutsu, etc., and regardless of other overt religious influences, which provided the base on which aikido was built. Thus, as Shigeo Kamata and Kenji Shimizu explain in Zen and Aikido, many essential aikido principles have their counterparts in Zen.

Kamata Sensei, who is a professor of the prestigious Tokyo University specializing in Buddhist studies, explains the fascinating journey of Zen notions from the 16th century Zen monk Takuan through his friend Munenori Yagyu, author of the hereditary books of Shinkage-ryu swordsmanship, into the philosophy of the martial arts. Other famous swordsman were influential in the blending of Zen and the martial traditions. Kamata cites in particular both Musashi Miyamoto, author of the Book of Five Rings, and Tesshu Yamaoka, who was instrumental in the evolution of kenjutsu into kendo during the nineteenth century.

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