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The Spirit of Aikido: Learning, Feeling, and Transmitting the Essence (4)

by Dennis Clark

Published Online

The Founder with Kanshu Sunadomari

We must cultivate and rebuild the ki of our spirit. Aiki is weaving the fabric of the universe in our body. It is to absorb in our body and entwine our self together in harmony with the framework of the universe. Furthermore, it is to connect the self with the hearts of the people of the world and foster goodwill and unity. From now on it goes without saying that we must refrain from war. We must not participate in fighting or warfare. Everything is to be done through harmonious connection. If we fail in doing so, true strength will not manifest. Failing to do so will make your practice in vain.

Aikido is not for the purpose of defeating others. It is for overcoming the self and accomplishing our divine mission. We must ceaselessly train to realize the goodness and virtue within our self. – Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

Interview with Sunadomari Sensei

The following interview was conducted by Dennis Clark on August 6th, 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima City, Japan.

Sensei, last month you celebrated your 82 birthday。Despite your age you still continue to teach seminars on a monthly basis. What is the motivating factor that keeps you going?

Rather than use the term “motivation”, I think it is best to say that I continue to teach in the spirit of physically transmitting to others my experiences, in particular, in relation to the philosophy and spirit of the Founder. If this (Aikido) was nothing more than a mere physical undertaking, it would of course be different. In “The Spirit of Aikido”, the Founder alludes to the “unification of body and spirit”, I continue to teach with the feeling of disseminating to others through the physical body the heart and mindset of “extinguishing our enemies”. This is the source of my motivation, if you will.

It seems to me that most people in your generation through their experiences in World War II are truly aware of our present affluence and have a true understanding of the importance of peace. However, is it possible for our younger generation, most of whom have no background and no such experience, to truly understand and be aware of this?

Unfortunately, without having really experienced such things, it is impossible to truly understand them. Today is the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Even though sixty years have passed, many of the victims who are still alive today continue in their campaign to promote disarmament and eradication of nuclear weapons. This is because these people have experienced and felt first hand the misery and destructive power of atomic weapons.

I believe that our current techniques of Aiki Manseido are excellent for transmitting peace. When our partner comes at us with all of his physical strength, we can clearly demonstrate to him in an instant that this method of interaction is in error. Through the techniques of Aiki Manseido, we can pass on to others the concept that we have no enemies. When our techniques are applied, uke is not thrown through the application of pain, but rather it feels good to be thrown. Philosophy cannot be transmitted to others through words alone. We must pass it on through our techniques. In order for your technique to become genuine and real, you must reach a point where you can do this through the physical body. This is (the process of) shugyo.

At the beginning of each practice we recite, “The Spirit of Aiki Manseido”. In these words there is a sentence which refers to accomplishing our individual mission. Furthermore, in your book you have written that at a certain stage of life you became aware of your mission. It seems to me that many people in my generation, including myself, are loitering around seemingly without any sense of real purpose or the desire to pursue a career. What would you say is the key for discovering one’s mission or life`s work?

I believe that this “mission” to which the Founder refers is now, at your present stage, taking action and doing what you feel that you can do for the betterment of the world. The fundamental principal for discovering one’s life’s mission is “the spirit of love and reverence for all things” which the Founder points to. In my case, I pursued the philosophy of the Founder through the martial arts and in doing so developed my present technique. It is this that I endeavor to transmit to others and by doing so I feel that it will lead to the fulfillment of my mission.

Something which I often mention to my students is (the importance of) waking up in the morning, facing the sun and folding one’s hands together in gratitude for what we have and in prayer for peace on earth. The life of all living things on earth is sustained by light and heat from the sun. Given this, it is evident that we all have the same parent and that we are all brothers and sisters. This is not just theory. By understanding this basic truth, one comes to the realization that we are all the same and that the people of the world are all brothers and sisters. It is by grasping this that that one becomes able to put it into practice and take action. Such a simple thing really shouldn`t be so difficult to do.

Excerpts from the Aiki Manseido Yudansha Seminar

The following are excerpts compiled from Sunadomari Sensei`s instruction at the Aiki Manseido Yudansha Seminar which occurred the following day on August 7th, 2005.


When your partner comes to strike you, pivot your body and without putting power in your shoulders or arms, simply raise your hand and entrust yourself to the point of contact. All you need to do is softly connect with him. This (type of movement) is quick and powerful.

Three Stages

(When grabbed katate-dori by uke) there are three stages: applying physical power with your arm, making your arm go completely limp, and harmoniously connecting with him. It is very important to thoroughly understand these three stages. To do so may seem simple, but in fact it is quite difficult. If you attempt to use physical power, it will become a mere physical contest. If you go completely limp, you will be completely helpless and be defeated by your partner. However, if you harmoniously tie yourself together with him, he cannot apply technique. If you maintain this state, no matter how he resists, you can adapt with this and move him at will. This is not something which can be understood simply by reading books and watching videos. It is important to feel it directly. You must receive it and grasp through the mind and spirit. Currently I am 82 years old. Yet at this point in time I feel that I am the strongest that I have ever been. This strength comes from the realm of the spirit. Physically I am declining rapidly each and everyday. So much so that simple things I used to do in the space of ten minutes now take me over an hour. However, despite this, I still continue to train with all of you.

To defeat others in conflict fails in bringing peace

The other day, when listening to a (Japanese) radio station, there was a feature on an opinion poll taken recently in the United States of America. In it a majority of the respondents believed that World War III will occur at some point. This is no doubt because at present all over the world we are experiencing numerous conflicts. Yet, the idea that peace can be created through war and conflict is mistaken. Even if a war is won, peace will not prevail. True peace is born through a spirit of love and reverence for all things.