Aikido & The Harmony of Nature
Saotome Shihan says in his dedication "Aikido is not philosophy. Aikido is the true expression and revelation of the ever-evolving functions of the universe;" and "In Asia the word Bu means to halt the danger of the thrusting blade. Since the beginnings of human culture, this concept of Bu has implied a global advancement toward the construction of a peaceful society." The rest of the book, translated by Patricia Saotome, attempts to explain these statements, with text, calligraphy, drawings, and photos. The 14 chapters include a History of the Founder, discussions of Truth, Justice, and Harmony, Aggression & the Evolution of Bujutsu, Aikido as a Budo and as a vehicle for the transmission of truth, Ki, the Training Process, the Education of an Uchi Deshi, and an examination of the Dojo as a Spritual Oasis. Although this is not a book on waza, technique is frequently discussed as a way to illustrate a point under discussion.
Earliest printings were produced by Sedirep in France (1986).
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Review by: Andrew Ebersole
This book was actually the catalyst for me to start practicing aikido. Saotome sensei has a wonderful way of expressing his ideas through words and the pictures he paints and draws. He draws parallels between physics, music, and nature and their relation to aikido and displays how all movement should be natural and reflect the interplay of natural systems. Though the book is not a step by step guide like his other book the "The Principles of Aikido" it complements that or any other book of its type. There is a wealth of pictures from when Saotome sensei was back in Hombu Dojo up through 1986 when the book was written. The book is also more than just a book about a martial art, it is more closely a reverent expository of the reality in which we all live.
Review by: Gil Gillespie
This is one of those books, along with Musashi's "Go Rin No Sho," that has always been in a state of rereading for me. I may pick them up months apart, but they are never "finished." As I've read others' opinions over the years, I've learned Saotome Sensei's book is not for everyone. So be it.
It is indeed not a technical manual. It is more correctly a window into Saotome Sensei's budo spirit, his philosophy, his soul. His artwork, idiosyncratic and individualistic, only adds to the depth, especially the one depicting man as an apelike primate in charge of nuclear weapons. That one stole the thunder from a piece I had intended on painting!
As with most books one considers great, "Aikido & Harmony of Nature" will mean different things today, next year, in five years, and so on. Does not aikido itself offer us this exact continuum? It has been criticized as abstruse, but is this not the nature of any poetic artwork? It ain't background music folks. You have to work at it, like a great jazz solo. You shouldn't read it while watching "Seinfeld."
It makes increasing sense as you stay on The Path, just as aikido techniques, pounded into us thousands of times in the dojo, lead us to principles. We can read of these principles, but we can only learn them with time, digesting and growing along The Way.
But Saotome's book is enjoyable right away. It leaps to life from the forward by Doctor Dave Jones, anthropology professor who shares professionally my personal passion with the history and culture of Japan and the American Indian. The wealth of Saotome's thought and artwork is augmented by now priceless photos of some of aikido's great sensei's in their youth.
If you're looking to build an aikido library, start here. You'll be giving yourself the gift that never stops giving.