The Floating Bridge of Heaven


Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba referred to the connection between the Tale of the Floating Bridge of Heaven (Ame no Uki Hashi) and Aikido when he said that “Aikido is ‘Standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven’.”

ImageThe “Floating Bridge of Heaven” may very well be the most essential point of the creation myth of Japan.

This tale has been recorded in the Kojiki (“A Record of Ancient Affairs”). It speaks of two divine beings summoned by the first of the gods: Izanagi  and Izanami. Long ago, when the world was just beginning, two gods appeared in the land we call Japan. Izanami (“The Female who Invites), the female essence, and Izanagi (The Male who Invites), the male essence, stood upon the floating bridge of heaven, looking down at the swirl of sea below. They began to stir the ocean with their jewel-studded spear. As they stirred, they said these words: “Kohro, Kohro, Kohro,” and before long, because they stirred with such strength and determination, a vortex was created, and the drops of saltwater from the spear caused the waters to curdle, and from this curdling came the first body of land, an island the gods called Onokoro.

Back to O’Sensei, he continues to say

“In the Way, you must first stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven. If you do not stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven then Aiki will not come forth.”

“The left hand is Izanagi, the right is Izanami, in the center is Ame-no-minakanushi, this is yourself. This is standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and turning in a spiral. This is called Taka-ama-hara. Heaven and earth are one unit, water and fire are also one unit, all appears through Iki (breath). This is the endless appearance of the Kami. Aiki technique comes forth endlessly.”

Further, in a Doka (Poems of the Way) of O’Sensei, he states:

“Manifest yo (yang) in the right hand, change the left hand to in (yin) and guide the opponent.”

Ame-no-minakanushi was the first deity to appear in heaven (along with Kunitokotachi) who charged Izanami and Izanagi to create the first landmass. In this account from O’Sensei, it is being said that the creation myth is a analogy: wherein Ame-no-minakanushi is in the center (you) and on the left is Izanagi (in/yin) and on the right is Izanami (yo/yang). This is an illustration of the most basic principle of Aikido.

In an interview with Henry Kono Shihan, he recalls a story about an experience he had with O’Sensei:

One day that we were having a party for celebrating his birthday, I quietly asked O Sensei “O Sensei, how come we can’t do what you are doing?” and he just replied “Because I know Yin and Yang and you don’t”.

Now  here in Kono Shihan’s story, O’Sensei explicitly states how vital this principle is in Aikido. Here, It may be understood that O’Sensei is saying that should first understand the concept of Yin and Yang before you can even attempt to manipulate it.One of the ever famous lines of O’Sensei says:

” I am the Universe, the Universe is me.”

I believe that the Aikidoka should understand that to be able to be effective, he should be in the center (Ame-no-minakanushi) of the universe, on one hand is Izanagi/In (yin), and on the other is Izanami/Yo (yang). With the Aikidoka standing in the center of the Floating Bridge of Heaven, he unites the opposing forces of In and Yo while moving in a spiral (it is interesting to note that is said that the movement of the two gods Izanagi and Izanami as they mated is often represented as a spiral. And in addition, Izanagi stirred the seas with the jeweled spear to create a whirling vortex)

Image

The Floating Bridge of Heaven, consists of creating a state within yourself wherein you are in the center. Like the spinning top, you are stable yet dynamic. The center is on the neutral point between Izanami and Izanagi to the left and to the right, and between heaven and earth from above and below. And from this point, the Aikidoka connects opposing forces (In and Yo) and expresses that connection in spirals through the body through Breath (Iki).

This may as well be one of the most important technical instructions the founder, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei, gave us.

This gives birth to Aikido.

(Please also see: “Iwato Biraki: The Story of Amaterasu“)

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