Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the sword was primarily made to protect. No. The intention was to slay. The more lethal the art, the more efficient it is. Such was the path of a martial artist. However, in the course of history, humanity has long been seeking the good, especially after having seen the devastation of evil. And from a sword that kills (The Sword of Death, Satsujinken), people started adapting the idea of a sword that preserves or gives life (The Sword of Life, Katsujinken).
Now Katsujinken and Satsujinken cannot be one without the other. Like in the principle of Yin and Yang, there is a dualism that exists: “in all evil there can be some good, and in all good there can be some evil”. This is a natural law, in an attempt to maintain homeostasis. Like in all things, there should be balance, without which, there can only be chaos. It is believed, at least in Japan, that martial artists are like iron, forged into swords in an anvil, ultimately used as tools either to kill (Satsujinken), or to protect (Katsujinken). It is for the martial artist to choose what sword to wield. But the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei thought of a higher path.
Indeed martial arts have always been taught to maim or kill. There was no martial art to satiate the purpose of peace. This is where the uniqueness of Aikido enters.
O’Sensei fashioned Aikido in such a way that it can be used as a tool for reconciliation and peace. Without giving up the battle, O’Sensei sought of a martial system that can be both efficient and life-saving. The mere fact that this seems like an oxymoron is why Aikido is such an innovative art. As O’Sensei said:
“The penetrating brilliance of a sword wielded by a man of the Way
strikes at the enemy lurking deep within one’s own body and mind.”
In Aikido, we manipulate the energy of an attack, neutralize it, and then overwhelm the aggressor with our technique. Once the technique is finished, we find ourselves in a position of control, and it is here where the threat has been eliminated, and reconciliation can begin. As with all things that need to reconcile, in a martial situation, the way of Aikido starts with hope, and it is in this hoping that our hearts aim for peace. From this example, the efficiency of Satsujinken or the Sword of Death and the will of Katsujinken or the Sword of Life are coexisting in perfect harmony. Aikido has struck the delicate balance between martial effectiveness and transcendental love.
In a broader understanding, Aikido is more than a martial art. It is a Budo, a martial way. To learn Aikido is impossible without learning the principles of peace because these principles are deeply rooted within the very purpose of Aikido itself.
In everyday life, Aikido teaches a person not to be wimps but to be champions with a heart. There can never be real peace in a win-lose situation, and to give up without making a stand creates resentment within the defeated and is therefore unacceptable. Resentment are seeds of conflict, and there can never be real reconciliation until the conflict is thoroughly neutralized.
Aikido is also called the Art of Peace. Aikido teaches a person to live in such a way that we always strive to resolve a conflict and not reinforce it by hate. Aikido goes beyond the martial discipline through the brilliance of its philosophy. It digs deep into the very dynamics of the circumstances, and changes the dynamics to create a win-win situation. As such, Aikido is both martial, and philosophical as well. Through its seemingly endless applicability to everyday life, Aikido is more than just a hobby. It has become a way of life.
(Please also see: “Aikido and the Two Faces“)