Aikido: Philosophy and Movement

Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei

Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei

How do you train? In Aikido the training pattern usually follows the same sequence: The teacher demonstrates a technique, and we try to do this technique in pairs, training the steps over and over again until the teacher signals for us to stop, and then he proceeds to demonstrate the next technique. This cycle is continued until the kokyudosa at the end of the class. Then we go home and that’s that.

Sometimes after this sequence there may be some other training exercises like tanninzugake or jiyuwaza training that can be done. But this is the usual pattern isn’t it? Warm-up, Aiki Taiso, pair work (with or without weapons), the optional jiyuwaza/tanninzugake, and kokyudosa at the end. All Aikido dojos, regardless of “style”, follow this training pattern, don’t they?

Lately I have been reflecting on the direction Aikido is taking, considering the current training regimen we are adapting.

Aikido is a balance of philosophy and martial movement.

Movement not based on philosophy or philosophy not applicable to movement is not Aikido. All Aikido movement follow a structure based on principles, and all principles follow a structure derived from movement. Both movement and philosophy can stand alone, but for these to be Aikido, I have come to realize that one should not be without the other. O’Sensei said that Aikido is 50% Bu (practice of martial movement) and 50%  Bun (philosophy, deep learning). Our bu enlightens our bun, and our bun enlightens our bu.

I like to think of it this way:
100% Philosophy and Principles in 100% Movement  makes 100% Aikido.

I know O’Sensei is more of the mathematician. I propose this equation to emphasize the importance of both. The philosophy of Aikido is a stand-alone, and the martial movements/techniques of Aikido is a stand-alone as well. But apart from each other, it is never Aikido, nor is it partially Aikido. I have come to think that there should be a deliberate 100% philosophical rationale behind our movements and that the philosophy should also be 100% applicable to movement or techniques for it to be Aikido. This way, there is unity in mind and body, in our will and in what we do.

It is like the 2 sides of the coin. If you look at just one of either side, you can say it is a quarter (for example), but for that discoid piece of metal to be a quarter and have any real value, the faces of the two sides should have been pressed onto the coin. It is never really a quarter if only one side has a face while the other is left blank.

zen in motionOne without the other is not Aikido, or at least doesn’t really have any real value. Our actions and our intentions should manifest each other. Do we integrate the philosophy in our movements? Or the movements in our philosophy? Rather, can we integrate these given our training methods?

This is something we should think about and apply. Aikido is not just a martial art but a philosophy in itself expressed in martial movement. It is Zen in motion and the motion in Zen. It is Mu in motion and the motion in Mu. It is the universe in motion and the motion of the universe.

Aikido is the expression of peace through movement, a coming together in love.


(Please also see: “Mushin: The Mind without Mind“)


4 thoughts on “Aikido: Philosophy and Movement

  1. What a great article. You approach also applies to other thinks like golf, art, music and life. There has to be a balance and feeding both the Bu and Bun at the same time is critical to living. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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