The Purpose of Learning Aikido

Last Update Jul-22-2001

This column is created by Tomohiro Ishikawa, who is taking charge of "Rakushinkan".


In my opinion, the purpose of learning Aikido, is the same as in the other martial arts and creative arts. Simply to follow the path of " growing oneself, and letting others grow". In other words, follow the path "to develop his own character, and practice for the developing of the society". According to the introduction document, Practice the teachings from bottom of his heart, dedicate oneself to the training for the sake of the growth of oneself and the society, as disciple to be aware of the great pride and honor of this school, I swear to practice this teaching without creating disgrace.

To put it in difficult Japanese words Riji Ichi, Riji Soubou.

Ri-ji Ichi
A beginner drives a car with paying attention to both angle of steering and angle of tires. He/She has to concentrate on synchronizing steering with tires to drive well. In this case, angle of steering corresponds to "Ri", and angle of tires corresponds to "Ji". This status expressed "Riji Ichi."
Ri-ji Soubou
On the other hand, a master drives safety and arrives at destination without consciousness both steering and tires. This status expressed "Riji Soubou"

Morihei Ueshiba, a founder of AIKIDO said follows:

When you reach enlightenment, you will absorb the life energy (Ki) of the whole universe, and will become one with the nature. And you will realize everything, that is there to be realized. Takamagahara (God in Japanese myths who is said to have created the world) is in one self. You won't find Takamagahara neither in the heaven, nor on the earth. You will realize, that he is in you.

Takemusu-aiki pg.77

Shiki Masaoka (Japanese famous Haiku poet), who died when he was 36 years old, says as follows.

In the beginning I thought, that realization means to be able to die peacefully. But that is not so. It means to be able to live peacefully.

Aikido and the Formation of Character

The Martial Art that was taught by Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba, is called Aiki-kei-budo. The special version taught by Ueshiba is called Aikido. In the words of Ueshiba, Aikido is described as follows,

Instead of using a sword, you destroy the devil with your own true self. You repulse the worldly soul back to the heavenly soul. This is the duty of Aikido. The worldly soul becomes below, and heavenly soul becomes above and in front. Therefore Aikido will bring forth wonderful flowers of the spirit and they will connect with each other. And the one becoming a member of government, will serve wholeheartedly and honestly for the sake of others.

Takemusu-Aiki pg.51

After reading in it, I realized, that understanding of Shinto (Japanese myths) is necessary. At this point, I would like to speak about the view of the state of mind by Confucianism and Buddhism, to deepen the understanding of Ueshiba's ideas.

The name Aikido is the combination of "Aiki" and "Do".


First Aiki. In ancient times Japan took over from the old china the practice to fight with the sword. According to Takeda, this was regarded as the natural way to fight in the Meiji period. Also today this is called Aiki-budo or Aiki-jyujyutsu. Ueshiba then, who was a very believing person, declared, that Ai also means love (same pronunciation in Japanese, but different Chinese character), and because this is connecting spirit of loving everything in the universe, he created the name Aikido.

We, the aikido society Rakushinkan of Ki and Tanden, are realizing the idea Aikido as follows.

Aikido is the way of forming character by the training of "Aiki".

This training was learned by Chuutaro Ogawa and others from the ideas of the Japanese Kendo.

Aiki also contains the use of a sword according to the seriousness of the fight. This is important. This point of view touches the roots of a human being. In behalf not to loose own life, one must be able to solve the question of life and death. Therefore in Aiki the meaning "being alive", is a basic idea of life. In Aikido scripts you can read "Armed with the sword of Riai(encounter of reason)...), that means, that one can solve the problem of life and death by learning simply Riai, Maai(encountering distance), judgment of the body and the use of the sword.


Concerning "Do", the way. In the beginning, martial arts were used, but to be able to win, different things were researched. In the beginning of Tokugawa Period, martial arts started to embrace Buddhism, Shinto Japanese myths, Confucianism, Lao-Tseu, Tchouang-Tseu. Sword fighter Toranosuke Shimada, who was learning Confucianism, said The sword becomes one with the heart. When your heart is correct, you can't fail to win. The one who wants to learn to use a sword, must start learning from his heart. Somebody who learns martial arts this way is different from somebody who merely lives following his instincts.

From the Art of Self-Protection to the Art of Protecting Gods

As here mentioned, the "living body" only, is seen in Budo as self-protection. The goal is to protect own independence and health. This alone might be important, but it's only one point in Budo.

But let's see. Regard your everyday-life. Remember the time, when You feel to stand in front of a big wall. Is the real difficulty how thick the wall is? No. Often it's not this wall, which hinders us in continuing on our path, but our own heart. If you really face that wall, in maybe 80% you can surmount it. Don't You actually loose half of your will through feelings like doubts in yourself? Once, long time ago, I heard the following. I don't remember the origin, but I repeat it as remember it.

The will looses its way through delusions. If this will stood up, you could have heard the sound of hundreds of dark hearts fleeing the scene. It's like the dirty water of a pond can't mix with the clean fountain on it's ground.

It's the same in Budo, more important, than the brilliance of your rivals skills, is the strength of Your heart facing him/her. In simple words, the one whose heart wavers, will loose.

The second point in Aikido and Budo is the "living heart". A figure(Car-Racer) in a TV drama says. "When you reach a speed of 300km/h (190mph) you start to wonder what to do. It's not the problem of Your technique, but of this fear. It might be a commonplace to say, but one has to be crystal clear in his way of life."

So is somebody who mastered these two points of Budo a winner? That is not so. The man suffers the unavoidable sufferings of birth, age, sickness and death. How can one overcome these sufferings in high spirit?

Everybody has to die one day. I don't really know what happens after one dies. The one thing I can say is, if one is filled with anger or hatred in the moment of his/her death, so his/her death will become an endless darkness. But if one is filled with gratitude and love, his/her death will be an endless world of light. Some old clerics described this as heaven. But one cannot cheat in this crucial moment. It reflects one's whole life. Some religions refer to the hell and the devil, A judgment of one's sins. But this hell and the judgment are within your self. What you think at that moment is the crucial moment of winning or loosing. I could experience this myself, when I had a car accident on a frozen road when I was about 20 years old.

Therefore we say, that the "living of the world of light" is Budo of protecting gods. This is the third point in Aikido and Budo.

Formation of Character

Some simple words about the formation of character. Man can be roughly divided in three groups. The lowest groups are people, who like animals, try to satisfy their lowest instincts no matter what. They follow like animals their instincts and desires.

The average man. These are living for the sake of wealth and glory, what isn't so bad of course. Instincts and desires are the engine and the intellect and reason are the breaks to their "car". Using the engine and the breaks, one can run a car. But if one runs the car without knowing the goal, one gets lost and an accident can happen very easily. With intellect and reason alone it becomes very difficult to maintain adherent. The intellect of the science alone creates nuclear weapons that can destroy the whole mankind and the environment, and can progress in the field of gene technology. If one uses the reason in favor of a religion, this also can lead to a war in which many can die.

Therefore it would be for the best, if people would aim a little bit higher. This aim is called since ancient times god, Buddha or the universal spirit. People persuading this aim are called "Dojin"(Man of the path).

Man is afraid of facing life and death. A "Dojin" is while living, in control of life and death.

In Buddhism this is called "Jiri", formation of character, religion of reason. Next is the formation of character of the society. If the forming of character of single persons and the formation of the character of the society exist, that is the beginning of the formation of character of man. When one experiences joy, he wants to share it with others. This is Aikido's spirit and leads to the happy formation of character of the society. This is not only in the sake of one person, but of the whole society. Therefore it's more important. Herein lies the goal of Aikido and the whole culture itself. So we can accomplish a peaceful world. This is the fourth and final goal of Aikido and Budo.

Above the entrance of dojyo(the main hall) of the "Ki TO TANDEN NO AIKIDO KAI - Rakushinkan"(in Chiba/Tokyo), for which I am responsible, is written 4 characters "Shin(Spirit)-Raku(Enjoy)-Ki(Ki)-Wa(peacefully)". My beloved mentor Ms. Demizu has inscribed it. In this sense I pray, that people in the whole world can meet each other with light hearts and peaceful life power.

Ueshiba said following:

To learn AIKIDO, you have to form yourself at first, then make nation better and form nation, make human being better and form human being, make the earth better.

Takemusu-Aiki, pg.34

Instead of Invading the other nation and killing others, give all people their own role and make them live. Format the world as a family, and achieve that all people can work part of the universe. This is the purpose of AIKIDO

Takemusu-Aiki, pg.128