Brian Kagen pick: “In the Beginning—The Kototama of Su” by William Gleason

Aikido has its roots in Japanese Shinto, the original teaching of which is the kototama. It is from the kototama, which translates as “the souls of words,” that the innate sensibilities of language and thought are created.

The kototama, however, should not be seen as a tool for dividing people or distinguishing one race from another. As the root of thought itself, and therefore of all spoken language, it is a tool for understanding our common origins and ultimate unity.”

Brian Kagen is an avid web researcher with a particular interest in martial arts. His training background includes both judo and aikido. He has contributed hundreds of article links over the years for AJ readers.

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  1. Bruce Baker says:

    Whenever … someone tells you about something sacred, be it sounds, be it text, be it stories … you have to realize how we made it up because the human mind more often than not is NOT able to understand the SCIENCE of NATURE.

    Yes, there is a science behind human beings connecting to nature, Nature being the LIVING WORLD AROUND US and us being living creatures in that world.

    For instance, did you know that elephants communicate with sounds in a range below our level of hearing? They send these sounds not only through the air but through the ground and receive these sounds through their feet miles away. Their ears are for cooling the hot blood of their body like a radiator for a car. Saw that on the Science Channnel, very interesting parallel for how we human beings use sounds to communicate or connect to each other. We should not discount this study just because our culture does not understand what it does or how it works.

    I am not saying that someone who says they are ‘sacred sounds’ is wrong, or that we human beings are the creators of said sound, but I am saying that we have a body that has evolved from our environment and when we connect to that environment beyond our simple minds we find more than we can understand.

    For my simple mind, although it rejects the premise of sacred sounds, and the cultural premise of Kotodama, I none-the-less do understand that there is a science behind everything that we revere as sacred because we have seen, heard, or experienced something in nature or the world around us and interpreted it in a way we can understand.

    John Stevens gave a couple of workshops in his seminars with his understanding of Kotodama, and although I know I am a knucklehead who truly doesn’t believe in these sacred sounds or them thar practices have a divine anything, my mind understands how they must have developed as in a holistic manner they worked in practice.

    The Question always is … how does the majority of practitioners learn to make these practices work for them even if they are from far different cultures, thinking different thoughts, approaching the practice from different perspectives?

    Ground rules, basics, reshaping their approach so that as each person gains confidence in the application and the positive results of these applications until they begin to understand both the religious state of mind with it’s faith and the examination of science as we know all scientific knowledge comes from the world around us and nature itself which is the reflection of the universe around us is how we do it.

    Hey, aren’t we part of nature too? Well, dammit, that means you too are part of the sounds, the sights, the very fabric of nature too!

    What I am saying is … it is as much thought, state of mind, practicing to find the harmony of you, the harmony of what you are doing to connect to the nature of the situation before you, as much as it is sometimes, the dis-harmony of going against that nature to disturb it for an observed cause and effect.

    Healing sounds, and indeed there are soothing sounds that placate and heal, as well as violent sounds that disturb nature itself in the violent interaction, which one must not use too often as damage may occur to the user as well at the attacker, are what we need to be aware of in the pursuit of this practice.

    All these these things about sounds can be found in Science, in the observation of nature, in the practical written documents of past history, and many times in the videos or experiments of our modern times.

    So, what once was the sacred texts, the religious, is now paralleled in the search for science and weapons of war as we find … there actually is a scientific basis for the Kotodama. Just like any weapon, it can destroy, as we all know weapons can harm as well as serve, or it can be a tool for a particular purpose which can promote an environment of healing also.

    What scares me about the practice of using sounds is their capacity to harm the user themselves, especially when improperly practiced without a teacher, or not used with the majority of healing sounds so that little to no damage occurs during the initiates attempt to grasp sound, thought, and visualization of thoughts which can cause actual physical illness if one becomes fixated on bad thoughts as well as bad sounds, or should I just say negative thoughts/ negative sounds.

    I am already going on too long in the tooth for this to be a short comment.

    Suffice to say, the comparison is to create the best environment possible to achieve the desired results. This is but another tool in achieving those ends.

    If you haven’t already at least read about this aspect of Aikido practice, do so at your soonest convenience. There is a health danger to using this practice, so just don’t think you can uses sounds to attack, one must study and paint the broad picture of Eastern medicine as well as Western medicine with it’s scientific results so the practice falls into a realm of safe application and practice for the practitioner, at least that is my opinion from my studies and my own personal interpretation of Kotodama.

    Used improperly without healing, or used too often, the body will react to it in a negative manner and you will find health problems you have being amplified, at least that is what I found. As I said, this is my opinion, which some practitioners disagree with, but then I say give it time …. you too will see the results over time. Even the founder realized the healing properties as well as the damaging properties if certain practices were used. Damaging properties used too often would shorten one’s life-span, and all we really have in this life of ours is that short span of years on earth.

    Please, be aware of how your body feels, how those around you react when you practice these sounds, not seeking one that damages, but seeking one that both heals and seeks the harmony of nature.


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