Although I have read O’Sensei’s doka (songs / poems of The Way) in many places online and in books, these are verbatim from The Aikido FAQ. I especially enjoy analyzing the metaphorical ones that don’t make sense to me right away. Here are just two such doka, along with how my mind deciphers them.
“His sword raised to the attack
The enemy flies at the man he thinks before him
But from the very start
I was standing behind him”
This either makes no sense or is a metaphor. I believe it is about empathic love for all people, even if that means tough love. I believe that “standing behind him” means understanding what’s fundamentally best for all people, then supporting every person’s buddha-nature (perfect soul beneath all corrosion of ignorance). Also, I understand that when it came to two swordsman of old Japan, the protector would stand behind and to the left of the protected, becoming an obstacle for assault on the protected’s most out-of-reach place if he had to draw his sword. So, an enemy might rush to attack on a whim of fear, yet then realize he or she is attacking a person who in fact wants to help him or her.
“Except for blending with the void
There is no way to understand
The Way of Aiki.”
I began Aikido training in January 1999, not even a month since learning of this martial art’s existence. Having faith in what I read online and in a couple books, I began with optimism and humility. The humility was the easy part, as I watched both my sensei and many senpai do incredible things. I hoped I would learn someday, but I did not feel the need to be in a racecar (my favorite palindrome). I learned about meditating and took the idea seriously for the first time. I went to sparsely populated parks and learned how to clear my mind. I enjoyed keiko, and I realized early on that it kept gasoline in my newfound vehicle of mental serenity. Because I thought it possible, I was able to discover “blending with the void.” For someone who does not know what it means, as I did not for my first 20 years, I believe the most someone can do for another is suggest meditation along with a supportive, active discipline such as Aikido, and most importantly, promise the potential for its existence. Even at the face value of this doka, O’Sensei generously offers a simplistic, yet absolutely true message.