Recommended reading: “Touching the Absolute: Aikido vs. Religion and Philosophy” by Peter Goldsbury

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

The title of this essay has been chosen mainly for aesthetic reasons and does not really give an accurate indication of the contents. I propose to consider aikido in opposition to religion and philosophy only in a very broad sense and do not imply that they are mutually exclusive. However, there are some issues here. Many claims have been made for the efficacy of aikido and not just as a system of self-defence. Practice is supposed to have a dimension that can be called spiritual. But some questions have to be posed. Can the practice of aikido help one to be a good Christian, or Muslim, or agnostic, or even atheist, and if so, how? In what sense can aikido practice be said to ‘complete’ the spiritual and moral life of a practising Christian, for example. Are there any relationships between aikido as a spiritual pursuit and mysticism? In what sense could aikido be called ‘sacramental’? In other words, does aikido practice automatically lead to desirable spiritual results? Does it make sense to talk of aikido as a philosophy, or philosophical system? If not, what is the difference?

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  1. I suppose inspired aikido, to a Christian, would be a bit like “speaking in tongues”. Going to the space where aikido happens is definitely not part of my day-to-day self. My consciousness is different. What a person is likely to find there, though, probably has a lot to do with the baggage they’ve brought along.

    Yes, it is possible, in most cases, to bring “home” some of the detached focus, awareness, that I experience when “in aikido”. But my everyday mind crowds out most of it with its noise.

  2. …oh. an afterthought – the inspired aikido space, like speaking in tongues, is a stress response. if there’s no stress, well… so, without pretty good attacks, don’t expect the real thing.

  3. Actually, Aikido to a Christian, is “Love thy neighbour as you love thyself”. That would be the closest to the Christian idea of compassion, love and kindness towards a fellow human being. Psalm 22 also comes to mind.

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