“Descending from Mt. Olympus (or Mt. Kumano),” by Nev Sagiba

The Detailed Universe

The Detailed Universe

This old man must still practice.

“When Susanou died, his body buried atop Mt.Kumano, his spirit became Kami and he sometimes appeared as a big bear..”

“..The Founder would often remark: “This old man must still practice.” He never skipped early morning, afternoon or evening practice with his uchideshi, such sessions lasting two hours each.

In 1953, when he had already reached 70 years of age, his training was so severe as to put the young men to shame. According to those who were with the Founder a great deal in those days, he would be absorbed in reading during every free moment. I think that he mainly read the “Kojiki” (Chronicle of Ancient Events) as well as books concerning Shinto, the Kotodama (study of the spirit of language) and the study of the Divine Spirit..”

When you embrace the non-competitive dojo life and practice budo daily as a way of life, you partake of a higher dimension than is available to the non-trainee. More so if Aikido is your main art.

However there will be periods in life where you will be forced by necessity, injury, circumstance and responsibility to descend this holy mount and “mingle with mortals again.” Too much immersion with the mundane, the trivial and the necessary may sometime cause your skill and fitness to decline somewhat.

Make this your training too.

Well may you somewhat lose, “the edge.” Well may you somewhat appear to lose that finely honed warrior’s intuitive awareness to some degree.

Make this your training too.

If dire necessity should demand, you’ll find that you have in fact lost nothing and that the accrued credit of your input of years of training will emerge as if by magic to save you. But for purposes of training, when you do return or make a comeback or find opportunity to occasionally resume training, you’ll feel, “all thumbs and left feet.”

Make this your training too. Train anyhow. Take instructions from whomever may be available. Learn from your students, your peers and anyone who is there. Beginners-mind never ends. This is an opportunity to revisit it in fullness and benefit from the humility it brings.

In due time and season things will change again and you will get the opportunity to climb that mountain again.

Now here is the good news: Each time you descend and re-climb that mount, you will notice things you previously missed, things hitherto unknown; a testament to the maturity gained in your previous climbs and your dedication to the art. It’s a salubrious thing, though not always too comfortable to descend and then earn your way up that pimple of a hill that looks so huge to a beginner, yet is nothing in the face of the Great Universe itself.

But the link must be restored lest it become too lost in neglect and the receding of it too much. “Shaking the dust from the joints,” is a daily essential nourishment of the soul.

To restore that link, take a note from the Founder’s precepts and get back on the horse as soon as possible.

“This old man must practice daily..”

From the viewpoint of a dot, an amoeba looking at the universe, the view can be daunting. That is the outlook of our primitive instincts.

From the universe looking at the many dots within it, is the, “I am the universe,” viewing platform, full of options, opportunities and replete with possibility.

From the egocentric dot or the broad infinite circumference with far ranging objectives, which will be our choice of outlook? When you train as a dot you see few options. When you live and train as the universe the options and variables are endless.

This is not mere philosophy or word juggling. When training, which mind-state would you embrace? Me, me, me or vast uncompromising flexibility?

Some like to bandy meaningless and out of context terminology such as, “spiritual growth” because it cannot be calibrated, but lures gullible seekers into parting with their money. Spiritual indeed!

The only “growth” is in the bank balance of the deceivers. Some embarrass the Founder’s vision by touting Aikido as, “The non-violent martial art.” Quaint wordology that defines absolutely nothing at all. Non-violent war is an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms.

There are battles! There is a war! Daily life and our own responses to what it presents. With Aikido we address the source of the problem by its roots in the battles against our own complacency and self-deceit in the war against ignorance and spiritual blindness.

Budo training is not for false smiles and making eyes, pretense of a respect that does not exist whilst standing in dangerous maai or lunging aimlessly waving an arm the other dangling, performing some kind of dance motion where one flourishes and the other takes a tumble. Then getting up smiles and giggles all round and repeating whilst learning bad habits that have no context to either integrity or the reality of anything “martial” at all. Nor is it about the use of force and muscle to appear tough and risking injury to the faithful who in trust offer their bodies in a way they otherwise would not.

WHAT ARE THESE SILLY PEOPLE DOING? Without an authentic measure of opposition what is there to harmonize?! What then is being learnt?

Why plagiarize the term “aikido” without understanding?

Where is the, “spiritual growth,” in such circus-like antics?

What is the calibration or yardstick for this idea of “spiritual growth?”

Well, I don’t know if anyone noticed the spirit-level in the movie Ghost Busters but could you use that to measure “spiritual growth?”

Look into the private lives of these “spiritually growing,” individuals who pretend a dance of futility in the name of Aikido and mostly they are not exemplary, rather riddled with deceit, dishonesty and harmful activities. Is this “spiritual?” If so I don’t want a bar of it.

The Founder made it abundantly clear again and again, “Training should be fun. Training must be safe.” But also the imperative: “Honest attack, honest defence!”

Collusive flaccidity requires no reconciliation. Only conflict provides the raw material to be reconciled in order to minimise human suffering. So learn to fake your attacks honestly. Hence again I must refer to the words of the Founder,“Loving attack and peaceful reconciliation.” In other words; up the ante but keep it safe enough to be able to return to training again, and PRACTICE AIKIDO, don’t just make a charade of rhetoric you are not living! Morihei was more than clear on this!

On the journey from the centre to the all embracing perimeter, is where we discover and develop our strengths tolerances and skills; and above all the paramount effortless effort, the dynamic surrender which is the Trojan horse of Aikido that penetrates into all things.

How can you, “grow,” what you innately contain, and which by its very nature already partakes of infinity and has no dimension yet embraces all dimensions?

There is no, “growing,” rather noticing and realizing what you already are, albeit perhaps not yet fully cognizant, by clarifying the mind and healing and restoring the body-mind connection.

Intense calm in the midst of immense raging chaos is the nature of true spirituality; and that reflects the movements of the Universe itself.

Only regular practice will attune you with what is already innate. The Law of skill and life force is: Use it or lose it.

Whether you imagine this is convenient or not does not come into it. The Universe and Nature do not recognize what we imagine is inconvenient. As with meteorology, the weather does what it does and is neither good nor bad. It simply is. Discomfort is the nature of change and adaptivity. The proper use of will may generate friction in the overcoming of inertia. The Path of Budo is inconvenient, just like the weather, every day.

Self mastery is in making that, “inconvenience,” that discomfort, one of not making excuses to avoid, but rather training regardless. This then converts it into the very fuel for awakening. Not an illusory awakening of opinions, but the very real awakening where every fibre of our being, each cell, molecule, atom and subatomic particle is vivified until there is no separation between mind and body in all things.

Aikido training is the honouring of the kami who live dwell and have their being in the very substance of our genetic material, the kotadama that makes human existence possible from moment to moment.

The dojo life is the purification which enables a meeting and confronting all parts of ourselves including those most people try to deny exist, and thereby stepping up into a greater paradigm which continuously heals and restores the essential body-mind-heaven-and-earth connection, the “golden bridge” which is the essence of truly sentient life.

The key that unlocks it all is the integrity to honour self-promises and those you make to others. Unmitigated honesty in training process. This generates the hikari which overcomes inertia and triumphs over the earlier than necessary onset of slow dying most accept as “normal.” Life force is invoked and generated by use. Harmonious use multiplies it exponentially.

Ki then flows freely from centre of the circle to circumference and back from circumference to centre. The circumference of the universal mulitiverse is infinity. Deep calm in the midst of rampant chaos is the nature of the universe and the ultimate destiny of an awakening human being.

These are not Shinto or other “belief system’s” conceptual collections of ambiguous mental clutter and certainly not stagnantly utopian ideology, but essential subtle realities we have no choice than to discover for ourselves and then come to terms with, in order to continue to survive and expand with the awakened consciousness sustainability requires.

Aikido properly practiced restores centered, integrated body-mind connection and all its attributes.

Intense calm in the midst of immense raging chaos is the nature of true spirituality. Anyone can be calm in a fortress but people carry their personal torments around with them no matter what they play act when things are easy. Most individuals are phased by challenge, chaos, the unaccustomed and change, rather seeking to avoid it than meet it squarely.

On the journey from the centre to the all embracing perimeter is where we discover and develop our strengths tolerances and skills. In the refinement of skill we bring the immense value thus gleaned back to the centre. The universe and the dot become one.

By immersing ourselves in the restorative living waters of intense and respectful dojo practice, even ordinary life becomes mythical. Those of the past who lived mythical lives thought themselves ordinary too. Any discipline which enables a creatively skillful meeting of life and the challenges it naturally provides, instead of avoidance, partakes of the essence of the mythical. Every life is and can be a heroic journey against the odds.

Is escape and hiding from life “spiritual?” Doubtfully. Is self-deception, “spiritual?” The sheer pragmatism of battle and life’s attrition will determine that rather conclusively. Is a fearful cultish, symbiotic gathering besotted with poorly disguised insecurity and riddled with a siege mentality “spiritual?” I think not.

What can be a better calibration or yardstick for true spiritual potential other than that of being able to function fully at peace in the midst of chaotic circumstance notwithstanding?

No longer a cork in the ocean of wind, current, opinion and hearsay, but penetrating into the very nature of existence as it is. Awakening gained in the regular practice of relating intensely with intention properly used in action, the quintessence of skill to accommodate intense energy and matter through time and space.. all the while increasing our understanding of predispositions and combinations of possibilities.

What training provides this?

Surely such training must lead inevitably to self mastery, Masakatsu Agatsu, the only true and sustainable victory which is victory of oneself.

Regular honest Budo practice kills opinion and superstitious thinking and gives birth to functional clarity.

How? Take a leaf out of the Founder’s book, “Practice daily..” Hone the body-mind before you get too old to start. Then continue.

Keep climbing that Mountain. Go back and climb it again and again. Each time will be new and different, greater and more mythical, yet will seem ordinary as well.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Joe Peterson says:

    Wonderful, what other thing in life requires a lifetime of practice, not too many. I remember my grandfather carving the same things over and over again. I asked him as a young child, “Grandfather, why do you carve the same things over and over again. He look at me humbly, smiled and said, practice does make perfect. I still have a lot of practice left in me.

    I am guessing why Osensei didn’t want Aikido to be a competitive activity has something to do with what Minoru Mochizuki sensei said in his interview blogged Aug 01, titled “Reminiscences of Minoru Mochizuki.” I guess there is a trade off, people who compete develop a mental toughness, a mental program that allows them to concentrate and focus under pressure. It isn’t exclusive to competitors, Zen practitioners have it. Some develop it on their own from music to work. The thing is, for the most part, it has evaporated from the teaching curriculum in Aikido, and so many who practice Aikido today. At best we touch on it, well for some not at all. Mental toughness all but is extinct in Aikido students and teachers today. For many the substitute is spiritual focus. Usually the spiritual and mental toughness are two separate paths that can’t join and became a single path. It is good to have both, but not to focus on only one.

    What I see as a lack of attention to the idea of mental toughness is something that should not be neglected in practice. Here is what I bring to attention that something is hidden in plain sight. I don’t think Osensei directly and openly address mental toughness as a principle. For him, I would bet it was something obvious and didn’t need to be explained. Because mental toughness was to be gained though hard training, dedication and practice over time. But, I don’t think it turned out like he planned. I see that toughness in Osensei’s eyes in so many pictures and videos.

    I think today we only think of mental toughness is not part of Aikido as a result of being a competitor. We associate mental toughness only to competition. It is not associated or thought to be a value that can be derived though daily earnest practice giving a 100% from start to finish, over many years, even decades. For whatever reason, our prejudices of competition block us from utilizing the values gleaned from competition. We become soft over time both in practice and technique, solely extolling virtues of the spiritual as a replacement. Spirituality is important, but so is mental toughness.

Speak Your Mind