“How can we make the spirit and wisdom of the great
martial arts masters accessible to more people?”
Some of us have been fortunate enough to learn from a great martial arts master. We may have experienced something profound through a magical moment in practice. We may have the opportunity to study continuously under a mentor. Some may have even had the rare experience of training as an uchi-deshi (live-in student).
Being published in Aikido Journal, many of the people that read this article have had these experiences, and know the profound, positive impact they can have on our lives. But these experiences are extremely rare, almost legendary, when viewed broadly across our society.
How can we make the spirit and wisdom of the great martial arts masters accessible to more people? How can we receive inspiration, and even gain personal knowledge of a mentor after his or her death? There’s no single answer but we can look to two exceptional masters for one insight.
O-Sensei loved shodo (Way of the brush). Uniquely, he began his practice when close to 70 years or age, under one of his aikido students, Seiseki Abe. Abe Sensei (10th dan) had a unique relationship with the founder of aikido. For over fifteen years, the master of aikido and the master of shodo followed each other as teacher and student in their respective arts. The humble, seeking spirit of these two great men can inspire us all.
Beyond the insight we can gain from the wisdom of the principles reflected in the calligraphy, both O-Sensei, and Abe Sensei believed that through shodo, one can directly experience the ki of the artist. They believed the essence and spirit of the artist is channeled through the art. I believe it too.
I have the privilege of viewing great original shodo pieces every day. Their visual power and underlying meaning serve as daily inspiration. Having exposure to these great works creates mindfulness of the principles embodied in the art, and serves as a reminder to actualize the principles in daily life.
Not every great teacher brushes calligraphy, and not all of us have access to those few special works that have been created. However, as martial artists, we should treasure the value they provide, and use the opportunity to view them as a way to bring the essence of the artist to life, and to give us the mindfulness and resolve to actualize the principles conveyed in the art.
We can also use shodo to bring awareness and inspiration to others in our global community. People that would otherwise have no exposure to the spirit and teachings of the great martial artists that have provided so much guidance and mentorship through the ages.
In today’s society, role models largely consist of reality TV stars and sports figures. I’m sure some of them have admirable values, but how do they compare to the philosophies and examples set by the world’s great martial arts masters?
What are your thoughts?
If this thinking resonates with you, we would be honored to have your support in spreading the spirit.
Have your dojo-cho / manager contact us here and we will send your dojo a set of 4×6 prints of Abe Sensei’s “Agatsu” calligraphy.
The prints can be framed, kept for inspiration, and hopefully given to friends or family that may learn from, and connect with, the message and spirit of the shodo.
Josh is a devoted student of aikido and co-founder of Ikazuchi Design, a new apparel company dedicated to the spirit of the martial arts. Our focus is to inspire a way of life dedicated to the improvement of mind, body, and spirit, with the goal of building a better humanity.