Beyond Fundamentalism, Beyond Iconoclasm

When working with Sensei, it is helpful to work in some Japanese and kanji into conversation. George does this with sensei, as well as Josh and many others that are close with Sensei. What might help observers and practitioners understand Sensei’s message is that for example, when sensei says “martial art”, it is a backformation from budo, it’s the nearest approximation in English that was reinforced upon arrival in the United States.

The reason sensei most likely continues to say martial art is the same reason ASU remains close to the Ueshiba family. A good example is in the English and Japanese versions of Saotome Sensei’s Light on Transmission (Saotome, 2015) and where the very title of chapter four is written in English as “Aikido as a Martial Art” (p. 57), where the original draft was “Aikido as Budo”. In the Japanese version titled 伝承のともしび (五月女, 2011), the text clearly uses “武” (p. 81) in the same chapter title. It should be noted that in analysis work, especially analysis of familial relations, and transmission between them, regardless of blood, adopted, or mutually chosen relations, that the concept is more important than the description. That is, language is a mere vehicle through which thought forms are transmitted mind to mind, this is a well understood concept.

When I hear Saotome Sensei say martial art, I don’t see words, nor do I see kanji, though the best way I could describe what he means, is physiologically, biologically and that avoids description. The “martial art” as expressed, is signpost, and it is up to the reader, the listener, the audience, and segmentations of it, to discover what that signpost is actually pointing to. It requires a kind of unabashed exploration, because quite frankly, the signpost, is not the reality.

As for O’Sensei, in Sensei’s conceptual train of transmission, what he says seems completely in congruence with O’Sensei’s coming “to the profound realization that the return of bujutsu to its essential meaning and original intent was essential to the future preservation of the world order… the way of delivery from destruction and the way of building universal peace” (Saotome, 2015, p. 52). It’s not that I stand on the shoulders of giants, this is foolish, the giants are these very qualities of bu, the very quality of capacitance, of love, of compassion, of equanimity, and there is joy in the enjoyment of the accomplishments of these. These are the giants, and O’Sensei, Saotome Sensei, and many others are as bodhisattvas (p. 54). It’s interesting that Saotome Sensei draws this parallel, for having lived with him on and off for so many years, and close in attendance after the passing of Patty, there is assurance that a bodhisattva vow is in continual practice.

武 (Fund Raising Series, Mitsugi Saotome, 2006)

Saotome Sensei refers to a political climate of aiki as “centrist” (p. 53), beyond left or right, though the translation reads “no left or right”. Be very sensitive to this word “no” when working with enlightenment referents. Sensei is very sensitive to the concept and to the direct perception of emptiness (p. 20). No here is beyond nothing, no here is beyond something. No is beyond intrinsic nature. No is the prime of form. When a Buddhist text mentions a nature of emptiness, it means quite directly, an absence of intrinsic nature. So when Sensei says “no left” it is the remainder of beyond left, out of that remainder, the remainder of beyond right. What remains? What lingers on the branch, in zanshin post remainder? And here is where marubashi occurs, this is the distant sound of the river of zen, and yet beyond, and yet beyond. The temple bell rings, the ceremonial robes donned.


五月女, 貢 (2011). 伝承のともしび -合氣道開祖 植芝盛平の教え. 相模原市:どう出版.

Saotome, M. (2015). A Light on Transmission: The Teachings of Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido. Dexter: Cedar Forge Press.