Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Morihei Ueshiba on Technique - Analysis

Morihei Ueshiba had a very unique and thought provoking approach to technique and forms.  He taught his students to be completely formless since day 1 of training. The founder of Aikido spoke about this topic on pages 34/35 and 36 of his enlightening book 'The Art of Peace'. I will transcribe some of his statements below, and then spell out my interpretations of his teachings:

"In Aikido, change is the essence of technique. There are no forms in Aikido. Because there are no forms, Aikido is the study of the spirit. Do not get caught up in forms; if you do, you lose all the subtle distinctions that function in the techniques."

I interpret these teachings like this. Change is the ultimate undermining principle of the universe, and thus Aikido embraces it, and promotes it through practicing in a spontaneous way. Further evidence to support my theory is quoted below from page 35:

"....and on occasion one of the younger and bolder students would complain, "Sensei, you have been doing the same technique for an hour. Please show us something different" "You idiot!" Morihei would exclaim. "Each and every one was different. When you perceive the difference, that is when you will be making progress in Aikido."  "If someone asked to be shown a "secret technique," he would receive a similar reply. "Each technique contains everything you will ever need."
"If a student asked to see the footwork of a technique once more, Morihei would thunder, "I'm not teaching you to move your feet; I'm teaching you to move your mind!."

Each and every technique we execute is different. Depending on the context/situation of the execution of the technique, fine detail is different I think. For example, using a punch to defend yourself on a staircase, in contrast to using it in a park. No situation will ever be exactly the same. I think this is what he is implying. Another great one is in regards to technique. Morihei made this telling remark:

"In reality, Aikido has no forms, no set patterns. It is like an invisible field wave of energy. However, such a phenomenon is too difficult for human beings to grasp, so we use provisional forms to explain it and put it in to practice. Any movement, in fact, can become an Aikido technique, so in terms, there are no mistakes. My advice to you: Learn and Forget! Learn and Forget! Make the techniques part of your own being!"

I love this teaching. It basically means that there is no write or wrong when executing techniques, as long as it is a product of honest expression. I believe "Learn and Forget" teaches us to not become habit forming and predictable, even to our selves. Being more spontaneous is being more natural/less artificial, following the universal principle of constant change.

"If asked, "What is the name of that technique?" Morihei would reply, "Give it your own name. That will make it more personal." He further stated:
You cannot imitate what I do. Each and every technique is a unique, once-and-for-all experience. My techniques emerge freely, spewing forth like a fountain. Rather than try to copy what I do, listen to what I say. That is were the essence of the technique lies. Someday you will understand."

I believe that Morihei Ueshiba promoted people to find the truth from within; to not try to replicate what he does because the true way is no set way for every individual. That is why he told his students to label their own techniques. He highly prioritised his students realising that they will only find the truth from within, telling them that he is teaching them not to move their feet, but their mind.

I'm not sure if I understand these teachings completely, but the longer I study them, the deeper my understanding becomes. At the moment, I think Morihei Ueshiba's philosophy is very similar to that of Bruce Lee, being formless and all.

Thank You for reading my blog. What do you guys think of these teachings?


  1. Love the post! It's a goddamn shame that Steven Segal single handedly has completely destroyed the reputation of Aikido. That's just like Dana White destroying the reputation of Bruce Lee, putting a legend in a thong to fight inside a cage!

    1. Thank you Mr. Lee; I'm glad people are enjoying my blogs. I don't know much about Steven Segol at all. I asked my Dad (who doesn't practice Martial Arts) if he knew about Steven Segol, and he said that his a giant thug. You are not alone there!.

      I don't know what to wright about next. I might find something in the book I'm reading called "The Art of Shoalin Kung Fu". I don't know too much about Kung Fu but reading about it makes Taekwondo and Karate seem very watered down/simplified. Kung Fu seems more like a more natural and holistic expression of Martial Art.

    2. It's great that you spend so much of your time reading texts related to the Martial Arts, it will help you gain a very deep understanding and then allow you the ability to properly educate those about the Martial Arts that have been misinformed by mass media. I look forward to our Skype conversations!

    3. Wow. Morihei Ueshiba was too real of a Martial Artist. Maybe I should check this book out one day. Forget about Steven Segal; he is a quack of the Martial Arts.

    4. Reading 'The Art of Peace' is a great service to anyone. Learn from who is real and ignore who is false. That's how I go about things. :)


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