"The purpose of Aikido training is to forge the body and mind and to build one's character. The techniques are transmitted from person to person on an individual basis, and should not be disclosed indiscriminately to outsiders, nor used for evil purposes." Best Aikido: The Fundamentals
"Aikido training is to develop the mind and body, and to create people of extreme sincerity. The techniques of Aikido should all be considered secret, and should not in any case be shown to others or applied for sinister purposes." From the 1997 issue of "The Aikido" by Aikido world headquarters in Tokyo. Volume 34, #4. (Really, from the walls of the men's change room at our dojo). This recent version makes the most reference to sincerity, or the virtue of Shin.
"Training in Bujutsu is to foster Yamato-Damashii and to build one’s character. The techniques are transmitted from person to person, on an individual basis, and should not be disclosed indiscriminately to the public (Originally written “non-Japanese”). Such secret techniques should not be misused for evil purposes." Budo.
The original text did not specify Aikido. This publication predated the name Aikido, but did not refer to Daito Ryu either. Bujutsu is more of a general term applying to all martial arts. The parenthesis within the quote is from John Stevens, the translator. As the oldest version, Budo makes reference to nationalism. I had wondered if there was an element of racism, and Prof. Goldsbury mentioned in an AikiWeb discussion that this wasn't so much racism as it would have never occurred to pre-war Ueshiba that he might someday teach non-Japanese people.
"The purpose of Aikido is to train both the body and mind and to make a person sincere. All Aikido arts are secret in nature and are not to be revealed publicly, nor taught to hoodlums who will use them for evil purposes". Aikido.
Kisshomaru Doshu offers more expository text: "Lastly, the aim of Aikido is not to merely produce a strong body but to create an integrated person. Any educated person knows how brute strength is meaningless in our present-day advanced civilization. For this reason the Founder forbade Aikido to be misused and severely cautioned everyone. He would not permit the publication of his art’s techniques and required introductions and guarantees for each student.
In summary, those who wish to study Aikido should have a righteous and fair mind, obey their instructors, and study naturally. As a matter of consequence, their techniques will be skillfully cultivated in such an atmosphere and a noble character will be created."
(Click here for my favorite Aikido parody, which seems apropos.)
While it is now ubiquitous to talk about Aikido in terms of developing better people, or being more ethical and moral than other martial arts or non-martial artists, the question remains how? Francis Takahashi discusses if we have any ethics training and Peter Boylan has a great article on the validity of this statement in martial arts in general in his blog, The Budo Bum. This conversation between Richard Moon and Christopher Li is a great addendum.
Did O Sensei treat teaching as secret? He was alive for several publications of books on Aikido and was directly involved in a few of them. There was no way he was not aware of Budo Renshu or Budo, though initially these were not widely disseminated. This was not true for Tohei's books, or Tomiki's books, or his son's books - these books were translated multiple times and freely sold. The Ueshiba family is now very involved in publishing and filming as a means to propagate Aikido, so the request for secrecy seems to have evolved/vanished. Moreover, in "keeping Aikido techniques secret" – Kotegaeshi and Nikyo are the worst kept secrets in the world. These appear in the combat systems of every culture. So, what is the secret?
I wonder who were the last students that had to provide letters of recommendation? How do I misuse Aikido? How do I apply Aikido for sinister purposes? Does Aikido create people of noble character? If it does, then take on anyone and create many noble people! Create a whole world of noble people! If there was a process to make sure only good people were allowed to learn in the first place, then even Morihei Ueshiba had limits to his belief that Aikido created better people. I have seen students who turned out to be wife beaters, child abusers, alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts. I have trained with people who cheated on their spouses and I have seen marriages end. One high ranked yudansha started sending out death threats to other dojo in his area along with other highly questionable behaviors. If I did have someone engaged in deplorable behavior in my dojo, would I count on Aikido to clean them up and put them on the straight and narrow? Frankly no. Still if I am advertising a way to make people better than they are, emotionally stronger and dedicated to harmony, I should not be surprised if I have some human beings showing up at the door who feel themselves lacking or even broken. I hear many people refer to Aikido as therapeutic for themselves; but if I am to show up to the dojo how do I make it therapeutic for others? I don't know about misusing Aikido, but I have certainly seen sensei abuse their power and standing as the head of a dojo, and their students in turn aspire to someday having their own power to abuse. "Tradition."
There are many internet discussion boards that will have conversations about Aikido and it's purpose. Usually there will be one person condemning the martial utility and someone else will reply that their personal Aikido is for more than mere combat; that their Aikido is a vehicle for spiritual, personal, and moral development. Rarely do people seem to be able to say how. Bring on the internet trolls if that's now the main venue for philosophical discourse.
Morihei Ueshiba was a very spiritual man. He was a devote member of the Oomoto Kyo new religion, and a member of the inner circle of Onisaburo Deguchi. There is ample evidence that Morihei Ueshiba studied the Chinese classics as a boy and that he was of course into Budo, which has virtues associated with it (just not the same virtues or numbers of virtues consistently). Very little of his actual belief system gets transmitted to us as Aikido students: Oomoto Kyo is not an evangelical proselytizing religion, O Sensei's religion was is not mandatory for Aikido practice, many students did not share his religion, and a deliberate effort was made to sanitize Aikido away from his religious imagery as the art was being disseminated throughout the world to non-Japanese. I have seen a number of students over the years when asked about O Sensei's philosophy come up with a mishmash of Daoism, Zen, and the Hagakure - and what seems to be a liberal dash of truthiness. I have no idea if any of these beliefs applied to Morihei Ueshiba, but he was very famously a member of Oomoto Kyo. From the Oomoto Kyo website:
"What is Oomoto's basic doctrine?
God is the spirit which pervades the entire universe, and man is the focus of the workings of heaven and earth. When God and man become one, infinite power will become manifest. What is the essence of Oomoto beliefs? God, with the help of humans, is working to purify and reconstruct the world. When this task is accomplished, God, humans, and all of nature will exist peacefully on earth and in the spiritual world.
What are humans expected to do to help?
They should live according to four teachings and four principles. These are fundamental to the Divine Plan and applicable to the lives of all humans. Oomoto also teaches that God gives humans freedom of choice; they have freewill to decide whether to follow these teachings and principles.
What are the teachings?
1) Harmonious alignment with all life and the universe.
2) Revelation of celestial truth and its lessons.
3) Innate patterns of behavior for man, society and the cosmos.
4) Instinctual creative drives.
What are the principles?
1) Purity through purification of mind and body.
2) Optimism, specifically believing in the goodness of the Divine Will.
3) Progressivism as a way to social improvement.
4) Unification or reconciliation of all dichotomies (good and evil; rich and poor; humans and nature; humans and God, etc.)
The four can be thought of as a code for right living. By practicing them, humans can live in harmony with the universe and lead a heavenly life in spirit and flesh."
I assume this is somewhat representative of Morihei Ueshiba's belief system. I found this article interesting too: Wikipedia on Shinto deities. Some of his students had little interest in his religion or philosophy. Yamada sensei said once in an interview that when O Sensei showed up and lectured, even Yamada wished he would stop talking and leave so that they could practice. Increasingly, it seems that the "incomprehensible words of the Founder" depended heavily on his use of imagery from his personal faith.
Is there a need for a group that encourages deeper thought and questioning? The early days of the US election have shown that civil discourse, questioning, fact checking, and just good old fashioned thinking don't appear to be "cool" anymore. Staying calm and rational, having a sober second thought (hopefully a sober first thought too). Respectful discourse with a goal of a goal of better communication and better solutions. Taking a stand for the right reasons and when cooperation has failed or led to an outcome that is not just. Being responsible. Knowing something about right and wrong. We need it going forward, and not just in the dojo.