Aikido: A Restatement of Universal Truths by Stanley Pranin


“If the pinnacle of Morihei Ueshiba’s contribution lies in the rediscovery and application of certain universal principles observed by others before and after him, what then is original about his aikido?”

From Aikido Journal #119 (2000)

It will come as no news to long-time readers of Aikido Journal that we make a constant effort to keep alive and vibrant the figure of aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. One of the reasons for this is simply a fascination with the events of his adventure-filled life—a life that lends itself to endless inspection from a multitude of perspectives. Another reason is the fact that, to my knowledge, no other rigorous, ongoing effort is being made to preserve and disseminate the life and work of Morihei Ueshiba. This is all the more surprising when you think of how successful aikido has been internationally.

As the founder’s philosophy embodies universal principles, it is not surprising to find expressions of similar concepts in diverse contexts. This happened recently when in the course of a couple of days I happened across two statements of one of the fundamental principles of aikido while doing some legal research. The first was a biblical reference to Matthew 5:25 that reads, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” (Since I am writing this while in Japan, I did not have a Bible at hand yet was able to retrieve the exact passage from the Internet in about two minutes. Awesome technology, wouldn’t you agree!) This is an excellent example of the application of aikido principles to the field of law.

The second statement came to me via an e-mail from an acquaintance who has practiced aikido. This gentleman provides legal counsel and has a remarkable track record in court litigation. Commenting on the secret of his success he wrote, “We have followed the principles of aikido to accomplish our task. First, we prepare ourselves by study, meditation and application. Then we study the opposition recognizing their qualities and adapting our performance, always maintaining correct principles. Then when under attack, we recognize the force and energy of the attack with respect and blend our energy with it to subtly direct the combined force in the direction that will give the opponent the greatest education of the realities at hand until he is subdued into recognition of the inevitable.” This statement reveals a profound understanding of the principles of engagement in the resolution of disputes.

Private demonstration given by Morihei Ueshiba using his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba as uke, c. 1960

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