While in Japan I’ve had the opportunity of meeting many exceptional people. One of those was Senta Yamada, whom I met for the first time when visiting a friend.
Uncharacteristically for a Japanese person, Yamada Sensei moved his hands a lot as he spoke. He did this to portray his perception of the movements essential to what he called the “mind” of Aikido and water, whose relationship he explained as follows:
While you sit there, please breathe freely and move your body slightly, so that you can feel the movement and mind my words suggest to you.
Water unites all the world’s land masses, large and small, connecting what is seemingly separate, distant, and different into one seamless spherical whole.
Water has an intelligence, a mind. In Aikido we strive to embody this same intelligence.
We direct the flow of our energy so that it accords with that of others. When encountering those appearing angry and frightened, we make special effort to dissolve any sense of separation, distance, or difference.
And even when moving away from others, we do so with the intent of joining with and returning back to them.
Water not only joins together the land masses of earth, it also unites the earth and sky via never ending cycles of precipitation, movement, and evaporation.
This is the same process human beings mirror in birth, life, and death.
Just like water, we come from heaven, spend time on earth, and return back to heaven once again.
Becoming, being, receding. Living, dying, recycling.
Water expands and contracts depending on circumstances, and the same is true of the human spirit.
When you are harsh to a child, his or her spirit contracts.
When you love a child, his or her spirit expands.
The presence of water throughout our ecosystem is similar to the presence of fluids in the body, enveloping and uniting its cells and tissues.
The mind of water, the body’s circulatory system, and Aikido all have the same intention—to move with, absorb, nurture, cleanse, renew.
When everything is experienced as an integral part of the One, there is no disease, no attack, no separation, death, or destruction.
Regardless of the form it may take—rain, mist, steam, dew, snow, ice—water always has a spherical mind.
This mind of roundness is a key principle in the mind of non-dissension.
In Aikido we project a full round presence to our adversary and flow with their movements.
Just like water, we offer no hard surfaces to bump up against, and nothing to grab hold of.
We encourage our adversaries to follow their course of action to its likely outcome, in the same way water follows the path of gravity downhill … ever moving towards center until the time of renewal.
Regardless of the obstacles it encounters, water does not stop, it does not give up.
It searches endlessly for the path of least resistance, and when there is none it rests, consolidating its power until it is time to rise up again.
Waiting for another opportunity. Waiting for the proper moment … an opening.
A single drop of water has little power, but many drops joined together can sweep away everything in their path, with the relentless force of a tsunami.
Water joins with, is absorbed by, and surrounds.
It does not strive to act separately, but waits to be moved by the forces of nature.
With a constant mind of effortless rest, renewal, and movement.
As calm when doing as when simply being.
We can realize the end of every journey as a new beginning,
every destination as temporary, every goal as cyclical.
We remain complete
With nowhere to go
Nothing to accomplish
Nothing to fulfill
Except our destiny
Is never in question.