Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the sword:triangle, circle, square.....

The sword in aikido refects the energies of triangle, circle, and square. There is a lot of debate over whether sword training is necessary in aikido. Some lineages have made the sword a definite, developed part of the art, while it is not the case with others. So what I myself am going to concentrate on is the sword through my own personal experience.

Most of my experience with the sword comes from Hikitsuchi sensei and from Tojima sensei. Tojima sensei has influenced my sword mainly from the standpoint of a personal suburi practice. In addition to tanren(conditioning for the wrists, hands, and hips) individual suburi practice can teach things that transfer to regular tai jutsu, the body arts that most people associate with aikido.: proper grip, awareness of the center and of the center line, the yin/yang timing of raising and cutting, advancing and retreating. I once asked Tojima sensei which was more important for individual training, the sword or the staff(in his case the bo or long staff)? His answer was the staff, because it contained the concept of tai sabaki or body changing. It is possible to just swing the sword with a rigid, set stance. But the staff ideally forces you to turn the body as you are executing the movements, resulting in the energetic interplay of triangle, circle, and square. Hikitsuchi sensei once told me that Osensei incorporated many spear(the bo is seen as an energetic spear) concepts in his sword work, and that, at one level, aikido was a mixing of sword and spear.

I remember when Hikitsuchi sensei would call me in to demonstrate sword on sword(we used bokken, but the experience was live blade intense).. It was usually during a class or demonstration, and there was no prior rehearsal or set agreement that we were going to do the sword. I myself was probably horrible with the sword but I got the feeling that it was a direct transmission, a lineage going back to the founder that was tapping me. The energy of the triangle was intense. When I raised the tip of his sword was right in my face. The feeling was of very focused light, literally a laser-like quality. You felt it go right through you energetically, yet physically you were unharmed. There was almost a feeling that it was already going through you before you attacked. Sometimes he would time the raising and cutting motions to match mine, but he would turn his hips to the side and my cut would hit nothing but empty air. His would be right on my head. I was told that the triangle represented zettai fuhai no taisei(posture of invincibility), representing ikumusubi, the generating principle of the zoka no sanshin(the 3 forces of creation in the Kojiki). The triangle is about beginnings

The circle represents the second of those three forces, tarumusubi. This force represents blending or harmonizing and is the most visible of the three in modern aikido. As the triangle is represented by the plum, the circle is symbolized by bamboo. I was told “Maru wa chushin ga nai(the circle has no center). I remember the first time I felt this energy. Sometime in fall of 1974 Hikitsuchi sensei and I, bokken to bokken during a class, I attacked as quickly and best as I could with shomen uchi, he literally seemed to travel……..he made a broad movement to the side and behind me and cut with yokomen. I was almost that he moved into a sort of dreamtime and traveled to that point behind me. It is very difficult to execute that broad a movement to the direct, quick timing of shomen uchi, but he did it. Again, I am referring to the energy of the movement, not just to the physical skill factor.

Finally, we have the square. I believe in older times, the square was much more prevalent than it is today. On that same fall day, I went to attack Hikitsuchi sensei with shomen uchi, he side stepped and entered to my right, cutting upwards in an arc and pinning both my arms in the raising position with his bokken. If we were using real steel any attempt to finish my cut would result in both my arms being cut off. The energy of the square was very wide and I felt the upward cut energetically through me. There was no way to continue the downstroke. Many times the square is seen as pinning movements. Again, I was literally pinned in the raising motion of my cut. The square is tamatsume musubi, the energy of completion. It is symbolized by the pine, which has no front or back(omote, ura ga nai tokoro). The square is about endings.

We’ll do more with the sword as we go along

the square as a pin


Blogger John said...

I find it interesting that aikido - a defensive art - also includes curricula that are devoted to weapons. I've heard of iaido being taught in conjunction with aikido in a number of schools. Didn't Ueshiba adapt some of the stances from kenjutsu (I think they're called hamni) to be used in aikido?

9:50 AM  

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