Doka - poetic Songs of the Way

Edited by Seiseki Abe - Under the general supervision of Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei

The Secret Significance of Aikido

Okui - The Secrets
1. Bu, the root of all that is, is the great spirit of the founding of our nation. This bujutsu, as a part of the Imperial Way (kodo), trains us in body and in spirit to achieve the martial spirit (buki) of Yamato-damashii (the Japanese Spirit) by means of AIKI ( a meeting of the Ki) with the multitude of deities (Yorozu no Kami). So we train to unite the truth, happiness and beauty of the sincere sole. Bu builds sincere people who have not the slightest vulnerability or opening since they have completely unified their sole and their mind. Therefor our aim is to mutually cultivate (ourselves) in both the world of appearances and in the world of essences and thus to take charge of this world of the present and bring to project harmony and beauty (our) Yamato-damashii (Japanese spirit).

2. In the narrow sense this means that we must perform austere physical training (Shugyo) with our bodies while our Kokoro (spirit/mind) remains ever mindful of what it means to be a "seeker" (shugyo-sha)

3. In the broadest sense this means unification with the Great Deity. The most important law of Bu is the need for shugyo that fosters the foundation for expressing the Holy Sole of a Surpassing Love of all that is manifested in this world.

An Auspicious Day, December, 1936. (by O Sensei)

Bujutsu: The form and the spirit of the gods
The parent of Izu and Mizu
So precious!

Put the active principle (yo) into the right hand
Turn the left into the passive (in)
And so guide the adversary.

By means of the way
Call out the misguided enemy
Advance and persuade him with words of instruction
Through the Sword of Love.

Enlightenment or delusion?
Who is to say which person has which
Like the evening moon they appear and fade
Not one knows exactly when.

The Way of the Gods!
Give in to the life of the Universe of
Heaven and Earth
Thus draw nearer and nearer
To a spirit who serves the Godhead

To see the true things
Harmonize the voice with shouts
Never be drawn into the rhythm of the enemy.

I stand in the mountain stream
So pure! The splashing sound of water against the stone
Yet where is the person
Who with such purity can speak (of the Way).

Watch not his flashing blade
Nothing can be seen there
His fists will reveal where he intends to cut

Causing the perverted enemy to attack
I must then stand behind his form
And so cut the enemy down.

It is sincerity!
First cultivate sincerity with all your heart
So realize this truth
The World of Reality and the World of Appearance are One.

Whenever I seem to confront
Another dead end on my path
That precious way of Izu and Mizu
I bring to mind once more

Should you lose the Way
Without a doubt you will enter an "evil path"
Give no reign to the spiritual horse.

In a forest of the enemy's spears
Then realize that those very spearheads
Are your very shield.

A person who
In any situation
Perceives the truth with resignation
Would never need to draw his sword in haste

Pour your spirit and heart
Into daily technical training
To approach the many through a single principle
This is "The Way of the Fighting Man"

The enemy comes running in to strike
At the instant of the attack
Avoid his strike with one step
And counter attack in that instant.

To see the true things
Harmonize with the voice which shouts, "Yah"
Never be drawn into the rhythm of the enemy

With "Eiii" cut him down!
That enemy that lurks within
Instruct him with "Yah"
Guide him with "Toh"

First master the techniques of Aiki
The way of the Gods
Then no enemy will ever attack

His sword raised to the attack
The enemy flies at the man he thinks before him
But from the very start
I was standing behind him

"To command the forest of enemy blades arrayed before you
Know that the enemy's spirit/mind is your shield."

Rip away from your soul
The shabby rags it wears
Open the way to Heavens destiny
So let it shine!

When you assume chudan
Move the enemy's spirit into the midst
And grasp the rhythm in the same fist.

Even through surrounded by a great number of enemy
View them as one person
And so fight on!

The enemy may assume gedan
But stay as you are in chudan
Move your blade neither up nor down.

If you wish to weaken
The enemy's sword
Move first, fly in and cut!

Though the enemy's spears and buts are before you and behind
With their very weapons as your shield
You must cut in and gain victory.

Without the slightest opening
Nor the least thought of the enemy
And his encircling swords
Step in and cut!

The rays of the rising sun flow in
My mind is clear
Going to the window, I run about the Heavens
Shining like the dawn.

Stand with the "First-moving Sword" held in the heavens
Close quickly and release your strike
Cutting diagonally.

Even the most powerful human being
has a limited sphere of strength.
Draw him outside of that sphere
and into your own, and his strength will dissipate.

"You must realize this!
Aiki cannot be captured with the brush
Nor can it be expressed with the mouth
And so it is that one must proceed
to realization"

In Jodan
Your every self must become Jodan
Then in that way
The attacking spear can be crushed
Victory will be yours

The rays of the rising sun flow in
My mind is clear
Going to the window, I run about the Heavens
Shining like the dawn.

Left and Right
Cut or parry
Discard all thought of them
The human spirit must rush instantly in!

Assume gedan and see
The spirit of the positive (yo) as
in shadow (in)
Recognize the cuts and thrusts of
the enemy's blade
As merely seigan

Mobilize all (your) powers through Aiki
Build a beautiful world
And a secure peace

Though you may train
In this sword work or in that
What will it mean
Unless you do your utmost

Speeding down from Heaven
The God of Light descends
Illuminating all the world
Even to the bottom of the seas.

Reflecting through the Heavens
All darkness is made light
Descending, the vastness of the great sea
Is filled with the voices of Joy.

Deep in the glow of Izu
Which Shines in the Heavens above
There is the reverberating sound
Of the King of the Eight Powers

Blend with (ki-musubi) the
Universe of Heaven and Earth (tenchi)
Stand in the center (of all)
In your heart take up the stance
Of "The Way of the Mountain Echo"

The spiritual essence of the Heavens and Earth
Congealing becomes the Way of the Cross-Shape +
Harmony and Joy make up the Floating Bridge
That binds this world together.

This world is built up
Of living-life (iki-inochi) of the breath of life (iki-inichi) and the
saving power of the Universal (iki-inochi)
All spinning and flourishing
The jewel-like Aiki of the Spirit (tama-no-aiki)

By ritual purify, wash clean the sole.
The true form of the All-pervasive
Universal Principle cries out
In the midst of the Light courageously
With martial valor does it howl.

Shining and echoing is the kotodama
An honored form of the Holy Parent
That single, spiritual origin (of all that is)

Since Ancient days
The virtues of training in the Two Ways
Both of the Sword and of the Pen
Has brought realization in the body and in the sole.

The techniques of AIKI
Follow the Principles of Kusanaqi
Thus they protect the Way of the
Buddhas, the (Shinto) gods,
And this world of manifestations.

The form and beauty that is the world of Heaven and Earth
Has become one family.

At the beginning of the world
There came from the Heavens
The Curved Stone, the Mirror and the Sword
To build up a nation

At the beginning of the time
"Bu" came down from the Heavens
To serve the defense of the land
So says the Emperor's sacred voice.

Even when a single enemy has called you out
Be on your best guard
An entire host of the foe
Is on your left, right, in front and behind.

The root of the power of love
A love that must grow ever broader.

Aiki cannot be captured with the brush
Nor can it be expressed with the mouth
And so it is that one must proceed to realization (satori)

A way so difficult to analyze
(But one needs only to) follow
The natural rotations of the

You must realize this!
Aiki can not be captured with the brush
Nor can it be expressed with the mouth
And so it is that one must proceed to realization (satori)

O Sensei reading

In the first half of this publication you have read the poems (known as doka or songs of the way) which were written by the late founder (of Aikido) Morihei Ueshiba Sensei in the period before World War II. The later half presents similar works produced during the post war period. All the poems in each section are simply arranged in the order of the Japanese kana syllabary that expresses the first sound of each poem. In general, the use of the kana and pronunciation of the characters has not been adjusted to coincide with modern standard usage. In hopes of allowing each person the chance to study directly at the Master's feet, I have avoided making any attempt at interpretation, leaving it to you, reading with both your body and your heart, to take what is in each poem for you. Let me close with O Sensei's own words: " Since ancient days there have been numerous masters, sages and Budo saints and yet there have been none who have completely accomplished the Great Way (Dai-do). I myself am still immature and yet I have entered onto this Great Way and now I find myself in the middle of the final shugyu (austerities). Everything in the entire world is made by means of the 75 sounds of the kotodama. I as yet do not understand but by mastering the truly necessary things one by one I will go forward with all my strength in the direction that gives birth to the techniques of Takemusu Aiki". I sincerely pray that by heartfully reading these poetic works again and again you may receive some sort of realization (of their meaning)

from Aiki News March 15, 1982 by Seiseki Abe

Aiki is the power of harmony between all things
Polish it ceaselessly
You people of the Way

The great and honored God
Taught us the way to govern the world
By creating the 75 sounds ( of the Kotodama).

In these teachings listen most
To the rhythm of the strike and thrust
To train in the basics (omote)
Is to practice the very secrets of the art.

Through the 75 movements of compassion
The events of this world
Evermore do flourish
Oh great and honored Deity!

With "Eiiii" cut him down!
That enemy that lurks within
Instruct him with "Yah"
Guide him with "Toh".

Blend the Ki within the self (ki-musubi)
Stand erect in the very center
Polish the spirit/mind (Kokoro)
"The Way of the Mountain Echo".

In the self-mind standing always
In the very center of it I do live
The stance (kamae) of Love is
" The Way of the Mountain Echo"

The Way of our Gods!
The clear and those red and white
The Way of AIKI is one of the divine techniques
To which only a narrow gate does lead.

The honored techniques if KI
May manifest the spirit of the Great Snake
Or that of Bees
To make such spirits (tama) appear
Is the Way of Takemusu

The precious techniques of KI!
They, the spirits (tama) does subdue and pacify
IN these techniques of misogi purification
Please direct us, Oh gods of Heaven and Earth!

In a landscape abundant with advanced weaponry
The Living soles become one in prayer
With the virtue of the workings of the God of Creation (samuhara).

The Way of the God! (kannagara)
The well-practiced sword
Must be made transparent and shining
Through the grace of the Divine.

The Ki of the Great Origin
Is Full and abundant
The Heavens and the Earth, all Creation itself
From here began

The multitudinous worlds of this existing universe
All at once are opened.
Plum Blossoms!
The second opening of the Great Stone Door.

The structure of the myriad worlds of this universe
Is brought to completion by its divine Parent (mi-oya)
And so I will leave it be
As she left it.

Except for blending with the void
There is no way to understand
The Way of Aiki.

The Pine, the Bamboo, and the Plum
The make up of Ki that we are training to purify
From where do they arise?
The Water and Fire of the change in the self.

With a mighty roar
The encompassing love of the lord
Gives birth to the great Universe
His holy works thus come into being.

The bejeweled spirit-sword of Susanoo
Down to the world did come
There to shine in the eastern sky.

Fully knowing it to be
A matter of life and death before us
We may chose to withdraw
But the enemy will not allow it.

The vast Universe!
The Way of Aiki to to become
The light of all mankind
Opening all the world.

Takemusu comes to be
Through Aiki with fire and
Water of the Holy Parent
The workings of this union are
The superlative beauty of the works of God.

Though we may honor it
We can never praise enough
The godly technique of the Way of Aiki
The godly technique of the small gate.

The "Cross Of Aiki" (Love-Ki)
Of the structure of the Great and Swift God
The meritorious deeds (samuhara) of the
God of the Eight Powers.

With the sakaki and the tuski
Purify the spirit
The motherly parent of Izu
Is here in the workings (samuhara) of god.

Always and always
Pour yourself into technical training
To face the multitude as if it were one
Is the Way of the Shugo-sha.

To the Technique of Tsurugi
Neither brush nor word of mouth can render due service
Saying nothing you must go fourth
And so must you know (satori)

The way of Izu has become
The Aiki of Heaven Earth and Man
Oh, let us keep this Way
You Gods of the Universe (ten-chi)

Let us bind together
Heaven and Earth, God and Man
So we may guard and protect
This age of ours.

Sharply sparkling
The spirit/mind of the person of the Way (do-jin)
Penetrates through to reveal
The evil devil that lurks inside the self

The time is now!
Make straight the bonds that link
Heaven, Fire, Water and Earth
Let me stand as your guide.

The sun, the moon and the earth
All have become Aiki
Standing on this bridge
The great expanse of the sea is
The Way of the Mountain Echo.

Stand on the bridge that was built
Through the Aiki of fire and the water
In the great expanse of the void
There is the Mountain Echo.

Training everyday
I smile again to see
The King of the Eight Powers
About to give his battle cry.

The purification techniques (misogi-waza)
I have learned from GOD and Revelation
Aiki is built by the god(s)

Masakatsu and Agatsu
By Aiki with the spirit of the Godly Parent
Save and invigorate
You own body and soul.

Inviting him in he approaches
A wind in made to blow
Cut it off, retain it and perfect it
Through the Aiki (love-Ki) of God.

For the sake of my heart
There appeared a perfect void
On the floating bridge.
A benefaction of the Lord.

Pondering (the state of) this world
I fall into a lament
Only to be reinvigorated again
When the light of the tumbling clouds
Builds the "vigorous force" inside me.

"Build up the world"
This command he did grasp
Received from the honored mother of the nation
Thus stands Katsuhayabi
On the Floating Bridge of the Heavens

Looking at this world
Only a coward complains of what he sees
As for me
Let me stand courageously
In the face of God's rage.

Though only one enemy calls you out
Be on your nest guard
To deal with one adversary in the spirit of facing ten thousands
Is the Way if the Warrior.

With links and ties too numberless to be known
Is found in the body and souls of the people
They who will enlighten the world.

Ah, the precious Izu and Mizu
Together, the Cross of Aiki
Advance with courage
In the voice of Mizu

Masakatsu Agatsu: True victory is victory over Oneself. One must first learn to control oneself before attempting to harmonize and control others. Without good balance and control over oneself, one can neither avoid an attack nor apply an effective technique on others. It is through self-control that one can learn to enjoy a harmonious way of life.

Izu and Mizu: These two words are taken from the metaphysical works of the Omoto religion and Shinto and are related to the theory of Kotodama, According to the works of Onisaburo Deguchi as presented in the book "The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba" by Doshu, K. Ueshiba Sensei, Izu is the word that indicates the actual Universal, All encompassing Deity or Principle, while Mizu is a word that is used to name the functioning of that Principle of Deity in this world for the sake of saving it. The two sounds are associated with the theory of Kotodama and with the concepts of Yang (Jap. Yo) and Yin (Jap. In)

"The Way of the Mountain Echo" This is a difficult image to define clearly, especially since it is rarely used today by the present teachers of Aikido. A mountain echo repeats back to the caller the same thing that was originally shouted. In O Sensei's "Way of the Mountain Echo" the images seem to be something akin to the concept of AIKI, in the sense of responding to or adapting to whatever it may be that your partner delivers and dealing with each encounter as if it were a completely new and fresh event. Associated with this may be the image of emptiness of the echo before anyone calls out to it, the fact that an echo makes no distinction between different callers and recognizes no difference in languages, or content of the message. It may also involve the idea of purposefulness of the echo's calling back although it never fails to do so whenever called upon and to do so with all it's effort. Another possible interpretation or nuance could be the fact that the echo's answering call always brings pleasure to the caller.

The pine, bamboo and plum (sho, chiku, bai) are common images used in popular Japanese culture. They are auspicious symbols: The pine is longevity and endurance, since it is evergreen and stays green even in winter, and it lives a long time and grows gnarly and beautifully weathered with age, like people who age well. The bamboo is flexibility and strength, as it bends in the wind or under a weight of snow, but never breaks. The plum is the Japanese plum, which is the first to blossom before the sakura cherry blossoms, so it signifies strong beauty in the face of winter harshness, albeit a fleeting beauty. The plum blossom also matures into the ume fruit, which is salted and pickled and is reputed to be a cure-all; a sort of Japanese chicken soup. Sho chiku bai. That's the name of a sake (Japanese alcohol) brand, too. The shochikubai is often grouped for New Year's decorations so that the household will be blessed with those attributes for the coming year. In Japan, we decorated our tea ceremony practice hall with shochikubai decorations for New Year's, and the doorways of Japanese homes and companies are decorated with kadomatsu (made of various combinations of bamboo, pine and plum).