On a recent business trip to Manila, Caulfield Sensei visited the RT Lawrence Corporation, a multi-national financial software company. When management learned that Mr. Caulfield is an instructor in “Black Sword Aikido,” a martial art that focuses, not on striking an opponent, but rather on re-directing the opponent’s energy to gain control over them, he was invited to train some of the corporation’s employees in self-defense.
About twenty individuals, most with no prior martial-arts experience, took advantage of the opportunity. Some of the women told Mr. Caulfield that they had previously felt helpless because of their size, but after just ninety minutes of training, they now felt more confident that they could defend themselves.
The word “Aikido” means “The Way of Harmony of the Spirit.” As taught by Mr. Caulfield, aikido is a way of strengthening one’s mind, body, and spirit, learning one’s true will, and discovering one’s purpose. Mr. Caulfield, a 5th Degree Black Belt in Ueshiba Aikido, has a dojo in Lyndeborough, NH, where he offers regular lessons. Visitors are welcome to observe or sample a class at no cost.
In traditional Japanese fencing there were three acceptable outcomes to a duel. Katsu or victory, make or defeat, or ai uchi mutual killing. Ai uchi is, in reality, the highest level of combat. It is only against a greatly inferior opponent that you will either be able to strike first or be able to block and then strike. Generally you and your opponent will strike at the same time, and your will and your destiny will determine the outcome. With successful ai uchi you do not block the attack, you, in reality, block his body through your attack, suppressing the attack. None of these outcomes were favored over the other.
Ki-ken-tai no ichi, “spirit, sword, body as one.”
What does this really mean?
It means that your spirit is demonstrated by your voice, your sword by the contact with the target, and your body by the contact of your right foot with the floor.
All people know this! When you strike a flowing river, no trace remains in the water.
————– Saigo Tanomo
Shinkenshobu means a duel with live blades. This is the proper attitude for martial arts. You should always consider, especially when you are on the mat, that one moment of indecision, one moment of distraction, the slightest gap in your defenses, you could die. Even though Seishi Ichijo, life and death are one, while you are playing the game, you must play the game.
As we grow older, it is more difficult for us to train. Perhaps we also think we no longer need to train. However, overcoming these physical and egocentric challenges are very important to continue to progress on the Path.
Friday night, I attended a seminar with my Chin Na teacher, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, in Andover, MA. He now spends most of his time in his California retreat. It was wonderful! To have an opportunity to learn from him again and train with my fellow instructors was so affirmational and fun. I even forgot some of my aches and pains!
One of my passions is to compare religions; to discover how they are the same and how they are different. I do the same with martial arts. The joint locks in Aikido and Chin Na share similarities, but are fundamentally different. I think it is correct to say that Aikido traps the opponent with motion, whereas Chin Na traps the opponent with stillness.
This is an article a contributed a few years ago to the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project on using Aikido self defense techniques in an office environment.
The great 16th Century sword master Tsukahara Bokuden had three adopted children. To test their fencing skills, he propped a wooden block pillow above the sliding screen that opened into his quarters and invited each of his sons to visit in turn.
The youngest son came first. As he opened the door, the pillow fell. This son dodged the pillow, drew and struck it before it hit the floor.
The second son saw the falling pillow and caught it.
The third son, sensing something wrong at the entrance to Bokuden’s room, without going in, reached up and removed the pillow first, then entered.
There is a story of Ueshiba being questioned about sen and asked whether aikido was not go no sen, completely offensive. Ueshiba blew up and stated “After all these years, you fellows haven’t figured any of this out yet! Don’t you realize there’s only one sen.” Ueshiba felt it was not right to divide sen up. Although there is no attack in aikido and the art is supposed to be purely defensive it, in its outward form, appears to be go no sen. However, if you are always responding, your movements will become short and choppy. The idea is to invite or draw out movement from uke. If you wait for someone to grab you, it’s already too late. You are not grabbed you cause someone to grab you. On the spiritual level you must always move before uke causing uke to attack in a certain way. Wherefore, in aikido, there is only one sen. Aikido is a manifestation of defensive go no sen combined with sensen no sen, initiative on a spiritual level. Together they manifest themselves as tai no sen.