A few words from Sensei on the Winds of Mongolia

Andre Turrettini

I would like to say a few words about the upcoming concert featuring the Winds of Mongolia folk singing ensemble from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

You may ask, why Mongolia?

Mongolia was very important in the life of my teacher, the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Attempting to build a utopian society in 1924, Founder Ueshiba left Japan to find his dreams in Mongolia. He never made it to Mongolia however, and not only lost his dream but was nearly killed in the process. Speaking simply, after returning to Japan he began his development of the art of Aikido which has now spread to all parts of the globe.

Many people have done historical research on the founding and development of Aikido, and the interpretations run at both ends of the spectrum. As I explain in my Aikido beginners classes. “The word Aikido is written with six letters of the alphabet. It takes all six letters to make the word. We do not practice the martial art of “A” or “I” or “O”. If you try to focus on just one part of Aikido practice you will never be able to understand the whole. If you try to isolate “ki” in Aikido it is very difficult to find. If you focus only on the strength and power aspects of Aikido you will also fall short in understanding the art. These two aspects are at both ends of the spectrum. You need to include both ends and what is in the middle to truly understand the practice of Aikido. Think of a four-foot stick for example. If you were to grab the stick, where is it most comfortable to grab? If you grab it at the very end and hold it up, your hand will soon tire, as the stick will feel heavy in your hand. Where then, is it comfortable to grab the stick? This is an easy exercise. Open your hand, palm up and place the stick in your hand. The balance point of course is in the middle. This feeling of centeredness in Japanese is called chudou. Chudou is the term in Japanese to describe a feeling of calm mind, not easily swayed from end to end. With this kind of mind, real understanding of Aikido can be understood.

The concept of chudou is difficult to explain, but can be thought of as the unburdening or releasing of concepts. For example, serious practice without serious practice. Serious thinking about Aikido without thinking about Aikido. Life is found in the balance of the center of Aikido practice, yet it is not, it is found beyond these concepts.

As Founder of Nippon Kan, I want the practice of Aikido to be realistic, and able to be assimilated into everyday life. My vision today is not to focus on gathering information on technique. For me, at this point in my training of Aikido, gathering techniques is small minded. Understanding the concept of chudou is the act of doing, not gathering to discuss techniques.
The vision of worldwide humanitarian assistance incorporated in AHAN, (the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network) plays a significant role in Nippon Kan’s direction for the present and the future. Our community service projects here in Denver are also an important function of our organization.

The Denver City Council has recognized Nippon Kan on two separate occasions for our work with the homeless at the Denver Rescue Mission, and for cross-cultural exchange. It is this standard of performance from both leadership and students which defines the caliber of Nippon Kan as an organization. This in turn is reflected in the outstanding number of beginning students that enroll each session.

There is an analogy in the animal kingdom. Monkeys live in large groups. When faced with danger or challenge, the baby monkeys scramble for their mothers who scatter wildly to avoid peril. Lions however live in smaller prides. When faced with danger or challenge, the baby lions just relax and are carried calmly by their mothers out of danger. Nippon Kan is like the lion pride, walking calmly, believing in, and acting on our direction and purpose. Dreams come true if we just calmly follow our path.

I have spent most of my life studying the practice of Aikido, yet I feel I have not been consumed or burdened by this study. As last direct student of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, and the only direct student of the Founder in the Rocky mountain region, I continue to actively pursue his philosophy of Budo as a way of love and harmony.

Since first hearing Mongolian folk singing three years ago, it has been my hope to bring this wonderful music to Denver. I sincerely hope you will join us in this exciting concert. It promises to be a spectacular event!

Gaku Homma
Nippon Kan Founder