Jan 7, 2008

Aikido and chado - Wa : harmony

Happy New Year to you all. We have just concluded Hatsugama at Issoan and are looking forward to the first keiko of the year. Beginning January 13th a new Introduction to Tea Ceremony class begins.

I'd like to introduce my guest blogger, the author of seiyoucha (also in the links section). It is a blog in French about the history of chado and sukisha, the dogu and their crafts, arts and literature of tea and some elements of Japanese culture based on his feelings and research. Please click over and check it out.

I have asked and he has agreed to write a few essays for me about Aikido and Chado, since he is a student of both and may have some insights about how they are similar or different. If anyone has additional comments or thoughts, please post them in the comments.

Aikido and Chado - Wa : harmony

Harmony (wa) is this ideal relationship between human beings which the chajin tries to establish. The tea room (chashitsu) is his favorite place to search for harmony, but his real goal is to find harmony in all the situations of life.

In western countries, aikido people usually translate the japanese character "ai" by "harmony". In fact, this "ai" is more the harmonious encounter, the ability to harmonize one's behaviour and attitude to those of the partner (uke). In a sense, we can say that ai is a dimension, a component of wa. I would say, in this regard, that aikido as well as chanoyu only mean something because of the underlying relationships: from this point of view, a solitary practice would have no meaning.

As Saotome sensei explains (Aikido and the harmony of nature, p. 243 of the American edition):

"There are no individual kata in Aikido, for Aiki is the harmony of relationships. On the Aikido mat you will find people of different social backgrounds and status, different cultures and languages, different political and religious philosophies. They are coming together not to compete, not to press their own ideas on someone else, but to learn to listen to each other, to communicate through Aikido "skinship". On the mat, we cannot hide our true selves. We show our weaknesses as well as our strengths, we sweat together, face stress together, help each other, and we learn to trust. [...] We are individuals, but we are a part of each other. [...] This is harmony."

If the quest for harmonious relationships is altogether rich by itself, it is only a stage in the quest for a more universal harmony. The further one advances, the chado student becomes more and more aware of the natural rhythms which sourround them: rhythm of the fire which heats water, rhythm of the gestures of temae, rhythms of the sun along days and seasons, rhythm of the breathing of his partners... This sensitivity to rhythms enables one to be aware of everything around them, to adapt fluently to circumstances. The aikido student pays attention to everything that is going on around him, not only to his partner. This is the meaning of shiho nage: to face the four directions at the same time. Just as well as the chajin adapts to the unexpected: he keeps an umbrella ready even in sunny weather.

OSensei used to teach that in aikido, he made one with the Universe.Saotome sensei illustrates in the quoted book how aikido techniques use just the same rythms as one can find in nature: koshi nage is the wave breaking on a reef, ikkyo omote is the ebb of the tide on the beach... From their initial encounter, there is a connection between to aikido partners, which they keep as long as they work together, technique after technique. Just the same as a connection is established between host and guests (and between guests themselves) from the welcome at the machiai or the roji door to the end of the chaji, when people try to keep this relation as long as possible even after guests have left the chashitsu. This connection, in aikido as well as in chado, is made from heart to heart (kokoro e kokoro kara, I would say in my poor Japanese), and needs no words.

The further one is aware of this harmony with nature, the further one is feels deeply the evanescence of every thing, the permanency of change, and value each moment for itself. It is just the same in aikido: each technique is unique, born from the meeting of uke and tori, and only exists for this moment. In dribs and drabs, this sensitivity extends to all the domains of life. When practice from the heart, tea as well as aikido lead us to feel this harmony which leads to peace.

1 comment:

  1. Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my site, it is about the CresceNet, I hope you enjoy. The address is http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . A hug.