Aikido: Harmony and Relationship (preface)

This is the preface of the late Maestro G. Ruglioni’s 2008 book Aikido: Harmony and Relationship. The art of perception in a practice of peace written by S. Benassi (former President of Ki no Kenkyukai Italy). It appears here in the English translation (2008) with minor corrections and amendments.

The true beginning is at the end: it may happen that we read a book quickly and perhaps that we look through it rapidly to catch the ending, curious and willing to know how the story ends. This book instead must be read slowly and savoured. It is born from practice and from the experience of meditation and the reflection that accompanied it.

In his former book, Unification of mind-body and Ki Aikido (Genova, Erga edizioni, 1997), Giuseppe Ruglioni showed us the way that the discipline of Ki Aikido had developed from its origins up to the nineties; in this book he invites us to examine and verify today’s experiences; never separating hisToric philosophic ideas from those directly related to the practice and to the body discipline.

The first part of the volume starts, in fact, with an open debate on the relationship between mind and body. On the apparent contrast that philosophy and Western daily life have fixed between them for a long time, to which often there is a reply from the trainees of the oriental disciplines, who offer the opposite concept: the necessity to practice the unification of mind and body.

These are two ways of looking at a complex phenomenon that originates from the same root of conflict and contrast, typical of Western thinking and mentality. The most radical introduction of the entire discipline, is the research into the principle non conflict in relationships, and first of all, the conflict between the individuals’ mind and body.

The Correct mind is the one that does not stop in one place.

It is the mind that spreads all over the body and the self.

The Confused mind is the one that, thinking over something,

freezes in one place.

Takuan Soho’s words, quoted in these pages, clarify the sense of this relationship where it is stressed how the conflict and the contrast have originated. When the mind is confused and continuously takes shelter in one place it comes into opposition with the constant flow of life.

With this understanding Aikido then becomes a constant practice of life. We then see ourselves in our environment and this has a relation to the inner self. We can explore this inner and outer relation with the self and other through aikido. It starts from individual practice of the different ways that Aikido proposes, as Doshu Yoshigasaki has developed over these last years. The Kenko Taiso and Hitori Waza exercises are the necessary preparation to get ready for receiving the other, in the relationships that are created thanks to the other Kenkodo types and to Aikido, that, on the contrary, foresee the direct contact with another person. This is the difference between the Aikido of our school and the other martial arts: the ‘other’ is never conceived as an adversary to be defeated, but as an ‘otherness’ to understand.

From this point of view the techniques are never an end in themselves, but a means to realize ones position in the space and the relation with the person that occupies it with us. Therefore it is necessary to use correct breathing, which is basic to every Aikido technique and which is especially developed in the kokyu-ho techniques. The first action of life is breathing, and it is this one that casts us into space and into time: meditation and breathing are the fundamentals of the perception of space and time. That is to say of space/time, because this practice dissolves once again the instrumental opposition between these two categories, which we are used to living with, by conveying in the act of breathing a way of rhythmical scanning of the vital being and the perception of its position in the surrounding environment. In this way an ethic of responsibility is created, towards oneself and the others. The way to harmony and peace that Aikido shows, reveals this character ethic in the willingness to take care of oneself and of the other. And perhaps, it is for this reason that one could read the book also from the end, from those testimonies that stess, with the concretenesss of the various experiences (with children, in the cases of disability, in the entrepreneurial functions), the different ways with which Aikido expresses itself as the founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei reminded us when he spoke of the thousands of ways in which the universe breathes.