Osensei and Einstein

Osensei and Einstein.

What the Aikido Founder and Physicist Have in Common

The secret of Aikido, said Osensei, "is to harmonize ourselves with the movement of the universe and bring ourselves into accord with the universe itself." This is, of course, easier said than done. Still, I find Osensei's perspective to be rewarding in Aikido practice, as well as remarkably accurate even from a scientific viewpoint.

       For Aikido not to be but an execution of smart tricks to fell an opponent, or an ever so pleasant physical exercise where two persons push each other around (although this is in itself quite amusing), we have to concentrate on the mysterious visions that were Osensei's. Then we notice a sweet accord between the ideals of Aikido and the cosmic world order. In fact, the principles of Aikido fit very well with the modern astronomical theories.

Taninzugake. Photo: Ulf Lundquist.
Taninzugake, several attackers, at Enighet dojo. Photo by Ulf Lundquist.

       In space, when two celestial bodies move close to one another, it's the force of gravity that governs them. Gravity makes the earth orbit around the sun, instead of taking off into the vast emptiness of space.

       When in the 1680s Isaac Newton was the first to calculate the laws of gravity, he described it as a force pulling the celestial bodies towards each other — not unlike when a wild horse is tamed by help of a rope around its neck, forcing it to run in circles instead of fleeing. Through its enormous mass, the sun could pull the earth into a continuously curved route, although the planet was aiming for a straight line. This unending power play, with the celestial giants in eternal conflict, was not particularly likable.

       In the beginning of our century, Albert Einstein introduced his theories of relativity, and changed this perspective completely. He showed that gravity was not a tug of war, but a curving of the very space-time continuum: when the earth orbits around the sun, it's all the time travelling on its own straight course — instead it is space itself that's curved around the sun. Therefore planet earth doesn't disappear into deep space, without the sun having to pull it. The orbit of the earth could be compared to the miniature Ferris-wheel for caged pet rodents, where they run and run, straight ahead, without getting anywhere at all.

Aiki taiso. Photo: Gunilla Welin.
Aiki taiso, warmup, at Brandbergen Aikido dojo. Photo by Gunilla Welin.

       This may be utterly frustrating to celestial bodies and small pets alike, but it's undeniably a harmonious guiding star for Aikido practice. The uke should not be thrown by being forced out of his course, but through curving the space-time continuum, so that he feels as if the route he's being lead is exactly the route he had himself chosen. As this is the way of the cosmos itself, and everything within, it could not be too difficult to learn, could it?

Stefan Stenudd

The above text was first published as a Chronicle for Svenska Fighter, Swedish Martial Art magazine, in 1995. It was also published in The Aikido, Hombu dojo newsletter, 2/1997.

In Osensei's own words

Morihei Ueshiba: Budo Morihei Ueshiba did not write much about aikido, but this text from the 30s has got all of his overwhelming characteristics — short, visionary and not so easy to comprehend — but inspiring indeed. John Stevens has translated and edited. A number of Osensei photos from the 30s are also included. Click the header to get to Amazon's presentation of the book.

My Aikido Books

Click the images to see the books at Amazon (paid link).
Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles
Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art. The basic principles, philosophy and traditional budo concepts in aikido.
More about the book here.

Attacks in Aikido, by Stefan Stenudd. Attacks in Aikido
How to do kogeki, the attack techniques. All the attack techniques in aikido explained, and how to do them correctly.
More about the book here.

Aikibatto, by Stefan Stenudd. Aikibatto
Aikiken Sword Exercises for Aikido. The aikibatto exercises, practical and spiritual aspects of the sword arts, advice on equipment for training.
More about the book here.

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Stefan Stenudd

Stefan Stenudd

About me
I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both English and Swedish. I'm also an artist, a historian of ideas, and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.