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Discerning the Line Between Self and Ego ~Ariga Kaname~

When I began aikido at age 15 and heard from Endo shihan that it was the path of

self-development and self-realization, I have been thinking on what exactly the self is. In recent years, I had been thinking on this so hard that I realized I have lost flexibility, leading me to become preoccupied with it even more.

At the beginning of this year, I was reading a book and came across the words, “Don’t lose sight of the self. Don’t strengthen the ego”, and felt a fog lift from me.

In relation to keiko, self is the center and also the natural state in which the mind and body are in order. And I think ego is the unnatural state in which the mind is captivated and the body has lost balance.

In the practice session that I led, we began by ‘confirming the center’. You brought your consciousness to your center and, without tensing, extended your consciousness upward and downward, striving to realize an internal state with no stagnation or hesitation. We can call this the work to confirm the self.

Next, we did ‘confirming the hands and arms’, as we touch the partner during practice with these mostly. We considered there to be 1) soft, 2) hard, and 3) a state in which one is connected with the center and without tension. With (3) as the base, we tried to move from (3) to (1) and from (1) to (3) during movement. (The point is to not lose sight of Self and not express Ego. If Ego becomes expressed, one is liable to become (2).) If one becomes (2) here, I think it is good to be conscious of, or recognize, oneself as liable to becoming like that.

Next, we confirmed the sensation of not interfering with the partner while not losing sight of the Self. The goal was to suppress the self, which we tend to emphasize, while receiving the energy from the partner.

Aikido is called the martial art of peace and the path of harmony. I especially hear this among Europeans. However, after the first contact with the partner, given that there is an objective (e.g,. to do kotegaeshi), I wonder if we don’t move too assertively. To put it more extremely, despite calling it the martial art of peace, perhaps we do something that is violent and unilateral – this is what leads me to what I’m currently working on.

What we worked on next was hugging. Our Ego, which tries to throw, defeat, or pin down the partner, actually helps their balance.

Ego also creates the boundary between self and other. If you think to throw the opponent, they work to prevent it. The hard you try to defeat the opponent, the more they work to not be defeated. I think that the first thing to do is to become one with the opponent, with kindness, and notice how that feels. At this point, we pay particular attention to not having the goal of defeating the partner.

Lastly, what is aiki? As someone who is devoted to aikido, I wish to know the meaning of aiki and to feel it. During practice, Enso shihan often tells us, ‘Please try to do aiki’. What is that, exactly? I have been thinking on what kind of state is one in which we can do aiki.

Currently, my thinking is that that state is one in which there is no self or other, but one unified body. As I said during practice, we may suppose that the partner is red and we are blue. Based on this, aiki is not one color covering the other, but their blending together to create purple and thereby creating a world in which there is no distinction between self and other.

O-sensei said that aikido is the ‘path of world peace’ and ‘love’. A world without self and other is a peaceful, non-oppositional world. In order to realize this, I think we must strive to look at ourselves. We must develop, realize, and establish Self, and recognize and cross over the boundary with Ego. I hope to approach even by a little bit O-sensei’s vision, that aikido is love.

Receiving the role of teaching for an hour at Endo shihan’s summer camp made me very nervous. I am grateful to Endo shihan to be able to have such an experience. Although my teaching was inept, I would like to thank everyone for practicing together with good feeling. Thank you very much.

September 2015

Aikido Saku Dojo

Kaname Ariga