Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido – Respect Your Partner’s Ki

The original discussion of the Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido was in during the Zoom online training on June 12, 2022. Subsequently, in September and early October, we had discussions of the individual five principles, for which the transcripts are provided following the links below:
Sep 4: Ki is extending
Sep 11: Know your partner’s mind
Sep 18: Respect your partner’s Ki
Sep 24: Put yourself in the place of your partner
Oct 9: Lead and move.

Respect Your Partner’s Ki (Sep 18, 2022)

Hello, everyone.


This morning, I’m going to read Shokushu #10 “The Principle of Non-dissension.”

“There is no conflict in the absolute universe. Conflict arises only in the relative world. If we are to lead others, we must unify mind and body and practice the principles of the universe. Do not say that this is the world of survival of the fittest, where the stronger prey upon the weaker. The true way to peace, is exactly the same as the principle of non-dissension.”

This principle of non-dissension is the abiding principle of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, isn’t it? The principle of non-dissension is basically the principle of “going with” rather than “going against.”

This principle is the fundamental principle that Morihei Uyeshiba Sensei, the original founder of Aikido, discovered at his first awakening. And this is the fundamental principle that Koichi Tohei Sensei spent his life finding different ways of expressing in his dedicated attempt to share his experience of “going with” rather than “going against” with the world.

These five principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido are not an overall strategy of five tactics on how to win over someone. These are simply five states of mind that Tohei Sensei is suggesting we need to adopt as principles of living if we want to learn non-dissension. That is, if we want to learn to “go with” rather than to “go against,” or in other words, to be a true friend to one or more people. 

So, the third principle we’re looking at today is:

Respect your partner’s Ki.

The previous principle we discussed last week was “Know your partner’s mind.” So, just think about a friend, perhaps your partner, maybe to know their mind we need to know what they cherish. Do you know what’s most important to your partner? What they really cared deeply about? And do you support that unconditionally? Are you the greatest admirer of that aspect of them that they prize so? 

We are asking here, “Are you a true friend?” Are you “going with” rather than “going against?”  If if we can learn to do that with a person that we love and care about, then we can take that same principle and love everyone. That’s what this is offering. 

You know, the principle of respecting someone else’s Ki is always showing up in Aikido techniques. Sometimes we find ourselves bumping into our partner, right? When we’re clumsy like that, or when we’re inattentive to our partner, when we’re only thinking about our own movement and how to do what we’re doing, then we’re not really “going with,” we’re just trying to make something happen. Of course, this is not respecting our opponents Ki. And that’s why I often use the word “partner” instead of “opponent.” It’s a transformation that takes place when we do this. We are transforming an opponent into a partner. We’re “going with” rather than “going against.” This is the principle of respecting our partners Ki. 

Okay, this is a huge subject. 

Let’s begin by practicing Ki Breathing together. 

Ki Breathing – 15 minutes

Ki Meditation – 13 minutes

Mind Body Meditation – 12 minutes

In Tokyo, Japan every year, there is a great gathering of all martial arts at a big center in Tokyo. And they all give demonstrations and honor their own martial art. In 1990 Tohei Sensei was there taking part in this demonstration, and he was giving his talk. He began this talk with these words, “Shinshin Toitsu Aikido is not a martial art.”

This was quite shocking to all the martial art experts listening. Tohei Sensei meant that in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido there is no competition, there is no winner and no loser. Everyone in Aikido wins. This is the meaning of the spirit of non-dissension and of our principle that we are studying today; “Respect your partner’s Ki.” 

Okay, so now would be a good time, if you have anything you’d like to say or ask. 

Student: I have a question about non-dissension. What if it’s not an Aikido situation? What if it is in the workplace and the other person’s Ki seems a little crazy and harmful. How do I draw a line so that I don’t become a pushover. I have tried to work with this person, but it seems a very chaotic and crazy Ki that I feel from the other person. At the end I just tried to set some boundaries so I wouldn’t get affected. But it seems I’m going against what you’re teaching me this morning. So would you please help me on that?

Can I tell you a little story? It is kind of a famous story told by a well-known Aikido instructor, Terry Dobson Sensei. He was training in Japan when he was a young man with O Sensei. He was very undeveloped yet, but at the same time he was very proud that he was training Aikido and excited about being able to “use” it. One night he was going home on the subway and a drunk man walked onto the subway and began acting crazy, perhaps like the person you’re talking about. This drunk was talking loudly and looked like he might cause some trouble with some people on the subway. And so, this young man (Terry Dobson) thought, “Ah, now’s a chance for me to practice my Aikido. I can subdue this man and take him down, right here in front of everyone.” But as Dobson began to prepare himself, a little old man stepped up to the drunk man, put his hand on his back and started caressing him saying, “Oh, I see you like to drink sake. I love to drink sake. Come sit down with me.” And they sat down together, and the old man said, “You know, my wife and I have a glass of sake at the end of every day, when I come home from work. I’m so happy to meet you, and to learn that you also enjoy this sake! And very soon the drunk man had his head on the old man’s shoulder, was crying and telling him his troubles.

Terry Dobson Sensei said that event changed his understanding of Aikido forever. He saw the benefit of “going with” instead of “going against,” and what O Sensei was really trying to teach him. 

It’s not like someone can give us the perfect technique to respond to an emergency. It’s not as if there is a known strategy that we must learn. There is no specific tactic to use. If we look at Aikido as a source of that kind of thing, then we misunderstand the purpose altogether. Again, this is changing our heart. It’s opening our heart and making ourselves available. Instead of trying to think of a way to change what’s happening, we open to what’s happening. And when we do that, we always see what we can never know ahead of time, what is appropriate now. And this can move anything forward in a positive way. 

By saying that “Shinshin Toitsu Aikido is not a martial art,” Tohei Sensei means that Aikido is not somewhere we go to learn how to defeat others, or how to right a wrong. Aikido is not “conflict resolution,” in the sense that if you come to the class, you will learn corrective techniques, and you will become able to solve difficult situations in your life. No, not at all. Because every time something comes up in our life, it’s completely original, and it’s only asking one thing of us, and that’s to open ourselves to it confidently, innocently, and sincerely with faith that whatever the outcome, it will be okay. 

Actual life is quite counter-conceptual that way. We may think, “I want to know what to do in this exact situation!”  But no, the beauty of every situation is that it, in and of itself and in its own time, shows us what to do. That’s why we love life. It would all be so boring to know everything ahead of time.

Okay, thank you very much. 

Student: Good morning, Sensei. Just a quick question, and maybe this is an obvious question. How is it a “win-win” situation for the person who ends up on the mat? 

Well, you’re saving him from doing harm to others, at the least, and that is changing his life for the better. 

Our whole theme here today really comes out of this question you have right here. Who benefits? I’m trying to emphasize today that we must remove our ideas of “helping others” from how we practice Aikido. There is no series of strategies to resolve conflict. I know it often sounds like we say that’s what it is. But if we look at Aikido that way, then we’re offering up something that can be countered. And then counter-countered, and then countered again ad infinitum. This is the very source and maintenance of a life filled with conflict.

The teaching is that we’re opening our mind and heart. We’re becoming one with, we’re joining with the intention of the other person, we know their mind, we respect their Ki, and we put ourselves in their place. We join with them and become one with them. This is the very opposite of what the attacker could have imagined would happen when they attacked us. They thought they would either win, or they would lose, but they never imagined that they would make a friend. They never imagined that they would become unified. Now, of course, physically they generally end up in a prone position on the ground.  I always say that this is an excellent position from which to contemplate their good fortune. 

Okay, that’s my answer to that. 

I think that, in this way, Aikido is just so elegant and beautiful. And we are all so fortunate to be doing this together. It’s easy to misunderstand, just because of what is in our own subconscious mind, because of the way we’ve been conditioned in our lives. Let’s understand this for what it is. Since this teaching is very deep and asks a lot of us, let’s rise up to meet it. 

Thank you very much. I will see you all next week.

Domo arigato gozaimasu.