Aikido is a vision based on how Morihei trained, what he experienced in his life, and above all his awakening to the true meaning of Budo. This is the source of Aikido. The message is always going to remain the same.
Classical Aikido has its roots in the life of teaching of Shirata Rinjiro. By all accounts, Shirata Sensei was one of Morihei’s best and most trusted disciples. At Shirata Sensei’s funeral, sponsored by the Aiki-kai, Doshu Kisshomaru remarked in his eulogy, “Shirata Sensei represents what Aikido is meant to be.”
John Stevens Sensei is a retired professor of Buddhist Studies in Sendai Japan. He met Shirata Sensei during his training as a Buddhist priestand immediately became his student. Shirata Sensei was his inspiration on the mat as well as his guide for his research of O Senseis legacy and writing and translating more than a dozen books. Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu supported this research by allowing Stevens and Shirata Sensei access to O Senseis material stored at Hombu Dojo. Since the mid-eighties, Stevens Sensei has been travelling abroad to teach aikido seminars worldwide. He soon attracted a group of students, that he formed the Classical Aikido Association with.
Classical Aikido is dedicated to Morihei’s vision as understood and taught by Shirata Sensei. It is not mixed up with anything else—not Zen, not Shinto, not Daito-ryu, not Chinese martial arts, not internal training, not one or the other school of swordsmanship. It is a complete system, spiritually and physically.
Practically speaking, the practice of Aikido revolves around:
Misogi: “Purification of body and mind.” The original meaning of misogi was “lustration,” “daily baptism,” and “washing away of dirt and grime, both outside and inside one’s being.” Morihei took the meaning one step further—our minds, our speech, and our actions must be embraced by misogi. When we train in the dojo we do misogi together. Our attitude, our movements, our encouraging words, and our energy must be vehicles of misogi to remove all malice, selfishness, and greed.
Chinkon Kishin: “Calm the spirit and return to the divine.” Morihei gave simple instructions on the practice of chinkon-kishin but left it to the instructors to impart the method. We follow the method taught by Shirata Sensei.
Kototama: “Sacred Sounds.” This is a vast subject—indeed the vastest since it is widely believed in both mythology and science that the entire universe is vibration. We follow the kototama system (the short form) established by Morihei.
Morihei stressed that without misogi, chinkon-kishin, and kototama there is no Aikido.
Nine Pillars: O Sensei clearly attached meaning to all the techniques of Aikido. As taught by O Sensei, Shirata Sensei structured the Aikido techniques around pillars. The Nine Pillars of Aikido all have profound meaning. Studying this, and visualizing while training, leads to embody Aikido and bring its principles to daily life.