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Aikido and Words of Power: The Sacred Sounds of Kototama Paperback – January 12, 2009
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". . . a breath of fresh air for a discipline that largely receives martial arts attention. . . . recommended for sports and spirituality patrons alike." (The Midwest Book Review, California Bookwatch, July 2009)
“This is one of those rare works that probes the spiritual dimensions of Aikido as conceived by founder Morihei Ueshiba O-sensei. The practice of the art today largely centers on technique, but Gleason sensei’s research and eloquence shed light on a difficult subject for Western readers, given the cultural and spiritual milieu in which Aikido evolved. For those seeking to go beyond mere physical training and who view the art as a lifelong discipline for personal growth, this insightful book will prove an indispensable guide.” (Stanley Pranin, editor in chief of Aikido Journal)
“This book is a great gift to the Aikido community. Gleason sensei takes us deep into the spiritual and energetic principles that underlay this marvelous art.” (George Ledyard, founder of Defensive Tactics Options)
“William Gleason brings awareness to the spiritual practices at the foundation of Aikido. By delving in to the essence of kototama theory, this book becomes a must for every Aikido practitioner or any person looking to connect to his or her own true nature.” (Bronwen and Frans Stiene, authors of The Japanese Art of Reiki and The Reiki Sourcebook)
From the Back Cover
MARTIAL ARTS / AIKIDO
“This is one of those rare works that probes the spiritual dimensions of Aikido as conceived by founder Morihei Ueshiba O-sensei. The practice of the art today largely centers on technique, but Gleason sensei’s research and eloquence shed light on a difficult subject for Western readers, given the cultural and spiritual milieu in which Aikido evolved. For those seeking to go beyond mere physical training and who view the art as a lifelong discipline for personal growth, this insightful book will prove an indispensable guide.”
--Stanley Pranin, editor in chief of Aikido Journal
“This book is a great gift to the Aikido community. Gleason sensei takes us deep into the spiritual and energetic principles that underlay this marvelous art.”
--George Ledyard, founder of Defensive Tactics Options
“William Gleason brings awareness to the spiritual practices at the foundation of Aikido. By delving in to the essence of kototama theory, this book becomes a must for every Aikido practitioner or any person looking to connect to his or her own true nature.”
--Bronwen and Frans Stiene, authors of The Japanese Art of Reiki and The Reiki Sourcebook
Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba described the discipline as one spirit, four souls, three origins, and eight powers. One spirit and four souls are the five vowel dimensions of infinite space, the source of the sacred sounds of kototama. Now, for the first time in English, William Gleason explains how to use the sounds of kototama in the practice of Aikido.
Aikido is often approached as a purely physical discipline, but it is a truly profound spiritual vehicle for those who approach it with sincerity of purpose. The five vowels represent various dimensions and stages of awareness, whose different powers are revealed through Aikido practice. Using more than 300 photographs, Gleason sensei presents physical routines that provide an introduction into the kanagi, sugaso, and futonorito levels of spiritual development.
Understanding the sacred sounds related to each of these dimensions, the adept gains not only the ability to realize the stages inherent in spiritual mastery but also the ability to maintain health and balance in his or her own life. “When fish move through water, there is no end to the water; when birds fly, there is no end to the sky.” Similarly, humans swim and fly in an ocean of sounds. Understanding kototama allows human beings to view the world without distortion and allows the creative powers of the mind to flourish.
WILLIAM GLEASON has studied Aikido and Japanese medicine and philosophy since 1969, including 10 years of study in Japan. The director of Shobu Aikido in Boston and a 6th dan instructor, he is the author of The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido and translator of Mitsugi Saotome’s Principles of Aikido.
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As an anthropological study, the topic is very interesting but I find this treatment of it difficult to navigate; it seems to jump in at a level that assumes more familiarity with the topic than I have. It takes more of the viewpoint of a practitioner internal to the practice than as an observer; while this is not a fault per-se, it makes this book difficult as an introduction to the topic.
Do words have magical power? Depends on how you define "magical power". Encouragement, discouragement, the ability to influence another person's behavior might be a kind of "magic". The aesthetic experience of sound, as in music or meditative chanting, can influence emotional states--is that a kind of "magic"? Sound itself as an energy wave can be manipulated and interpreted using technology to image things (ultrasound, sonar) and to manipulate things (sonic cleaning, some theoretical weapons uses)--are those "magical powers"? The physical process of making certain sounds might help with certain tasks--a "kiai" as both intimidation and a breath-timing exercise in martial arts (relating this back to aikido). So in principal the idea of words or sounds being "magical" isn't quite so superstitious as it may superficially appear. But the author does not make these arguments.
I found this authors approach and literary style to be obtuse. While I don't hate the book, I do wonder if there are other references on this topic that might make it more accessible.
I hope you get to practice and share your thoughts as well.
Kotodama has been an interest of my for some time now. During my aikido training, the subject would come up but even high level instructors either did not know about it, did not believe in it or had little information on the subject to share. As such, for many years it was on the back burner. Only recently, my Japanese language teacher and my Shodo instructor were able to speak clearly and in detail about the subject. If you are not as fortunate to find individuals to discuss this fascinating subject with, Gleason sensei's book is the next best thing. It is a complicated subject but when one is well versed in a given subject, they are able to simply the complex. Such is the case here.
Gleason sensei's 40 plus years in aikido, including a decade living in Japan was the obvious groundwork for this exceptional book. In other words, he DID, thus is able to SPEAK.
There are quite a number of photos demonstrating aikido technique that is also of great value. They illustrate the various concepts and terms that are being discussed and help the reader (particularly those not training in aikido) better understand what the author is teaching.
This is the type of aikido training I would love to be exposed to -- not only the techniques, but the spiritual components of a highly spiritual art. Your martial art skill may improve but more importantly, your life improves. In my opinion, that is the greatest value of martial arts training today.
The great Yamaguchi Sensei, teacher of Gleason Sensei on Japan in the seventies, used to say that "almost everything in Aikido is hidden". This is so because its physical manifestations were created to be ineffective until one has really understood the expansive spiral motion and use of ki ([...]). On this book, Gleason Sensei generously unveils these mysterious concepts to the Aikido community worldwide.
Francisco França Júnior
Aizen Dojo ([...])
Brasília - Brazil