AiShinKai - Harmonious Heart Association - Achieving Peak Performance in Daily Life
Self-Mastery - Character Development - Leadership - Team Management - Conflict Resolution - Global Citizenship

Ethics in Martial Arts

“Japanese martial arts reveal the character
of the practitioner
and should express a spirit
of loving protection for all beings.” 

- Dr. Jonathan Bannister, AiShinKai Founder and President


Who Am I, and What Do I Want to Become?
The instructors at the AiShinKai believe that individuals only need the right tools to achieve self-mastery.  It is our human birthright to become an unstoppable force of Nature, motivated by ethical concern for others, and empowered through the experience of mind-body coordination and success in martial arts and cultural arts performance.  The AiShinKai Basic Principles of Self-Mastery, AiShinKai Mind-Body Coordination Exercises, and the training methods we employ provide concrete tools that help us to develop true and measureable mastery of body, mind and spirit.

Yet there is another important task, one that must be undertaken alone.  The achievement of self-mastery, even in incremental stages, brings tremendous personal responsibility.  It is essential that we grapple with the positive and negative aspects of our human psyche to envision the person we wish to become, and enact a positive strategy to make that great vision into reality.  Instructors may ask questions and make suggestions, but it is the individual who must choose "a life worth living."  Only by striving for personal excellence - binding profound technical knowledge to honest virtue - we an individual discover what true self-mastery really means.

The Principle of Ai-Ki

AiShinKai promotes a new paradigm of peaceful conflict resolution and harmonious cooperation, one in which personal empowerment need never come at another's expense.
  As an organization, AiShinKai has deep roots in the modern martial art of AiShin-Ryu Aikido, a gentle yet highly effective self-defense system.  AiShin-Ryu techniques are designed to protect both defender and attacker from the inherent, destructive consequences of violence.  The profoundly non-violent principle of Ai-Ki (harmonious spirit) is central to AiShin-Ryu and AiShinKai's paradigm of peaceful conflict resolution.  The principle of Ai-Ki contrasts with more common, mistaken ideas of  what constitutes "self-defense," which sometimes seem more in keeping with Hammurabian (1) "eye-for-an-eye" principles than any modern ethical considerations.

Lowest to Highest Levels of Self-Defense

1.  Unprovoked aggression

2.  Violent response to provocation
3.  Self-defense at the expense of another ("him or me")
4.  Non-violent response to aggression that protects both the defender and the attacker

Appreciation and credit for this illustration to Mr. Oscar Ratti, commercial illustrator, whose drawings in Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere (Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, 1994) have inspired countless students and instructors with their grace and illuminated spirit: Gasso!

The highest form of self-defense requires great technique, great courage, and great conviction.  Much training is necessary to perfect impeccable martial skills.  To achieve the self-mastery required to practice ideal self-defense,  AiShinKai provides a wide variety of training opportunities: Mind-Body Coordination Exercises, armed and unarmed martial arts training, and an array of elegant traditional cultural arts are offered so that the requisite skills are developed in combination with a high degree of character development.

It is the privilege of the strong to be compassionate.  We must not mistake mere restraint for the highest level of conflict resolution.  Avoidance of conflict as policy is usually just cowardice in disguise.  The fact is that this world is rife with conflict small and large, and to achieve self-mastery we must position ourselves to engage conflict imaginatively, bravely, and positively.  The highest ideals of self-mastery and self-defense are not found in negatives.  It is not nearly enough to simply resist the temptation to injure, nor is it satisfactory to a master to callously disregard the welfare of others.  The highest level of non-violence requires active, positive choices, and a commitment to train in methods that are consciously powerful yet non-violent. 

One solution to the challenge of achieving self-mastery and the highest level of self-defense is available in the centering, extension, and leading principles of AiShin-Ryu Aikido.  This art teaches that just as we should not yield to aggression, so also we must not strive to contend directly against violence.  It is more efficient, more responsible, and more ethical to redirect aggression away from its intended target and towards instability, without resort to violent means to achieve this end.  Once a would-be attacker is rendered off-balance, any conflict he or she sought is all but over. 

Yet reducing conflict in this manner is insufficient to qualify for the highest level of self-defense, for instability created in posture and balance can cause serious harm.  An ethical response to conflict will realize the absoluteness of victory, together with an acceptance of personal responsibility for being the cause, and will end with a sincere effort to minimize potential harm to the aggressor.  This is the goal of Ai-Ki

The many forms of martial art and cultural art practiced at AiShinKai are all rooted in the principle of Ai-Ki.  Whether we train in AiShin-Ryu Aikido, Iaido Japanese swordsmanship, or with a Japanese traditional longbow in the art of Kyudo, or even when we study the fine arts of Shodo brush caligraphy or Ikebana flower arrangment, we strive to apply the principle of Ai-Ki to all aspects of our art, our experience, and in our daily lives.  The responsibilities of martial artists extend well beyond their immediate response to aggressive action; they also extend to the manner in which we cultivate ourselves in body, mind, and spirit, our relationships and how wecare for others, and even to our role in society as the next generation of social and civic leaders.

Protecting the attacker's head from the consequence of an Aikido throw; stepping on the attacker's foot to prevent him from stepping back and injuring himself during an AiShin-Ryu Ai-ken Kata.

Character Development: the Gojo (Gojo no Toku)

The Japanese are particularly facile and adept at appropriating ideas from other cultures and philosophies to serve their needs.  While this might make purists cringe, it often leads to extraordinary, creative and delightful results.  Such is the case with the evolution of the unique philosophy of the Japanese samurai.  Japan's warrior class borrowed elements of Confucianism and merged them with Japanese indigenous values.  When this amalgam of general ideas became more heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism in the 16th and 17th centuries, a distinct new philosophy was born.  Bushido remains a code of conduct that governs the aspirations and social relationships of modern Japanese martial arts exponents, just as it guided the bushi, Japan's warrior class.(2) 

Classical Confucianism

Japan's warriors admired Confucianism as a system governing varying levels of honesty in human relationships.(3)  In actuality, the tenets of Confuciansim accumulated over a long period of time, and encompassed a wide array of contemplations.  Classical Chinese Wuchang consisted of five elements: Ren (humanity), Yi (righteousness), Li (ritual), Zhi (knowledge), and Xin (integrity).  Over time, this distilled to the Sizi (Four Elements): Zhong (loyalty), Xiao (filial piety), Jie (continency), and Yi (righteousness).  There are many other principles, but Ren and Yi were always considered paramount.  Confucius considered three virtues  important enough to combine with Wuchang to make what they Bushi referred to as Hakkujo, or basic eight virtues of an ideal person.  They are Tei (brotherly affection), Chu (loyalty), and Ko (filial piety).  Confucius ranked the Hakkujo in order of importance as Jin, Gi, Rei, Chi, Chu, Shin, Ko, and Tei, with Jin and Gi of primary importance.(4)

The Rise of Bushido
The teachings of Confucius heavily influenced the development of Bushido, but there was not an exact translation.  While the Wuchang were adopted in whole, the Bushi contributed the virtues Yu (courage) and Meiyo (honor), (5) making a total of seven core virtues that were literally encoded into the fabric of Bushido: the construction of the traditional hakama, or split skirt worn by the samurai, features seven pleats.(6)  Five pleats in the front denote the Wuchang, now called Gojo no Toku (Five Virtues of an Ideal Person): Jin (benevolence), Gi (righteousness), Rei (Propriety or Etiquette), Chi (wisdom), and Shin (faithfulness).(7)  Two pleats in the back represent Yu (courage) and Meiyo (honor).  There are two additional virtues that are aso associated with Bushido - Chu (loyalty) and Ko (filial piety) - but these are commonly considered to be a subset of Shin.  Although the outcome of this translation from classical Confucianism to Bushido is legitimate, the utility of the interpretation has much more to do with Neo-Confucianism, a distillation of the master's work to govern the manner and form of human relationships.(8)

     Download a poster of the Gojo no Toku

It is helpful to consider the Gojo in simple terms; they are not a definitive categorization of all virtue, but can serve as a starting place for life-long contemplation.  This renders the study of virtue an accessible topic, and allows for necessary individual exploration and interpretation.  The Gojo are a useful device for stimulating the long journey of self-discovery and self-identification that leads to true virtue.  Individuals should apply personal life experience, their own values, and their highest aspirations to clarify a personal vision of an ideal person.  That vision becomes a model towards which to strive on the path to self-mastery.

Itsukushimi yasashii kokoro o motsukoto
Be gentle and compassionate

Gi   Righteousness  
Tadashii kokoro o motsukoto
Possess the proper spirit; rectitude; know your place under heaven

Rei   Propriety  
Kansha no kokoro o motsukoto
Be grateful and appreciative;
observe gracious manners; behave with proper etiquette

Chi   Wisdom  
Satori wakimae no kokoro o motsukoto
Be humble and wise; see beneath the surface of things; possess thorough knowledge

Shin   Faithfulness  
Makoto no kokoro o motsukoto
Act and think with integrity, honesty, and loyalty

The Influence of Zen
Buddhism and Zen (Chinese chuan) had strong influence on the development of Bushido.(10)  Their meditative disciplines provided an important means to achieve calmness.  But once again, the admiration and adoption was selective.  Buddhist concepts such as reincarnation and rebirth were antithetical to the role of the warrior in society.  Samurai who adopted these philosophies often became monks and priests, rather than continue their role as warriors.(11)  Nonetheless, Zen influence continues to be strong to this day, as adherents to the martial disciplines strive to achieve equilibrium and calm resilience while under intense pressure.  The influence of Zen can be seen in the writings of sword master Yagyu Munenori (1571-1646), teacher of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (Heiho Kadensho, The Life Giving Sword, 1632)(12) and Takuan Shoho (1573-1645), an influential priest of the seventeenth century (Fudochi Shinmyoroku, Mysterious Record of Unmoving Wisdom, c.1600)(13).  More recently, Zen priest Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982) has articulated principles of Zen applicable to the martial arts (14), and the All Japan Kendo Federation frequently cites Zen ideas in its publications(15).  It is important to note that the extent of samurai adoption of Zen philosophy was limited by a sense of usefulness.  Only those portions of the practice that resonated with the martial service role of the samurai found their into mainstream thought.  Yet even in modern Budo practice, as in the Bushido of old, important concepts such as Fudoshin (immovable mind), Heijyoshin (calm abiding mind), and Zanshin (continuous awareness) are derived from Zen.

Future masters who engage in formal Budo (Japanese martial art) training are already fairly dignified and open to reconsideration of their basic assumptions and values.  We are all beginners when it comes to polishing ourselves into our ideal person.  Traditionally, Japanese martial arts are informed by a set of principles and philosophical ideas that harken back to Confucian and Neo-Confucian ideals, merged with Buddhist and Zen concepts relating to mental attributes.(16)  Modern Japanese martial arts push the philosophic aspects of their disciplines further to the fore, emphasizing the creation of better citizens as opposed to martial champions, for instance.(17)  In this light, modern Gendai Budo arts expect development of martial arts skills to be matched by evolution and expansion of the practitioner's moral code.  This is an extremely delicate undertaking, and one of the biggest challenges for Budo teachers.  Great care must be taken to match transmission of technical knowledge to the student's readiness to assimilate and apply that knowledge for constructive purposes.

Aishinkai training is carefully designed to help every future master develop his or her full human potential.  We offer concrete tools to achieve self-mastery through development of the body, mind and spirit.  Every AiShinKai member is encouraged to squarely face the challenge of commitment to sincere dedication to martial arts training, and wrestle with big ideas and principles.  To get started, envision your ideal self, then steadily work to make yourself into that person.  This can only be accomplished with great courage, great faith, great joy, and great effort, and by asking a great and fundamental question:

Who Am I, and What Do I Want to Become?

The opinions expressed here are Dr. Bannister's.  They are the product of more than 30 years of intense training, insatiable research, and countless hours spent in richly-rewarding conversation with many Budo masters, including Eura Kazunori Sensei (Iaido hachidan hanshi, shihan HajimeKai, Tokyo, Japan), Maruyama Shuji Sensei (Kokikai founder and president), and the late Yoshimoto (Don) Trent (Kendo nannadan kyoshi, Iaido nannadan renshi, Tsubomi Seishin Kan Iaido Kai, Tokyo, Japan)..

(2)  Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo, All Japan Kendo Federation, Tokyo, Japan 2000
(11)  (11)
(12)  Yagyu Munenori, The Life Giving Sword, trans. William Scott Wilson.  Kodansha Int'l, New York 2003
(13)  Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind, trans. William Scott Wilson, Kodansha Int'l, New York 1986
(14)  Deshimaru Taisen, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts.  E.P. Dutton, Inc., New York 1982
(15)  Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo, All Japan Kendo Federation, Tokyo, Japan 2000
(17)  Eura Kazunori, Maruyama Shuji; Yoshimoto Trent

Bushido Shoshinsu, Code of the Samurai, trans. Thomas Cleary.  Tuttle Publishing, Boston 1999
Deshimaru Taisen, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts.  E.P. Dutton, New York 1982
Draeger, Donn F., The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, Volume 1, Classical Bujutsu. Weatherhill, New
     York 1983
Draeger, Donn F., The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, Volume 2, Classical Budo. Weatherhill, New
     York 1990
Draeger, Donn F., The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, Volume 3, Modern Bujutsu & Budo. Weatherhill,
     New York 1996
Furuya, Kensho, Kodo: Ancient Ways.  Ohara Publications, Inc., Santa Clarita, CA 1996
Kaufman, Stephen F., The Martial Artist's Book of Five Rings.  Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc, Boston 1994
Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo.  All Japan Kendo Federation, Tokyo 2000
Nitobe, Inazo, Bushido: The Warrior's Code.  Ohara Publications, Inc., Burbank, CA 1979
Ratti, Oscar/Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan
     Charles E. Tuttle Co, Rutland, Vermont 1973
Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind, trans William Scott Wilson.  Kodansha Int'l, New York 1986
Stevens, John, Budo Secrets: Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters.  Shambhala, Boston 2001
Stevens, John, The Philosophy of Aikido.  Kodansha Int'l, New York 2001
Stevens, John, The Sword of No Sword: Life of the Master Warrior Tesshu.  Shambhala, Boston 1994
Sugawara, Makoto, Lives of the Master Swordsmen, ed. Burritt Sabin. The East Publications, Inc., Tokyo,
     Japan 1988
Tohei, Koichi, What is Aikido?  Rikugei Publishing House, Tokyo, Japan 1962
Tohei, Koichi, Aikido: The Arts of Self-Defense.  Rikugei Publishing House, Tokyo, Japan 1960
IUeshiba, Kisshomaru, A Life in Aikido: The Biography of Founder Morihei Ueshiba.  Kodansha Int'l, New
     York 2008
Ueshiba, Morihei, Budo: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido.  Kodansha Int'l, New York 1991
Warner, Gordon and Donn F. Draeger, Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique and Practice.  Weatherhill,
     New York 1984
Westbrook, A. and O. Ratti, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere.  Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland, Vermont 1994
Wilson, William Scott, Ideals of the Samurai.  Ohara Publications, Inc., Santa Clarita, CA 1999
Yagyu Munenori, The Life-Giving Sword (Heiho Kadensho), trans. William Scott Wilson.Kodansha Int'l,
     New York 2003
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hakakure: The Book of the Samurai, trans. William Scott Wilson.  Kodansha
     International, Ltd, New York 1987

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Offering local and nation-wide education in Self-Mastery, Mind-Body Coodination, Leadership Development, Conflict Resolution, and Team Management, as well as the Japanese martial and cultural arts of AiShin-Ryu Aikido, Iaido, Aiki-ken, Aiki-jo, Kyudo, Kiatsu Ryoho, Bonsai, Shodo, and Ikebana.  Locally serving the communities of Seattle, Everett, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Mukilteo, and Edmonds, WA.
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