Misogi is the Shinto custom of removing the impurities that build up within each of us. In Aikido training, sensei from the earlier years of this practice would often comment on the quality of a student’s ki. A clear honey colored ki that was rich in effervescence was healthy while a ki that resembled oil from the refuse bin at the Jiffy-Lube was not. Related to this was the concept that through the practice of Aikido, a student’s ki could be cleansed with hard work and a lot of ukemi. In addition to the routine practices of funekogi kata and tekubishindo kata (both forms of misogi), many who trained in Aikido added additional training in misogi. External misogi to purify one’s self with cold water is perhaps one of the most archetypical forms of this practice. In fact the “Black Belt” card in the popular Pokemon trading card game depicts a young person in a gi and black belt meditating under a waterfall. There are also more internal forms of misogi. At Aikido Olympia we practice bell misogi every Saturday morning. In this form of misogi, a simple but vigorous physical activity (sitting and ringing a bell) is paired with repetitive chanting that resembles a kiai. Either way, the goal is to return a person to a state of being in which they can better sense their own awareness and connectedness.
Regardless of whether you choose to enter the frozen water on January 1st or sit with a bell on Saturday mornings, much of what Aikido is about is to help us learn to clean up our own baggage and expand our awareness to those things bigger than ourselves. O Sensei has been quoted over the years with saying something to the effect of Aikido is Misogi. He also gave this advice:
“Daily training in Aikido allows your inner divinity to shine brighter and brighter. Do not concern yourself with the right and wrong of others. Keep the mind bright and clear as the endless sky, the deepest ocean, and the highest mountain. Do not be calculating or act unnaturally. Keep your mind set on Aikido, and do not criticize other teachers or traditions. Aikido never restrains, restricts, or shackles anything. It embraces all and purifies everything.”
As we begin 2019, I hope that Aikido Olympia collectively enters the new year with this sense of clarity and openness.
By Nate Weed