As part of the Japanese cultural activities, the Dojo promotes classes in Shodo, Japanese artistic calligraphy. Paulo Tramujas’ Aikido master, Matsuoka sensei, was a direct student of Seiseki Abe sensei, a 10th Dan Aikido master, himself a direct student of the founder of Aikido. Abe sensei was also a Shodo master and, in fact, Abe sensei taught calligraphy to the founder of Aikido, master Ueshiba Morihei, transcending thus the rigid Japanese master-disciple relationship, since Ueshiba sensei and Abe sensei were indeed friends.
In 1998, Paulo Tramujas had the privilege of meeting Abe sensei personally, and was gifted a priceless piece of calligraphy along with some study materials, and ineffable inspiration to continue on the practice of Shodo. The calligraphy classes at the Kokyu Dojo are inspired in the teachings of Abe sensei.
Aiki – calligraphy by Abe sensei
Abe sensei frequently taught the connections between martial arts and calligraphy, from posture to breath and grip, and was perhaps one of the last authentic masters to expose traditional Japanese culture in such a fashion. Japanese calligraphy is far from being a mere artistic expression. Rather, it is understood within some traditions as a spiritual discipline, influenced by meditation practices in Japan, specifically Zen Buddhism. The calligrapher has but one chance to create with the brush strokes that cannot be corrected, requiring thus a deep sense of concentration in order to execute with fluidity, harmony and beauty. The brush writes a statement about the calligrapher at that moment in time, and brings to the surface the feelings and thoughts expressed in the writing.
Calligraphy by Morihei Ueshiba sensei, the founder of Aikido. Amenotakemusujuku Aikido Dojo – Osaka, Japan.
Contemplative calligraphy is practiced by Buddhist monks and most Shodo practitioners. At an advanced level, one seeks to clear one’s mind so that the letters flow spontaneously, revealing a state of mind known as mushin (Jap.: 無心 – no mind/empty heart), a state that is also sought by martial artists.
It is not necessary to know the Japanese language for the practice of Shodo, although one inevitably learns some of the basics of it, which is also true within the practice of Aikido. There are some fundamental sentences that are frequently used at the Dojo to show respect and to follow proper etiquette and protocol rules. Below are some examples of calligraphy. These are different calligraphy styles for the same ideogram (愛), which reads love in Japanese, pronounced ‘ai’:
The practice of Shodo is not only relaxing, but a great way to express one’s creativity and artistic sense as well. It helps to develop a poetic perspective, guiding one towards a contemplative life view. A piece of Japanese calligraphy is also a unique gift.
True victory is self victory
Calligraphy by Ueshiba Morihei, founder or Aikido