A blog with some news, reports and articles from the Aikido community around the world.
Edited by Lawrence Warry & Ze'ev Erlich

Friday, September 14, 2012

September 2012

Your Partner is Your Guest 1

This article can be found in the recent book by Anna Sanner (Dance with Heaven & Earth/Life Lessons from Zen & Aikido) which is a beautiful compilation of some of the teachings of Katsuyuki Shimamoto shihan (who is both an Aikido shihan and a Zen priest).

Anna his given me permission to publish this Article of her book.
The book is available online at the following link:
For further enquiries about the book, Anna can be contacted via email (

In Japan, there is a tradition called uchi-mizu: sprinkling water in the entrance hall when expecting a visitor. In the tea ceremony and at Zen temples, this is considered the first service rendered to the guest. Rather than dumping out a whole bucket, the water is sprinkled evenly with the finger tips. It cannot be done immediately before the guest arrives, or the floor will be slippery. Neither can it be done too long before he arrives, because it will get dusty again. In aikido, think of your partner as a dear guest honoring you with a visit. When he arrives, you should be ready. You should have sprinkled water in the entrance hall just a little while ago. Everything should be prepared. Keep an open, welcoming posture. When your guest arrives, invite him in exactly the way you want to receive him. Make it easy and pleasant for him to enter.

Coming back to Sumikiri (Calm in The Eye of the Storm)

This is a post from Ze'ev Erlich made in 2009.

I found the explanation simple but clearly explaning the meaning behind the Japanese term "Sumikiri".


Sumikiri: Stillness in the eye of the storm by Ze'ev Erlich

Sumikiri: Stillness in the eye of the storm

The first time I came across the word sumikiri, was when I read a small but marvellous book called "The Spirit of Aikido" by 2nd Doshu - Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
The word "sumikiri" can be translated as perfect clarity, or pureness, but the book did not give any further explanation.

So... what exactly is sumikiri?
Our most basic training method, is with one partner, slowly and according to clear demonstration of our teacher. Later on, our training becomes more free, creative and dynamic, the attacks and the techniques become more realistic and versatile, and we also learn to resolve situation dealing with a large numbers of opponents.
In such dynamic training, we tend to get very excited and quite often we feel mental pressure and fear. If we continue our training for years and gain experience, we realize that gradually our mind remains relaxed even in such training. Although our body is moving fast and many techniques are applied quickly, our mind remains relaxed and clear - some describe it as: Stillness within motion.

Sumikiri in daily life:
Taking the risk of being crude, I would explain sumikiri as a mental state in which we act correctly and remain clear and relaxed in the midst of stressful situation. I think this can be a result of many years of training, and can affect all aspects of life: family, relationships, work, driving, inner conflicts, etc. Staying completely clear and relaxed under pressure is sumikiri.

Let the mud sink:
The most common example for sumikiri, is of a glass of water with some sand in it. When the water is in movement, the water will be muddy. When we let the water stand still, the mud will sink to the bottom of the glass, and the water will become clear. Even if our body moves dynamically, even if many people attack us at the same time, as a result of our years of training, our mind remains still and we can attain the state of sumikiri.

The eye of the storm:
An important teaching common to all martial arts, is the ability to be in the eye of the storm - where quietness prevails, and where we can remain relaxed. Storm is outside, but inside there is clarity and stillness. Developing such ability takes years, but each and every stage of development, affects all aspects of our life.

In the year 2004, a new book was published: "The Art of Aikido". The very first chapter is dedicated to sumikiri:

"Focus on stillness rather then motion in order to master aikido techniques.
for a heart instantaneously at one with the clear and serene sky, all of existence appears in crystal clarity. When the founder Morihei Ueshiba realized this state of mind, he felt bathed in golden light, and perceived the true mission of Aikido. The centre of a spinning top, appears to be completely still. That kind of stillness, rather then the rapid motion of the top, is where we should focus. It is where the secret of perfect clarity (sumikiri z.e) can be perceived. That stillness also lies at the heart of Aikido techniques. When speaking of the mysterious of centripetal and centrifugal forces, Morihei (O-Sensei z.e) Said: Large has no outside, small has no inside.
This is a maxim we need to reflect deeply."

Sumikiri zoom:
I think this wonderful photo of 2nd doshu is a perfect example for sumikiri. Please look at his relaxed face while executing a dynamic throw:

- Ze'ev Erlich, 5th dan Aikikai.