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Talking about Aikido with James over Coffee on Easter Sunday

It’s Easter.  I did not go to a church.  I went to Aikdo class instead. For me, Aikido is a liturgical service in its own right.  After class on Sundays, we generally have coffee at Justin’s house.  Today, I was reminded that sometimes the best sermons just simply happen.

Nate started talking about the Letter of James.  In it, we hear that “faith without works is dead.”  To him it meant there was a difference between doing good things because you “should” and doing good things because that’s just who you are.  The quick dialogue between Justin and Nate brought up the concept of character.  Our character flows into our deeds.  Justin added to it, bringing up something that they had talked about earlier regarding Aikido: there is a difference between doing techniques and having technique.

When we are doing techniques, we are just going through the motions.  The motions may be splendid and precise, but they are ultimately lacking and missing the point.  In order to truly do Aikido, one has to move beyond techniques.  One has to connect with the spirit of Aikido.  Once one connects with, or harmonizes with, the spirit of Aikido, that connection manifests in a way of moving that becomes technique itself.   Through technique, the spirit of Aikido naturally flows and manifests itself into what it was meant to be.  Interestingly, for Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, the spirit of Aikido is the essence of all things.  According to him, “Aikido is love.”

According to James, the relationship between faith and works is much the same.  The equivalent of doing techniques is doing things because we “should.”  When our faith forms us, however, we stop going through the motions.  As we grow more fully into the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of love, we are transformed from the inside out.  Our character changes.  We start to do good things because that’s just who we are.  We become agents of love because we can no longer do anything other.  Our loving works are external manifestations of our internal being.

As we continued to talk, I knew we were sharing in nothing less than a sermon, and a good one at that.  Insightful, poignant, and deeply relevant to spiritual life.  

However, there was a second sermon in it all for me.  As the conversation continued, it turned to how Justin and I had been talking about that very same passage yesterday at Starbucks.


I pondered the strong and timely connection there.  What are the odds that I can have a random conversation with one friend on one day regarding a specific topic and passage, and the next day have another friend bring up the very same thing?  Some would say that this is the work of God in the midst of everyday life aligning events toward something greater.  The theological term for this happenstance is providence.  I have to admit, though, for the most part I prefer to think of life as a series of random, related chances.  I avoid reading too much into events, probably because such readings have become justification for so many evil acts in our world.  But, in moments like this I truly do feel the hand of God guiding and nurturing us, forming us together more fully into a people. It’s hard to think of it as mere chance.

Today, I felt as though we really were having coffee with James.  As we all shared our voices, his was an important one.  He said what he had to say to us, as did Nate, Justin, and myself.  We all spoke.  We all listened.  And perhaps we all grew as individuals.

But for me it was about more than that.  It was about being attentive to the Voice that calls to us from a depth beyond words.  It was about participating in the loving spirit that binds souls in a way that can’t easily be explained.  That second sermon reminded me of how much I find God in those around me.  Sometimes I feel a connection so deeply that it births a synchronicity I can only describe as divine providence. As I listened to Nate and Justin talk about how this is where they belonged, I was reminded of the extent to which I belonged there as well.  Today, I did not belong in a church. Rather, on this day, on the holiest of all days, I belonged there, with my friends and with my God, experiencing the holiest of communions.

Flesh of my flesh; bone of my bone.  Together, we listen deeply.  Together we rise to new heights. And then, heavily caffeinated, we scatter gracefully, while remaining knit as one.  Such is the Easter experience.  Thanks be to God.

6 thoughts on “Talking about Aikido with James over Coffee on Easter Sunday”

  1. I wish more people could get the message that G_d does not have to be found in a predetermined place at a predetermined time with predetermined people to be manifest. It is, as demonstrated here, true that G_d is found in the space between us, and if we are open to that, we can find Him anywhere and at anytime. 

  2. "Where two or three are gathered in my name…"
    Thanks for the post, very helpful.
    I also practice Aikido on an elementary level and i was wondering whether
    you get criticised by other Christians for doing Aikido.
    Web-sights are full of them.
    They mainly focus on
    1. "The powers of Aikido are demonic".I assume they are refering to things
    like when they can't lift you off the ground etc.
    2.Aikido has origins in eastern philosophy and can lead you there.
    Could you please help me by commenting on these two points.

    In Christ

  3. Hi Peter. Sorry for the delay. I don't know why I didn't get alerts when you replied to my posts.

    I've never personally been criticized for it. I have seen a ton of comments like that on YouTube, though.

    If someone were to challenge me like that, I think that the spirit of Aikido is quite applicable to the situation. I would simply say that I recognize that there are those out there who believe such issues exist, but I (as a Christian and a pastor) do not believe so. If it is an issue for them, then I recommend that they do not participate in such things.

    Basically, I am not attacking them or their belief system. Rather, I'm blending with it and redirecting it. I hope that helps.

    And thanks for commenting. Again, I apologize for my lagging response.

  4. Thanks for your response and don't worry about the delay.These things happen. I tend to agree that it's better to blend than argue.If I have one reservation it would be about bowing and clapping before a kamidana. Those little houses made of wood are supposed to house their gods? Maybe you can share your views on this. I don't have a problem bowing to a photo of O'sensei which I see as different.Anyway very few Aikido dojos would have them and from what I have read; public dojos in Japan are not allowed to have kamidanas by law. On abit of a side note, M.Ryabko is a master of Systema-a Russian martial art that is combative however follows similar principles to Aikido. Ryabko spoke of a demonstration O'sensei did on top of a building where maybe 8-10 people rushed at him from all sides at once and O'sensei seemed to pass through them. Ryabko,a devout Orthodox, compared it to a similar incident where people tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. Ryabko didn't believe what Jesus did was a miracle as He only did miracles for others and not Himself. He believe that Jesus and O'sensei were so in tune with what was going on around them and understood movement so well that they were able to do such things. I'm, however, not putting O'sensei on the same level as Jesus.

  5. Bowing doesn't bother me, even in a religious context. While such ceremonies are not part of my own tradition, I would feel comfortable participating in them (though I've never been in that situation). Having said that, I know others who are bothered by them and therefore do not participate. My recommendation to those who are uncomfortable with it is to not do it. I believe that ceremonies mean what you make of them.

    I have seen some Systema vids on YouTube. It looks very cool. Neat story about O'Sensei. I imagine someone that deeply attuned would be able to do amazing things that would baffle me even if I could see them myself. It would have been great to have been there. Whether that is similar to what Jesus did, I wouldn't know. I don't take the stories about Jesus literally, so I am more interested in how people can understand them than what happened.

    Again, thank you for the thoughtful response. I hope you keep visiting.

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