What is the Dobun?

The Dobun is a compilation of the elements which make up Aikido. It was first published in the Newspaper put out by Aikido Honbu(HQ) on February 10th in The 49th year of the Showa Emperor(1974). The direct translation of Do Bun is:

Do: The Way, or The Path Bun: Sentences or Writing

According to Takaoka Shihan, the Dobun is what O'Sensei would draw and explain whenever someone would ask him what Aikido was. The creation of the Dobun comes directly from the Kojiki, which is the basis for all Shinto religion, and of Omotekyo, which O'sensei studied. If one were to read the Kojiki, and the Dobun hand in hand, striking similarities can be found. The Dobun is meant to be applied as the essence of not only Aikido technique, but of creation itself. The translation which you can acquire here is translated from Takaoka Shihan's understanding and explanation of what these intricate diagrams represent and how they can be applies not only to Aikido, but to Daily life as well. As always these documents are susceptable to each persons perception, and I post these as only the point of view of what was explained to me in my study of Takemusu Aiki, in Wakayama, Japan, under Takaoka Shihan.

Dobun (instructive principles) by Morihei Ueshiba. As taught by Sadao Takaoka Shihan --

The "I"s in the document are in Takaoka Shihan's person -- Parts taken from Aikido Newsletter 2/10/1974 Mototsumitama (literally translated as the Great Basic Metaphysical Substance of being) of the one spirit, four souls, three elements, and eight powers, make up the Great God. The Great God is the living infinite mother who has spread spiritual and physical prosperity throughout space.

Space was once empty, with no Heaven and no Earth. Suddenly a pinhole opened up in this empty space. This pinhole was the very origin of existence. From this hole, Ki of the Great God, which was finer than steam, smoke or mist, gradually came forth to form a circle which surrounded the pinhole and gave birth to the Kotodama of Suu. This birth was not only the birth of the physical world, but of the spiritual world as well.

The universe then began its natural respiration taking a deep breath of expansion, and as it expanded sound flowed from it. This original sound was the Kotodama Suu. Suu then continued expanding in four directions and formed a pulsating circle. When Suu(pronounced as in sOUp), has developed it turns into U(as in bOOt). The constant work of Suu produced the Kotodama U.

The Kotodama U, which is the origin of spirit as well as substance, divides into two and works as opposing forces which function independently. Each of these two functions has its own Mitama (spirit). One of these forces flows up and generates the Kotodama A, while the other function falls to Earth and creates the Kotodama O(as in OWn). With A(as in fAther) going up and O(as in Old) going down an opposing force is created, and held together by Ki, an attraction is formed.

Takamagahara ( high planes of heaven ) represents the universe. It teaches us what the law and order of the universe should be and how the gods reside within it. Everyone’s family represents Takamagahara and each individual has Takamagahara within him\herself. All the elements of this universe constantly breathe and flux and live every moment of our lives. In other words, Takamagahara is the great celestial globe which has successfully accomplished its formation and wishes. It is the very origin of creation of heaven and earth. To come to understand the wishes of Takamagahara and pursue the tasks of the gods to satisfy their will is Aikido.

Clarify the Ki of space, the Ki of the self-curdling island (Onogorojima), the KI of the universe, and all the ways which Mitama come into your body. Make all the breathings of the universe match your own. Use these lines as the law, and make them accomplish the mission of the universal heaven. The basic principle to pursue in each direction is called Aikido.

Aikido should be the doctrine endowed by god to clarify the workings of the universe. The past, the present, and the future are the routes which the universe should follow. This includes the human body, as it has the universe within it. Purify the universe and harmonize it with the three worlds of the spiritual, emotional, and manifest. Following this continually is Aikido.

The core of the universal dynamism consists of 75 sounds. Each one of these sounds develop in a universal pattern: triangular(Iku-musubi), circular(Taru-musubi), and square(Tamatsume-musubi) development. The Kotodama, A, O, U, E, I, manifesting the mind of the Founding god( Kuni no Katachi no Kami), interacting with the Neutral god (Toyokumo no Kami), resulted in the functions of the Five main kotodama.

When the eight powers interact with each other, the light, pure ones went up to the heavens, and the heavier, impure ones fell to the Earth. Each time the heavens and the Earth interacted, some functions fell to Earth, expanding it. This was done by the god of Tamatsume-musubi. With the three elements, Iku-musubi, Taru-musubi, and Tamatsume-musubi, influencing the process, the universe grew and continues to grow today. Aiki is this interaction and use of Kotodama. It is the one spirit, four souls, three elements, and the eight powers.

The Following is a translation of Takaoka Shihan's Explanation of The Dobun as given by O'sensei.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, one hundred, one thousand, one million, and the great Mitama of all." These words represent the one spirit, four souls, three elements, and the eight powers. Ueshiba Sensei never failed to recite these words in his prayer before and after Aikido practice in order to teach us to assimilate ourselves within the universe. By doing so, we can produce techniques which make the three elements visible in the manifest world. Wishing for world peace, Ueshiba Sensei always preached that human beings are also a part of the universe.

The Three Elements

Ueshiba Sensei told us in his Dobun that the Three Elements are gas, liquid, and solid. After studying this for a long period of time, I came up with my interpretation for this. I think that these three elements are three stages. When O’Sensei said gas, he wanted to tell you to match your breath with that of your opponent. Liquid indicates that you should absorb your opponent’s strength. Solid implies that you should use your breath and perform the technique. In other words, in the gas stage we should lead our opponents with our Ki. In the liquid stage we should assimilate ourselves with our opponent. In the solid stage we gradually apply ourselves in the desired directions to complete the technique.

The Four Souls

Historically in Japan four separate aspects of functions of Mitama have been recognized. The first is Kushimitama, or the heavens, which give light to all things in order to purify their KI. The second is Sachimitama, or the Earth, which lavishly provides and never expects anything in return. The active and valiant Aramitama, or fire, is indispensable for any type of development. The harmonious Nigimitama is the water that can flow anywhere and rules the Earth. When these four souls, or intentions, have the ability to function harmoniously, progression can continue in any direction.

The Eight Powers

The Eight Powers are always contrastive to each other, yet work together in harmony. Moving force and stopping force, dissolving force and curdling force, pulling force and releasing force, joining force and separating force, work actively in the universe to sustain life and the Earth. This is also true within ourselves, as we are part of the universe and have a universe within our bodies. I draw an analogy from the Ken-zen-ichi-jyo sword tactics which were written in the twelfth century. In Ken-zen-ichi-jyo we learn that if an opponent gives you his full 100% attack, you should receive the attack with zero. If he gives you 90% then you receive it with 10%, 80-20 70-30 60-40 and so on. I believe this is much easier to understand than the definitions given by O’Sensei.

Another set of contrastive powers discussed is positive and negative. When explaining these two forces I use the terms ‘plus’ and ‘minus.’ Plus energy corresponds to an extending energy flow, and minus to a receptive or gathering flow. When in balance, development cannot be stopped, as they constantly adjust and flow with the development of SUU as a guide under the surface.


Fire and water

Fire and Water are two basic examples of the opposing powers. Fire naturally flows vertically, while water flows horizontally. If the balance of fire to water is not working in harmony, birth is thwarted.

Water extinguishes fire, and fire evaporates water. They behave in a harmonious way to develop life. The balance of fire to water makes life possible on Earth. The weather, photosynthesis, human birth, and breathable air are all physical, working, results of a harmonious relationship between fire and water. This theory of fire-water balance is similar to yin-yang balance of Tai ji.

Correct breathing is critical to allowing these forces to flow effectively. Take a breath as you pronounce A, O, U, E, I. Try to let your body learn to breathe the Kotodama, and not your brain. In doing so you will not need commands from your brain to move as quickly as possible.

In Aikido, zero (or nothingness) is necessary most of the time. Kokoro (heart and mind) is one thing, while Ki is something else. Many people believe that they are identical, but it they are not. Heart and mind remain innocent for your entire life, while Ki is always fluctuating. You must purify yourself to become nothing. What you do in Aikido never fails to reflect the state of your Ki. If your Ki is clouded, you cannot accept or lead your opponent. I really hope that everyone can learn to master the Aikido that Ueshiba Sensei taught and lived.