By Lisa Jensen
Special to The PREVIEW
Students, family and friends of Aikido of the San Juans recently celebrated Kagami Biraki, a traditional Japanese New Year’s ceremony.
In Japan, the New Year’s period lasts a few weeks and is a time for family and other groups to assemble together. Rice cakes, or Kagami mochi, are rounded in the shape of old-fashioned metal mirrors and are offered as a symbol of personal reflection.
Japanese legend tells of a deity who fell out of favor with the other gods because of his unusually cruel nature. This deity was banished and found his way to a secluded cave, where he came upon a mirror-like object. Gazing upon this object caused him to look at himself and reflect upon his actions. After many years of personal reflection, the deity returned to the other gods, who immediately noticed a great change in his mannerisms and character.
To members of Japanese feudal society, mirrors represented the soul or conscience. It was important to keep them clean since mirrors reflected back on the viewer his or her own thoughts. For samurai, polishing weapons and armor symbolized polishing one’s spirit, a method to clarify thought and strengthen dedication to one’s obligations and duty in the coming year. Likewise, souji, or cleaning, is part of training in traditional dojos. Besides the physical task of cleaning, the practice is really intended to continually polish one’s spirit.
In traditional martial arts dojos, Kagami Biraki represents a renewing of the spirit and rededication to training in the coming year. The celebration symbolizes working on and perfecting the self, and reducing ego.
The founder said, “Never stop polishing that jewel, you who tread this path.”
It represents practice to keep the mind and resolve clear.
Aikido is often called the art of peace. Practitioners first learn to connect with their training partner, maintaining this connection throughout the technique. The emphasis is on blending with the other person’s energy and re-directing it in such a way that neither person is hurt.
Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, determined that the true purpose of martial arts training is to better oneself and to seek to protect or help others.
In physical practice, aikido immediately reminds us that we are all connected and inspires us to keep this connection throughout all our endeavours.