masakatsu agatsu

"True Victory
Is Victory
Over The Self"

What is Jiyushin?Zen Temple near Hamura

What is Jiyushin? How does it relate to our study of Budo? Does it fit in with whatever religion a student believes in? Do I have to agree with the philosophy of jiyushin to practice aikido or other arts within Jiyushinkai? How is the basic philosophy of Jiyushinkai different from the Ueshiba-ha ryu practice of aikido today? Good questions, right? I hear these and many similar questions in my talks with students from Jiyushinkai and from other groups. I will try to answer these questions with my view (right now) of what jiyushin is. 

Jiyushin is written with a combination of three ideograms: 
The first kanji, ji, means oneself. 

  The second kanji, yu, is a reason or meaning. Jiyu means freedom. 

  The third kanji, shin, is a combination of what we think of as our spirit, our emotional mind, and our heartfelt feelings and deep seated motives. 

Added together, we have an idea of freedom of heart/spirit/basic motives/self-reliance. It is often impossible to pin down a Chinese or Japanese kanji in exactly equivalent English words. 

A specific use of the term jiyu occurs within Zen Buddhism. In the original Chinese Ch'an or Zen the idea of freedom was crucial to the ultimate experience of self-realization or enlightenment. "Zen is purely devoted to liberating the hidden potential of the human mind... The freedom that Zen proposes is not remote, but right in this world. It does not require anything extraneous, but can be put into practice in the midst of normal occupations and activities. It is applicable immediately, and develops naturally... According to Zen teaching, freedom that depends on things of the world can be undermined, and freedom that can be granted can be taken away." (Thomas Cleary, Zen Essence - The Science of Freedom (Shambhala Publications, 1989) intro.) This freedom and the authority that both come with it and from it are within us all. We can realize this freedom at any time. "Enlightened Zen freedom, being in the world yet not of the world... is not a negative detachment but a balance of independence and openness...The paradox of Zen freedom is that it is present and available, yet somehow elusive when deliberately sought." (Cleary, intro.) For a basic understanding of jiyu, form a word construct containing: free thinking / self-reliant / responsible / vulnerable / aware / self-confident. Of course this sounds like something we all want! However, the more we want "it" and look for "it", the more "it" eludes us. 

Zen Master Linji, as translated by Thomas Cleary, says "What I point out to you is only that you shouldn't allow yourselves to be confused by others. Act when you need to, without further hesitation or doubt. People today can't do this... what is the affliction? Their affliction is their lack of self-confidence. If you do not spontaneously trust yourself sufficiently, you will be in a frantic state, pursuing all sorts of objects, unable to be independent." (Cleary, p.4) (This original statement is from the ninth century!) 

The question is, how do we achieve this self-confidence or jiyushin? We must first discover our TRUE INTENT, our original self full of pure intention. Try to remember what the intent of a new baby feels like. Uncover, and bring forth the freshness and originality of this intent. Now, how do we change our daily habits and aquire the ability to express and actualize this intent each instant? We must practice some sort of disciplined awareness with this intent.

  In order to realize and live freedom, we must pass through the tempering process of the fires of discipline.


 By passing through the discipline and then continuing the practice just for the sake of the practice, we reach the state of no thought of self / no conscious mind (muga / mushin). The every day mind of true jiyushin. 

Which discipline do we practice? There are many that I believe can lead to the same end. Budo (the Way of peaceful self-defense), practiced properly, is one of the strongest of these possible disciplines. Especially Budo practice that involves intimate, intense communication of reality between individuals at many levels with immediate feedback. Aikido is one of these traditional practices. 

Through proper practice of aikido, we can realize the union of our body/mind/spirit. We learn to communicate with our fellow human beings in the immediate experience... this instant. We learn to trust that communication process and also our practice partners. We gradually begin to trust ourselves and in so doing; we begin to develop intuitive awareness of our inner selves and feel the connection of all beings and the responsibility we share. We allow the energy of our intentions and motivations to become actualized. As we give attention to what we can feel in this heightened awareness, we begin to make decisions about our intent and our actions. We understand that we have creative choice in our life, not just reactions. 

As we become more skilled in this awareness and intuitive, creative decision making, we develop "self-confidence" in both the physical side of our practice and the inner spiritual side. The longer we practice with pure intent (naishin), true blending (riai), and no mind (mushin), the stronger is our jiyushin. 

When we are children, many times, we learn to make decisions because we are taught that unless we do what others think is "right" we will be punished. We are usually taught to ignore what our inner voices and our true intent tell us and we are told to listen to outside authority. We have all experienced many of the varied forms that this punishment takes. Fear is the result of this decision making process. If we learn to make our daily decisions based on values that come from our original nature rather than what others have taught us through fear; then we are practicing jiyushin. A life of jiyushin is one of real, true, pure intent actualized in the world by our actions without ever worrying whether the intent or the actions are right or wrong. Any decisions about relative values of "right/wrong or good/bad" will take care of themselves. What a frightening vision... not having an outside authority to guide us and tell us what to do... each of us being responsible... no one else to blame! Many have called this "the Razor's Edge". As with most fear, it is frightening because it is unknown. Therefore we suffer from a lack of self-confidence. When there is a lack of self-confidence, there are always many voices available telling us what to think and do. However, once we realize this jiyushin, we understand and have no problem "knowing". We have faith tempered with doubt. Always open for new information... we trust the "way of things"... the process. Ultimately, ideally we no longer need leaders and teachers. We have "teacherless knowledge". We can cooperate and communicate as equals and colleagues. This jiyushin is evident and defined by our self-image plus our actions and relationships filled with LOVE striving for that which is conducive to the benefit and well being of all creatures. We can understand how we take great comfort in our similarities and gain tremendous power through our differences.

Keep free, open, independent, responsible, aware, and creative all the time!  


I have heard from students who have strong religious beliefs that jiyushin does not fit in with their theology. This may be so. However, true jiyushin is at the heart of all spiritual systems. The belief in and practice of your religion is your choice, your decision. If you have truly made that choice yourself, then you are practicing jiyushin. If your religion does not promote this freedom, the original message has been lost and/or misinterpreted by fearful humans. If you do not agree with this concept of jiyushin, and you have made this decision based on your own values that come from your heart; then you can still practice in the Jiyushinkai as long as you take care of your partner including respecting their right to make their own decisions that may not agree with yours. If you can do this, then you are practicing jiyushin, not matter what you call it. 

The realization of jiyushin in each aikidoka and the social responsibility of living and practicing together was the central idea of O-Sensei. He talked about it in different terms because he was a follower of Shinto and one of its' splinter groups known as Omoto Kyo. However, I think he wanted each individual aikidoka to experience the oneness of the universe as he did and realized that we do not have to all express our experiences in the same way. 

As in any movement or group, some others may not have reached experiences themselves that were similar to the spiritual enlightenment of O- Sensei. Lacking original authority themselves, they tend to copy and use O-Sensei's truth as their own. "...If you just stick to your teacher's school and memorize slogans, this is not enlightenment, it is a part of intellectual knowledge. This is why it is said, when your perception only equals that of your teacher, you lessen the teacher's virtue by half. When your perception goes beyond the teacher, only then can you express the teacher's teaching..." (Cleary, p.14) As long as these teachers encourage their students to seek themselves and find their own way and express themselves freely with responsibility, then we are still on different paths to the same place. 

The only real difference in Jiyushinkai practice of Budo and others is in our practice methods. We follow a set teaching syllabus that was designed along modern educational methods. We achieve a basic understanding and competence in fundamentals (kihon dosa) through the practice of standardized forms (seiteigata) so that our intuitional learning takes place using good practice tools and habits. We do not foster the feudal mind set of some traditional practices, but try to keep the essence and truth of budo practice alive. The practice of Jiyushin-ryu should not be static, but an ever learning, growing, sharing of "Best Use of Energy With Mutual Benefit" that gives us all a better, more acute discipline/mirror within which we may continue to deepen our awareness and realization. 

 © Copyright 1992  by C. E. Clark, All Rights Reserved