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Furi Kaburu

Furi Kaburu is raising the sword above your head. The most common movement of the arms in Aikido is up and down in front of the body as in raising and lowering the sword. Some times one hand is up and the other is down as in tenshim Nage or in taking a forward roll but raising and lowering the sword with the hands together is most common. In Western Culture we tend to do things with our arms but Aikido is done with the body, not the arms or a weapon. The sword is an extension of the body. It is not a weapon that is wielded by the body. This has two major consequences that are difficult to understand. We rarely bend or straighten our elbows. They stay at about a 17 degree bend. This does not mean they are not flexible but we rarely if ever create force by flexing the elbow as seen in a karate reverse punch, a Hikuta punch, or a boxers jab. The second point is that we rarely reach out with our arms. There is a strong tendency to reach out with our arms to throw Uke. Kaburu means to put your hat on your head and furi in this context means to swing. When the sword is swung up your hands almost touch your head and the sword is above your head. When the sword is cut it snaps out at Uke's head and then comes on down to a nearly horizontal position at the waist. To avoid stressing the left shoulder it is best to let the hands come almost to the body at the bottom of the cut. The same is true of throwing. We do not run from Uke in fear and keep Uke at arms length. We are friendly. We get very close and keep our hands close to the body.

This concept as the body being the weapon is probably the best way for us to think of the kamikazes in WWII. To Americans the body is a platform that has weapons such as arms and legs. The body is not the weapon. Americans even carry that to the bizarre extreme of blaming guns and knives for violent crimes and assuming that the wielders of those weapons are sort of innocent victims of the weapon who were forced against their will to kill. We like guns that kill at a distance where the shooters body is not involved. In an analogous way Americans see an airplane as a flying platform that can be fitted with weapons. Bombs, rockets, and guns are not part of the plane but separate attachments that kill at a distance.

The Japanese see the body as the weapon. Arms and legs are part of the body and if they are weapons it is because they are part of the body. If we use a sword the sword becomes part of the body. Guns are not preferred weapons. They kill at a distance and the body is not as involved. Swords and knives are obviously part of the body and the battle is intimate and close. In modern war the pilot is the weapon. The air plane is an extension of the pilot and so are the bombs, rockets, and guns. From this point of view flying the plane into a target is an obvious thing to do. It is intimate and close.

Americans are shocked by kamikazes because they commit suicide. Americans sent thousands of young men onto beaches where they knew virtually all of them would die but somehow in their minds that was different. The real issue here is not death but life. It is who we are and how we relate to the world. To Americans the world is a hostile place outside of them and different from them. In Aikido we are the world. We are our partner. We are intimate, accepting and at one with our partner, particularly in the dance of death. Stay close and intimate with your partner!

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Last Update 2/2/2008