Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and the principles of Kyu-shin-do

Kenshiro Abbe Sensei - the principles of Kyu-shin-do Kingston Upon Thames Aikido Club - Kingston Aikido

Kyu-shin-do can be attributed to the late Kenshiro Abbe Sensei (1915 – 1985), a highly respected and important figure in the world of martial arts and beyond. Abbe Sensei was the reasons my sensei, the late Haydn Foster, started his Aikido career at the Hut Dojo under his tutelage in 1956.

My understanding of Kyu-shin-do, is that, it’s the study of the underlying principles that underpins all motion, action and reaction. By discovering these central principles and aligning yourself with them, progress can be made in your chosen field of study.

Within the realms of the martial arts, and at a basic level, Kyu-shin-do can be equated with centripetal force. The late Tomio Otani defined it as “the accumulation of effort in a steady motion about the radius and centre of gravity”.

Abbe Sensei had discovered the efficiency of using centripetal force to throw much larger opponents, whilst being a student at Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in the 1930s. It’s likely that this discovery led to his further development of Kyu-shin-do as a philosophy.

“The task of perfecting any art by the laborious process of studying each ‘form’ is doomed to failure, because the possible variations are endless, but by discovering the central principle it can then be applied in any direction at will.”

“Practising a hip throw a thousand times, using strength and good technique, may yield a good success rate, but they do not reveal the trap you are building.”

To help students glimpse the underlying laws and consequently there manifestation, Abbe Sensei believed in guided repetition and instruction in these principles, together with diligent practice. More importantly, he believed that applying these universal principles, afforded students a higher meaning of effectiveness.

Kenshiro Abbe Sensei - the principles of Kyu-shin-do - Kingston Aikido

The principle of Kyu-shin-do can be found in many ancient Asia religions, which Abbe Sensei would have come across during his studies, and which he spent decades researching and developing further.

10 years of study under aikido master Ueshiba, is also believed to have coalesced the Kyu-shin-do principles, which became the central statement for Abbe’s personal approach to martial arts; the three fundamentals being:

  • All things in the Universe are in a constant state of motion (Banbutsu Ruten)
  • This motion is rhythmic and flowing (Ritsu Do)
  • All things work and flow in perfect harmony (Chowa)

  • Kyu = Desire, Yearn, Sphere, Circle, Search or Study
  • Shin = Heart, New, Spirit, True or To be true to one’s self.
  • Do = Way or Path, a way of life or self-discipline

According to Abbe’s teachings, Kyu-shin-do principles are not limited to the very small field of martial arts, but can be employed to attain higher life goals. The theory of Kyu-shin-do has application in any study or activity, simply because it does not deal with the form and technique of anything, but with the fundamental principles which such forms and techniques represent.

I try to digest the concepts of underlying principles through the lens of Aikido, aiming to harmonise the internal and external, something an Aikidoka may call Riai – The Harmony of Principles, and something I’m very much at the foothills of.

Kenshiro Abbe Sensei - the principles of Kyu-shin-do - Kingston Aikido

Abbe Sensei had a profound understanding of these core principles, which he passed on to students that were willing and able to learn such universal truths, in the hope of preserving his learnings, principles and theories.

A hip throw, is not a hip throw, it’s a hip throw….

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and the principles of Kyu-shin-do”

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