The Theory of the Five Elements

And it's relationship to Aikido

The theory of the Five-Element's can be a very difficult subject to understand, unless one is prepared to  be receptive and accept the fundamental principles of life. People who live simple inconspicuous lives  have retained their traditional culture and morals tend to be more philosophical about life and their existence. They appreciate the Laws of Nature  and the Universe  and apply them to their lives. They have not allowed themselves to  be contaminated by  materialistic values or egotistical motives which could blind them to  reality and truth.

Western culture has raced ahead, conveniently forgetting the fundamental principles of  life and all to eager to strip our planet of it's resources to gain apparent wealth. The ambitious culture of the West has for  so long applied pure science  and logic that they have allowed their minds to  become spiritually dormant, unable to understand  or grasp even the simplest  principles of life. Now that so  much damage has been done, the West in it's desperation, is seeking it's salvation by turning to Eastern  philosophies  and beliefs. Philosophies such as Yin/Yang and the Five-Elements.

To understand what these philosophies mean one must go back to Chinese cosmology from which a lot of the Japanese beliefs stem from. The Chinese believed in Tao, the Center of all things, the One from which all began or the source of the the Universe. The negative and the positive forces that were generated  from this One was represented  by Yin and Yang. Two that are  opposite and yet complementary  to  each other and manifested in Tao to  create Ki. There is no Western equivalent word or definition to  describe Ki. Ki is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "spirit" (as in supernatural) or energy as they are the closest words in the English language but is defined as something quite different to the spirit we are talking  about. However, as Ki was believed to  be born  out of the Tao then it is accepted to  flow in all things that exist in the Universe, from the light of the sun to the earth that we walk on and in the very air that we breathe. The elements that make up  the Universe are represented by the five elements of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Each Element feeds  one and overcomes another element. These elements manifests themselves in human beings in our emotions, senses and in our anatomy. Because each element is associated with a color, a taste, a smell, etc., oriental medicine was able to  utilize  this undemanding  to diagnose and treat various ailments. Understanding the Five-elements also  helps in maintaining  good health by linking them to the meridians that crisscross the body.

The Five-Elements are applied to various walks of life but more profoundly in the martial arts such as Tai chi and Aikido. They are often represented by the movements of the Jo in kata form but more importantly they  must manifest themselves in the very essence of the art and the philosophy of the individual. For example, when using a Jo these principles must  not be forgotten otherwise the movements become a pointless exercise.

The Jo should radiate and glow with an apparent life of it's own. The relationship between the Jo and the user should be almost intimate, with a serenity that allows both to rise to a plane  of spiritual enchantment. The Ki should flow from the Hara( our storage of life's energy) and entwining around the Jo making it move with a magical aura engulfing  the space around with the essence of life that motivates  and inspires the audience.

To breathe life into the Jo or any inanimate objects  entails understanding and belief in Ki, yin/Yang and the Five-Elements. It is easy to  learn "techniques" of  kata but never really experiencing the emotions. Learning the kata purely to  "get a grade" is admitting that one has never totally accepted the true meaning of the Elements.

The principles of the Five-Elements is normally displayed with the Jo and is now widely practiced to enhance ones Aikido. So it should be done as a way of meditation, as a way of calming  the mind and as a way of balancing the flow of  Ki. One often comes across individuals who use the kata as a method of preparation for training  and it is these people who  will reap the benefits. They appear to  be in a trance and in  a world far removed from the confusion that exists around them.

These people will have the ability to relate to others and respond to  their needs with genuine caring and understanding . It is through them that peace, love and harmony is promoted, which will draw even more people to the Way. They will have the gift of linking Ki with others - making it a pleasure to practice the art of Aikido. Those who  have been "touched" by  individuals by  this philosophy will know they  have shared in  something quite unique and meaningful.

Many have tried to  understand this philosophy but have allowed their frustrations and anxieties to generate negativity. Perseverance and commitment must apply. Refrain from negative questioning but indulge in positive  dialogue, sensitive inquiry, receptiveness and innocent openness. Lack of patience has never been proved to  be a constructive quality. Show respect and share yourself with others and you  will never look back. The theory of the Five-Elements will always be a difficult subject to  explain because each person will have their own interpretation. The diagrammatic examples that follow perhaps illustrate the principle of the Five-Elements more effectively and help give a better understanding. The theory of the Five-Elements could never be explained in a few words and it could take volumes to express one's views. Hopefully, I have provided enough information to  satisfy one's initial curiosity and inspire further exploration on a personal level.  The diagram below explains the sequence of moves that in performing the Essence Master Kata.


The Principles of the Five Element Kata

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1) WOOD gives life to FIRE

As wood is used for fire it was believed that wood produced fire.

2) FIRE gives life to  EARTH

As the fire burns out it leaves behind the ashes which united with the earth so it was believed that  fire  produces earth.

3) EARTH gives life to METAL

Metal was originally mined from the earth so the ancients believed that the earth produced metal.

4) METAL gives life to WATER

Wherever metal  was mined water was found nearby, so it led to  the belief that metal produced water.

5 WATER gives life to WOOD

Without trees there would be no life and without water the trees would die, so it was believed that water produced wood.

The Laws of the Universe are governed by the principles of Yin and Yang and while it is believed that  the elements gave life to  each other so it was accepted that there was also a negative side, where the elements can be used to  defeat each other.

1) WOOD defeats EARTH

As a tree grows it spreads its roots and breaks up the soil so it was believed that wood was the master of earth.

2) EARTH defeats WATER

Water is fluid and without shape and it is controlled by the earth that determines its flow so it was believed  that earth to be the master of water.

3) WATER defeats FIRE

As water was the only element that was available for the ancients to  control fire so the  believe that water was the master of fire.

4) FIRE defeats METAL

Metal is a hard substance but when subjected to  fire it became fluid and adaptable to  use so it was believed that fire is the master of metal.

5) METAL defeats WOOD

Without metal the ancients would not have been able to  construct. Metal tools were required to  cut trees and construct so metal became the master of wood.

The above explanation will help the individual to perform their kata's with an understanding  of what the techniques represent. They will find it easier to  give feeling and meaning to the kata's and hopefully be able to appreciate the philosophy of the Five-Elements.

The Five-Elements






























































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