Yoga and Martial Arts

This is an interview that was done with Ingo Beardi in 1997.  Between 1997 and today, he has continued his sadhana.  He was initiated into Sanyasa in 2005 by Swami Veda Bharati and is now Swami Tat Sat Bharati.  He is also an initiator and a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti, or Spiritual Committee.  Swami Tat Sat lives in the Berlin, Germany, area.  He is the founder and director of Institut für Yoga & Aikido where yoga is taught in the tradition of Swami Rama.  This is his website: http://www.beardi.com/  Swami Tat Sat will be teaching a “Yoga and Martial Arts” workshop at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) in Rishikesh, India, 15th – 27th October 2015; the workshop will be in English.  To inquire about attending this workshop: http://ahymsin.org/main/accommodations-inquiry.html

Interview with Ingo

11 March 1997
By Moriah

Editor’s Note: Whenever a reference to time occurs, remember that this interview was done in 1997.

Q: Brief history of your center and how it was started.

A: The center started 14 years ago and first Aikidos done.  Aikido is a martial art and it’s a spiritual martial art because this teacher, Master Uyeshiba, was a very great spiritual man.  He created a spiritual science because he studies all these Chinese and Japanese spiritual sciences and studies the Japanese martial arts.  Hence, he created a new art.

Q: Was he your teacher?

A: One of his disciples is my main teacher.  This man, Master Tada, is a very highly inspired man because he studied Aikido by the founder.  He also has a second teacher, and he was one of the famous Japanese yoga teachers in Japan.  So he studied with both.

This teacher’s name was Nakamura Tempu.  He studies the science of yoga with a yogi in the Himalayas.  At this time he was very ill, and the doctors said he had six months to live and then he would die.  So, he went on a trip to Egypt in his 20’s on a ship, and on this ship he met a yogi from the Himalayas.  The yogi told him he would not die if he came with him, so he went with him to study this yoga science.  He came back after three or four years to Japan and was healthy and died when he was 93.  He created a school of meditation in Tokyo, and was a teacher of many martial arts. 

My main teacher, Master Tada, studies with this yoga science teacher and the founder of Aikido.  That was the reason I went to this teacher: because he had studied meditation and he has a profound knowledge about yoga, especially the yoga sutras.  His Aikido is influenced from this yoga teaching.  So, he teaches a very different form of Aikido.  The main point is to awaken your kundalini. He uses Aikido techniques and movements.  “Aiki” means to unite your individual self with the universal self.  It is the same as yoga.  So “Aikido” is a way to practice this. 

The main problem is that most Aikido teachers have no profound knowledge about the finer steps of Aikido, because they have no practice in purification techniques, they have no practice in mantra. 

The founder has a very different knowledge because he created physical exercises, and the next step is to control your breath, or Kokyoho in Japanese.  The next step is Misugi, which is the same as shatkarmas in yoga to purify your body and mind.  And the next step is Kotodame, which is a theory or method of mantra shastras, because it comes from the Shingon Buddhisms from China to Japan in the 8th Century, and it’s a very esoteric science.  It goes very close to the Shinto tradition.  Shinto and Shingon Buddhism are very close together.  He studied this science of Kotodama. 

Kotodama means the real sound.  And that is a Tantric technique.  His discipline has no meaning apart from this technique.  So the essence of Aikido is Kotodama.  From Kotodama, you have the experience you have to control your mind, and from controlling your mind, you can express it in Aikido movements.  But today, most people have only studied the movements. They have no experience in purification and no experience in Kotodama. 

It was interesting when I met Swami Rama at first, ten years ago here, the first talking was here on the Ganga.  He told me “if you practice with your mantra, you will experience the real essence of Aikido.” It was his first speech.  And then he gave me initiation afterwards. 

That is the reason I am in India, because a Japanese teacher cannot teach this in very profound knowledge. 

My main teacher has some knowledge, but he cannot teach this.  He has his own practice, but he cannot teach.  So, his teaching had a level, but it is not possible for me to study with him the real science of Kotodama.  He cannot teach it in this way.  That is my reason to break this connection after 17 years and to come to India. 

I started 14 years with my own institute, and slowly I bring yoga and Aikido together.

People start with physical exercises, especially Aikido exercises, which work to open us up.  It is not a sparring or a fight; it is a practical movement of working together.  And they can purify their bodies and train their minds to sharpen their awareness. 

The key point is to have intent of mindfulness, which the yoga sutras refer to.  To sharpen the mind, the ability of discrimination.  That is the first level. 

First, you practice five years physical exercise to bring your physical body in good condition and to control the physical body in a proper way. That is like hatha yoga, asanas, so you can bring your physical body under control.  It takes five, seven years. 

The next step is to bring your awareness to the breath. Breath is linked to the mind and body.  So breath awareness. 

The next step is to bring in meditation to the people who want this step. So they can study meditation, but first breath awareness to control their mind thoughts. 

And the next step is to bring people to mantra initiation.  And for this people go to Wolfgang’s Institute in Germany.  [Note: Now Swami Tat Sat is an initiator and can initiate people into mantra.] So people have the opportunity to slowly go higher and higher. 

That is the reason I bring yoga and Aikido together, because more Aikido teachers only teach physical exercise, they have no experience.  But it takes time, you have to increase your own power, your own awareness.  I have much more experience in this in the last ten years.  And with guru’s grace something happens.

Q: How many students do you have?

A: 60-70.  Both man and woman.  The youngest are 13 and the oldest are 60.  All different professions, and different ages work well together.

Q: Do you have some that are really long term students, who come to initiation?

A: Yes, I think it is maybe 30 people there that are initiates.  And it increases. Most people I have had connections with for 10-20 years.  I started with some very young people, 13-14 years, and they are still there.

Q: How did you come to know about Swami Rama?

A: Wolfgang [Bischoff] was a disciple of my institute. It was 17 years ago he went to the USA to California and met Swamiji [Swami Rama] there.  When he came back to Hamburg, he created his institute. His wife studied Aikido and came sometimes to Berlin to my first German Aikido teacher. So we met there and she told me that Wolfgang came back from the States and created an institute. He invited me, and I gave some Aikido seminars in his institute.  And he told me I had to meet Swami Rama. I told him yes, but felt I needed more time for this. When he married in 1982, Dr. Arya arranged for it, so I first met Dr. Arya. And since he came every year to Hamburg, I met him there and went to his seminars. He told me to come to India, and I told him after a while I will do this. In 1987 it was this time, because Swami Rama wanted Wolfgang to bring a small group to the ashram, so I came too with the group. And this was my first meeting with Swamiji. Ten years ago. It was a very special meeting. It was the right time.

Q: And you told him that you were practicing Aikido?  And then he said if you practice yoga your Aikido will become deeper?

A: Yes, because he knows, because he studied martial arts, and he knows the essence of Aikido, that’s what I’ve told before.  Kotodama, that’s the science of mantra.  He gave me initiation, and he knows that after long study with this, with practice of japa and so on, you get a deeper experience.  And that is the foundation of all expression through the body.  I feel that many things happened, many things changed in my lessons and so on.  The whole system changed the last ten years of what I have taught.  Because it is a foundation, so you can never realize through body movements the sense of Aikido.  It’s not possible.  Japanese Aikido teachers believe in that, but it will never happen.  They can move 500 years, but they cannot go in the deeper experience. It’s not possible.  Because you can only get mind control in meditation, it is not possible to with physical movement.  So they have no real knowledge and have this problem that they teach a very low level, only physical level.  That was my inner feeling, that it’s a waste of time to only practice on a physical level.   I cannot practice 40 years of Aikido only on a physical level.  You have to go deeper, and only a few students are interested because it is a work of meditation. They have to meditate.  Fortunately, I have some students that have followed me on this way, and they are a creative atmosphere in the institute, and they inspire other people.  It is very nice.

Q: Specifically, you have changed the physical exercise that they do, or are they still strictly Aikido exercises?

A: Strictly Aikido exercise, but they can be done in different levels.  I have some yoga classes and meditation classes and Aikido classes, so most people started with Aikido movements on a physical level.  But they can change. They can go in the yoga classes.  In the yoga classes, I teach some asanas, but really more philosophical teaching about the main scriptures, like yoga sutras, hatha yoga pradipika, and so on. 

And then the next step comes from these experiences to meditation.  So we have an introduction to meditation, and slowly, slowly people come and follow.  Because first their awareness is so limited that they have a big attachment to their body, so we start with body exercise.  And for most people, it takes five or six years, then they are thinking about it’s not all the body.  “There is a lot more in me.  I am not only the body.”  Then they started sometimes to come to yoga classes and they look what happened there and they get some information about the scriptures and so they start to meditate.  That is the way; there is a whole spectrum.

Q: Some people come straight to yoga or meditation?

A: Some people only come to yoga and meditation. At the most people do both Aikido and yoga.  I have 35 people that come to both Aikido and yoga practice.  That is what I prefer, because Aikido gives the people the possibility to study this and bring their mind into focus.  So, “just now.”  But I feel by many that study yoga and hatha yoga, they have no “just now”. They are flexible. They have no power and they have not learned to bring their mind on “just now”. In a martial art you have to be aware of this; if not, you cannot practice.  Somebody will attack you, and you will have to decide in this moment, not “wait, wait, I have to think about that”.  It’s not possible.  So it brings their mind in a very good concentration.  That is the key point.  Yoga sutra 2 Chapter 1 is about mind awareness.  And from this training, they can start the next step. Their mind is in good concentration so they can start awareness of their breath and “my movement”. That’s the next step.  But first they have to bring their mind in, but that is one of the most difficult things to do.  It takes a long time.  The next step is that it is very important to learn to bring the whole body system into a control situation, because it is very important, because that is the grossest level.  But without this control, you cannot go further.  It takes for most people 5-7 years to coordinate the physical body and have awareness of the physical body.  That’s not samadhi, but that is a good level.  They have good ground control.  They have no fear because they have learned to control their body.  They can roll and fall down and nothing happens to them, so they are fearless. They have good control of their body, and they have good concentration.  Then you can start the next step.

Q: Future plans?  You said something about sanyas.

A: Yes, soon for myself, I think so, to purify mind and body, so I will sometime get swami initiation, that’s for myself.  But it takes time, so I go step by step.  And I feel that this combination of Aikido and yoga it in the “in school” work… That will increase, slowly, slowly.

Q: Would you travel?

A: Not so much, because I have one group in Poland.  I give the last six years three lessons every year in Poland.  It is not so far from Berlin.  It is 200 kilometers, so they come to Berlin and I go three times a year to Poland to give lessons.  And there is a very steady group and they have a good connection to the Himalayan Institute in Hamburg.  So there are 30-50 people in Poland connected to my institute and Wolfgang’s institute.  There is a very good group for the last 10-16 years.  That is not so far and I live at least 50 kilometers from Berlin, so I like to give classes there, but… I don’t like it so much, travel, because the last 25 years I have been travelling through Europe to all my Aikido teachers and yoga teachers and so on.  Mainly to Italy, Switzerland and France and Austria, so it is enough. So I have no more interest.  Because to increase my institute and this small group in Poland, I need time for myself.  So once a year I am here in India for 4-6 weeks and I cannot stay longer.  If I spent more time out from Berlin, it would not be good for the institute.

Q: So, you might spend half the year here and half the year there at the institute?

A: It is an idea, but I have to discuss with some people there whether this is possible or not.  There are many problems there, business problems and money problems and so on.  I need some support from other people for this.  And will see the next years.  Swami Rama wanted me to teach here in India, so that was his wish.  But he told me “I will bring the students and you will teach the students here”.  So he’s put some secrets in my mind in this way, and I think it will happen, but it takes time.   I think if the situation at the hospital is stable and so on and there are students there, it can be started.  I think it needs time.  Maybe 4-5 years.

Q: Big plans.  You are saying that some of your students after 5 years or so, they say “well is this isn’t everything”. How did you come to that realization yourself?  You always knew there was more?

A: Yes, I started out in Aikido for this reason, because before I had experience with karate and judo and so on.  And I stopped all this exercise, because I felt that’s now what I am searching for. So I started again with Aikido, because I felt there was something more in it. But it depends on the teacher.  So I looked around: I was in Paris, I was in France, I was in Italy.  We had one Japanese Aikido teacher in Germany, so I studied with many Japanese teachers.  Good teachers, but they have only this physical level. So I looked for more. I met my main teacher, Master Tada; he had much more knowledge. Because he lives in Japan, he comes only once a year to Italy, because he created the Aikido in Italy.  He comes once a year for 3-4 weeks. Intense practice, but it was a short time.  So he goes no further.  After 16 years I feel that it is limited.  So I have to look for another way. That was the reason I go to India.  ut 35 years ago, I know I looked for much more than physical exercises and the martial arts, but because of samskaras, or it was in my mind, I like to practice it this way. I feel it is possible to go deeper in this martial art in comparison to other martial arts.  It was new for Japan what this class created, because [in addition to] what all the other martial arts can do, they have some kendo and they have some relationships to Zen Buddhism.

I think it is not deep enough for me, so I look for another way. I think it is possible to teach the essence of Aikido, if your own practice is in meditation.  Without the practice of meditation, you cannot reach the essence of Aikido. You can only teach physical exercises. But that is not the essence of Aikido. There is much more.  This Master, his big speech was “I am shunya (emptiness)”. That is the highest level of meditation and Buddhism. That is nothing, so how can you attack nothing?  It is not possible.  So what would be your defense?  But this is a very high level. You must teach step by step for most people.  Most have no capacity for this knowledge. First, they come and they have diseases and they are not well with their body, and they have fear for something. So you start at this level.  I think I have good students, and they are all initiates. So in 10-15 years more I hope I can teach much more.

Editor’s Note:

This interview took place in 1997.  Since then, Swami Tat Sat Bharati has continued with his sadhana and with teaching. The website for Institut für Yoga & Aikido is: http://www.beardi.com/  

Swami Tat Sat will be teaching a “Yoga and Martial Arts” workshop at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) in Rishikesh, India, 15th – 27th October 2015.  To inquire about attending this workshop: http://ahymsin.org/main/accommodations-inquiry.html

Wolfgang Bischoff is the spiritual director of Himalaya Institut Deutschland.  Their website is http://www.himalaya-institut.de/.  Wolfgang is also an initiator and a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti, or Spiritual Committee.

The hospital to which Ingo refers is the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust.  Their website is http://www.hihtindia.org/.

Photo of Swami Tat Sat Bharati in October 2014 was taken by Manuel Tama.



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