This calligraphy is by Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido. It reads MASA KATSU A GATSU GATSU HAYABI (正勝吾勝 勝速日), and it translates as “True Victory is Self Victory on Victory Day.”
This phrase was O’Sensei most personal motto; a calligraphy he brushed numerous times. We can find hundreds of these calligraphies all over the internet these days. However, this one is my favorite version of his.
The calligraphy is beautifully composed, with the first part of the saying, Masa Katsu A Gatsu on the top, written from left to right (although unusual for traditional calligraphy often brushed from right to left). Underneath is the second part: Gatsu Hayabi. Each character takes the same amount of space, and each character follows the energy and fluidity of the entire piece. On the left bottom corner, Ueshiba brushed 武産合気 (TAKE MUSU AIKI- the great spirit of Aiki) and next to it is his signature.
O’Sensei’s KI was powerful and difficult to capture in pictures and videos. However, this calligraphy captured his strong inner spirit. The strokes are bold and vigorous, yet fluid and dynamic. There is no hesitation in the brush. It must have been truly wonderful to train with him and experience this kind of energy!
In the context of Aikido training, True Victory stands for single-minded courage to achieve victory. Self-victory stands for the tireless effort to overcome our barriers. And, Victory-Day, means the here and now. O’Sensei is telling us to let the here and now arrive quickly– not to waste time or effort in meaningless actions.
In Shodō this can be applied as well. Victory over ourselves is to overcome doubts, and any frustrations we may have with our practice. Letting the here and now exist as we lay the brush on paper will capture our inner spirit at the moment, where nothing else matters but the act of writing.