These are my four basic principles of Shodō.
These principles is what I consider necessary in order to produce art that creates emotion. Good calligraphy should reflect the character and spirit of the artist, and by following these basic principles, I feel one can accomplish this along with proper training in composition and writing of Kanji.
1. Compose in harmony and with balance
Every character has to have balance within itself and other characters in the calligraphy. Brush your characters harmoniously and balancing each other with the sense of “living together on the paper”. A way to achieve this harmony and balance is to learn how to write the kanji on a grid. This will teach you proper spacing and composition.
Some artists may take some freedom in composing the calligraphy, and that’s ok, as long as there is harmony and balance in their interpretation.
2. Vary between strong lines and delicate ones
Straight lines, whether horizontal or vertical, are done strong, stiff, and heavy. While curved lines are done more delicately carrying a sense of motions and fluidity. Balance between the two is a must otherwise the calligraphy can either appear too heavy or too weak.
3. Finish once started
Once started follow through! There is no stopping in the middle of it. There is no finishing later. This is the critical point of manifesting your energy, your mind on the paper. Your calligraphy is a snapshot of your mind, your feelings, your emotions at that moment. This is why when practicing Shodō one can fully experience ICHI GO ICHI E or “One Time One Chance”. You only have one life. There is only one opportunity.
4. Extend KI
This principle is borrowed from the martial arts, specifically from Aikidō. You have to extend KI in order to have good Shodō. Your energy, life force, your entire existence need to flow from within you through the brush into the paper. If there is no energy in that brush, if there is no commitment, conviction, emotions or feelings, then it is going to be a sloppy and boring piece of calligraphy. So, put some energy on it, extend your KI, relax, and keep one point concentrating on what you’re brushing and the meaning of what it is that you write.