Traditional Ikebana is extremely formalized according to set rules, but modern Ikebana which began around a hundred years ago, allows more spontaneity, bringing out the individuality of the arranger. Thus in composition of the utmost simplicity, a skilled Ikebana arranger can suggest with a few lines not only the whole universe, but can also create a sense of space, motion of time past and future, of season, of rhythm, of emotion and of other equally diverse concepts.
The traditional use comprises of, three branches, flowers or other objects in some styles of Ikebana to symbolize heaven, earth and man thus encompassing the whole universe. Being a Japanese art, perfected through centuries of tradition, it requires a different way of thinking about flowers and the arrangement. Unlike western styles, a large quantity of flowers are not required, the use of branches, leaves and dried materials is as important, if not more so. The emphasis is on creating beautiful, symmetrical lines and harmony of colour, combining them with a container appropriate to the material and style of arrangement.
Ikebana has led some of its members to other fields, like pottery, Japanese painting and gardening. For anyone who enjoys arts, the appeal of an Ikebana arrangement lies in its visual and representational aspect which gives a three dimensional quality that compels attention.
The student of Ikebana goes through many stages, there is the Physical and mental challenge to master the art of handling branches, placing the flowers correctly and learning the basic rules. Once these are mastered the symbolism and philosophy of this traditional art passed on by Zen masters comes through. This art form is also an effective therapy for relaxing the mind, body and spirit.