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Erick Mead
04-11-2006, 05:41 PM
Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?

A tour of websites recently put me off. Particularly those in the vein of "Aikido is an art of non-violent self-defense. I will not name the site that caused my dyspeptic condition, but this was said there: Could it be that Aikido is not martial in nature, but simply aligned with the true definition of BUDO as related by O-sensei himself. ... What could be the importance of describing Aikido as "a non-martial attitude" fitness "art"? Isn't it quite an unjust service to Aikido to represent it with a word which quite clearly suggests imminent destruction or destruction? That word of course being "martial". I therefore pose my question: Are MARTIAL arts "self-defense" or something else? Mars is the God of war. Arts of war are for killing people and breaking things -- as my gunnery sergeant once duly enlightened me (while standing over my suddenly prostrate form).

No, really -- killing and destroying -- that is what arts of war are. If you think otherwise you are seriously deluded. Aikido Hombu once placed the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, the Kami of military arts on the kamidana as a token of worship. The appreciation of this by non-Japanese was deemed a source of potential misunderstanding and the practice was curtailed. But the original dedication of the art remains. Mars inescapably rules our fates in Aikido.

And yet -- O-Sensei once said "True budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings, and not killing or struggling with each other."
And "Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Aikido is the realization of love."

Are these just the doddering sentimentalities of a old man getting senile or is there something else here that he was telling us that bears a lot of thinking about? (Me, I vote for the latter)

Conventionally, if martial arts are simply about self-defense-- when presented with a threat -- you kill or destroy before you are killed or destroyed in turn. Q.E.D. Honor? -- piffle! IF it is merely self-defense, then survival of self is all that matters. But martial arts at least pretend to concern themselves with things of greater moment than mere personal survival.

More deeply, what justifies a war for which we would train in such arts? Plainly, it is something larger than mere defense of myself, and indeed, willingly entering into a field of conflict is antithetical in many instances to my own self-preservation. A gazelle does not typically irimi a lion for this reason; except when her fawn is threatened.

Love, only love, can support the will necessary or hope to justify the willing entry into the reach of death. For that is what we train to do.

O-Sensei's thoughts need a modern context. They are true, but need a focus and image to dwell upon for us to begin to act them out and comprehend them in our bones. As the Second Dosshu recognized in removing it, we do not understand the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, nor its place on the kamidana in the dojo, nor the significance of reverence and even worship for that fierceness of spirit in combat, which is love in its most terrible and irresistible form. But we need an image, or many of them, that will likewise serve for us to call to mind this spirit in ways we can relate to.

Modern myths are more commonplace now and are our common stories, so I will make use of one, which I recently watched with my kids. It is a scene from "Return of the Jedi." I asked my kids when it was over, why Luke was able to defeat Vader in the end. Pleased papa that I am -- one of them got it right.

The scene is where Luke confronts Vader before the Emperor is a sublime exploration of this theme. The Emperor, focus of the will to power and domination in the galaxy, admonishes Luke to take up that power and destroy Vader to save his friends. As he squares off with Vader, Luke wants to save his friends, but also to save his father and simultaneously struggles with his temptation to give in to a very justified hatred and desire for vengeance. Until this point, Vader has the better of him, vastly more trained in the art of the cool and efficient will to destroy.

Vader discovers the existence of Luke's sister and threatens to turn her. Then Luke's fury is unleashed cannot be stopped. But it is not a fury of anger, nor hatred, nor vengeance. His furor rises from a deep and selfless love so commanding that he can do nothing except act upon it until he cannot act any longer.

When it is accomplished, Vader defeated, he turns aside, trying to save his father once more, but throwing away his weapon as an admission of futility in the face of an overwhelming power. He submits and endures the inevitable torture and death that are to follow. It is this completely selfless abandon for the sake of that love that carries the day, converts Vader, and even saves Luke, although he does not intend to seek his own salvation.

Too often I find those drawn to arts of war trying emulate the coolness displayed by Vader until very nearly the end, seeking the will to destroy without care. Our other modern myths (often in the form of video games) too often advance this theme.

What we need to seek is that reservoir, a mass of waters restlessly bound, a matchless torrent waiting to burst from its dam. These waters are pure and clear, but also deep and exceedingly dark. They are drawn from sources deep beyond our meager selves. We cannot trifle with such as this except in small spoonfuls in training. If released unchecked it will carry us away, along with everything else in its path.

I ask again. Is it self-defense we are training in, or is it something else?

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Kevin Leavitt
04-11-2006, 06:00 PM
I think traditional MA are more about the "something else", it is a most inefficient way to train for Self Defense. While they can be a part of helping you understand your nature, spirit, body, and things like that..as far as techniques of self defense goes...I think it is a supreme waste of time. However these are my opinions.

I am not sure I am prepared to respond in entirety to your post, but I think we must explore the "darkside" of things somewhat to understand the totality of peace. The thing about putting up the kami's of war I think are not in conflict with peace....there are many reasons why a peaceful person might do this I think.

There are many paradoxes in life. It is messy and complicated and no easy answers. I think many of us from the west like things to be spelled out in the "rulebook" for us...to have it "black and white". I don't think peace/harmony are quite that easy!

Perry Bell
04-12-2006, 01:26 AM
Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?

A tour of websites recently put me off. Particularly those in the vein of "Aikido is an art of non-violent self-defense. I will not name the site that caused my dyspeptic condition, but this was said there: I therefore pose my question: Are MARTIAL arts "self-defense" or something else? Mars is the God of war. Arts of war are for killing people and breaking things -- as my gunnery sergeant once duly enlightened me (while standing over my suddenly prostrate form).

No, really -- killing and destroying -- that is what arts of war are. If you think otherwise you are seriously deluded. Aikido Hombu once placed the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, the Kami of military arts on the kamidana as a token of worship. The appreciation of this by non-Japanese was deemed a source of potential misunderstanding and the practice was curtailed. But the original dedication of the art remains. Mars inescapably rules our fates in Aikido.

And yet -- O-Sensei once said "True budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings, and not killing or struggling with each other."
And "Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Aikido is the realization of love."

Are these just the doddering sentimentalities of a old man getting senile or is there something else here that he was telling us that bears a lot of thinking about? (Me, I vote for the latter)

Conventionally, if martial arts are simply about self-defense-- when presented with a threat -- you kill or destroy before you are killed or destroyed in turn. Q.E.D. Honor? -- piffle! IF it is merely self-defense, then survival of self is all that matters. But martial arts at least pretend to concern themselves with things of greater moment than mere personal survival.

More deeply, what justifies a war for which we would train in such arts? Plainly, it is something larger than mere defense of myself, and indeed, willingly entering into a field of conflict is antithetical in many instances to my own self-preservation. A gazelle does not typically irimi a lion for this reason; except when her fawn is threatened.

Love, only love, can support the will necessary or hope to justify the willing entry into the reach of death. For that is what we train to do.

O-Sensei's thoughts need a modern context. They are true, but need a focus and image to dwell upon for us to begin to act them out and comprehend them in our bones. As the Second Dosshu recognized in removing it, we do not understand the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, nor its place on the kamidana in the dojo, nor the significance of reverence and even worship for that fierceness of spirit in combat, which is love in its most terrible and irresistible form. But we need an image, or many of them, that will likewise serve for us to call to mind this spirit in ways we can relate to.

Modern myths are more commonplace now and are our common stories, so I will make use of one, which I recently watched with my kids. It is a scene from "Return of the Jedi." I asked my kids when it was over, why Luke was able to defeat Vader in the end. Pleased papa that I am -- one of them got it right.

The scene is where Luke confronts Vader before the Emperor is a sublime exploration of this theme. The Emperor, focus of the will to power and domination in the galaxy, admonishes Luke to take up that power and destroy Vader to save his friends. As he squares off with Vader, Luke wants to save his friends, but also to save his father and simultaneously struggles with his temptation to give in to a very justified hatred and desire for vengeance. Until this point, Vader has the better of him, vastly more trained in the art of the cool and efficient will to destroy.

Vader discovers the existence of Luke's sister and threatens to turn her. Then Luke's fury is unleashed cannot be stopped. But it is not a fury of anger, nor hatred, nor vengeance. His furor rises from a deep and selfless love so commanding that he can do nothing except act upon it until he cannot act any longer.

When it is accomplished, Vader defeated, he turns aside, trying to save his father once more, but throwing away his weapon as an admission of futility in the face of an overwhelming power. He submits and endures the inevitable torture and death that are to follow. It is this completely selfless abandon for the sake of that love that carries the day, converts Vader, and even saves Luke, although he does not intend to seek his own salvation.

Too often I find those drawn to arts of war trying emulate the coolness displayed by Vader until very nearly the end, seeking the will to destroy without care. Our other modern myths (often in the form of video games) too often advance this theme.

What we need to seek is that reservoir, a mass of waters restlessly bound, a matchless torrent waiting to burst from its dam. These waters are pure and clear, but also deep and exceedingly dark. They are drawn from sources deep beyond our meager selves. We cannot trifle with such as this except in small spoonfuls in training. If released unchecked it will carry us away, along with everything else in its path.

I ask again. Is it self-defense we are training in, or is it something else?

Cordially,
Erick Mead


Hi Eric,

Wow what a great thread, I was blown away reading it, finally to see someone talking the same language as me. Asking the same questions, whilst knowing in your heart the answer all the time. How ever if I read your thread with missinterpretation please allow me to apologise.

I am not sure if you are a teacher, but you phrase your question in such a way as to make people think and learn from their thoughts, IMHO that is the sign of a good teacher.

Again IMHO I think the "traditional" martial arts are about something more than self defense in the physical ways that most of us train and expect them to be, if you read my post on other threads you will find a common thread and that is about exactly what you speak of, in the quote form O sensei and Star wars, I think that the undeniable truth is that love is the most powerful martial art going around, I believe that even the nastiest of men, the ones who would destroy lives with out blinking an eye would baulk at committing such atrocities if their families were in their path, why? Because of the love they have for them. In past posts I have spoken about the fact that some focus to much on the physical part of our training and less on the importance of the spiritual, but it must be said that we need the physical in order to understand the softer side of the arts we love and of ourselves , but knowing this does not take away from the fact the techniques we practice do work and can be deadly, just as much as they can heal. So your question is yes and no, no and yes. We have the choice if to use our knowledge to destroy an attacker or to attempt to show them a different way.
Mind you showing an attacker a softer side might still get you killed, I bring your thoughts to easter a long time ago when a man was crucified for showing the people of world that he loved them, he could have used his fists to fight back but he gave us is life in order that we find love.

I apologies if any one takes offense for my remarks on Christianity they are not intended to hurt, merely to show we can choose to love or hate, defend with force or try another way.

Take care, be happy and smile heaps

Perry :)

eyrie
04-12-2006, 01:41 AM
I think whether you're doing budo or bujutsu, it's always about "something else". Unfortunately, it's not the something else that is the issue, but the paradox of that "something else" even presenting itself within the context of what you're doing. Just being comfortable with the paradox is enough, I think.

Thalib
04-12-2006, 02:46 AM
I like the way you start the thread. First you come in like as if you are about to attack an article, a quote, or a website, but then you actually come in more sensibly and discuss the more important things.

Bujutsu could be roughly translated to martial arts/techniques and Budo could roughly be translated to martial way/path, but it does not explain anything.

The codes of chivalry in the west, which had created fairy tales about the knights in shining armor, but was this code really executed by the knights? As history would tell us, probably not, even the reverse maybe.

...
...
...


And my brain is still fried... and I can't structure sentences correctly right now, let alone a passage

Mark Freeman
04-12-2006, 05:49 AM
Hi Erick,

As always, a well thought out and thought provoking post, thanks.

For me Aikido is 'more than' a 'martial' art. Highly effective self defence is a useful side effect of an intensely personal developement art where the only opponent is oneself. We polish ourselves through constant practice, and through the polishing and honing of mind body and spirit we come to a place where we realise the futility of combat and war. Loving protection of all things, should be the mindset of the accomplished aikidoka, to protect an assailant from harm rather than destroying them is surely one of the main reasons 'peaceful' people are drawn to the art.
My own teacher says he is not teaching a 'martial' art he is teaching aikido which is something else. And as I totally respect the 50 years of study of aikido that he has done, I agree with him.
For me aikido resides in a realm 'above' the 'destructive' martial arts, this I believe comes from O Sensei's realisations of his own enlightenments through his warrior background and subsequent practice and study. We all are involved in an art that has much to offer the modern world. We owe it to the founder as well as ourselves to spread this understanding as far and as wide as we can.
Aikido philosophy provides a model or framework for all conflict resolution, it can be applied to non dojo life just as easily as it is on the mat. We can only do what we do in our own small way. But imagine how the world would look if aikido was part of the school curriculum from day one. If it was taught in prisons or the workplace?

Just a few ramblings, inspired by the post above.

regards,
Mark

ian
04-12-2006, 07:50 AM
So many people are looking for a 'code' to live by, or a strategy. When a human has a solid and unshakeable intention they can achieve amazing things. Without a moral code I think there is a tendency to live selfishly and animalistically which, for some reason, we tend to find detestable. However finding a code which itself cannot be corrupted is difficult and therefore I think we are always left having to work out life for ourselves. We have a conflict between self-assuredness, and self-doubt.

Personally I think treating everyone as equally human regardless of their perceived crimes I think is useful. Many people do nasty things out a misplaced belief that they are doing something good. Although war may be destructive to all parties, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made for the sake of others who can then live in a happy hippy oblivion.

SeiserL
04-12-2006, 09:05 AM
Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?
I love dualistic either/or questions.

IMHO, yes, Aikido is a martial art suitable for self-defense and it is something else (depending on what you want to make it). Budo, martial arts, are tools. Its up to us as individuals what we want to make of it and how refined we want our craft and art to be.

Erick Mead
04-12-2006, 12:16 PM
For me Aikido is 'more than' a 'martial' art. ... My own teacher says he is not teaching a 'martial' art he is teaching aikido which is something else. ... For me aikido resides in a realm 'above' the 'destructive' martial arts, this I believe comes from O Sensei's realisations of his own enlightenments through his warrior background and subsequent practice and study. We all are involved in an art that has much to offer the modern world. We owe it to the founder as well as ourselves to spread this understanding as far and as wide as we can. Finding breathing space for relevant attention in the whirlwind of modern life (itself a cause of manifold problems) is not a small task. My sense of the art calls me to be prepared to relent only when my partner is at the point of my sword -- not before, else my mercy and love are mere theoretical, abstract exercises, that easily become ego-saving covers for fear and a timid heart.

As Kevin said: I think we must explore the "darkside" of things somewhat to understand the totality of peace. I think this is a strong intuition as to where O-Sensei's mind was, and what he intended for his art and those who practice it to dwell upon. Creating a desire, indeed, almost a joy, (after one is comfortable with the flow of strong attack) to enter aggressively into conflict without first provoking the killing rage to drive it -- that is the art, harnessing the force behind such rage, instead of loosing it unheeded or simply stopping it up in fear. It seems to me that it is the joy of love, not of play, nor in idle exercise, but of abandonment of self for Other, wedded to the same dangerous power that rage can also channel, which allows us to what we do in the best of our art.

Perry said:I believe that even the nastiest of men, the ones who would destroy lives with out blinking an eye would baulk at committing such atrocities if their families were in their path, why? Because of the love they have for them. Would that it were so, Perry, and perhaps it often is, but a great deal of very sad history, and much domestic violence does not support your premise as a uniform case of retraint. Too often the easiest targets for venting of rage from other sources flows into the nearest and weakest channels as an outlet. More to the point, this is an argument of prior restraint. Despite appearances and conventional assumptions, I do not understand O-Sensei to have taught restraint, but rather harmony. Harmony with a attack, large or small calls for an unrestrained acceptance of the attack. If we hold some part back from our acceptance of the attack AS IT IS, we commit the first error of every bad technique.

Ian said: Without a moral code I think there is a tendency to live selfishly and animalistically which, for some reason, we tend to find detestable. However finding a code which itself cannot be corrupted is difficult and therefore I think we are always left having to work out life for ourselves. Codes are dead pages and are not immune to being made tools of "selfish, animalistic desires" (speaking as a lawyer). I do not think we can rest comfortably in the rigidity of codes. I know I don't, and I know them all too well. There are human energies (internal and external) constantly at work to darken and undermine the noblest codes, as Thalib's note about western chivalry as a cognate to budo indicates.

As I read these posts and my initial trope of water power unleashed, I am struck by its applicability in light of the responses: hidden potentiality, continuous, building and unrelenting pressure as it is allowed to deepen, its need for outlet, and its inherent desire (nature) to flow downward (undermining its restraints unseen in the dark, deep places), and its irresistible flow if not channeled, coninutously used and kept to a manageable level. Lao-tzu is out there whispering somewhere stilll, I suppose.

Just some further thoughts.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
04-12-2006, 12:40 PM
I love dualistic either/or questions.Well, to break the paradigm you must first acknowledge it. Invention pays tribute to tradition. IMHO, yes, Aikido is a martial art suitable for self-defense and it is something else (depending on what you want to make it). Budo, martial arts, are tools. Its up to us as individuals what we want to make of it and how refined we want our craft and art to be.Too true, but mere technical refinement as a matter of some measure of efficency disregards the purpose of the tool itself. I do not think we can afford to remain agnostic on these points. If Aikido is relevant to the world, it must be relevant in a concrete way. Aikido is relevant to human conflict in many scales and dimensions of view. Aikido is not relevant to good gardening, and many other good things. It has a place, and an important one, in my view. But, if it is all things to all people, it is nothing to anyone. A hoe digs and a shovel digs, but to confuse the one for the other in terms of its intended purpose does little to advance the mastery of gardening.

Tools are human creations and therefore have intent embodied within them. The toolmaker's intent brought to full flower in the hands of a skilled technician defines mastery of art. A gifted individual may even exceed the imagination of the toolmaker with capacities latent in the tool he made. But as I said, invention pays tribute to tradition. If we do not comprehend the full purpose of the maker in creating the tool we can neither bring it to technical fulfillment as intended, nor honor its maker by enlarging the bounds of its application.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-12-2006, 01:33 PM
Erick,

Thanks for the interesting thoughts. I think you are close, and my misgivings with total agreement are linguistic, egoic, my own lack of understanding, or maybe that you are talking only from one side of Yin/Yang. Tough for me to tell.

I don't agree about the symbol. Put the war god back on the shrine -make it more gruesome still! Then put another symbol - that of warrior as protector. Make the biggest symbol - humility. Warrior as servant.

Re: "Darkside" discussion - I think this is a strong intuition as to where O-Sensei's mind was, and what he intended for his art and those who practice it to dwell upon. Creating a desire, indeed, almost a joy, (after one is comfortable with the flow of strong attack) to enter aggressively into conflict without first provoking the killing rage to drive it -- that is the art, harnessing the force behind such rage, instead of loosing it unheeded or simply stopping it up in fear. It seems to me that it is the joy of love, not of play, nor in idle exercise, but of abandonment of self for Other, wedded to the same dangerous power that rage can also channel, which allows us to what we do in the best of our art.

No. Entering a violent stream one is calm and Receptive. I do not think OSensei entered aggressively, ever, once he realized who he was. I think you are looking for something much simpler than what you said.

You speak well though. I appreciate this opportunity to disagree.

david

Kevin Leavitt
04-12-2006, 01:57 PM
More about the darkside. You will run into many that believe that it is not necessary to explore or have knowledge about the negative, darkside, evil, violence etc in order to have peace and harmony.

Many fundamentalist religions develop structure and rules to avoid this, because they believe exploring them or entaining these things harms you. (it might if explored for the wrong reasons or too intently or deeply).

To me, this creates an interesting paradox. Many construct walls and barriers to avoid things that they don't consider to be "good", moral, or positive. The ignorance creates fear...which fear creates hatred!

So in the end avoiding the "darkside" only draws you in deeper!

I think is is fundamental to martial arts. We have a methodolgy for exploring violence in a constructive way in order to better understand it and reduce the fear around it, which allows us to expand our knowledge of how to better influence peace and harmony!

Erick Mead
04-12-2006, 02:13 PM
my misgivings with total agreement are linguistic... I don't agree about the symbol. Put the war god back on the shrine -make it more gruesome still! Then put another symbol - that of warrior as protector. Make the biggest symbol - humility. Warrior as servant.
Fudo Myo-O and Kwannon would be good ones, but I am not aware of any Eastern images that combine both in one icon. But it would be remiss not to note that there is a Western image with both present in one familiar symbol -- the Crucifix.
Ex. 15:3, 6 -The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. ... Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." I do not think OSensei entered aggressively ...
a -gressio - Latin - "advance towards" = irimi

I look forward to further disagreements.

Cordially,

billybob
04-12-2006, 03:14 PM
Erick,

you almost misquoted me! oh well.

Aggressive:
2. Inclined to behave in an actively hostile fashion: an aggressive regime.
3. Assertive, bold, and energetic: an aggressive sales campaign.

I was thinking definition 2 - I think you meant something akin to 3.

Kevin Leavitt made an interesting point, but Erick, I think many people forget that half of 'ki' is yin, or receptivity. When I said OSensei wasn't aggressive, I meant he wasn't 'hostile'. True strength is gentle.

david

Erick Mead
04-12-2006, 04:28 PM
More about the darkside. You will run into many that believe that it is not necessary to explore or have knowledge about the negative, darkside, evil, violence etc in order to have peace and harmony. The via negativa in Catholic tradition. The "dark night of the soul", the "cloud of unknowing." Eliot called it the "darkness of God." All of these describe the closest we can come to direct perception of God in Christian mystical disciplines. It is dangerous to our normal sensibilities, but not inherently harmful to our soul or spirit and ultimately can be very fruitful. St. Teresa of Avila emphasized the importance having an appropriate spiritual teacher or guide in this process, as does nearly every Eastern mystical tradition of which I am aware. Many fundamentalist religions develop structure and rules to avoid this, because they believe exploring them or entaining these things harms you. (it might if explored for the wrong reasons or too intently or deeply). ... So in the end avoiding the "darkside" only draws you in deeper! The Greek term "daimon" or "demon" originally meant an "in-dwelling or guiding spirit." The related term "genius" in the Latin means "guardian spirit." It is also neutral in the Greek. Traditions of guardian angels fit this definition, as do other, far less benign influences. Only relatively recently has its secondary, negative connotation taken over. This is notably commensurate, I might add, with the modern (post-medieval) aggrandizement of ego generally (i.e.-- anything "I" do not decide is good, is, ipso facto, bad.) I suppose that my effort is to find and awaken the O-Sensei's genius, the "guardian spirit," as guide to our own practice. I think it is fundamental to martial arts. We have a methodolgy for exploring violence in a constructive way in order to better understand it and reduce the fear around it, which allows us to expand our knowledge of how to better influence peace and harmony!I could not have said it better.

Cordailly,

Erick Mead
04-12-2006, 07:19 PM
Aggressive: ... When I said OSensei wasn't aggressive, I meant he wasn't 'hostile'. True strength is gentle. I know what you meant, and I do not disagree. I just like to point out how language AND action are sometimes used to create perceptions rather than actual meaning or effective action (Action v. Acting (portrayal= "false" image)??)

In the films I have seen of O-Sensei's movement he could care less about communicating a perception of his action. Notoriously, Many of his students often had to watch him extremely closely to even see what technique he was applying, beceause he didn't tell them. He rarely repeated the same movement twice in the same way to the observer, even when asked. He did not act in the perceptual, or communicative sense, he simply moved. Thus, he did not delay in any internal calculations of the likely perception of his movement. He just was --THERE.

The converse is the kind of mock combat, or threat display, stylized stageacting so common among some "MA" practitioners (even some very traditional forms). It is tied to the "self-defense" issue that I started this thread with. Acting hostile or looking deadly is the personal equivalent of the MAD "mutually assured destruction" strategy to avoid actual fighting. It works for wasps and coral snakes; but then they have no loved ones to defend. Interestingly, nesting birds tend to take the opposite tactic, and present themselves as wounded, easy prey for the would be predator -- even inviting or luring an attack to draw them away from nestlings. For humans, who calculate as much as react, and have loved ones to defend, MAD bluffing strategies tend to simply up the stakes for battle when it may ultimately erupt.

O-Sensei was not interested in portraying or "acting out" agression, which is what you meant, and rightly so. He was simply aggressive in the root sense I used. A - gressio. He just moved in.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-13-2006, 09:25 AM
Erick,

You express yourself well. I have occasional outbursts of concisely expressed wisdom, but can't predict when they will happen!

Do you think aikido can be fully martial and fully something else?

A young Tomiki student trains with us. He is a great guy. He said "Martial art is about learning to fight, not being enlightened." I replied, "What if they are the same thing." - We both had a good chuckle over my bit of canned Zen.

What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was like the end of the movie 'War Games', where the super computer sought all possible solutions and realized that global thermonuclear warfare was not a valid path.

"Train hard" we say in my dojo. Are we right? Am I just another windy pundit? (Please say no!)

David

SeiserL
04-13-2006, 10:30 AM
What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was like the end of the movie 'War Games', where the super computer sought all possible solutions and realized that global thermonuclear warfare was not a valid path.
"The only winning move is not to play."

Erick Mead
04-13-2006, 01:47 PM
Do you think aikido can be fully martial and fully something else? A young Tomiki student ... said "Martial art is about learning to fight, not being enlightened." I replied, "What if they are the same thing." I believe that only those who can make war, can also make peace. A man who cannot make war, cannot make peace. He can only accept terms of surrender dictated to him. This is not genuine peace. A powerless person tyrranized in this manner has not accepted peace, but merely deferred war. He nurses that resentment in his heart. When his power is greater, he is tempted to vengeance. That is not the Aikido I have been taught or which I practice. Kaeshiwaza are not a matter of overpowering the opponent.
What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was ... that ... warfare was not a valid path. As to O-Sensei's abandoning martiality as he got older -- I do not see this in the demonstrations of his irimi techniques. His entry is the same agressio in the prewar versus the post war period. Please see these brief examples: http://www.geocities.com/yovrosental/oshiba.html. The best ones to compare are Oshiba2.mpg (pre-war) and Ueshiba14.mpg (post war). If you have to temporarily download to view them, please respect fair use and copyright so that such things are kept available. "The only winning move is not to play."Then why are we all still playing? The problem is not the game. Conflict occurs whether we will it or not. We do not always get to choose. We have no choice then but to play some part. In war, we are not bound by any rules or roles, really, other than those of our own choosing. That too is one of war's truths and dangerous attractions. It is the presumed roles and rules with which we differ.

That is what I sense O-Sensei to have taught -- that entering into conflict does not necessarily mean continuing it, or destroying the one initiating it, nor does shrinking from conflict protect us from it. We simply must choose to play by our own rules, to a large extent. What we may not get to choose is how the board is set to begin.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Kevin Leavitt
04-13-2006, 02:20 PM
Erick wrote:

I believe that only those who can make war, can also make peace. A man who cannot make war, cannot make peace.

I would tend to agree with you at this juncture of human development/evolution. We must be able to defend ourselves in order to buy the space/time/distance etc to produce "pockets" of peace.

However, to me, this is the paradox of the situation. We can preach the peace through superior firepower motto all day long, but we will still have unbalance and discord to by those that don't have peace.

In the end to have "true peace" we must learn how to be interdependent and have a deep understanding of compassion...that can only come from love.

Once we reach this state of peace in the world, then there is no need for weapons and strength...but of course this is all theorectical right now, and then again, the aliens will invade us at that point :)

James Kelly
04-13-2006, 02:33 PM
A little something on the language of aikido:

It's a pet peeve of mine, and it happens all over the place not just in aikido, but it seems to me that the practice of using the etymology of words to find their true, somehow hidden meaning is unsound.

Aggression does not = irimi

Yes it may derive from the Latin meaning ‘advance toward' but it now clearly denotes hostility or an attack. (Otherwise an aggressive irimi would be redundant, but it's not. You can have a timid irimi. It may be bad, but it's still an irimi).

Similarly, Aikido does not = ‘the way of harmony and energy' (or however you want to translate the kanji)

Ai, ki and do are clearly components of the term aikido, and it's fun to talk about them and see how they fit in, but the word aikido refers to a specific thing: this art we practice. If not we could use ‘aikido' to label any activity that uses these components.

So when we talk about a ‘martial art', this is an English term applied to various disciplines. But it's an arbitrary category. Sure, an ‘art of war' is about killing and destroying, but labeling aikido as a martial art doesn't mean that it is in fact an art of war.

It's an accident of English that ‘martial art' is applied to aikido. My unscholarly guess is that when the Japanese arts came to the west they were grouped into strange categories like budo and bujutsu and people looked around for a translation for these terms and came up with ‘martial art' for all. They could have just as easily come up with ‘fighting system' or ‘violent practice' or "vigorous training" or simply "expertise" (the literal translation of kung fu). Then we'd be discussing whether aikido is really violent, or is it actually a system (as opposed to whether it's martial or really an art...)

With that said...

In Etruscan times, Mars was the god of springtime, and growth. It was only with the rise of the Romans and their warlike culture that he became associated with war because, legend had it the Romans were descended from Mars and they wanted to up their intimidation factor (his mom was Juno, the queen of the gods and his dad... a magical flower). So they ascribed warlike attributes to Mars and eventually raised him to the equivalent of Ares (the Greek god of war).

The word ‘martial' in English means having to do with the military as opposed to ‘civil', having to do with the citizenry. Martial law vs. civil law; martial disobedience vs. civil disobedience; even martial war (two militaries fighting each other) vs. civil war (the citizenry fighting itself). But I don't think anyone's arguing that aikido is somehow exclusive to the military.

....

Similarly, people tend to get caught up in the ‘art' part of the term. You hear, ‘Remember, it's an art form.' to justify the aesthetic concerns of aikido.

But aikido is not necessarily martial or an art form. It is a martial art... a separate category of things that includes karate, capoeira, systema... a wide variety of things, some of which are martial, some of which are artful, some neither and some both.

It's still a valid discussion to debate whether aikido is self-defense (which, as someone already pointed out, doesn't require and may preclude the destruction of others) or something else, but I don't think using the term ‘martial art' as evidence of the destructive nature of aikido holds up.

Kevin Leavitt
04-13-2006, 03:02 PM
Good stuff James. Certainly aikido is based upon aikijitsu, traditionaly a system designed to teach skills to be used in combat. So yes, it is no wonder we tend to focus on all that is martial or self defense.

I tend to agree, that aikido is simply a methodolgy designed around a traditonal model of japanese system of combative, but the focus is not on learning to be effective or efficient as a fighter.

Therefore, it is not primarily a system of self defense or martial skill, but a methodolgy for developing your mind, body, and spirit. An allegory so to speak that teaches us about ourselves and our interaction/interdependence with others.

If it was about martial effectiveness, or self defense...it is a poor and inefficient method for acheiving this goal. Money would be better spent on modern weapons training, and/or risk reduction training in our world today!

Aikido, I believe, is simply a methodology for self realization and discovery! nothing more than that really!

Erick Mead
04-13-2006, 05:08 PM
A little something on the language of aikido:
It's a pet peeve of mine, and it happens all over the place not just in aikido, but it seems to me that the practice of using the etymology of words to find their true, somehow hidden meaning is unsound.
The opposite tendency is more troubling to me -- the Humpty Dumpty approach -- ""When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." This is the egocentric tendency that I find concerning in the notion of "self defense" versus "martial art."
I find fault with another tendency also -- to simply follow common usage without critical thought about how we use and relate concepts with the words we use. It is blinkered to disregard common usage, but it is also a healthy corrective to understand a word in its origin, evolution and relationship to other concepts. That is my purpose, not mere label-swapping.‘martial art', ... it's an arbitrary category. Sure, an ‘art of war' is about killing and destroying, but labeling aikido as a martial art doesn't mean that it is in fact an art of war.... It's an accident of English that ‘martial art' is applied to aikido. It is no accident, but entirely accurate. "Bu-do" is the "way of war." "Aikido " was earlier called "Aiki-budo" by O-Sensei. In Etruscan times, Mars was the god of springtime, and growth. Called Maris. Not that the Etruscans were flower-children. The Roman religious rites we know as gladiatorial games have their origins in Etruscan funerary combat rituals honoring the dead. The Quirinalis in mid-February honored deceased ancestors and Mars Quirinus. Mars Quirinus,one of the three chief gods of the Roman State (Mars of "men assembled"-- from co-viris), and the rebirth of Spring. Spring, as it happens, is also the traditional time for gathering men to start wars, and to prepare for defense against them.

The most reverently worshipped god in the Roman pantheon is Vesta, goddess of the hearth and family, whose sacred fire was renewed directly following the Quirinalis on March 1. Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome are reputedly the children of a Vestal virgin raped by Mars. Deep mythology here.

Why then was Mars was a deeply revered god in Rome? Not because they were particularly brutal by nature (relative to those peoples around them), but because they were conscious of being the children of the rape of war. They deeply desired to protect their home from such invasion (see the consequences of 387 B.C.). "Vae Victis!" became a Roman watch-word only because it was first directed at them. It's still a valid discussion to debate whether aikido is self-defense (which, as someone already pointed out, doesn't require and may preclude the destruction of others) or something else, but I don't think using the term ‘martial art' as evidence of the destructive nature of aikido holds up. The point is whether "martial" arts are about defense of self -- or about defense of something more important than self. Tyrants and mercenaries may go to war for themselves; common men-at-arms typically do not. They go to war and likely death to save hearth and home. THAT is what "martial" arts are about -- in fact and in spirit.

O-Sensei's genius was to recognize that men will only go so far out of anger, greed or lust of power, but will go vastly further beyond that in a spirit of loving protection, stopping, if at all, only in their own deaths.
Cultivating that spirit in a technical art that brings even our enemy within that loving protection in a concrete way is leap of imagination or inspiration that generations will yet thank O-Sensei for developing and transmitting, if we but maintain it and the spirit in which in originated.
aikido is simply a methodolgy ...not primarily a system of self defense or martial skill, but a methodolgy for developing your mind, body, and spirit. An allegory so to speak that teaches us about ourselves and our interaction/interdependence with others.
If it was about martial effectiveness, or self defense...it is a poor and inefficient method for acheiving this goal. Money would be better spent on modern weapons training, and/or risk reduction training in our world today!
Aikido, I believe, is simply a methodology for self realization and discovery! nothing more than that really!Nineteen men in groups of four or five, armed with nothing more than box cutters -- a blade less than an inch and half in length -- inside of four hours from setting out -- killed three thousand people, stopped the commerce of a nation of 300 million people in its tracks and unleashed war in two other nations on the other side of the globe.

Will matters more than weapons.

Aikido cultivates that martial spirit, in a way directly antithetical to the spirit displayed on that day. Our art cannot be more relevant.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Mark Freeman
04-13-2006, 06:50 PM
Hi all,

I don't really have much to add to this thread right now apart from to say, IMHO this has been the most relevant and important discussion about aikido that I have seen on this site so far. I would like to thank all of the contributors to this discussion for their input. We live in a time of immense importance. For the first time in human history technology is facilitating global connection of 'ordinary people' such as us. We are all engaged in an art that we agree can be seen as a model for conflict resolution and as Erick so neatly put it:O-Sensei's genius was to recognize that men will only go so far out of anger, greed or lust of power, but will go vastly further beyond that in a spirit of loving protection, stopping, if at all, only in their own deaths.
Cultivating that spirit in a technical art that brings even our enemy within that loving protection in a concrete way is leap of imagination or inspiration that generations will yet thank O-Sensei for developing and transmitting, if we but maintain it and the spirit in which in originated..
We must in our own small way keep on the path, we must by our teaching pass on to others what we have gained. I believe Aikido is unique in the realm of 'martial arts' call it what you will, for the reason given in Ericks quote above.
Aikido - 'The way of the peaceful warrior', a reasonable title for an art that has such modern relevance.

I wish you all a good easter - however you choose to spend it. ;)

regards,
Mark

billybob
04-14-2006, 11:31 AM
I wrote What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was ... that ... warfare was not a valid path. - well, i wrote and you cropped.

Erick responded As to O-Sensei's abandoning martiality as he got older -- I do not see this in the demonstrations of his irimi techniques

You misunderstood me. So let me ask again - Can aikido be fully about the warrior arts AND fully about acheiving global concern and compassion?

Dr. Kano of Judo taught the same message. I did not start in 'sport' judo as it is dismissively called. I studied with respect to Kano's message which is very close to OSensei's. I went to class one night a few weeks after being brutalized by one parent while the other looked on. (Specifically, my right testicle was crushed, and my father smiled while he ground his heel in.) My teacher, an old woman at the time, told me that "Judoka do not kill". She saved three lives that night - each of my parent's, and obviously mine, from what would have resulted had I retaliated that way.

I protected them, and it later almost cost me my life. Now I train to not see my father every time I'm in conflict. It's a tough road; the bastard won't stay buried!

Peace.

david

ps. i know this is intense, but every story has it's purpose.dk

Erick Mead
04-14-2006, 01:57 PM
You misunderstood me. So let me ask again - Can aikido be fully about the warrior arts AND fully about acheiving global concern and compassion? Thucyides observed a seemingly unremitting truth of history, both social and personal: "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

I think O-Sensei set out to break that paradigm. I sense from what you have said -- and your candor is remarkably brave -- you consciously or intuitively sensed this in taking up aikido. His art is both loving and fierce. It could not be what it is without both. It could not protect anyone without that recourse to such raw and dangerous energy. It is the refinement in its use that makes it art.

As you will no doubt testify -- love is both inherent and learned. Learning can overcome nature, and vice versa. Native love can be overcome in the most intimate of relationships. Those who are most close can be most cruel -- or most kind. Nature can be cruel also, but man-made cruelty has far outstripped nature's worst reservoirs of indifference in the last century. Training in love is crucial, especially in our time, where the artificial so predominates over the natural.

We have many places in our modern world where we train the mind and spirit in attitudes of love, Churches, Temples, Zendos, ashrams, etc. We have perhaps far too many ways in which we train the mind and body in lust -- for all sorts of things. We are corporeal, and as the mind or spirit can betray the body, the body can betray them also.

We cannot neglect the mind and spirit. But, where else in the modern world does one also regularly train the body in fierce and loving protection ?? By doing this we allow the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our nature to reinforce one another in their respective weakness and at the points of typical failure. This may be dry and abstract in the face of your plain emotion, but underlying this, I am both deep moved by what you have said, and reinforced in the observations that I am making. Only a fierce power within a person could have held back the hand from striking in entirely righteous anger.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-14-2006, 02:48 PM
Only a fierce power within a person could have held back the hand from striking in entirely righteous anger.


Almost. I can't help but think that a humbler warrior might have protected others And saved his nut. ha!

Thanks for allowing my candor. Listen when children say something is wrong.

dave

jeff.
04-15-2006, 04:34 PM
at the risk of being a total nerd, i'm going to return to the star wars allagory from the start of this thread.

i think the difference between the jedi and the sith in this modern myth can provide a really interesting example of the use of what erick as called "fierce power" (or aggression, or what kivin called, in appropriate nerdiness, "dark side") and what we perhaps call "pacifying power".

a while back some friends and i were discussing star wars in this way, and it struck us that (at the risk of being really dorky), as the star wars novels state (and ep one implies), the jedi are guardians of "balance" in the force. if we think of this in terms of in/yo, and the eastern notions of good vs evil as being about balance vs. imbalance (see the myths in which "demons" are created thru extreme imbalance in living things / systems), i think aikido comes more deeply into view (one could understand in/yo as representing, amoung everything else, the will toward balance / the will toward imbalance). that is: balancing our aggression / passion with calm-centerdness / flexibility (i think "flexibility" is a [perhaps better] way of understanding and translating the eastern terms usually rendered as dispassion / indifference / etc.). the jedi do this. its not like they don't use aggression and violence. they do. very efficiantly and effectively. or as my fellow aikidoka james said "they are, really, killing machines". which is true if you watch the ways in which are so ungodly skilled in fighting. but they balance that with what yoda bascially calls (in empire) "passivity" ("you will know when you are at peace, passive"). this balance is love. is peace. i mean: lets not forget that both of these terms can be understood as synonyms for balance. and so, the jedi way, as expressed in the films / books / comics, can be understood as one long commentary and/or exposition on what a warrior can / should be in a modern (or futuristic) context. heck, we even get some insight into their training methodogies, ideals, etc. (which, i don't don't know about you all, but to me seem an awful lot like what is essentially done in aikido. particularly in those dojos that include meditation and ki training in their cirriculum. [anyone know if there is any truth in the rumor that lucas has yudansha ranking via ki society?])

converse to this, we have the sith. on a fighting level, they aren't that much different from jedi. see the obi-wan / maul fight at the end of ep one. or the mace windu / palpatine and obi-wan / anakin fights in ep three. that is: their martial techniques are nearly identical. but the sith operate from a place of intense imbalance: only aggression / passion, and what aggression / passion are without the balancing effects of calm-centerdness / flexibility. they become ego-centered, obsessive, power mad, etc.

so, what i'm getting at is this: in these two archtypes (jedi and sith) we can see the two general approaches to martial arts that erick seems to be wrestling with. to me it seems like aikido, in its best form, is much like how i described the jedi: real, incredible even, martial effectiveness ( / aggressiveness / passion) balanced with training and will to be calm-centered / flexible. being able to balance these ("aiki"?), i suppose, brings about love / peace and the latent power therein.

Kevin Leavitt
04-16-2006, 08:14 AM
Good analogy Jeff. I would say though that aikido encompass both, the mid point being harmony.

Conceptually you are correct, Star Wars is an allegory and is very well done on the classic battle between good and evil.

In you cannot really say one thing is all bad and all evil. We can conceptualize it, but the minute we do we fall into the trap of our own ego!

So while it is splitting hairs, i wouldn't say aikido represents the jedi. It really does not represent anything at all. simply a methodology for understanding the concepts and to help us figure out how to reconcile the balance!

While this makes for really good conversation and helps us to better understand things, I am always very cautious about putting things in neat little boxes of "good" "bad", "effective/ineffective".

Good conversation!

billybob
04-16-2006, 08:23 AM
;)

Erick Mead
04-16-2006, 10:04 PM
i think aikido comes more deeply into view [as] balancing our aggression / passion with calm-centerdness / flexibility --- "passivity" ("you will know when you are at peace, passive"). this balance is love. is peace.
[Versus]
operate from a place of intense imbalance: only aggression / passion, and what aggression / passion are without the balancing effects of calm-centerdness / flexibility. they become ego-centered, obsessive, power mad, etc.
...
the two general approaches to martial arts that erick seems to be wrestling with.
...
to me it seems like aikido, in its best form, is much like how i described the jedi: real, incredible even, martial effectiveness ( / aggressiveness / passion) balanced with training and will to be calm-centered / flexible. being able to balance these ("aiki"?), i suppose, brings about love / peace and the latent power therein.
Actually, if one recalls the Star Wars canon, the Jedi as well as the Sith were "unbalanced." The prophetic role hoped for Anakin was to "restore the balance in the Force," a role actually brought about not by him, but by his son, Luke. I hardly see aikido in romantic substitution of Jedi arts, despite the useful types that the familiarity of these images represent for discussion.
Luke's apotheosis in the scene of self-sacrifice encompasses that moment of ordained balance -- "moment" being understood in terms of both time and leverage. But it is a different kind of balance, than what we commonly think of, a thought which may have substantial bearing on our study of aikido.
Precarious balance exists where remote and peripheral wieghts are delcicately offset. Enduring balance exists where the center is predominantly weighted relative to the periphery. Luke's "moment" is of this latter type simultaneously unleashed, spiral in the sense of expanding energy (watch the scene again, and yet poised; centripetal, not centrifugal.
Aikido fits this paradigm. Center-seeking, offering nothing, but holding nothing back that is asked by an attacker. Vader's taunt regarding turning Leia to evil was intended both in its content and in its provocation of Luke to attack. Luke obliged. O-Sensei said, no doubt on various occasions as it is recorded more than once. "When an opponent comes forward, move in, greet him; if he wants to pull back, send him on his way." "When the enemy comes welcome him, when he goes send him on his way."
What Vader wanted was battle, on his terms. What changed was how Luke committed to what Vader wanted, not on Luke's own terms, but without any terms whatsoever except his love, without reservation or any thought for himself, concerned only with saving Leia and Vader.
Applying this in physical terms to our aikido, techniques should feel weighted at the center, as a refirgerator feels when poised to pivoton on one corner, not weighted to the periphery, as though pushing on a turnstile, or to open a heavy door.
In metaphysical terms, our intent must lie within the whole, not just our part, of the technique. Our spirit must live at the point of the offered conflict, not in our predicated desire as to its outcome. Avoiding conflict is not accepting, it is refusing the welcome of the attacker. Holding on -- to "make" the throw, the pin or other technique intended, is likewise refusing to follow the attacker's desire to depart. This should not diminish the appreciation of the wry wink of the eye implied in O-Sensei's statement -- maybe he leaves by the window instead of the door. But neither should the humor diminish the significance of that attitude in our practice and in our thinking about it.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
04-16-2006, 10:35 PM
I was called away in editng my post so I offer this last:

In metaphysical terms, our intent, our ego, is too large to occupy the vanishingly small, infinitesimal space that lies at the true Center. We can't do away with ego (unless you are a sage or a saint; I KNOW I am neither.) To weight the center therefore, our intent, our ego must expand to occupy the whole, not just our part, of the technique. Then all of the dynamic, not merely our part of it, is poised in equilibrium -- weighted at the center by our intent to encompass the whole, not merely to dominate one part over the other. Then, no effort required to pivot the refrigerator. Spirit must live at the point of the offered conflict, not in our predicated desire as to its outcome.

Cordailly,
Erick Mead

jeff.
04-17-2006, 02:46 PM
Actually, if one recalls the Star Wars canon, the Jedi as well as the Sith were "unbalanced." The prophetic role hoped for Anakin was to "restore the balance in the Force," a role actually brought about not by him, but by his son, Luke.

okay, just on the nerd level... i guess i never read it like this. well... i guess i see it like this: the jedi, tho guardians of the balance, had become unbalanced by their hidebound-ed-ness by the rise of the empire era. still, tho, their training and ideals were modeled on notions of being balanced in the ways i described. balancing aggression with passivity, etc. but their own subconscious fears of the darkside (particularly with the growing, unbalanced toward "dark"-ed-ness of the force) had led them into overdoing it.

which is why (more overtly in the revenge of the sith book than movie) the surviving jedi make a move toward the qui-gon jinn version of being a jedi (which is actually more balanced, and is what obi-wan and yoda pass on to luke). hence, in the post-original series canon luke gets married, has a kid, etc. all while being the most powerful jedi in history.

and i would argue that it is actually this "risking the dark side", by being in love, etc. that makes luke so "light side"... that is: he is so "good" by virtue of being so balanced.

to me this is a great analogy of aikido. why its not a contradiction to train in a potentially incredibly violent, etc. art in pursuit of peace. peace requires this confrontation and understanding of aggression, this "risking the dark side", methinks.

and again on the dork level: in a sense anakin does bring balance to the force. he is the one who ultimately (or, i suppose, initially... considering the dark empire comics) rids the universe of palpatine, thus "cleansing" the force of its unbalanced "dark" taint, and restoring balance.

i never read lukes actions versus vader in the way you do. i honestly don't think luke gains control until he cuts off vader's hand, and then looks at his own. i think it is at that moment that luke does what you say. but not until then. i think his reaction to vader's taunting represents a failure. i think he does react out of anger and fear, due to his love. which is the lesson of anakin from the new movies: "love" can be distorted into obsession, or be taken advantage of, if not the result of a balance between passion and flexibility. (which raises the question, which i think the new movies actually do brilliantly [particularly with the events at the end of ep three]: is it really "love" if it is not balanced?)

again, i think this is a good analogy for aikido. for the reasons i noted above. esp when you compare lukes reaction to obi-wan's (in ep one). luke becomes incredibly brutal and out of control versus vader: look at the intensity of his attack on vader just before he lops off his hand...after vader is already down. obi-wan on the other hand, is upset by the death of qui-gon, but never abandons his control and his training... that is: he stays centered. you can see it in the way he fights maul. obi-wan, i think, provides a better example of "when an opponent comes forward, move in, greet him; if he wants to pull back, send him on his way." obi-wan stays centered and moves in. he fights and destroys maul of necessity and out of love, in the true balanced sense. luke does not send vader "on his way" when he pulls back (falls down and is defeated). obi-wan uses his aggression in a balanced, i dare say "aiki" way... while luke looses his control, becomes uncentered. he is concerned only with saving laia, and forgets (abeit, only momentarily, but nearly momentarily enough) about trying to save vader.

otherwise, i believe i agree with what you've said. in fact, i think its incredily insightful. but i think its important to draw out the implications of luke's battle with vader in this way, and in particular in comparison to a very similar battle of obi-wan's, as i've noted. when the inevitable nerdy question of "which jedi would you be" comes up, i always say obi-wan. he's not the strongest, the best fighter, the most powerful... but he is, i think, ultimately, the most serious. most joyful. most centered. because i'm a giant nerd. oh yes.

kevin: i agree, in a sense, with how you put it. but i do think its important to try to have some understanding of "good" and "evil". heck, osensei himself would put things in these terms. but i think we have to abandon the "absolutes" we've been given in mainsteam western philosophy / religion / culture, in favor of understanding these catagories in a more fluid sense. thus, i think the eastern notion of couching "good" and "evil" in terms of balance and imbalance are particularly useful. that is: they give us a sense of what these terms signify in a fluid way, without resorting to absolutes. thus, i tried to draw out the implications of star wars mythology for aikido via the insistance in star wars of jedi as both "good" and "guardians of balance" (see the "new jedi order" novels for really good, intense discussions of this star wars terms).

thanks everyone for the great (both aiki-dorky, star wars-dorky) conversation!

jeff.

billybob
04-17-2006, 03:36 PM
Jeff said thanks everyone for the great (both aiki-dorky, star wars-dorky) conversation!

I think it's only dorky if we argue 'what if spiderman attacked darth vader in his sleep'. :)

I like the analogy, of star wars; Joseph Campbell said G. Lucas was his best student. I won't set anything in stone, and I'm not there yet. I do know that pride has kept me in pain long after my physical injuries have healed. I know that it was foolish to expect the world to think better of me because of what I had faced and overcome; and to think that maidens would strew rose petals at my feet, because the chosen one had arrived.

I acted within a situation, and the situation AND OTHERS IN IT were more important than I, and really driving the range of choices I had. The mother that leaves an abusive relationship not knowing if she can feed her kids is certainly braver than I, and most likely humbler.

If i can get a grip on this humility thing maybe i'll turn out alright. (better hurry, i'm not getting any younger)

dave

Kevin Leavitt
04-18-2006, 01:21 AM
Joseph Campbell is one of my favorite scholars. Highly reccommend reading any of his work if your are interested in these types of subjects.

Jeff, again, good comments. A thought comes to mind.. is there really any such thing as "good" and "evil". they are certainly concepts...but what is good for one person, might not be good for the other and vice versus. I think it depends on your perspective.

We like to use these terms because it makes our lives so much easier. We also use these words to de-humanize those that we fear or want to label our enemies.

It is all so very complicated. How does it relate to self defense?

When we defend ourselves, we justify our actions typically on the fact that we want to avoid harm in someway. It may be physical, mental, or spiritual harm.

It may be reality, it may be happening right that minute...or it may be percieved harm. Sometimes it is really hard to tell.

I like to look at the terrorist attacks on 9-11. The actual attacks themselves would be considered by many who share U.S values as being evil, harmful, and any action taken to mitigate that harm is certainly justified.

How does the otherside see it?

What about future actions we take? why do we do them. Pre-emptive actions?

Please don't construe my questions as a particular position on these issues. I believe it to be a very complex issue.

My point is, Aikido as an allegory or model for training, helps us to become more skillful at understanding behavior, ourselves and others. It can expand our ability to discern conflict and hopefully, help us make more informed decisions about defense, attacks, pre-emptive behaviors etc.


Just my thoughts for the morning!

Ketsan
04-18-2006, 06:01 AM
One of the things that, for me at least, marks Aikido out as being different from other martial arts is its empasis on resolving, or perhaps stopping, the conflict rather than defeating the opponent.
Other martial arts I have studied placed empasis on getting as equally wound up as my attacker and rely on my training to simply out fight and thus defeat him, essentially I beat him at his own game.
My Aikido training has been the complete opposite almost. I can allow my attacker to vent his frustration by avoiding his attacks if I choose, there is no need for me to act against him. Eventually he is going to stop being aggressive and thus harmony will be restored.This I suppose is the light side.
If things get too hot I can use the physical side to bring him under control and again harmony will be restored, either because I demonstrate that I have far more control of the darkside than he does (hopefully) and chooses to cease his aggression or because I physically stop him from being aggressive without having to be (unreasonably) destructive. In this way it is the conflict that is stopped (although maybe not resolved) and not the person.

Erick Mead
04-18-2006, 10:00 AM
is there really any such thing as "good" and "evil". they are certainly concepts...but what is good for one person, might not be good for the other and vice versus. I think it depends on your perspective. No -- it doesn't. You are describing the "ego-centered" version of utilitarian ethics, and it is wrong (or at least woefully limited in application.) What is bad for my child does not depend on his or her subjective appreciation of it. My life is a tremendous good, but not the highest good. The lives of my children are more important.

I like to look at the terrorist attacks on 9-11. ...
How does the otherside see it? How did the Aztec priests feel about the last re-dedication of their temple in Tenochtitlan, in 1457 versus the contrary ethical postulates of the twenty plus thousand who had their hearts cut from their living chests for that joyous celebration? I really don't much care how the priests felt about it. Their ethical perspective is simply not admissible in reasoned debate. Puts the "evil" conquistadores in a different light, though.

So, likewise with four planeloads of innocent "burnt offerings" immolated to some perverse, delusional notion of a personal warrant from God. In one day a band of deranged lunatics prompted by a bigger lunatic did more to demean and debase a system of profound theology and ethical thought than two hundred years of foreign colonial rule could manage. 'Nuff said.
I believe it to be a very complex issue. And -- again -- no it isn't. Killing for killing's sake is always wrong, at every time and in every place.
... Aikido as an allegory .. understanding behavior, ... discern conflict ... make more informed decisions about defense, attacks, pre-emptive behaviors etc. ...
Aikido is not an allegory, nor is it an aid to conscious decision making, it is training in ethical action, which requires an intuitive grasp of the whole of a conflict, but not acquiescence to the subjective justness of the other side of it. If my enemy subjectively decides that his right requires that I die or be injured, he has not grasped the whole of the situation, objectively. I too am a subject worthy of inclusion in the dynamic of action. If he does not have the grace to accommodate me on his own initiative, I will act as host on his behalf, and accommodate me for him. Only my action, not my thoughts or misgivings, will instruct him otherwise.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Kevin Leavitt
04-18-2006, 10:02 AM
good thoughts....

Reminds me of the Zen Koan "Stop Harm!"

Sometimes it is not possible to resolve conflict in a harmonous way at the moment it occurs. We must take actions to prevent what we percieve to be a greater harm and in doing so inflict harm ourselves. This is not creating harmony in my view, but stopping harm with harm.

It may prevent things from swinging too far one way, but ultimately we pay some price maybe emotionally or physically in the process.

It may take days, months, or years to restore or heal.

It is nice to think what we practice can do all that we wish. that is, resolve harm with harmony, but in reality...it probably is not the case! It is an wonderful idea to work toward. If we don't work towards it, how are we ever going to get there?

Dirk Hanss
04-18-2006, 11:01 AM
No -- it doesn't. You are describing the "ego-centered" version of utilitarian ethics, and it is wrong (or at least woefully limited in application.) What is bad for my child does not depend on his or her subjective appreciation of it. My life is a tremendous good, but not the highest good. The lives of my children are more important.
That is interesting, Erick.
You are claiming, that Kevin uses an ego-centered version of ethics - and then argue totally ego-centered about "my children". What about other people's children's right to live, to eat, to have a joyful life?

Well coming back to aikido. It is prominently about being attacked and respond adequately. next step is to foresee an action action and act pre-emptive, but agequately. The best way to foresee a person's action is to understand his(her) motivation and assumed legitimation to do harm against you. It doesn't matter, if you agree to it or if you rectify it, but you should understand it. To judge, what action is adequate, however, it depends on the judgements about his motivation. If he is just humgry, you can feed him before he is getting aggressive, if he just thinks he has some right to kill you, you better stop him, unless you have a chance to talk to him and convince him, and unless you can just get away.

This is a very simplified example. In case of 9-11 you always have to think about, how your actions affect the possibility of similar actions. And it is far away from easily telling, which respond is right and which is wrong. I cannot tell, I can only ask myself, if Western gouvernments, including the U.S. and Germeny, did enough before 9-11 to avoid such an aggressive mind in major parts of 3rd world peoples, if it is rectified by some 4500 killed innocent civilians to kill about twice or three times as much, mostly innocent civilians in the following war against terror, if there were better alternatives.

That is now another thread, so coming back, I think aikido teaches us to think about the other side, how they see it, why do they see it this way. If not, you are react always almost too late, and once it might be too late. Then your aikido fails.

Best to all



Dirk

Erick Mead
04-18-2006, 11:36 AM
good thoughts....
We must take actions to prevent what we percieve to be a greater harm and in doing so inflict harm ourselves. This is not creating harmony in my view, but stopping harm with harm.This is the assumption that O-Sensei, in my view, undertook to correct.
Most techniques re-orient force without diminishing or contesting it, by using:
1) the principle of "juuji" 十字 -- the cross-shape (number ten in kanji) [a wonderful image for the Christian among us]
and
2) the extending spiral.

Shomenuchi Ikkyo, as a first example of many, does not oppose this attacking (positive) force with contending force. It gains musubi by touching the side of the attack (orthogonal axis) ( 十字-juuji), ideally with back of the hand flat against the back of the hand, then entering uke's center, turning to ride and continue uke's cut, but now out, off the line, and also continuing and adding to the impetus of the cut (extending spiral) once the turn brings the the angle of the two arms to less than ninety degrees. This making the resulting descending portion of cut about six-inches further out, and six inches off the line from what uke intended, and nage basically using uke's arm as his sword to finish the giri completion of the cut in uke's place. If nage sticks the wrist or forearm in the path of the shomenuchi strike, he is doing it wrong, stopping the cut and causing bruises.

It takes exceedingly little perpendicular force to shift the trajectory of a moving object from its intended target. It takes little effort to add enough to the impetus of an attack from behind to take it past its effective range (or bring you inside of that range).

What takes time and practice is convincing your body and instinctive perceptual sytem that you do not need to "hedge" your technique by also blocking or stopping the attack or part of the attack in order to be safe from it. Thus, no harm is necessary to "Stop harm."

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
04-18-2006, 11:54 AM
That is interesting, Erick.
You are claiming, that Kevin uses an ego-centered version of ethics - and then argue totally ego-centered about "my children". What about other people's children's right to live, to eat, to have a joyful life? Since I negate the value of my own life in favor of them, I decline to agree that this is an"ego-centric" scale of value. The example was to place the two perspectives in counterpoise to illustrate the reciprocity of moral error involved in any ego-centered subjectivity. [Snip -- 9/11 discussion] ... so coming back, I think aikido teaches us to think about the other side, how they see it, why do they see it this way. If not, you are react always almost too late, and once it might be too late. Then your aikido fails. Timing. O-Sensei said that Aikido is not about timing. Aikido works early, and Aikido works late. George Ledyard Sensei does a far better job of discussing this issue (勝早 "Katsu hayabi" "swift victory") than I could: please see his column here: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2006_01.html

There are also a number of progressions of stepwise practice exercises with the same basic attack/technique that illustrate this in a very concrete way. Shomenuchi Ikkyo done way early looks an awful lot like gokyo; ikkyo done way late looks a lot like Iriminage ura-waza, or koyunage.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
04-18-2006, 12:23 PM
It is prominently about being attacked and respond adequately. next step is to foresee an action action and act pre-emptive, but agequately. The best way to foresee a person's action is to understand his(her) motivation and assumed legitimation to do harm against you. This point requires expansion. And for this reason. We are caught up in a virtual simulation, predictive algorithm paradigm. This, too, is not aikido.
Aikido does not accept input, model behavior, input correction and result = desired outcome. This is transactional analysis. This would involve two conscious parties-- two subjectivities -- my"self" and the Other transacting a negotiation. Aikido is not reactive -- the Other does not prompt my"self" to react. Aikido is not preemptive -- my"self" does not prompt the Other to react.

Aikido is better analogized to a field property. A gravity field is neither reactive nor preemptive; it simply exists because objects with mass are in proximity to one another. All mass contributes to the field in the same proportion. All objects respond to the field in the same proportion, and without any intent or exertion on their part.

Energy is proportional and equivalent to mass, and thus an attack represents added energy (acceleration) in the system. If we allow the field lines to operate therefore, the lower energy (mass) object is (relatively) drawn toward the higher energy (mass) object, and vice versa in lower proportion. The result is a mutual spiral inward about a common center of gravity, if either had any original momentum. Both are continually changing their momentum in relation to the center. And the more energetic object may thus accelerate past escape velocity without ever colliding with the object closer to the center. That is aikido.

Cordailly,
Erick Mead

Ron Tisdale
04-18-2006, 12:50 PM
Timing. O-Sensei said that Aikido is not about timing. Aikido works early, and Aikido works late.

Source please. I agree that aikido works both late and early (at it's base this may be irimi and tenkan), but somehow that still seems to me to be all about timing.

Best,
Ron

Kevin Leavitt
04-18-2006, 01:45 PM
Erick Wrote:

What is bad for my child does not depend on his or her subjective appreciation of it. My life is a tremendous good, but not the highest good. The lives of my children are more important.

And -- again -- no it isn't. Killing for killing's sake is always wrong, at every time and in every place.


I am trying to understand your view. Hopefully I am not wrong.

If the lives of your kids are more important than your own, then they must be more important than a strangers. So I must assume that if someone threatened their lives, then you would not have an issue using deadly force to resolve the situation.

Assuming that your kids did not initially pose a deadly threat to the person, and he is really the one that intiates the harm...

How do you reconcile this with killing if it is wrong at every point and time? When is it justified to kill someone?

To me, it is not an easy answer, and a choice that every individual must make when presented that choice based on the situation, knowledge, and perception he/she has at the time. Ethics, values, and norms also play a role in that process.

While I certainly wouldn't subscribe to the aztec sacrifice in this day and age, it was a norm and an acceptable practice to them. I would bet they did it out of compassion for the greater good of their society and from their perspective it was not a random act of evil or killing.

Barbaric by our definitions agreed. The Christian Conquistadors saw it that way as it was totally wrong by their system of beliefs!

To me it is not about judging the act right or wrong, but about understanding it first. Dirk does a good job of explaining things I think!

Well we are kinda getting off track I think!

My point is simply that it is difficult to make decisions to take actions in conflict many times. We cannot make skillful decisions without considering the otherside or other persons perspective. We must always try and understand when possible before we take action. Therefore, things like aikido, teach us MORE about this than the pitance of techniques we learn.

Sometimes we do not have time to consider much, especially in a violent attack. We then must rely on our past experiences and approach the situation with a clear mind and act in the most appropriate matter that we can. When we do so, we should act as compassionately as possible, removing as much emotion and anger as we can so as to deal with the situation with clarity.

To me this is what it is all about!

Dirk Hanss
04-18-2006, 01:52 PM
@Erick,
as long as someone is referring to himself (me - my family - my house - my village - my tribe - my nation - my race), it still is ego-centered.

The rest (both responses) is great - I do not really agree, but I have to think about it.

Cordially

Dirk

Erick Mead
04-18-2006, 02:23 PM
If the lives of your kids are more important than your own, then they must be more important than a strangers. So I must assume that if someone threatened their lives, then you would not have an issue using deadly force to resolve the situation.
How do you reconcile this with killing if it is wrong at every point and time? When is it justified to kill someone? "Killing is always wrong" is not what I said. The distinction is key. Killing for killing's sake is always wrong, at every time and in every place.In classical ethics this is called the doctrine of double effect. If my proximate purpose to effect is good -- saving of a life immediately threatened -- then the consequence of my action in stopping that threat, even if death of the threatening person may be nearly certain in its consequenceial occurrence from the saving of a life I act to effect, while unfortunate, is not evil. Conversely, if my remote goal is good -- saving thousands from starvation, and my proximate purpose evil -- killing a border guard who stands in the path of my bringing them aid; the laudable remote goal does not absolve the proximate act of killing. The end does not justify the means.
While I certainly wouldn't subscribe to the aztec sacrifice in this day and age, it was a norm and an acceptable practice to them. I would bet they did it out of compassion for the greater good of their society and from their perspective it was not a random act of evil or killing. ... Barbaric by our definitions agreed. The Christian Conquistadors saw it that way as it was totally wrong by their system of beliefs! Wrong by rational measure, not belief. In fact, they did it in the fervent view that it was necessary to save the whole world from destruction. That is perhaps the best example of the violation of the doctrine of double effect. For this reason, the Q'uran, which itself has a great deal of the common tradition of classical ethics embodied within it, says that he who kills one man, is as if he has killed the whole world. The point is to ensure that the good effected and the evil suffered are both rightly ordered in intent, consequence and in appropriate moral (not numerical) scale with one another. Thus, killing to save mere property is out of scale, whereas killing in the course of saving life is not. Let's not jump off into just war theory just yet, though. To me it is not about judging the act right or wrong, but about understanding it first. ... My point is simply that it is difficult to make decisions to take actions in conflict many times.
We cannot make skillful decisions without considering the otherside or other persons perspective. We must always try and understand when possible before we take action. ... Sometimes we do not have time to consider much, especially in a violent attack. ...We are completely on track here -- "martial" arts respond in the realm of action, not rational justification or before-the-fact interest-weighing. "Self" defense is not the point, although defense of self is a part of this moral universe, although not a commanding part.

Aikido is an art of ethical action -- moral and martial strategy without the burden of calculated planning. Right action is good aikido, and good aikido, right action. I do not divine my necessary action from modelling an adversary's motives, internal struggles, or probable poor upbringing. His action is all I need to know of him, to know him. This school of ethical philosophy is called phenomenology, lately espoused by none other than Pope John Paul the Great.

To bring up another recent portrayal of modern myth as example,
" It is not who you are inside that matters. It's what you do."
Add Batman to Darth Vader.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
04-18-2006, 02:41 PM
@Erick,
as long as someone is referring to himself (me - my family - my house - my village - my tribe - my nation - my race), it still is ego-centered.
Understood. The example could have been stated more broadly, but I speak from moral cases (and responsibilities) closest to me -- to ensure at the very least that I do not get frighteningly abstract.

Alas, I do not pretend to lack an ego (huge -- monstrous really, obscenely so in the hinder parts) Nor could anyone so claim who is not yet a saint, sage or bodhisattva. The point is that ego for most folks is far more capable of extension than it is of extinction. "An infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere." I am as privileged to be the center as anyone else is, but not more so.

The big leap is extending ego past, Me Myself and I; the next hardest is not to rigidify in "Me v. Other" at some other scale (clan, tribe etc.). The remaining hurdles become progressively smaller to jump if one remains committed to the paradigm.
I am too late for Easter, but I carry on nonetheless --

"Hoppitty, hop-hop, hoppity hop-hop ..."
;)
Cordially,
Erick Mead

Kevin Leavitt
04-18-2006, 05:06 PM
Erick wrote:

I do not divine my necessary action from modelling an adversary's motives, internal struggles, or probable poor upbringing. His action is all I need to know of him, to know him.

I would agree in the sense of immediate action necessary to defend yourself from imminent harm.

However, for any other situation, on the "big picture scale" this becomes a "cop out" absolving yourself of responsibility and viewing yourself as a separate, disinterested, or non-participating party, IMHO is a big part of why we have conflict...seeing ourselves as detached.

What you describe is pure self defense. It does not require compassion, thought, or rational decision. It does not require us to respond in a compassionate manner that controls the escalation of force.

IHMO, Aikido philosophy requires us to respond compassionately as possible, to skillfully attempt to resolve situations if possible. It may require violent action that results in a quick death, but we then have a "healing process" that must take place. We don't boast about our result, but attempt to understand and to be compassionate after the fact.

If the concern is simply physical self defense...then why be concerned with the concepts of aikido? I'd simply carry the most lethal force necessary to resolve a situation and then use it without hesitation on a preceived threat!

I think we put too much into the expectations MA, DO arts in particular on the "self defense" end of things. Very neat, tidy, and justifiable actions for self perservation to prevent injury or harm. When really it is all about the "big picture", seeing how we are connected, seeing our relationship to others and the world and truly understanding the "cause and effect" of things.

Erick Mead
04-19-2006, 12:27 AM
I do not divine my necessary action from modelling an adversary's motives, internal struggles, or probable poor upbringing. His action is all I need to know of him, to know him. ...[this is] a big part of why we have conflict...seeing ourselves as detached.
What you describe is pure self defense. It does not require compassion, thought, or rational decision. It does not require us to respond in a compassionate manner that controls the escalation of force. I simply do not understand the first statement. What you describe is empathy -- "feeling within," "an imaginative projection of subjective state" as opposed to sympathy --"feeling with, at the same time,""affinity wherein what affects one similarly affects the other," "unity or harmony of action or effect."

There lies the difference between us. I describe action flowing from action. You infer detachment because I do not ascribe my internal mode. Precisely so, because I am not detached, but respond without reference to my internal state -- as does one piano string when a nearby piano string is struck - in sympathetic vibration. I act from the most fundamental connection my adversary provides me -- his fully expressed intent -- his action, not from my own solipsistic supposition of his motives and my internal reflection upon that which I suppose but can never truly know. I may interpret his aciton in error, but this is a far less likely source of error than attempting to interpret his internal state.

Where is any action lacking in compassion? You infer cruelty ["self-defense"] because I do not ascribe a consciousness of compassion in so acting. It is not compassionate to give a collapsing diabetic a candy bar regardless how I may feel really good about my kind intention. My adversary is similarly disordered. Compassion will correct or at the very least help to relieve the condition causing the disorder. If the wrong piano string is struck causing dissonance, it must be diminished in tone to restore the harmonic chord.
IHMO, Aikido philosophy requires us to respond compassionately ...We don't boast about our result, but attempt to understand and to be compassionate after the fact.
...
really it is all about the "big picture", seeing how we are connected, seeing our relationship to others and the world and truly understanding the "cause and effect" of things.
What does it mean to "be compassionate?" I say it requires sympathetic action, not empathetic thought or portrayal of compssionate persona ("persona" = mask). As I see it, O-Sensei's techniques were not intended to portray compassion, but to be compassionate by performing them.
Aikido is an art in action, not portrayal or contemplation, unless action also be contemplative, which possibility I will admit.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

MikeLogan
04-19-2006, 01:56 AM
Kevin Wrote:
However, for any other situation, on the "big picture scale" this becomes a "cop out" absolving yourself of responsibility and viewing yourself as a separate, disinterested, or non-participating party, IMHO is a big part of why we have conflict...seeing ourselves as detached.I don't think he was describing any other situation.

Sometimes it is not possible to resolve conflict in a harmonous way at the moment it occurs. We must take actions to prevent what we percieve to be a greater harm and in doing so inflict harm ourselves. This is not creating harmony in my view, but stopping harm with harm.This sounds a lot like you are considering harm as something bad, but earlier you say:is there really any such thing as "good" and "evil". they are certainly concepts...but what is good for one person, might not be good for the other and vice versus. I think it depends on your perspective.It might be good to pick up a more broad idea of harmony. Is your view of harmony an afternoon tea? Erick's last post mentioning sympathetic vibration is a nice point.

When the universe mixes up just right and an attack is coming your way, you will either bring harmony to the situation, or the situation will bring harmony to you. If you are not ready and capable to dictate said harmony, then you have no position from which to dictate compassion. Or in the fine fashion stated by Erick, O-Sensei's techniques were not intended to portray compassion, but to be compassionate by performing them.

Here's a funny side note from tonight's practice. I was working on katatetori ikkyo with someone who is still essentially a beginner, they broke their pinky toe on the back of my heel as they stepped wildly to keep their balance, instead of pivoting. He's a tad taller than I, keen technical awareness, very athletic, definitely stronger than myself, but his only problem is rigid stiffness, and that stiffness broke his toe. I am still trying to tell myself that it isn't my fault.

It's not too bad because it's at most a hair-line, or possibly even a sprained tendon. But I still feel bad because it happened on my heel. I feel the need to say I should have been able to control his motion better, but I also feel the need to say that this wouldn't have happened to me, primarily due to greater exposure to ukemi.

mike.
(i'm not thinking as clearly as I'd like at 3am)
(editing thesis, hurrah!)

Erick Mead
04-19-2006, 08:56 AM
Here's a funny side note from tonight's practice. I was working on katatetori ikkyo with someone who is still essentially a beginner, they broke their pinky toe on the back of my heel as they stepped wildly to keep their balance, instead of pivoting. He's a tad taller than I, keen technical awareness, very athletic, definitely stronger than myself, but his only problem is rigid stiffness, and that stiffness broke his toe. I am still trying to tell myself that it isn't my fault. I have noted this happening in several instances to similar Big Strong Guys (tm) who were trying to figure out ukemi even on very slow smooth nage technique, suddenly hopping around on one foot or on the ground nursing the pinky toe. Even the mightiest house has its weak point in the foundation, I suppose.

More to to the point, this is of a pattern, albeit the reverse of Kevin's, statement. They have some how learned that to be strong is to seem strong (as if they needed to). I suspect they learned it when they were twelvish striplings, and the body then grew into the image portrayed.

Seeming can be martial when used as a feint and then discarded. It only works once, becasue after that your portrayals are not trusted by your adversary. Humility also has a scheming side, as all human virtues have their shadow, a darkness underneath.

Keeping to the current culture theme, the best example of this is in The Thirteenth Warrior. Ibn's friend fights the hulking redhead Angus in order to end the princeling's scheming intrigues. HIs desire to assure that Bulwyf does not supplant him are hurting the efforts to defend against the enemy. They regret the loss of Angus' strength, but the dissension in which he was being used as a tool was far more dangerous.

I try very hard to bring these Big Strong Guys(tm) to an understanding of proper martial bearing as being simple relaxed poise. I try to bring along the opposite type -- the limp-dishrag "I just don't want to hurt anybody" to the same middle ground from the opposite pole.

Seeming peaceful does not bring peace, as seeming strong does not bring victory.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-19-2006, 10:39 AM
Erick,

1.You said in the thread below this one that it is important to release the mind.
2.You said, Killing for killing's sake is always wrong, at every time and in every place. This is a tautology, and does not help us move forward in understanding the 'something else' in martial study you want to discuss.
3.You speak of classical ethics, and you speak of the beautiful ethic in Islam that says murdering one man is like murdering all; reminds me of Kant, BUT you don't seem to realize that you are being extremely analytical in a discussion of people's values, in the Spiritual thread section of this board.

Sir, I respectfully call upon you to 'lose'. I think if you commit only to falling down that you may learn more. The best aikido technique comes after this 'giving up', and I think it will help here. We called it sutemi waza in judo. Don't fight what is being said to you.

I'm sorry if i seem like an ass for saying this. I'm trying to help.

david

Erick Mead
04-19-2006, 12:07 PM
1.You said in the thread below this one that it is important to release the mind. I said "release the mind" -- not throw it away. One releases an arrow, too, but that hardly signifies surrender, but simply letting the tool perform its proper purpose, and not forcing it to uses it is ill-suited to perform.2.You said, This is a tautology, and does not help us move forward in understanding the 'something else' in martial study you want to discuss. The something else is to distinguish the mind as a objective tool not a subject in its own right; and to distinguish the broader reach of aikido in its martial aspects from the narrow defense of "self" identified with that mind. And here I thought we were all making some progress in discussing that, with useful challenges.
3.You speak of classical ethics, and you speak of the beautiful ethic in Islam that says murdering one man is like murdering all; reminds me of Kant, BUT you don't seem to realize that you are being extremely analytical in a discussion of people's values, in the Spiritual thread section of this board. I am Catholic -- in my tradition spirituality and reason are not opponents, but complements. This is not by any means an untraditional framework in Eastern thought either. Certainly, Confucian and Neo-Confucian contributions to the world-view that brought about Aikido, cannot be disregarded. Intuition and emotive response have their limits -- as does reason. Wholeness requires that each human faculty test the other. So -- test away.
...I respectfully call upon you to 'lose'. I think if you commit only to falling down that you may learn more.
Learning plenty -- thanks. ;) I was unaware that we were competing, I am equally unaware of losing anything, but then I have not rummaged through my pockets lately ....
The best aikido technique comes after this 'giving up', and I think it will help here. We called it sutemi waza in judo. Don't fight what is being said to you. Sutemi -- love it. I have learned a lot from ukemi, probably more than from performing nage side, but only after being put in the position of having no other choice but an ukemi. Then I usually start to feel the road to the kaeshiwaza, the question is which ukemi gives me which reversal.

Of course, when I practice kaeshiwaza, it is my partner who does not get to practice his technique to completion, but rather ukemi in turn (and perhaps learn to look for his kaeshiwaza). Done properly, there is no competition in these drills, just flow and movement feeling for each others balance.

Reasoned and courteous debate, even on topics of spirituality -- is like kaeshiwaza. But, words are not blows. What is it that I should give up, exactly? Writing -- thinking -- or practicing kaeshiwaza?
:)

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Kevin Leavitt
04-19-2006, 12:44 PM
Erick,

I am beginning to think that you and i possibly don't necessarily disagree, but see the world and see things differently.

Then again it may just be semantics..


for example:

I try very hard to bring these Big Strong Guys(tm) to an understanding of proper martial bearing as being simple relaxed poise. I try to bring along the opposite type -- the limp-dishrag "I just don't want to hurt anybody" to the same middle ground from the opposite pole.

I would say, i do neither. I would simply present the opportunity and the situation and conditions for them to discover things on their own. In my opinion, "trying very hard tobring them to an understanding" means that I am imposing what I want them to learn. To me, this means what I have to teach you is much more important that what you need to discover for yourself. Some what egoistic in my view. (not meant to be a flame on you.)

Maybe it is just semantics. but I think we are really getting to the core, core, core of things that are important in teaching and life. I think when we get this deep into things it is important to split hairs and discuss such issues, not as an argument to say "i'm right, your wrong", but to analyze thoughts and philosophies to see how things tick!

I don't think question of "right and wrong", I just think we may see things slightly different.

Thanks for challenging my thoughts. I have alot to think about from your writings!

billybob
04-19-2006, 01:01 PM
Erick,

I'll give up something myself as an example: I think Kevin said what I am getting at in the post above.
It's hard for me not to sound sagely (to myself anyway, i know i say some goofy stuff, when my mind shifts and I read from other context). So, I'll give up the need to have the thought first, and say I agree with Kevin. I'm working on that humility thing; need plenty of work.

I'd like to bring back the wu wei thought. Do 'not do' any thinking, and your intuitive mind will open like an ocean before you. It's stronger, deeper, but does not understand or speak English. Again, I'm speaking (poorly) to a superior orator, and a man with a fine mind.

I'll revert to story mode - My old friend from judo was teaching at our club - he a Sandan, and me a Sanky at the time (long story). The senior student in the class could not do the technique Sensei was teaching. Place foot on top of opponent's, in foot-sweep position, and they fall over! I couldn't do the technique until my old friend said 'yoko sutemi waza' and put the 'Duh' look on his face. Then I remembered - Fall. You have to give up your center to make the technique work. Or, it seems that you give up your center, you are actually gaining the advantage by seeming to become weak. Senior student became frustrated and used force until he hurt me.

Fall down!

dave

Kevin Leavitt
04-19-2006, 01:40 PM
Thanks Dave. sounds like I simply beat you to the "post" button.

I am only trying to treadwater! Erick's concepts are well thought out, articulate, and touching on areas that really make me think hard!

It hurts for sure!

Erick Mead
04-19-2006, 02:39 PM
I am beginning to think that you and i possibly don't necessarily disagree, but see the world and see things differently. ---
Then again it may just be semantics..
for example:
I try very hard to bring these Big Strong Guys(tm) to an understanding of proper martial bearing as being simple relaxed poise. I try to bring along the opposite type -- the limp-dishrag "I just don't want to hurt anybody" to the same middle ground from the opposite pole.I would say, i do neither. I would simply present the opportunity and the situation and conditions for them to discover things on their own.
But they do not understand the geography they are trying to navigate -- they see the mountain, but have no idea how to negotiate the obstacles to get there. We have some idea, after all we got there -- foothills anyway -- albeit, perhaps on different routes.
In my opinion, "trying very hard tobring them to an understanding" means that I am imposing what I want them to learn. To me, this means what I have to teach you is much more important that what you need to discover for yourself. Some what egoistic in my view. (not meant to be a flame on you.)
No offense taken. But the student is presumably there becasue they perceive things they wish to learn, but do not understand. We have no conscripts in our dojo. I am imposing nothing, but merely offering what they have, themselves, asked to learn. Plus, we have other instructors and the mix of persectives is always useful to learning. This is not antithetical to making discoveries of their own on the way, which I certainly encourage. Lord knows, I did. I think we are really getting to the core, core, core of things that are important in teaching and life. I think when we get this deep into things it is important to split hairs and discuss such issues, not as an argument to say "i'm right, your wrong", but to analyze thoughts and philosophies to see how things tick!Thank you, we are on the same page as to process and purpose, and steadily paring down ideas toward a clearer understanding of essential issues. The point with which we began this thread is about "martial" aspects of art.

As O-Sensei said Fully knowing it to be
A matter of life and death before us
We may chose to withdraw
But the enemy will not allow it.Death is easy to choose, ours or theirs. A gun, a poison, or just build up enough rage and adrenaline to beat them to death (more effective than most people realize). Or, conversely, simply accept your own death and die at the hands of the attacker.

Life -- ours AND theirs -- this is the hard thing to choose. This is the knife's edge upon which O-Sensei sought to build a ready path.

Current culture to the fore again. In "The Outlaw Josey Wales," Josey meets Chief Ten Bears at the end, And they have a colloquoy on life and death and choices to be made. It is worth seeing for its stark acknowledgement of those choices. At the end, Ten Bears says: "There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death.
It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death.
-----
It shall be life."

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Ron Tisdale
04-19-2006, 02:59 PM
You've quoted from a couple of my favorite movies now, Eric. Cut that out! ;)

Best,
Ron (oh, did you ever find a source for that earlier post I asked about?)

Erick Mead
04-19-2006, 03:13 PM
I'd like to bring back the wu wei thought. Do 'not do' any thinking, and your intuitive mind will open like an ocean before you. It's stronger, deeper, but does not understand or speak English. Which is, most unfortunately, hard to put into ascii. Place foot on top of opponent's, in foot-sweep position, and they fall over! I couldn't do the technique until my old friend said 'yoko sutemi waza' and put the 'Duh' look on his face. Then I remembered - Fall. ...Fall down! You have stated the first rule of falling I have learned to give the beginners:: "Fall -- DOWN." It is so simple, it gets missed.

My all time favorite kaeshiwaza is very much as you describe. It is often applied to an incipient shihonage. Nage is busy getting you all wrapped up, and as he does, uke turns the free side hip in to support weight, center the elbow as much as possible, and gain musubi with the free arm braced across the shoulder girdle. Then as uke begins to cut down to the pin, drop into yoko sutemi, basically underneath nage, falling to the hip with the pinned arm.

If you do it REEEAAAL slow for the first one, the look of nage's wonderment at the evaporation of the technique and inability to recover once he cuts is simply amazing to behold. Some students, many of whom have a healthy respect of shihonage and their initally awkward ukemi when learning it, want to do it again immediately to see what happened. Really, as Kevin says, not much happened at all. I can't "Do" anything from the standing shihonage control, I can only follow his cut where it leads, and then let gravity lead it there.

Often we do it again and then they ask me, "What happened?" I usually reply "I just fell down. That's what you wanted wasn't it?"

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-19-2006, 04:43 PM
Erick,

I think in that last you sheathed the very honed sword of your intellect and spoke from the heart.

Or, I'm both stupid and arrogant, and you didn't make sense until you spoke by analogy which I can actually grasp. Either way, I'm glad to be part of this discussion. I'm glad you have felt the wonder and beauty of the counter you described, and that you didn't injure your partner doing it.

Hope to train in person some day.

david

mathewjgano
04-21-2006, 03:54 AM
Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?

A tour of websites recently put me off. Particularly those in the vein of "Aikido is an art of non-violent self-defense.

Please forgive me for replying to the initial post despite the fact that the conversation has progressed so far.
I think the distinction is a matter of semantics...for the most part at least. I've been told by Aikidoka and non-Aikidoka that Aikido is not a self-defense art just as I've heard from both that Aikido IS a self-defense art. Some who have caled it a self-defense art even describe it as such because they consider the phrase "self-defense" to be a bad thing denoting a fear-based mind-set, implying that fear somehow automatically makes an action weaker.
Taking the terms at face value I think Aikido is a great method for learning to protect the self and others. In this sense at least, it seems clear to me it is a self-defense art. Even taking the idea that when we practice "Aikido" we are not fighting, I still think "self-defense" fits. I don't see the phrase as denoting conflict, but merely the preservation of self, without which we cannot hope to preserve the quality of life of others. In my mind, this is the bottom line to matters of Budo, which pertains both to love and war at the same time.
Ogenkide!
Matt

Dazzler
04-21-2006, 04:25 AM
My all time favorite kaeshiwaza is very much as you describe. It is often applied to an incipient shihonage. Nage is busy getting you all wrapped up, and as he does, uke turns the free side hip in to support weight, center the elbow as much as possible, and gain musubi with the free arm braced across the shoulder girdle. Then as uke begins to cut down to the pin, drop into yoko sutemi, basically underneath nage, falling to the hip with the pinned arm.

If you do it REEEAAAL slow for the first one, the look of nage's wonderment at the evaporation of the technique and inability to recover once he cuts is simply amazing to behold. Some students, many of whom have a healthy respect of shihonage and their initally awkward ukemi when learning it, want to do it again immediately to see what happened. Really, as Kevin says, not much happened at all. I can't "Do" anything from the standing shihonage control, I can only follow his cut where it leads, and then let gravity lead it there.

Often we do it again and then they ask me, "What happened?" I usually reply "I just fell down. That's what you wanted wasn't it?"


Apologies for taking the thread off at a tangent.

Does anyone have any clips of this reversal. The description is pretty good but I'd like to look at the finer details.

Thanks

D

Erick Mead
04-21-2006, 08:06 AM
Please forgive me for replying to the initial post despite the fact that the conversation has progressed so far. Beginnings are good places to return to.
I think the distinction is a matter of semantics... [some] consider the phrase "self-defense" to be a bad thing denoting a fear-based mind-set, implying that fear somehow automatically makes an action weaker. The weakness or strength of the action is not the value measure in view, I think. I also think that (and David or Kevin will surely help me out here if I stray too far) that it is related to the attitude motivating the action (for uke or nage). I cannot rely on my opponent's attitude, but I acknowledge that my attitude has a great deal to do with the success or failure ( better dichotomy, I think) of my action. This natural understanding of the internal importance of motivation I think tempts us to look for the internal motivation in our opponents, because it is so determinative for us. But it is forever beyond our knowledge. And in my view, we tend to supply this vacuum with constructs of our own, and then attribute them to our oppoenent. Sometimes these are accurate, sometimes not, but always dangerous if I assume they reflect his reality, rather than my own.

Picking back up on the Wu-Wei thread of the discussion -- my success in technique is mostly determined by the attitude of allowing uke to act as he wishes, and not by determining his action for him. Uke gets to choose the action -- but if he has not given due consideration to nage -- he does not get to choose the result. nage gets to play too. For good Aikido to happen as nage, my action must assist uke's action -- in ways that he did not yet realize he needed help. :D.
Taking the terms at face value I think Aikido is a great method for learning to protect the self and others. In this sense at least, it seems clear to me it is a self-defense art.
And at face value I do not disagree, but there are things that happen that are not on the face -- there is a ura side to everything, and behiond the face, as I have noted, there is much that must remain forever dark to us but also other things that can be felt if not seen and need to be explored.
Even taking the idea that when we practice "Aikido" we are not fighting, I still think "self-defense" fits. I don't see the phrase as denoting conflict, but merely the preservation of self, without which we cannot hope to preserve the quality of life of others. In my mind, this is the bottom line to matters of Budo, which pertains both to love and war at the same time.
Ogenkide! Matt
The shadow of Self is Other. If we preserve Self and ignore the shadow Other, the enemy unseen lurks behind us and will take us when we least expect it. "Other" in classic martial terms may be friends ,family, brotehrs in arms, etc. If we look to preserve both Self and Other, the shadow is lightened and brought more to front. We are willing to risk more, and therefore more likely to prevail if a contest is thrust upon us.

If we adopt O-Senei's paradigm, we are then not dealing with an even an opponent as an enemy -- still an opponent -- but not the dark horror of imagining framed from the knowledge of our own sin and aggression. The weakest human beings can sometimes nurse the most horrible deisres for revenge, and they reflect this in the threats they perceive in others. "Small man syndrome" is known in every culture.

Taking O-Sensei's apporoach makes our Other more human, and less psychologically debilitating in terms of our mental construct of perceived threat. We see more clearly what he is doing and not what we fear he may do.

He may also become more amenable to much smaller techniques in kaeshiwaza, by, say -- the sudden deep bow, and an unexpected apology. "For what?" Uke may be still wondering about as he is put off balance by an unexpected reaction to his hostility. But that is aikido -- good ura waza.

And anyway, I really should apologize in advance for what is about to happen if he does not do proper ukemi to that most gentle form kaeshiwaza, by thanking me and walking away. :) .

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Kevin Leavitt
04-21-2006, 12:41 PM
Erick wrote:

The weakness or strength of the action is not the value measure in view, I think. I also think that (and David or Kevin will surely help me out here if I stray too far) that it is related to the attitude motivating the action (for uke or nage). I cannot rely on my opponent's attitude, but I acknowledge that my attitude has a great deal to do with the success or failure ( better dichotomy, I think) of my action. This natural understanding of the internal importance of motivation I think tempts us to look for the internal motivation in our opponents, because it is so determinative for us. But it is forever beyond our knowledge. And in my view, we tend to supply this vacuum with constructs of our own, and then attribute them to our oppoenent. Sometimes these are accurate, sometimes not, but always dangerous if I assume they reflect his reality, rather than my own.

Actually I agree with this.

I am sort of a Stephen Covey follower, if for no other reason than I can understand his material!

I like the concept of circle of influence and circle of concern. The cricle of influence lay within the circle of concern. I am concerned with things that are greater than what I can influence. I need to know where those circles meet.

I can firstly and rightly influence myself. So, I can choose how a respond to what I am presented with, but I cannot will my opponent into an actions.

However, I can expand my circle of influence through many actions. Increasing my skills, listening, trying to understand my opponent as best as possible. By doing these things I can better influence the choices or courses of action my opponent may take or have available to him.

It is multifaceted. Physical, mental, and spiritual. In some situations I may tap only the physical. My circle of influence my be very, very small. In others it may be big and I can expand it rapidly using empathy etc.

Erick, I like this post and I think you and I are on the same tangent on this!

Have a good day.

billybob
04-21-2006, 01:02 PM
Erick:
The shadow of Self is Other. If we preserve Self and ignore the shadow Other, the enemy unseen lurks behind us and will take us when we least expect it. "Other" in classic martial terms may be friends ,family, brotehrs in arms, etc. If we look to preserve both Self and Other, the shadow is lightened and brought more to front. We are willing to risk more, and therefore more likely to prevail if a contest is thrust upon us.

Good stuff. preach on!

This speaks directly to my path, that of seeing truly what is before me, and not a shadow from the past. The last sentence reminds me of what we call 'home field advantage' in ball sports, to use pop culture again.

I took a shot to the groin wednesday, Sensei hurt my shoulder shortly thereafter - or did he? I think my whole body tightened around the INJURY which limited my flexibility. If I can be purified - then I can take a shot to the groin, and feel the pain that is there, not horror from the past. If I train this way then aikido is training in something more, not just learning to kick butt.

Did I get it Erick?

dave

Erick Mead
04-23-2006, 03:35 PM
I took a shot to the groin wednesday, Sensei hurt my shoulder shortly thereafter - or did he? I think my whole body tightened around the INJURY which limited my flexibility. If I can be purified - then I can take a shot to the groin, and feel the pain that is there, not horror from the past. If I train this way then aikido is training in something more, not just learning to kick butt. I think you just practically defined Shugyo ( 修行 ) -- which as chance would have it (if chance you call it) was the topic of the the Doka when I logged on today Always and always,
Pour yourself into technical training
To face the multitude as if it were one
Is the Way of the Shugyo-sha. ( 修行者 )
修 -- discipline, bearing, conduct, study
行 -- journey, going
者-- person

As a further personal example, we were yesterday doing a demonstration for Earth-Day. (My fourteen year-old son asked, "Is that where all the hippies go?" "Yes," I said, " -- but we are the hippies with swords." A bunch of guys in skirts and we were the most conservatively dessed bunch there. -- But I digress.)

So we are doing our demonstrations outside on this slight grassy incline, on mats, but the ground beneath is not as smooth as it could be. We do some warm ups and then I am doing a straightforward yokomenuchi shihonage, with me as uke.

As nage turned under and into me, ready to cut, and before my turn in had gained better musubi -- my weight suddenly drops into this slight hole under the mat, stopping the turn in, and the technique tightens just as he is cutting me down. No fault of nage either, clean technique, no kaeshiwaza available. He heard/ felt the tendons strumming pa-pa-pop across the elbow joint as I go over -- He about fell over himself apoligizing, but it was nothing he did or could have felt before it just tightened up in the middle.

After ward it was plain that Self-Defense (figuratively or practically) would not work here. Had I tensed, had I treated his technique/attack as something Other than me, had I retreated from the suddenly far more agressive technique, I would have added muscle tension to the added tightening of the unanticipated drop, trying to get mySELF away from IT. If that had happened, my elbow would now be in a sling and for many months.

But in truth, as I later pondered this in light of our ongoing discussion, IT ( the uke-nage complex) was ME at that point (like it or not). Like Schrodinger's cat, I was superposed -- both alive/dead -- elbow snapped/whole in the same moment. There was no Self to defend, or that could be defended. This is the same (albeit vastly lesser, in any sense of scale) revelation of Truth in the whirl of battle that is both exhiliarating and horrific to ordinary sensibilities all at the same time.

The choice in martial shugyo-ho is not presented in a rational form, -- accept or reject the entry offered into an enlarging of Me to include uke/nage without distinction. To accept deeply -- as in the words of the Magnificat -- "Fiat mihi." "Let it be done unto me..." Or to reject the offer.

If rejected, the remaining little-me I would become a stretched/snapped/screaming pitiful thing. If accepted, the bigger-ME could become ukenage -- even more tightly connected (musubi), and a greater whole of ME, -- and BTW -- uke tender but forgving of a little worse for wear, but not a limp screaming mess, nage merely apologetic and not horrified in inflicting gross injury.

Only because of my training (no time to think about anything) did I instinctively relax into the pain and then entered the now HUGE sutemi more deeply than usual (making IT more of ME) rather than flinching away (making IT more Other). That would only have tightened the technique further (like that was possible). Today, the elbow is only slightly sore, like I overdid extension stretching.

Ibuprofen, anyone?? Beer chaser ...

This is some sense of the theme I am exploring as to what being truly "martial" means. It is irrational in its appearance, yes, but there are reasons hidden deeper behind it -- I have some sense that they are there in dim shapes in that very instant, even if my ordinary senses cannot now perceive it.

I have done enough aikido to know this, even if I cannot rationally explain it. And I know it works in truth -- because I have done it. (Catholics -- all join in -- You should have sung it just a week ago -- "Tantum ergo sacramentum ... Præstet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui.") It is some part of faith I have learned in Aikido that supplies "the defect of my senses."

I see that dim flash of True Budo in the moment, when it happens. I try later, as now, to dwell upon it, pick elements apart that I can find metaphors to fit that recollection and find ways to order those elements and incorporate that brief revelation into my training...

Cordially,
Erick Mead

mathewjgano
04-23-2006, 11:42 PM
I also think that (and David or Kevin will surely help me out here if I stray too far) that it is related to the attitude motivating the action (for uke or nage).
Are you saying the term "self-defense" creates a more egocentric intention...a division between the concern of self and the concern for another?

And at face value I do not disagree, but there are things that happen that are not on the face -- there is a ura side to everything, and behiond the face, as I have noted, there is much that must remain forever dark to us but also other things that can be felt if not seen and need to be explored.
I think I understand: it's good to consider other layers of meaning which might be affixed to the concept/phrase "self defense." Am I understanding you correctly here?

If we adopt O-Senei's paradigm, we are then not dealing with an even an opponent as an enemy -- still an opponent -- but not the dark horror of imagining framed from the knowledge of our own sin and aggression.
Do you mean "opponant" to be a person who stands in literal opposition? It is my "understanding" (if you can call it that :D ) that if I perform pure Aikido I have no real opposition and thus no literal opponant. I feel as if I'm staring too closely at something and missing the big picture as a result. Sorry for my uncertainty.

Taking O-Sensei's apporoach makes our Other more human, and less psychologically debilitating in terms of our mental construct of perceived threat. We see more clearly what he is doing and not what we fear he may do.
I agree completely.

And anyway, I really should apologize in advance for what is about to happen if he does not do proper ukemi to that most gentle form kaeshiwaza, by thanking me and walking away. :)
I rather like that!
Thank you Erick.
Ogenkide,
Matthew

Erick Mead
04-24-2006, 08:37 AM
Are you saying the term "self-defense" creates a more egocentric intention...a division between the concern of self and the concern for another? I think I understand: it's good to consider other layers of meaning which might be affixed to the concept/phrase "self defense." Am I understanding you correctly here? In part, yes, and in another sense, no. 正勝吾勝 "Masagatsu Agatsu" "True conquest -- self-conquest." "True victory is victory over self." I find that the term "self-defense," and more importantly the attitude that it seems to inculcate in technique is troubling to the sense that O-Sensei gave in his famous phrase. These are no mere word games, but ways to think about how we critically judge and adapt our practice. Verbal metaphors for physical acts, that we can think through after the fact and then find ways to adapt in a reasoned way to the irrational physical arena of practice.
Do you mean "opponant" to be a person who stands in literal opposition? It is my "understanding" (if you can call it that :D ) that if I perform pure Aikido I have no real opposition and thus no literal opponant. I feel as if I'm staring too closely at something and missing the big picture as a result. Sorry for my uncertainty. I guess what I am saying, taking a cue from those who describe aikido as a physical conversation, is to examine technique in its usages, just as we critically examine words and their roots. To discover what things we have transformed into something we wish them or make them to be, from our unconscious motivations, rather than what they were intended or designed to do by their inventor. By doing this we can find hidden meaning, as well find a way to be both creative and true to the spirit of the techniques

In fact, the whole scheme of words we use in this context (in English) involve interesting psychological reinterpretations or inflations from much more pedestrian roots. I have a deep sense that in words, as in physical technique, our usage tends naturally to seek the conceptual "end-of-the-road" i.e. -- words of conflict are made to seem harder and tougher -- words of comfort are made to seem more soft and inviting. Usage and impact thus shifts from the root meaning of the initial design toward the root meaning of subsequent usage.

The sense of conflict in meaning makes usage in language harsher, as the same sense in technique tends to make technique harsher, a tendency that we aikidoka in principle try to both use in one way, and to avoid in another, like a boat sailing against the wind. People who have only ever rowed boats may laugh at the nonsense idea of using the wind to sail upwind, but it does work, and quite well. It requires weight and depth in the keel, which is never apparent above the waterline. Something else to think about.

When O-Sensei spoke of True Budo -- perhaps this was part of what he was getting at.

Opponent -- L. opponere, from ob + poner = "to put or place against" One Latin sense of the root is to "lean on." One "leans on" friends for support as well as would-be victims as a threat
A good cognate here is "musubi." Uke and nage are natural opponents, which is to say neither has really chosen the roles they are given. By positing uke, one posits nage, and vice versa -- they have inherent connecton in meaning to one another.

Adversary -- "adversus", (past participle of advertere) = "Turning towards"
A fascinating cognate here is the blended sense of irimi/tenkan. Is the turning towards good or bad? Eye of the beholder.

"Enemy" is one usage in which the sense is seemingly preserved intact from Old French -- L. "inimicus" -- in+ amicus = not + friend, However, the Latin "inamicus" can also mean "friendless." Again, which sense are we called to respond to when confronted with an enemy?

Similarly the purely English , "Foe" -- OE "gefa" = foe or "fah" hostile (But "fear" is a closely related word, BTW) A "foe" is only the object of fear.

Back to "Self-Defense" -- Latin "defendere" means to "ward off" and "self-defense" thus carries a sense of "pushing away from me." This sense is deeply antithetical to irimi, the very heart of aikido technique.

Victim/victor from L. "vincere" = "to conquer"
Thus, in O-Sensei's sformula "Masakatsu Agatsu" (正勝吾勝) "True conquest -- self conquest.": one seeks to be both victor and victim -- a sensibility with deep resonance for Christians. "Jihad" primarily speaks of "self-struggle" for Muslims in submitting to the will of God (insh'Allah). This complex of ideas is a common meeting place for them with Buddhists, Shinto, Taoists, Jews and a whole host of other modes of faith. It is a good place to start from in analyzing our practice.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

MM
04-24-2006, 09:20 AM
We do some warm ups and then I am doing a straightforward yokomenuchi shihonage, with me as uke.

As nage turned under and into me, ready to cut, and before my turn in had gained better musubi -- my weight suddenly drops into this slight hole under the mat, stopping the turn in, and the technique tightens just as he is cutting me down. No fault of nage either, clean technique, no kaeshiwaza available. He heard/ felt the tendons strumming pa-pa-pop across the elbow joint as I go over -- He about fell over himself apoligizing, but it was nothing he did or could have felt before it just tightened up in the middle.

After ward it was plain that Self-Defense (figuratively or practically) would not work here. Had I tensed, had I treated his technique/attack as something Other than me, had I retreated from the suddenly far more agressive technique, I would have added muscle tension to the added tightening of the unanticipated drop, trying to get mySELF away from IT. If that had happened, my elbow would now be in a sling and for many months.

But in truth, as I later pondered this in light of our ongoing discussion, IT ( the uke-nage complex) was ME at that point (like it or not). Like Schrodinger's cat, I was superposed -- both alive/dead -- elbow snapped/whole in the same moment. There was no Self to defend, or that could be defended. This is the same (albeit vastly lesser, in any sense of scale) revelation of Truth in the whirl of battle that is both exhiliarating and horrific to ordinary sensibilities all at the same time.

The choice in martial shugyo-ho is not presented in a rational form, -- accept or reject the entry offered into an enlarging of Me to include uke/nage without distinction. To accept deeply -- as in the words of the Magnificat -- "Fiat mihi." "Let it be done unto me..." Or to reject the offer.

If rejected, the remaining little-me I would become a stretched/snapped/screaming pitiful thing. If accepted, the bigger-ME could become ukenage -- even more tightly connected (musubi), and a greater whole of ME, -- and BTW -- uke tender but forgving of a little worse for wear, but not a limp screaming mess, nage merely apologetic and not horrified in inflicting gross injury.

Only because of my training (no time to think about anything) did I instinctively relax into the pain and then entered the now HUGE sutemi more deeply than usual (making IT more of ME) rather than flinching away (making IT more Other). That would only have tightened the technique further (like that was possible). Today, the elbow is only slightly sore, like I overdid extension stretching.

Ibuprofen, anyone?? Beer chaser ...

This is some sense of the theme I am exploring as to what being truly "martial" means. It is irrational in its appearance, yes, but there are reasons hidden deeper behind it -- I have some sense that they are there in dim shapes in that very instant, even if my ordinary senses cannot now perceive it.

I have done enough aikido to know this, even if I cannot rationally explain it. And I know it works in truth -- because I have done it. (Catholics -- all join in -- You should have sung it just a week ago -- "Tantum ergo sacramentum ... Præstet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui.") It is some part of faith I have learned in Aikido that supplies "the defect of my senses."

I see that dim flash of True Budo in the moment, when it happens. I try later, as now, to dwell upon it, pick elements apart that I can find metaphors to fit that recollection and find ways to order those elements and incorporate that brief revelation into my training...

Cordially,
Erick Mead

I have had things like the above happen to me more often than I can recount. :) Which is why, lately, I have tended to agree with the current thought that the ukemi is where a lot of Aikido learning happens.

The last incident happened as I was uke for a shodan candidate taking the exam. I forget the attack but the techniques were free-style, meaning the attack was set (either shomen, yokomen or tsuki) but the technique could be any at all. So, I attacked and the candidate started to do jujinage. And it was a wonderfully set up jujinage. Except that the candidate let go and backed away in the middle of it. I'm at the point where I'm in near the middle of the fall. Time slowed and my mind saw two options: 1. flail outwards and try to use my arms to catch myself as gravity takes me to the mat or 2. just take the breakfall on my own, or rather, complete the action started. Not that there was any choice in the matter because I was instinctively doing option 2. I just had that slow-time effect to ponder those two choices.

Option 1 would have resulted in injury. Of that i am sure. I know how I was twisted up. I didn't have time to ponder the outcome just the option. Afterwards, I went over what happened and then realized option 1 was very bad. Good thing my ukemi was up to par that day. :)

But, to touch on Erick's subject. At that point in time where the whole ME did what it was supposed to do, well, if it had been a situation more dire, then I would have come out of it ready to attack or defend or both or whatever. Rather than coming out of it as a bloody heap upon the ground, or worse, dead.

Ukemi isn't just something one practices so one can give a good attack. Ukemi is life/death choices made in micro time-frames. Ukemi is being super sensitive to movements to take advantage of any opening, big or small. Ukemi is creating an opening where there is none. There is much, much more to Ukemi than, okay, I can roll and fall.

Mark

billybob
04-24-2006, 10:00 AM
My wife the school teacher analyzes people's learning styles so she can better teach them. She hesitated in analyzing me, and said I wouldn't like what she had to say.....what martial artist can resist that?

She told me I was convinced I was intellectual/rational, but I really wasn't. That I could learn from books, and could also learn from listening, but not well. She said I was the 'slow, analytical type, that needed lots of hands on and repetition to learn anything at all'.

Cool. I wanted an honest wife. I got one!

When I think about aikido I don't translate into language. I think visually, and spatially. I feel my body as I visually problem solve. If I can't do a math problem at work, I visualize shapes and then it makes sense.

I don't feel physical training is irrational; it merely defies rational description. That's different. Has anyone else been doing training and had moments where you couldn't tell where attack and attacker ended, and you began?

dave

Mark Freeman
04-24-2006, 10:33 AM
Ukemi isn't just something one practices so one can give a good attack. Ukemi is life/death choices made in micro time-frames. Ukemi is being super sensitive to movements to take advantage of any opening, big or small. Ukemi is creating an opening where there is none. There is much, much more to Ukemi than, okay, I can roll and fall.

Mark

Ah, now we are getting to the nub of it, for me early on in my aikido practice, the uke side of practice felt like where the real 'art' of aikido lay.
The only way to be super sensitive to movement is to have a light relaxed contact with the body and no less a contact with the mind. Only then can uke truely 'follow' the movement and find the opening ( if there is one ). Hard, resistant, physicality prevents this sensitivity, which to work at it's best must have 'no contention' and be completely non resistant.

I think this is also where some of the real misunderstanding about aikido comes from, particularly from those watching from the outside. They see a good uke follow a technique and roll out of the throw, it seems like a 'dance' that they are 'just falling over'. Which in a way is true. But co-operative training is the only way to fully feel the 'path of least /no resistance that we strive for. At first it is 'false' but in time with practice the skill of our attacking partner improves and our skill as a defender/blender matches accordingly.
In my experience people who focus on improving their ukemi (not just the rolling) skills, tend to 'get' aikido quicker than those who are looking for the best technique.

regards,
Mark

Mark Freeman
04-24-2006, 10:42 AM
Has anyone else been doing training and had moments where you couldn't tell where attack and attacker ended, and you began?

dave

The more I practice the more it happens, and not just on a physical level. Recently it has happened on the mental/( spiritual? ) level, it doesn't last for long as it is when I take a full on attack, enter and throw all in one move. At that moment there is no separation, I have felt the mind of the attacker and my own for one brief moment to be in accord. Short but very very sweet :)

regards,
Mark

Kevin Leavitt
04-24-2006, 02:23 PM
Interesting you bring that up (no separation). My training partner and I were talking about this somewhat on Saturday. It might be a little different than on the philosophical level as we were going hard at it grappling...but...

We noticed that when we first started training a while ago that when someone was dominate the other was submissive (uke/nage). The dominate guy was always attacking and the submissive guy was always defending. It was pretty cut and dry at that skill level.

We noticed the other day, that we no longer really concern ourselves as much with defense, it just sort of becomes instinctual, relegated the subconscious. So, both of us now are always setting up the next move and attacking even if we are in the defense.

Now that I think about it, I think it all kind of works like this. When we first start we don't understand the basics of kamae. Where to stand, where to move. As we get better, these things become intrinsic. Before long we things slow down, we see more, and we are able to anticipate or respond more appropriately to an attack.

So it would stand to reason, that as we gain experience and skill that these things would come together and we would not consciously know where the beginning and end were!

Erick Mead
04-24-2006, 11:23 PM
Ah, now we are getting to the nub of it, for me early on in my aikido practice, the uke side of practice felt like where the real 'art' of aikido lay. Many's the time when I am trying to figure out what a student is doing wrong with their technique, I take ukemi for him or her to feel the problem. Then it is usually perfectly apparent. I show the opening to the reversal, that one is then closed (promptly opening two more, usually, from overcompensating) And so it goes. . .

Cordially,
Erick Mead

sullivanw
04-25-2006, 01:18 AM
Thank you, gentlemen, for creating such an engrossing thread.

-Will

Erick Mead
04-25-2006, 11:22 AM
I don't feel physical training is irrational; it merely defies rational description. That's different. See, despite my love of rationality, I have never thought irrational was a bad word -- any more than rational is a supremely good word. There are some very ill, crazy people whose reasoning cannot be faulted in the least syllogism, but the asssumptions from which that flawless logic proceeds are really screwed up. The Unabomber is one of those.

"Self"-defense focuses on the subjective element of one side of a physical confrontation. Reason focuses on the abstracted modelling of any situation. Intuition forms instantaneous conclusions from precognitive sensory impressions in ways that reasoned abstraction cannot possibly match in efficiency. But it is like a dog or monkey, it eagerly enjoys training, and needs training to be very effective, but is not inherently driven to be refined on its own. Has anyone else been doing training and had moments where you couldn't tell where attack and attacker ended, and you began? The temptation I feel in "Self"-defense, and see in much of its teaching to others is to become, on a very small scale, all-powerful ("Your Kung-Fu is weak, little man!) :D and in a sense immune to the participatory reality of conflict, to dictate the outcome myself. It is, at that small scale, the wish "to be like God."

A physical confrontation is not merely subjective, -- there is a another participant, whose activity -- cannot really be ignored. A physical confrontation is not rational, but not in that there is no "reason" for it or that it senseless, or pointless. Physical confrontation is not rational because it is not an abstract, it is exceedingly concrete.

Reason can expand the bounds of truth from a foundation in concrete truth, but reason works from assumptions about the basic truth -- it doesn't provide a foundation for it. Reasoning from erroneuous assumptions just gets highly accurate, erroneous results. Reason is objective.

Irrational and intuitive are closely allied words. Just like reason can be founded on, and support, either truth or error, so can irrational intuition leap into unanticipated concrete truth or into a whacko bottomless abyss. Non-reason is subjective.

Truth is thus apart from reason or non-reason. Truth is neither objective nor subjective. Truth is apart from self and apart from not-self.

Because physical confrontation is irreducibly concrete, we experience it as inherently true. I participate and have effect on its reality, but I do not unilaterally control it. Surfing is similar, and provokes some related wisdom. " I am not the wave. I do not control the wave. I only control my relationship to the wave."

This, I think, explains the strange fascination human beings have for war and fighting. They find truth there that is often hard to find elsewhere.

As truth becomes harder to find elsewhere, and life becomes ever more abstract in its day-to-day incidents I would expect more people to resort to physicality, and even violence, as their fall-back, not so much because they are so morally weak, but because they are starved for truth.

There is a Stan Rogers song along these lines "The Mary Ellen Carter," about a crew raising their sunken ship against all odds, simply because they loved her. I wish I could give sense of the rousing tune. It's really great. And you, to whom adversity has dealt a final blow,
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!

Rise again, rise again,
Tho' your heart, it be broken, your life about to end,
No matter what you've lost -- be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter: rise again. For this reason, I think that aikido holds a special place and purpose in the times to come.

As O-Sensei, I believe, intended, we make a place for that truth, to bring healing with and through its very capacity to hurt, as the medicine that cures can also poison, without diminishing its native power.

The expansion of aikido around the world, is a matter, to me, of some special grace. I can and have traveled half-way around the planet and found groups of people who will accept me truly, though we share no common tongue, no common culture and no common faith, in ways that are not true in many, if any, other settings.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Mark Freeman
04-25-2006, 02:08 PM
Another good post Erick,

Truth is thus apart from reason or non-reason. Truth is neither objective nor subjective. Truth is apart from self and apart from not-self.

Is this really True?? (sorry I couldn't help myself ) ;)

Because physical confrontation is irreducibly concrete, we experience it as inherently true. I participate and have effect on its reality, but I do not unilaterally control it. Surfing is similar, and provokes some related wisdom. " I am not the wave. I do not control the wave. I only control my relationship to the wave."

This, I think, explains the strange fascination human beings have for war and fighting. They find truth there that is often hard to find elsewhere.

As truth becomes harder to find elsewhere, and life becomes ever more abstract in its day-to-day incidents I would expect more people to resort to physicality, and even violence, as their fall-back, not so much because they are so morally weak, but because they are starved for truth.


Agreed, also another reason possibly is that war and fighting involve fear, and fear is an intense emotion that when felt certainly makes one feel more 'alive'. Perhaps when death is close life tastes sweet? is this true?

Modern living attempts in many ways to make us safe, we try and protect ourselves, and in doing so remove ourselves from reality, which in turn deadens our senses. We'd rather watch celebrities living out their pitiful little dramas on the tube, than go out and experience life in all its good and bad glory.
Whoops, started to step on a soap box.. get down quick mark before you put your foot in it!

For this reason, I think that aikido holds a special place and purpose in the times to come.

If I were not a 'committed secularist' I would 'pray' for this to be so :) In place of that I will do what I can to spread the word.

Cheers
Mark

Erick Mead
04-25-2006, 02:32 PM
An apropos item as to the change caused by dwelling upon self in matters of violence:

http://www.livescience.com/othernews/060424_extreme_action.html

Thoughts of Mortality Turn Pacifists into Killers
By LiveScience Staff
posted: 24 April 2006
...Young adults in Iran tend to support martyrdom more when they are thinking about their own mortality.
Likewise, Americans are more in favor of extreme military intervention when they are contemplating their own deaths.

In a new study, 40 Iranian college students ... A similar survey was done on 127 students at Rutgers University in New Jersey ...

[Iranian students] heard statements supporting and opposing suicide bombing attacks on U.S. targets. .. [Rutgers students] were asked whether they support extreme military actions such as the use of nuclear and chemical weapons and pre-emptive strikes ...

A portion of the test subjects who were also asked to ponder their own deaths were more likely to favor the bombings and extreme measures ...

"Despite their differences, Americans and Iranians have something in common—thoughts of death increase the willingness of people from both nations to inflict harm on citizens of the other nation," the authors write.

Erick Mead
04-25-2006, 02:42 PM
Truth is thus apart from reason or non-reason. Truth is neither objective nor subjective. Truth is apart from self and apart from not-self.Is this really True?? (sorry I couldn't help myself ) ;) For this reason, I think that aikido holds a special place and purpose in the times to come. If I were not a 'committed secularist' I would 'pray' for this to be so :) In place of that I will do what I can to spread the word. Atheists ... foxholes ... :D Sorry, couldn't help myself either.

Who knows? Someone may be listening.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-25-2006, 02:56 PM
Erick, you said:
"A physical confrontation is not merely subjective, -- there is a another participant, whose activity -- cannot really be ignored. A physical confrontation is not rational, but not in that there is no "reason" for it or that it senseless, or pointless. Physical confrontation is not rational because it is not an abstract, it is exceedingly concrete.
Reason can expand the bounds of truth from a foundation in concrete truth, but reason works from assumptions about the basic truth -- it doesn't provide a foundation for it. Reasoning from erroneuous assumptions just gets highly accurate, erroneous results. Reason is objective.
Irrational and intuitive are closely allied words. Just like reason can be founded on, and support, either truth or error, so can irrational intuition leap into unanticipated concrete truth or into a whacko bottomless abyss. Non-reason is subjective.
Truth is thus apart from reason or non-reason. Truth is neither objective nor subjective. Truth is apart from self and apart from not-self."

I can not agree with your conclusions, and I submit that your mode of thought, though rational, is causing you to miss a broad point.

The concept of truth is an abstraction. To conclude that 'concrete' equals 'true' is to fail to account for point of view, frame of reference, bias, sampling error, ad nauseum. Further, to state that intuition and irrationality are related is to give primacy to our rational minds over our sensate selves. Grave mistake if you are looking for 'something else' in aikido. Unless I am wrong again and you seek to exclude both reason and nonreason, so you can have Satori?

Irrational connotes erratic, insane, antisocial. Nonrational is a better word. Intuition is who we are as human animals. Psychological studies, with good scientific controls, have shown that people
derive highly complex rule driven patterns in nature - long before they are consciously aware of what they 'know'. They can act and predict based on this intuition as well - can you define in precise terms how electricity works? - better answer 'no', the finest minds in science can not, but we know how to Use electricity.

http://www.greatspeculations.com/brett/learning_to_trade.htm
(search down to 'implicit learning: a new perspective)

I really didn't like failing math tests because I didn't show the work. Intuition and irrational are not closely related at all. The 'something else' in aikido may come where reason fails - because - "To love your enemy" is a stupid thing to say, unless that love is leading me to embrace him under his sword cut and guide him gently to earth for a stern talk about 'doing unto others as you would have them do unto you' :)

dave

PS - I'm feeling the training key up - I irritate so many people, especially my Senseis!, but I hope you will continue to interact with me. dk

Erick Mead
04-25-2006, 05:18 PM
The concept of truth is an abstraction.
On this we must radically, although, respectfully, disagree. Sartre took this position. "Truth is subjective." he held that turht is the "progressive disclosure of Being." "Freedom is existence, and in it existence precedes essence."
He contended that man has no "nature," no underlying truth in his being, which is, in any meaningful way, independent of his choices in living. That man is what he chooses to be and nothing more.
Of course, this radical idea of existence in freedom then is emptied of all meaning. Choices have no standard or ground of value. Freedom -- my choice -- is the only value, and subject only to other competing choices. My choice to save a baby drowning in a pool or to chuck the baby into the pool in the first place, are equally free choices, and hence equally valued. Babies, of course, being very limited in their ability to effect competing choices.
To conclude that 'concrete' equals 'true' is to fail to account for point of view, frame of reference, bias, sampling error, ad nauseum. To state that there is truth is a different thing than saying the we know it, or how we know it.
Further, to state that intuition and irrationality are related is to give primacy to our rational minds over our sensate selves. Only if I devalue irrationality, which I don't. I am too big a Monty Python fan for that. (Please don't get me started -- nudge, nudge.)
Grave mistake if you are looking for 'something else' in aikido. Unless I am wrong again and you seek to exclude both reason and nonreason, so you can have Satori? That would be Buddhism, which negates both. A'm Catholic -- we embrace both. Maybe its the same thing. Hard to tell.
Intuition is who we are as human animals. Psychological studies, with good scientific controls, have shown that people derive highly complex rule driven patterns in nature - long before they are consciously aware of what they 'know'. Okay -- highly precise intuitives, these psychologists.
They can act and predict based on this intuition as well - can you define in precise terms how electricity works? It's magic -- just like aikido. Realy, intuiton, irratinality and rationality go hand in hand. You need the engine and you need the fuel. Light a pool of gasoline and it is very impressive but does little work. Feed it in drabs through the clunky boring motor and you get to Cleveland. Why you want to be there is any body's guess. To be human we must not only understand it to be right it must feel right as well.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Mark Freeman
04-26-2006, 05:40 AM
Atheists ... foxholes ... :D Sorry, couldn't help myself either.

Erick, if I knew what you meant, I'm sure I'd laugh :confused:

Good to note from one of your previous posts that you are a Python fan, life cannot be taken too seriously... can it? ;)

Cheers,

Mark

Erick Mead
04-26-2006, 09:33 AM
Erick, if I knew what you meant, I'm sure I'd laugh :confused: "There are no atheists in foxholes."

Attributed to an U.S. Army broadcaster in WWII. Essentially, in times of trial sufficiently tough, everyone will take Pascal's wager.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

billybob
04-26-2006, 09:59 AM
Erick,

I don't have any more pokes and prods. Pity!

I will say that Sartre appealled to me greatly until I heard how he answered the following question from his long time partner - "Jean Paul, how is it that you bed so many young women?" His reply was "I lie." Doesn't seem quite fair does it?

I've read some pivotal books, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn is a must for all seekers. Recently I read "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. Easy to read, written by a journalist, this book deals with recent discoveries in how our brains work. Intuition is not magic. It is an heuristic process guided primarily by our limbic, or midbrain, and while not precise in the linear sense, it is quite powerful in a way akin to that of calculus over addition and subtraction.

Since I read Kuhn I try to believe nothing. If I know what is true already - how can I learn anything new? I have experiences, and I put them in various paradigms, but I try to keep my thinking 'unhardened' so I can learn new things. I do find that I do have one belief at least - healing is stronger than fear. I have to have this one because I want to get over my physical and emotional injuries, and I have to feel it is possible or I can't bear the pain.

I am pleased that during this discussion I have not grown frustrated with you, but have gained more and more respect. That seems like good training to me.

Your thoughts welcome as always.

dave

Erick Mead
04-26-2006, 10:09 AM
A brief aside as to Pascal's wager:

For those who don't know what that is: If there is no God, praying doesn't hurt, and if there is a God, then prayer may help, so the short odds are to bet on praying.

I actually got to thinking about this more in light of the Self-defense theme. I find this particularly interesting in light of the recent study cited above about people's reaction (while in the safety of their normal lives) considering an abstract image of their own death, as opposed to people faced with its concrete reality.

Aikidoka, I thought, would probably not replicate the the results of the study if asked the same questions. Then I asked myself, "Why do I think that?"

Pascal's wager is basically invoked when the concrete reality, a likely unavoidable death, requires acknowledgement that your own resources will not carry the day. Alone, in the twilight of material hope, when you realize you can no longer prevail alone, people instinctively cry out for help beyond Self, even when their abstract mind may hold dearly to the contrary. This is about as far from "self-defense" as I think it is possible to come.

It is odd, that we should most cherish the tales of those who have come through improbable peril. Plenty of people die anyway, so the focus on the hope rather than the horror is worth noting. It is not that people who survive (even those who pray) in these circumstance give up and become passive pleaders for aid, but they draw upon resources in fact beyond them, in order to do so.

If you told me twenty years ago that I could step into a full-on attack with hulking guy swinging a baseball bat at my head and have him hit the ground with me barely touching him, I'd have laughed, thinking, "I'm bookworm geek and there's no way I'll ever be that strong." Now I know it is far less the physical training than it is the will and the grace to simply do it.

To overcome the fearful retreat from aggression and simply enter deeply in -- let him come where he wants to go, and then no farther. I think we train, far less in technique, than in finding those resources beyond Self to just go in and do what must be done. Good aikido is so effortless because it reaches places where there is no effort -- we know in some place what needs doing, we just ordinarily cower from doing it. Technique and training overcomes this check to our native instincts to actually do it.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Mark Freeman
04-26-2006, 11:26 AM
"There are no atheists in foxholes."

Attributed to an U.S. Army broadcaster in WWII. Essentially, in times of trial sufficiently tough, everyone will take Pascal's wager.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Now I can :D When I was much younger, sometimes when I was in church I would get an overwhealming attack of the giggles, and I often thought if god is god he must have a sense of humour, and if he doesn't have a sense of humour then he's not much of a god ( I was quite young ). I guess if he does exist he will probably look kindly on all the feverishly praying non believers in mortal danger.

It is odd, that we should most cherish the tales of those who have come through improbable peril. Plenty of people die anyway, so the focus on the hope rather than the horror is worth noting. It is not that people who survive (even those who pray) in these circumstance give up and become passive pleaders for aid, but they draw upon resources in fact beyond them, in order to do so.

Are the resources not beyond them but within them?

To overcome the fearful retreat from aggression and simply enter deeply in -- let him come where he wants to go, and then no farther. I think we train, far less in technique, than in finding those resources beyond Self to just go in and do what must be done. Good aikido is so effortless because it reaches places where there is no effort -- we know in some place what needs doing, we just ordinarily cower from doing it. Technique and training overcomes this check to our native instincts to actually do it.

I really like what you say here, it is the aikido I am practicing.

Good thought provoking stuff as usual Erick, thanks.

Cheers,

Mark

Erick Mead
04-26-2006, 11:43 AM
I've read some pivotal books, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn is a must for all seekers.
Since I read Kuhn I try to believe nothing. If I know what is true already - how can I learn anything new? I have experiences, and I put them in various paradigms, but I try to keep my thinking 'unhardened' so I can learn new things. I do find that I do have one belief at least - healing is stronger than fear.
Kuhn is in the school of phenomenology, and the concept itself is one of those paradigm shifts. Edmund Husserl was the primary developer of this line of thought, which departs from the anaytical tradition, which asked, "How do we experience something?" Husserl asked, "What do we experience?"

Phenomenology is a method of investigation, but also a set of tenets, with some serious underlying assertions. It proceeds from ordinary, not abstract experience, and thus is accesible to both intellectual and common persons alike. This body of thought is antithetical to Sartre's disembodied, antiseptic notion of freedom, In examining experience, it seems we find that some ethics or significance is embodied in our experience or our actions, whether we choose them for these reasons or not.

Some time ago I published in one thread my own (feeble) exercise in this kind of examination regarding surfing. It is the source of the points made earlier in the context of our examination of "self-defense" about self v. wave.

It is more epigrammatic than analytical. (I have an epigrammatic mind. It only comprehends small grammar). The point comes in the process of describing the actual experience related.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=115177&postcount=54

One can do this for almost any activity that you understand fairly well. It is sometimes surprising to see the lessons implicit in the simplest of observations about what we do and what is going on as we do it. It is both immediate in the sense that the reader can in some sense "experience" that activity imaginatively, and reflective, in that every action, event or circumstance takes on significance beyond its mere appearance.

The late Pope John Paul II was a preeminent exponent of this school of thought, both in secular and religious philosophy, before and during his papacy. He rigorously demonstrated the use of this methodology for theological purposes in his "Theology of the Body" a series of quite short Wednesday audience addresses. They concern the experience of spirituality and ethics in personal and physical intimacy. This continually surprising Pope embraced both ancient and modern ways with simultaneous facility -- they read not too differently from an extended blog. The theological points aside, it is worth reading to see how he uses the method to look at ordinary experiences.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2TBIND.HTM

Much of what he discussed has relevance by analogy for the ethics of conflict, because of the physicality of embodied intent (if not its purpose) which is likewise so physical and so profound in its personal and social consequences. The analogy is particularly relevant in the extended examination of the implications of selfish desires in intimacy, when considered in light of our present discussion of self-defense.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Mark Freeman
04-27-2006, 07:43 AM
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=115177&postcount=54

Just read Erick's Surfing is life list in the above link, as someone who likes to ride the waves ( I body/boogie board - 'floating shark biscuits' as the stand up boys like to call us ), I really enjoyed the list, internally smiling at many of them.

Thanks for that moment Erick,

Mark

Erick Mead
04-27-2006, 10:37 AM
( I body/boogie board - 'floating shark biscuits' as the stand up boys like to call us ), I really enjoyed the list, internally smiling at many of them.Ditto on the boogie boards -- I did the stand-up bit while in Hawaii and the waves made it more tempting, but I was a competitive swimmer at an earlier age, and being IN the water is so much better. You can't really launch off the top of the double peak reflected wave shorebreak at Makaha on a long-board.

Plus -- they are just too scared to surf like real men.

:D

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Mark Freeman
04-27-2006, 11:32 AM
Plus -- they are just too scared to surf like real men.

:D

Spoken like a true sponger!! :D