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Boontom
06-20-2006, 10:34 PM
Hi, im interested in knowing, just what is the spiritual side of Aikido? I am a Christian, I dont plan to totally switch my beliefs, but to learn and understand the beliefs of the spiritual side of Aikido. I also believe that understanding the spiritual side will help build a level of maturity and respect for Aikido greater than I have now. I have heard of a belief that all people have chi which is energy from within, and everything has it, kinda like the force, from what I understood when I was told about this. I am unsure whether chi is something I believe in or not. If someone could explain for me the spiritual side of Aikido then that would be great.

statisticool
06-20-2006, 10:59 PM
From what I understand from The Spirit of Aikido, by Kiss. Ueshiba, aikido is a physical expression of yin and yang with its omote and ura movements.

From studying tai chi ch'uan, which also has emphasis on yin and yang, I came across a few books comparing Jesus to tai chi (tai chi is the Chinese name for the yin-yang symbol) which you may enjoy reading. I don't recall titles for these books, but you may be able to find them in a search.


Justin

statisticool
06-20-2006, 11:15 PM
Also, non-aggression and non-violence are emphasized, which are typically emphasized in religions.

Boontom
06-21-2006, 02:18 AM
I see, I am very unfamiliar in the asian/eastern religions, Im going to learn as much as I can, I wont worship the religion's gods, but i can still learn about them. :D

Mark Uttech
06-21-2006, 05:27 AM
Training in mindfulness (constant awareness) is a moving meditation and actually reinforces
whatever religious belief you have. If you are a Christian, it makes you a better Christian, etc.

Robert Rumpf
06-21-2006, 07:13 AM
You might try: The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido, by William Gleason

Rob

dps
06-21-2006, 07:33 AM
Also, non-aggression and non-violence are emphasized, which are typically emphasized in religions.

Do not agree. Aggression and violence are part of our human nature. People use religion as a justification for thier aggression and violence. Spiritualty is the personal relationship with that which is greater than you and religion is the organized whorship of your spirituality. You do not need to be any particuliar religious belief to study and understand Aikido because the ideas of peace, love, compassion for your fellow humans, etc is prevelant in all the major religions/philosophies whether they are of eastern or western origin.

Please excuse any mispelling, spell checker was not working.

Nick Pagnucco
06-21-2006, 07:48 AM
I would recommend the blogs of Ellis Amdur on Aikido Journal... especially the "Aikido is Three Peaches" series. These are a good primer on what O-sensei's view of aikido was. (Not the end words, but a good beginning

Keep in mind that 'spirituality' in aikido is a very diverse thing. O-sensei was a member of a neo-shinto sect, and he happily mixes jargon from several different religions to make his point. As he doesn't always explain where he's getting this jargon, his writings often can look a tad... well, nuts to a western reader. But despite his religious beliefs, O-sensei never insisted it was a shinto art or something.

Other Japanese aikidoka, like Chiba Shihan, link aikido to Zen, and they do just fine. And others, like Shioda Koncho, were atheists and they did just fine too. My sensei, a 6th dan, is a deacon of his church (and his wife is the pastor).

Even more varied than what people think constitutes 'good aikido technique' and what people think constitutes 'proper aikido philosophy.'

oh, and dont worry about 'believing in ki.' what ki is and is not is an even more confusing argument.

dps
06-21-2006, 08:01 AM
oh, and dont worry about 'believing in ki.' what ki is and is not is an even more confusing argument.

And could lead to another thread of over a thousand posts. Not a pretty thing. :D :D :D

Erick Mead
06-21-2006, 09:09 AM
There are many riches of spirit to be found in Aikido for those willing to seek them, whether Christian or otherwise. I will suggest a few things and sources here to further your interest

The words of the founder regarding Christianity are appropriate here, given your initial post. Andr Nocquet studied with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, in1955 as uchi-deshi ("live-in student"). Noquet later became president of the European Aikido Federation. He recounts this in Aiki News #85 (Summer 1990):
Ueshiba Sensei had a great deal of respect for Christ. I was living in a four-mat room in the dojo and he would knock on the door and enter. He would sit down beside me and there was a portrait of Jesus Christ. He would place his hands together in a gesture of respect. I asked him one day if there wasn't a similarity between his prophecies and those of Christ. He answered, "Yes, because Jesus said his technique was love and I, Morihei, also say that my technique is love. Jesus created a religion, but I didn't. Aikido is an art rather than a religion. But if you practice my Aikido a great deal you will be a better Christian. Kotodama is perhaps the most arcane, and least understood element of O-Sensei's spiritual practice related to Aikido, especialyl for Westerners since it is intricately interwoven into the structure of Japanese as a language system. Kotodama is a native Shinto system of devotional or spiritual practice attributing metaphysical action to word-sounds (kotodama="word-spirit") I agree that Sensei Gleason's book is perhaps the best attempt to lay out these ideas for the Western reader. Peter Goldsbury's article "Touching the Absolute" cited bleow is also helpful.

Kotodama has both analogous (similar in form) as well as homologous (similar in origin) connection to the pagan and Christian idea of Logos, through Shingon ("True Word") Buddhism and the Silk Road, as O-Sensei himself acknowledged in "Takemusu-Aiki: Aikido-Kaiso-Ueshiba-Morihei-Sensei-Kojutsu," Hideo Takahashi, ed., 1976, p. 86; attributed and translated by Peter Goldsbury, "Touching the Absolute: Aikido vs. Religion and Philosophy" Aiki Journal, http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=2.:
""Kirisuto ga hajme ni kotoba ariki' to itta sono kotodama ga SU de arimasu. Sore ga kotodama no hajimari de aru." (In the beginning was the Word', spoken by Christ is this kotodama SU. This is the origin of kotodama.)" Lastly, you should consider the significance of O-Sensei's Doka "Songs of the Way" that illustrate in poetical or epigraphic form important principles about aikido and it pracitce and applciation ot larger concerns. A convenient source for the pre-war and post-war doka can be found here: http://www.aikidofaq.com/doka.html

Notable for the devout Christian, especially in light of the connections between the practice of kotodama and the idea of Logos are these Doka (with romaji and English translation according to John Stevens "The Essence of Aikido"):
Chihayaburu
kami no shikumi no
aiki ju
hachidairiki no
kami no samuhara

Brave and intrepid,
the cross of harmony (love)
is an instrument of kami
Utilize the Eight Great Powers
the Divine Plan [for regeneration]

Uruwashiki
konoametsuchi no
misugata wa
nushi no tsukurishi
ikka narikeri

How beautiful,
this form of
heaven and earth --
all created by the Lord,
we are members of one family. (Stevens notes that the kanji read as "Lord" is also the root kotodama "SU")
Su no mioya
shiai no kokoro
ōmisora
yo no itonami no
moto no narinuru

SU, Exalted Father
with a heart of love
as vast as the sky--
it is the source of all that
functions in this world. The Aikido FAQ version ( which is the translation of Abe Sensei) has this:
The spiritual essence of the Heavens and Earth
Congealing becomes the Way of the Cross-Shape +
Harmony and Joy make up the Floating Bridge
That binds this world together. I will leave you to ponder the significance of this in light of traditional Christian theology.

Lastly, I leave you with these doka from the two sources I have given, which despite my ecumenical gloss, is the true heart of O-Sensei's teaching, and the only thing you really need to know to embrace the spiritual richness of aikido:Kōjō wa
hiji mo keiko mo
araba koso
gokui nozomuna
mae zo mietari.

Progress comes to
those who train in the
inner and outer factors.
Do not chase after "secret techniques,"
for everything is right before your eyes!
In these teachings listen most
To the rhythm of the strike and thrust
To train in the basics (omote)
Is to practice the very secrets of the art.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Jorge Garcia
06-21-2006, 09:22 AM
David,
I recommend the Spirit of Aikido. Most things written about spirituality in Aikido and the philosophy of Aikido are very confusing to the western reader. It would take an education in eastern philosophy to understand them. I have found the Spirit of Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba the easiest and most concise thing to read. I have read it once a year since I have been in this art and every year, it makes more and more sense. This year, since I have so many new students, I am planning a Sunday discussion class on it which we have done in the past. I am working on a study guide for the book that will be available for free in a few weeks to any one who wants one. It's what I will give my students for the Sunday class we are having. I am doing this especially for my students because I have become convinced that practicing the form of Aikido without understanding what the Founder intended its meaning to be will quickly cease being Aikido. It's the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training.
Best wishes,

dps
06-21-2006, 09:40 AM
Excellent post Eric.

Jorge, you are absolutely right, just as you need to understand the teachings of Jesus to practice Christianity,you need to understand the teachings of O'Sensei to practice Aikido.

Without the spirituality you are only practicing Aikido techniques.

Guilty Spark
06-21-2006, 01:06 PM
Do not agree. Aggression and violence are part of our human nature. People use religion as a justification for their aggression and violence. Spirituality is the personal relationship with that which is greater than you and religion is the organized worship of your spirituality. You do not need to be any particular religious belief to study and understand Aikido because the ideas of peace, love, compassion for your fellow humans, etc is prevalent in all the major religions/philosophies whether they are of eastern or western origin.

Please excuse any misspelling, spell checker was not working.

I've never heard a better (nor more simple) explanation for spirituality and religion than this. Often I've said I am spiritual but not religious and people look at me like I have a toaster on my head, they can't fathom the concept. Do you mind if I use it?

I enjoyed Tom Brown Jr's book "Awakening Spirits", I found it does a good job at explaining spirituality and religion. There is a physical world and a spiritual world (heaven, nirvana etc..) Different religions are simply different paths someone takes when attempting to travel from the physical world to the spiritual world. All religions are basically the same. There is often a savor or "be that guy"type figure. We do different practices to make us closer to the spiritual world- praying, singing in a church, fasting, dancing around a fire, sweat lodges, washing out feet, vows of celibacy, chastity and poverty. All different gimmicks (though thats probably a poor choice of words) to help us reach the spiritual world/heaven.

Like David points out, spirituality is believing in something greater, and religion is the organized worship. I'm not religious at all and I always thought it was either you believe in God or you don't. Reading up on Aikido and the spirituality behind it I've come to realize it's not just black or white and it's possible to believe in something greater without having to sign up for a specific religion.

You don't need to switch anything Boontom don't worry :)

Kevin Leavitt
06-21-2006, 02:33 PM
Grant I agree, to me, it is not black or white too! I am one of those non-religous spritual types. Try to not be defined by a dogma or creed other than love, happiness, or compassion.

Don_Modesto
06-21-2006, 02:47 PM
I have found the Spirit of Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba the easiest and most concise thing to read.

Bearing in mind that it may be quite far afield of what the founder himself intended. Recall that it fell to UK to jettison Osensei's spirituality from the art in order to make it more palatable to GHQ.

As for myself, the single clearest explication of aikido morality, if not spirituality, per se, that I've found is Saotome's Aikido and the Harmony of Nature.

After that, what really gave me the right perspetive for understanding Osensei's cryptic comments were Abe's Weaving the Mantra and several articles by such scholars as Alan Gappard, Fabio Rambelli, et al.

FWIW, and that may not be much, I tend to think that the spirituality Osensei intended aikido to embody is pretty much dead, dessicated, and blown away. We aiki folk like to babble about it, but over and against the living entity it was for the founder, aikido spirituality is pretty bleak indeed.

Then again, it is ever the project of the practitioner to vivify his art, so caveat emptor.

Don_Modesto
06-21-2006, 02:52 PM
...just as you need to understand the teachings of Jesus to practice Christianity,you need to understand the teachings of O'Sensei to practice Aikido.

Ya think?!

Kisshomaru wasn't too enthusiastic about Stanley Pranin delving into the life and times of his father, so it seems he actively didn't want us to understand the teachings of the founder.

Still, he has been the leading cheerleader of aikido to date.

Who'da thunk it?

dps
06-21-2006, 05:03 PM
Don



Jorge, you are absolutely right, just as you need to understand the teachings of Jesus to practice Christianity,you need to understand the teachings of O'Sensei to practice Aikido.

Maybe I should of wrote" just as you need to understand the teachings of Jesus to practice the Christianity he taught, you need to understand the teachings of O'Sensei to practice the Aikido he taught."

What the followers of Jesus taught was not exactly what he himself taught (the same could be said for any religion). I believe what Jesus taught is not what is practiced under the names of Christianity we have today.
Similar to what is happening to what O'Sensei taught as Aikido?

David

dps
06-21-2006, 05:46 PM
Do you mind if I use it?


I do not mind at all.
I wear a white Hamilton Beach/ Proctor Silex Model #22450 two slice toaster. :D

Erick Mead
06-21-2006, 06:01 PM
FWIW, and that may not be much, I tend to think that the spirituality Osensei intended aikido to embody is pretty much dead, dessicated, and blown away. We aiki folk like to babble about it, but over and against the living entity it was for the founder, aikido spirituality is pretty bleak indeed.

Then again, it is ever the project of the practitioner to vivify his art, so caveat emptor. It is said that O-Sensei performed Chinkon Kishin as the beginning of his every practice, which most dojos incorporate in their own warmups to some degree.

Has it not occurred to anyone else, that O-Sensei's Chinkon Kishin did not stop a the beginning of practice, but at its end?

As he said (which I quoted above and I believe from my own experience), the whole spirituality of aikido lives, breathes and is communicated in the movement of the body that we practice.
Not only is O-Sensei's spirituality not dead -- it has been practiced and transmitted everyday, around the world, continuously for the forty-odd years since his death.

The orthodox Christian beleives that the Divine has identified with the mundane, and thus redeemed it of death. The orthodox Jew believes that a human being's role is a divine mandate (mitzvah) of "tikkun" -- repair of the world. Shinto teaches that Heaven and Earth are ultimately One. O-Sensei taught that human spirits may become part of the "Floating Bridge" connecting them -- neither part wholly of the one nor yet wholly of the other but connecting them both.

Remember this the next time you are doing tenchi-nage, and tell me that the spirtuality of aikido is dead. Aikido merely does without need of labels or names -- even though they are there -- in plain sight -- there are no secrets.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Boontom
06-21-2006, 08:52 PM
so in a summed up version, tell me how would I take part in the spiritual side of Aikido? from the different views, etc. I got that just training in Aikido is taking part in the spiritual side. Also can someone explain to me the 7th Dan, 4th Dan, etc. all that stuff, are they just Aikido ranks?

Guilty Spark
06-21-2006, 09:02 PM
Grant I agree, to me, it is not black or white too! I am one of those non-religious spiritual types. Try to not be defined by a dogma or creed other than love, happiness, or compassion.

And being a warrior ;)

Sadly I find the most anti-spiritual arguments ("thats just stupid") come from religious peoples. Like the fact that someone believing in something else somehow takes away from their chosen belief.

I see that a lot in martial arts. People jump at discrediting another martial art instead of just saying hey thats different good luck with that.

I'm not sure what the more learned aikido readers will think of this book but I personally found
Way of Aikido, The: Life Lessons from an American Sensei by George Leonard to be a very good read. One of my favorite books. (though take into consideration I'm new to all things aikido)
It's a basic look at Aikido and how you can apply the principals (I would say spirituality) to every day life, both for aikido students AND non aikido students.
I've read it twice and I've lent it to 3 other guys at work who enjoyed it (and decided to get their own copy to pass it on). Within the first 20 pages you'll read a very aikido way of dealing with verbal arguments.
Anyways, shameless plug there, that book might give you a good beginners look at the spiritual part of things without going too deep into it.

Boontom
06-21-2006, 09:12 PM
Thank you, that helps alot. :) I'll look to find that book. :D

statisticool
06-21-2006, 10:44 PM
People use religion as a justification for thier aggression and violence.


And some use "part of our human nature" for a justification. ;)

IMO, me saying religions "typically emphasize" non-violence is still correct. Whether people practice what they preach is another story all together.


Justin

dps
06-22-2006, 08:55 AM
IMO, me saying religions "typically emphasize" non-violence is still correct.
Justin
My apologies, I misread what you wrote :sorry:

David

Boontom
06-22-2006, 09:26 AM
I went to Barnes and Nobles last night, thinking I wasnt gunna find anything on Aikido, but there is a whole martial arts section and I found books on Aikido, the spiritual side, training books, etc. there were some samurai books, Bushido, Five Rings, etc. I was happy to have found all those books, even found a Ninjitsu book covering the Art of Invisibility, that looked pretty cool. :) The Life Lessons Of An American Sensei was not for sale at the store, but the employee I asked for the book said it can be bought on the store's site online.

Mark Freeman
06-22-2006, 10:30 AM
While helpfull books on the suject are being recommended, I would like to offer up "Awareness" by the late Anthony De Mello. He was a Jesuit, but not bound by the thinking of 'his own team', he was interested in all paths to enlightenment. This little book was one of the most profound I have ever come across. Although there is no explicit connection to aikido, the connection is there in the focus on awareness itself.

For me the spiritual side of aikido does not exist in writings or words, it exists in the truth of the movements, deep connections can be made with another and oneself when performing the art. The more I practice the more I see/feel.

regards,

Mark

Erick Mead
06-22-2006, 03:35 PM
I went to Barnes and Nobles last night, thinking I wasnt gunna find anything on Aikido, but there is a whole martial arts section and I found books on Aikido, the spiritual side, training books, etc. there were some samurai books, Bushido, Five Rings, etc.

Barnes and Noble has stock copies of Yagyu Munenori's "The Sword and the Mind" which is paired in at least one edition with Takuan's letter to Munenori on the immovable mind (fudoshin). These are must reading, and give a really excellent sense of the embodiment of spirituality in the physical practice and the means of pursuing it - especially fudoshin and katsu jinken (life-giving sword).

These should be read closely with O-Sensei's Doka, especially those on water and fire and on the mythological sword of Susanowo, Kusanagi no tsurugi (whose chief magical attribute was to control the direction of wind (i.e.- ki), thus, enabling him to control a consuming fire and drive his opponent away.)

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Don_Modesto
06-22-2006, 03:52 PM
What the followers of Jesus taught was not exactly what he himself taught (the same could be said for any religion). I believe what Jesus taught is not what is practiced under the names of Christianity we have today.
Similar to what is happening to what O'Sensei taught as Aikido?

That puts us on the same page.

Don_Modesto
06-22-2006, 04:14 PM
Has it not occurred to anyone else, that O-Sensei's Chinkon Kishin did not stop a the beginning of practice, but at its end?

It has to PAG who has written a couple of articles on this. They're available at AJ.

As he said (which I quoted above and I believe from my own experience), the whole spirituality of aikido lives, breathes and is communicated in the movement of the body that we practice.

Yeah (queasy wince, here).

That's what the implication is. But Osensei seems to have been practicing a kind of Tantrism which requires initiation and guidance which he didn't provide to his students. I personally disagree that movement alone carries this. Rather, I think we've fallen into formalism absent much of the meaning Osensei was experiencing while doing his aikido.

Remember this the next time you are doing tenchi-nage, and tell me that the spirtuality of aikido is dead.

Post-modernists and the MLA thought they were doing science until the Sokel Hoax. Our own sacred precincts might be similarly misunderstood. Caveat emptor.

Aikido merely does without need of labels or names -- even though they are there -- in plain sight -- there are no secrets.

To those who can see, no doubt.

Thanks for the comment.

dps
06-22-2006, 05:12 PM
That puts us on the same page.

and reading the same book.

Erick Mead
06-22-2006, 05:38 PM
It has to PAG who has written a couple of articles on this. They're available at AJ.

It was a rhetorical question. And I have read some, but not all of Peter's articles, but particularly I have read "Touching the Absolute" which touches on this theme. I have, in any event, read far too much to think that any of my ideas is really my own anyway.

That's what the implication is. Oh .. it is directly expressed, not implied:

In these teachings listen most
To the rhythm of the strike and thrust
To train in the basics (omote)
Is to practice the very secrets of the art.

Progress comes to
those who train in the
inner and outer factors.
Do not chase after "secret techniques,"
for everything is right before your eyes!

But Osensei seems to have been practicing a kind of Tantrism which requires initiation and guidance which he didn't provide to his students. I personally disagree that movement alone carries this. While it is reported that O-Sensei had childhood training in Shingon in Tanabe, which is a form of tantric Buddhism, his emphasis on relating Kojiki and his own Kotodama sytem to his aikido do not support an explicit connection to tantrism. There are deep historical connections between Shingon and Kotodama, it is true, but they are distinct movements in Japan.

Rather, I think we've fallen into formalism absent much of the meaning Osensei was experiencing while doing his aikido.

All human action carries meaning, not just speech, sound or mental image. A converse proposition would be that all meaning may be embodied in human action. If you doubt this -- a simple test -- punch your boss in the face tomorrow morning -- see if he takes your meaning ...

I am of the opinion that precisely this was O-Sensei's spiritual genius moment: to realize that the physical movements of aikido could perform the same metaphysical function ascribed to the physical sounds of kotodama.

And, here we all are ... still doing them.
To those who can see, no doubt.
I am but one of a number of one-eyed beggars ...

I fundamentally disagree with the propostion that the sign does not partake of the signified, and thus all communication is utterly vain, which is part of the point of Sokel's well-placed poke in the MLA's eye. OSensei's form is the content. The thing that is more than it is, is still not other than it is. There is a theological point in there somewhere, I think.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Boontom
06-22-2006, 05:50 PM
I did get some books, Here they are: Musashi's Book Of Five Rings, Bushido, Budo Secrets. My sensei gave me The Sword & The Mind, I havent had a chance to sit down and read it, but im getting around to reading these new books. I believe the Book of Five Rings might be more for Karate, but it doesnt go into any details on techniques so I read it since it is the philosophy of the Greatest Samurai in Japan Miyamoto Musashi.

Don_Modesto
06-24-2006, 12:38 AM
While it is reported that O-Sensei had childhood training in Shingon in Tanabe, which is a form of tantric Buddhism, his emphasis on relating Kojiki and his own Kotodama sytem to his aikido do not support an explicit connection to tantrism. There are deep historical connections between Shingon and Kotodama, it is true, but they are distinct movements in Japan.

Explicit...

Tough criterion when dealing with Osensei, as has been widely acknowledged. In Osensei's thought, one thing is constantly taken to be something else, "I am the universe," e.g. Whether the mountain is the Lotus Sutra or aikido is Kojiki's gods, the pattern is the same. This is how I put it together, anyway.

All human action carries meaning, not just speech, sound or mental image. A converse proposition would be that all meaning may be embodied in human action.

Subject to interpretive training. That's why the first time a Jpn saw chiaroscuro and the handling of light & shadow in Western painting he asked why the subject's face was dirty. This interpretive training is largely absent from aikido. We train. Thats body and maybe something of spirit. But the mind probably isnt all that unified with these. The framework for this is absent.

I am of the opinion that precisely this was O-Sensei's spiritual genius moment: to realize that the physical movements of aikido could perform the same metaphysical function ascribed to the physical sounds of kotodama.

Yup.

I fundamentally disagree with the propostion that the sign does not partake of the signified, and thus all communication is utterly vain...

So...the map IS the territory?

Don't think so myself.

OSensei's form is the content.

Nice aspiration. We disagree as to whether he has actually accomplished this. I don't think so.

dps
06-24-2006, 10:22 PM
"When anybody asks if my Aiki budo principles are taken from religion, I say, ``No.'' My true budo principles enlighten religions and lead them to completion."

From the book, " Aikido" by the Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Jonathan Han
06-24-2006, 10:52 PM
I don't believe there is anything inherent in Aikido that is more spiritual than any other pursuit. I've heard some inspiring lectures and read the books mentioned above but they wouldn't qualify as spiritual experiences from Aikido training. Most of the time in the dojo is spent physically training or making conversations on a social level. Training does give one an opportunity to practice mindfulness and compassion. It brings to the surface our false pride, insecurities, and sadistic tendencies. One could use these moments to gain a deeper understanding and mastery of ourselves. But one shouldn't expect waza training or our teachers to elevate one's spiritual state. In the end, it is always a personal experience independent of the context.

statisticool
06-24-2006, 11:12 PM
I forgot to mention that Advanced Aikido by Phong Tang Dong and Seisler has an interesting chapter on Omoto and aikido philosophy.

graham
06-25-2006, 04:05 AM
Hi, im interested in knowing, just what is the spiritual side of Aikido? I am a Christian, I dont plan to totally switch my beliefs, but to learn and understand the beliefs of the spiritual side of Aikido. I also believe that understanding the spiritual side will help build a level of maturity and respect for Aikido greater than I have now. I have heard of a belief that all people have chi which is energy from within, and everything has it, kinda like the force, from what I understood when I was told about this. I am unsure whether chi is something I believe in or not. If someone could explain for me the spiritual side of Aikido then that would be great.

Hi David,

There are plenty of Christians who practice Aikido. I myself work for a church (in fact, I should be finishing off my sermon as I type these words!) - and I've heard that there are a couple of "Christians Aikido" schools in the States, though I'm not sure what I think about that.

FWIW, I consider Aikido to perfectly harmonise with the teachings of Jesus. There are certainly few other Martial Art that I would want to practice nowadays. I would encourage you to go to a dojo and don't be afraid to ask respectful questions. For instance, some Christians struggle because we bow to some pictures at the beginning; apparently this is worship. Well, if that's the case, then we all worship each other at the end! If they had simply asked their Sensei he would have explained that it is a bit like a Western hand-shake - a show of honour and good intentions.

I personally think it's a shame when some Westerners try to take out the spiritual aspects of Aikido. I would say that the majority are universal principles and those that initially strike some as "suspect" can simply be parsed through a different cultural/religious framework. (The way I see it, O Sensei naturally explained things in a way that made sense to him.) For instance, it is interesting that the Genesis myth records that God breathed his breath (spirit) into 'Adam' to make him a living thing. In some sense, does this not mean that "life" - that energy or whatever that distinguishes us from non-living things - is in all of us and is in fact from/of God himself?

Bless you.

Mark Freeman
06-25-2006, 08:09 AM
I don't believe there is anything inherent in Aikido that is more spiritual than any other pursuit. I've heard some inspiring lectures and read the books mentioned above but they wouldn't qualify as spiritual experiences from Aikido training. Most of the time in the dojo is spent physically training or making conversations on a social level. Training does give one an opportunity to practice mindfulness and compassion. It brings to the surface our false pride, insecurities, and sadistic tendencies. One could use these moments to gain a deeper understanding and mastery of ourselves. But one shouldn't expect waza training or our teachers to elevate one's spiritual state. In the end, it is always a personal experience independent of the context.

Interesting post,

IMHO spirituality can be found in all human action, whether aikido is more effective than any other pursuit is as you say, dependent on the individual 'and' the context. If your aikido practice is focussed purely on the physical, then this what you get. If your aikido encompasses mind as well as body, then this is another level. If your aikido also looks for the 'spirit' of the moment inherent in the mind body practice, then you will deepen your experience of 'spirituality' whatever that is for you.

Aikido provides a practice where self improvement is both implicit and explicit. If you are trying to increase your mindefullness, compassion and reduce your false pride, insecurities and sadistic tendencies ( if you have them ). Then surely you are entering into the realms of spirituality? Aikido then is perhaps more useful than say water skiing.

regards,

Mark

Mark Freeman
06-25-2006, 08:21 AM
There are plenty of Christians who practice Aikido. I myself work for a church (in fact, I should be finishing off my sermon as I type these words!) - and I've heard that there are a couple of "Christians Aikido" schools in the States, though I'm not sure what I think about that.

Personally, the idea of 'sect/ideology' aikido schools I find rather worrying, as I believe O Sensei wanted aikido to be for 'all'. Why not men only clubs? why not *insert colour here* people clubs? A slippery slope driven by exeption and difference. When people of all faiths ( including those with no faith ) practice together in harmony, as I'm sure the vast majority of us do, then we are working towards a better world. When people practice together in closed groups, they deny the chance of integration and in my view, move one step further away from harmony.

Can anyone confirm or otherwise what Graham has heard?

regards,

Mark
p.s. Would Jesus sanction this type of practice, or would his dojo be open to 'all God's children'?

dps
06-25-2006, 10:02 AM
I don't believe there is anything inherent in Aikido that is more spiritual than any other pursuit. ...... Training does give one an opportunity to practice mindfulness and compassion. It brings to the surface our false pride, insecurities, and sadistic tendencies. One could use these moments to gain a deeper understanding and mastery of ourselves. ...... In the end, it is always a personal experience independent of the context.

In the foreword of the book by Kisshomaru Ueshiba,"The Spirit of Aikido"' Professor Taietsu Unno writes, " The training and discipline common to all the Ways, martial or cultural, consist of three levels of mastery: physical, psychological and spiritual."


Any pursuit or endeavorer, can be a spiritual path and in your life you use many of these.

graham
06-25-2006, 06:36 PM
p.s. Would Jesus sanction this type of practice, or would his dojo be open to 'all God's children'?

Oh, no - I can see the trendy HWJT (How Would Jesus Train?) bracelets already! ;)

Jonathan Han
06-25-2006, 09:05 PM
Aikido provides a practice where self improvement is both implicit and explicit. If you are trying to increase your mindfulness, compassion and reduce your false pride, insecurities and sadistic tendencies ( if you have them ). Then surely you are entering into the realms of spirituality? Aikido then is perhaps more useful than say water skiing.



When was the last time you can say a spiritual lesson was included as part of the curriculum? Besides the physical training, do you do something else at your dojo within the context of Aikido training that is explicitly spiritual? How many dojos include spiritual development as a requirement for rank? Is something like that even quantifiable? There may be dojos that practice group meditation and share "lesson" readings after class. But these activities are not standard in Aikido. Also, is self-improvement the same thing as spiritual growth?

As for water skiing, I've never tried it but it should offer plenty of opportunities for spiritual experiences. It requires an awareness of one's balance, timing, surroundings, and trust in others for safety. I don't see how rolling around, applying throws and locks on people makes one more incline to be spiritual. What is it about Aikido that makes it more spiritual than water skiing? Can you give an explicit example? Is it the bowing and clapping that makes it spiritual? I love Aikido and I've found a great deal of personal growth from it. But I just don't see how training in Aikido offers a unique spiritual opportunity that is any different than another passionate pursuit.

Erick Mead
06-25-2006, 11:45 PM
... the first time a Jpn saw chiaroscuro and the handling of light & shadow in Western painting he asked why the subject's face was dirty. This interpretive training is largely absent from aikido. We train. That's body and maybe something of spirit. But the mind probably isn't all that unified with these. The framework for this is absent. Only because his face is still dirty.

Convention is a means of communication by shorthand, in art or depiction by a form of schematic, a pared down rendering, dispesning with elements not essential to the particular message being transmitted. The availiability of this possibility of shorthand depends on prior agreement on convention. That convention takes up much of what we must teach beginners in aikido, so that they can understand the larger picture, and begin their exploration safely, understanding the posted warnings -- as in skiing, the meaning of the double black diamond for instance, requires familiarity with the convention it represents.

Schematic does not deny the possibility of realistic (denotative) depiction in full lighting -- but it is not necessarily critical to the narrow point being communicated, nor as powerful, where focus, concentration and studied disregard bring something that flat depiction cannot. Therefore -- a schematic. Aikido depends on these schematics, as in kihon. The fully drawn figure of even one technique is too multidimensional to capture in one go.

I fundamentally disagree with the propostion that the sign does not partake of the signified, and thus all communication is utterly vain...
So...the map IS the territory?

Don't think so myself.
The map denotes and connotes the territory, it evokes and invokes the territory, it calls forth desire to tread the soil of that territory. It is an interpretive guide to that territory. The map is the distillation of territory into convention.


OSensei's form is the content.
Nice aspiration. We disagree as to whether he has actually accomplished this. I don't think so. You seem to see O-Sensei's techniques as the territory in need of interpretive guidance - you seek the map, the schematic to his techniques according to some interpretive rubric, narrower than the body of techniques themselves. I and others I have known, see the territory at issue as something far greater, and O-Sensei's techniques as the schematic -- the map calling us to explore it, and guiding us along our way.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

dps
06-26-2006, 04:22 AM
When was the last time you can say a spiritual lesson was included as part of the curriculum?

Wouldn't this be an organized way of expressing your spirituality or in other words practicing a religion?

graham
06-26-2006, 07:00 AM
When was the last time you can say a spiritual lesson was included as part of the curriculum?

My daughter attends a Junior class and they have far explicit lessons. Just recently, they were given an example of how to not let bullies get to them.

They are also continually taught that aggressive strength is the path of weakness.

tedehara
06-26-2006, 12:03 PM
When was the last time you can say a spiritual lesson was included as part of the curriculum? Besides the physical training, do you do something else at your dojo within the context of Aikido training that is explicitly spiritual? How many dojos include spiritual development as a requirement for rank? Is something like that even quantifiable? There may be dojos that practice group meditation and share "lesson" readings after class. But these activities are not standard in Aikido. Also, is self-improvement the same thing as spiritual growth?

As for water skiing, I've never tried it but it should offer plenty of opportunities for spiritual experiences. It requires an awareness of one's balance, timing, surroundings, and trust in others for safety. I don't see how rolling around, applying throws and locks on people makes one more incline to be spiritual. What is it about Aikido that makes it more spiritual than water skiing? Can you give an explicit example? Is it the bowing and clapping that makes it spiritual? I love Aikido and I've found a great deal of personal growth from it. But I just don't see how training in Aikido offers a unique spiritual opportunity that is any different than another passionate pursuit.
If you consider ki development as defined by the Ki Society as a spiritual practice, then that would fit your requirements. Ki development lessons are given with aikido classes or separately. There are separate ranks for ki development and a student is not able to achieve aikido rank until they reach a specific ki development rank.

Ki development would included things like ki development exercises, ki testing, ki meditation, ki breathing and kiatsu-ho, a healing form of acupressure with ki usage. Not only do Ki Society dojos regularly follow this curriculum, but many other aikido organizations that have been influenced by the Ki Society also follow similar teachings. So this would be hundreds of dojos internationally which have a spiritual practice built into the curriculum. Generally Aikikai dojos concentrate only on aikido techniques, but this would also vary from dojo to dojo.

Personally i don't consider what you do as being spiritual, but how you do it. One person can spend their day water skiing and another can water ski while meditating all day.

Nick Pagnucco
06-26-2006, 12:18 PM
I have to say, this has become a very good thread for me. Thank you, especially, to Mr. Mead and Mr. Modesto. I think it is an important issue to discuss how O-sensei's practice of aikido has or has not been reproduced, be it in terms of technique, spirituality, or conditioning.

That being said... I'm leaning toward Don's point of view on this one.

O-sensei's technique is social practice, and while it could be seen as a map, it need not automatically be seen that way, let alone what the map is specifically a representation of, or what it 'calls' us to do. The author (assumably O-sensei) cannot guarantee the correct reading of his texts without the use of very specific disciplining techniques, and the amount of variation and change within aikido over the last 60-70 years suggests that if the purpose of aikido was to create a spiritual vehicle that reproduced O-sensei's spirituality, then aikido has not been successful. Looking just at uchi-deshis, one cannot say that Shioda, Tohei, Sunadomari, Saito, Chiba, Saotome, or Kanai (to name just a very few) all have the same spirituality. The spirituality of aikido, and how it should inform aikido, are incredibly contested categories.

If one wishes to develop spirituality through aikido, I think this is a very possible endeavor, and also a very good one. However, it requires more than just the technique of aikido. The practice of aikido goes much farther than that. It includes an understanding of Budo, a structure to dojo organization (sensei, sempai/kohai relationships, amount of intensity allowed when and why, etc.). As such, I think some relatively stable organizations have developed some relatively standard ideas on spirituality/philosophy for their respective aikido practices. Simply knowing the right way to do move & do technique is not enough, as one needs a context to give those things meaning.

Because aikido practice is not homogenized by any means, the forms of spirituality it produces (or fails to) are legion.

jonreading
06-26-2006, 12:46 PM
In general, it is difficult to substantially prove spirituality is "taught" in aikido anymore, at least here in the states. I would tend to believe that spirituality is leaking out of aikido just as religion is leaking out of government, public schools and places where religious sensitivity is volatile. The pressure to keep our religious and spiritual beliefs internally is increasing as our society is becoming more critical of religious expression in any context. Public expression of spirituality is intimidating because we expose our more valued beliefs and thoughts for public scrutiny to which many no longer have appreciation or respect. Public expression is an intimidating thing because it holds us accountible for our beliefs through our actions. Humans rationalize all kinds of things, including our spirituality; we will reduce our spiritual commitment to the minimum amount of public commitment to reduce the potential for accountability and scrutiny. How many of us have answered a question under our breath with "I knew that?" The simple fact that you did not express the answer outwardly contradicts your statement. It more appropriate to mutter, "that's what I thought, but I did not say it aloud for fear that I would be wrong and publically accountible for my error."

Aikido is a perfect example of spiritual minimization. O'Sensei was deeply religious, almost (if not) fanantical; he received divine visions, joined a [cult], and believed he was posessed by a god. O'Sensei performed many actions, cleanings, exercises that represented his spiritual belief. Yet we choose to replicate in majority only physical exercises that may be veiled in their purpose. On one hand we claim that aikido is spiritual, yet on the other sheepishly concede that clapping during class is a religious activity from which some students abstain.

The spirituality that O'Sensei possesed and the courage he had to express his spirituality is greater than most of use will ever aspire to obtain. Rather, I believe spirituality is expressed through our actions. If we limit our spiritual expression to physical technique, then by our actions we limit our commitment in spirituality. I am very appreciative of those aikidoka that posess the courage to outwardly express their spiritual beliefs beyond simple exercise.

Jonathan Han
06-26-2006, 12:48 PM
If you consider ki development as defined by the Ki Society as a spiritual practice, then that would fit your requirements. Ki development lessons are given with aikido classes or separately. There are separate ranks for ki development and a student is not able to achieve aikido rank until they reach a specific ki development rank.
...Personally i don't consider what you do as being spiritual, but how you do it. One person can spend their day water skiing and another can water ski while meditating all day.

Thank you for educating me about Ki Society. I am not qualified to judge whether Ki development is spiritual or not. But it is something that you can use as an example of a spiritual practice in Aikido. But for us Aikikai folks our training is mostly waza. Any meditation and readings are done outside the context of an official class (at most dojos). What I was questioning is the accepted "fact" that Aikido itself is a spiritual practice that is different from other styles or activities. I completely agree with you that it isn't What but How it is done.

Nick Pagnucco
06-26-2006, 01:53 PM
The spirituality that O'Sensei possesed and the courage he had to express his spirituality is greater than most of use will ever aspire to obtain. Rather, I believe spirituality is expressed through our actions. If we limit our spiritual expression to physical technique, then by our actions we limit our commitment in spirituality. I am very appreciative of those aikidoka that posess the courage to outwardly express their spiritual beliefs beyond simple exercise.

While I agree that O-sensei's aikido was an expression of deeply held religious beliefs, and that in America things are a bit different, keep in mind that this whole issue is a lot more complicated than the binary of has spirituality / doesn't have spirituality. Omoto-kyo neo-shintoism, more common forms of shinto, Zen, Shingon, New Age, Christianity, Taoism, Humanism... I've at least heard of, if not seen, people genuinely try to connect aikido to all of these forms of spirituality, some more overtly than others.

To the degree that aikido is a vehicle of spirituality, it appears to be pretty agnostic about which form of spirituality it carts around.

dps
06-26-2006, 02:00 PM
To the degree that aikido is a vehicle of spirituality, it appears to be pretty agnostic about which form of spirituality it carts around.
Very well said. Could not agree more.

Don_Modesto
06-26-2006, 03:30 PM
You seem to see O-Sensei's techniques as the territory in need of interpretive guidance - you seek the map, the schematic to his techniques according to some interpretive rubric, narrower than the body of techniques themselves. I and others I have known, see the territory at issue as something far greater, and O-Sensei's techniques as the schematic -- the map calling us to explore it, and guiding us along our way.Mr. Pagnucco (thank you, Mr. Pagnucco) says very succinctly below what I would have probably taken more space to say in answer to the above. Thanks for the time and careful explication Mr. Mead. I still don't agree with you, but you put things with admirable clarity. Am enjoying the exchange.O-sensei's technique is social practice, and while it could be seen as a map, it need not automatically be seen that way, let alone what the map is specifically a representation of, or what it 'calls' us to do.

Erick Mead
06-26-2006, 05:56 PM
In general, it is difficult to substantially prove spirituality is "taught" in aikido anymore, at least here in the states. I would tend to believe that spirituality is leaking out of aikido just as religion is leaking out of government, public schools and places where religious sensitivity is volatile. The pressure to keep our religious and spiritual beliefs internally is increasing as our society is becoming more critical of religious expression in any context. ... Excellent observation. People tend to act, not as they intend to act, but as they are habituated to act. Big difference. Thus, the critical aspect of practice, it trains our habituated responses top be more in accord with our manifest intent. Aikido, specifically, with its emphasis on connection and complete entering, tends to diminsh the timidity associated with overbearing presumptive expectation, particularly those passive-aggressive methods so typical in the type of scenario you describe.

Whether considered technically, or spiritually, training in the way to act is as important as cognitive belief, if not more so, e.g. -- Jesus, after all, said "Come, follow me." and "Do this in remembrance of me." even where the New Testament speaks of believing, it is consequence of acts. Belief is itself an act of faith -- settling the will to rely on something mysterious and beyond one's own ken.

Yet we choose to replicate in majority only physical exercises that may be veiled in their purpose. ...
Rather, I believe spirituality is expressed through our actions. If we limit our spiritual expression to physical technique, then by our actions we limit our commitment in spirituality. I am very appreciative of those aikidoka that posess the courage to outwardly express their spiritual beliefs beyond simple exercise. Purpose implies conscious thought. Conscious thought is good in reflection on error and correcting it -- but not so good in acting with great effect. Those who are powerful in their actions are precisely so because they do not have to think too hard about what they are doing. In spiritual terms, faith is preconscious, precognitive.

Faith is misogi. Misogi is is notably embodied in the image of water. (I am drenched in misogi these hot summer days).

Faith, may be distinguished from belief, in the same way that it may may be distinguished from practice. Beliefs, practices, rites -- these things are vessels in which to carry water, and with which to pour it out at need.
To the degree that aikido is a vehicle of spirituality, it appears to be pretty agnostic about which form of spirituality it carts around. In one sense, yes, in another sense, no. Water is the same everywhere, in whatever vessel it may be carried. Only what is ADDED to the water changes its character. Not all vessels are equal in their capacity to carry, provide and buffer our vitally necessary interactions with water.

Pure water is colorless, odorless, tasteless and yet utterly essential to life. Vessels can affect the water, making it less pure, perhaps merely locally flavored, or even contaminated and dangerous to drink. This can be a source of joy, disgust or even horror.

Contained water can be very powerful. Water is the quintessence of energy in potential -- capable of draining the heat of life out of you or burning it from you, if its embodied energy is not brought into to some rough equilibrium with your own.

These are some of the rubrics that I use to judge the utility and spirituality of any practice or belief as it relates to being human, not because man is the measure of all things, but because to gain from the experience, man must measure out only in accordance with his capacity -- lest he drown, or worse.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Fred Little
06-26-2006, 07:58 PM
Was Cus D"Amato a saint?

I don't think so. But Mike Tyson's spirit was managed a lot better when D'Amato was still alive.

Fred Little

George S. Ledyard
06-28-2006, 02:13 AM
While I agree that O-sensei's aikido was an expression of deeply held religious beliefs, and that in America things are a bit different, keep in mind that this whole issue is a lot more complicated than the binary of has spirituality / doesn't have spirituality. Omoto-kyo neo-shintoism, more common forms of shinto, Zen, Shingon, New Age, Christianity, Taoism, Humanism... I've at least heard of, if not seen, people genuinely try to connect aikido to all of these forms of spirituality, some more overtly than others.

To the degree that aikido is a vehicle of spirituality, it appears to be pretty agnostic about which form of spirituality it carts around.
This term "spiritual" is coming to mean something specific in the American mind. When polled, some large proportion of Amereicans stated that they were "spiritual" but not religious. So the term is starting to have a meaning that counterposes "spiritual" against "religious" which I take to mean having to do with the established religious faiths.

This certainly seems to be the way in which many people view Aikido... it's somehow "spiritual" but stripped of the overtly religious aspect which it had in O-Sensei's view. O-Sensei was clear, though, that he did not see Aikido "as" a religion but rather as a practice that enhanced all religions. It is that statement that seems to leave quite alot of leeway in defining what Aikido spirituality can be for different individuals.

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2006, 04:03 AM
This term "spiritual" is coming to mean something specific in the American mind. When polled, some large proportion of Amereicans stated that they were "spiritual" but not religious. So the term is starting to have a meaning that counterposes "spiritual" against "religious" which I take to mean having to do with the established religious faiths.

This certainly seems to be the way in which many people view Aikido... it's somehow "spiritual" but stripped of the overtly religious aspect which it had in O-Sensei's view. O-Sensei was clear, though, that he did not see Aikido "as" a religion but rather as a practice that enhanced all religions. It is that statement that seems to leave quite alot of leeway in defining what Aikido spirituality can be for different individuals.

Hello George,

Interesting comments. I had long suspected the thruth of your first paragraph. However, the second paragraph is more problematic. You say that for O Sensei, aikido was "overtly religious" or (as you put it) "had an overtly religious aspect", but he did not see aikido as a religion. Would would think he would include his own Omoto-kyou as a religion here? I am after any distinction he might have made between his own private religious practices (which were inseparable from his aikido practice) and the 'religion' he refers to (= @j. NB. A problem arose in the Early Meiji period of translating 'religion' into Japanese.

Best wishes,

dps
06-28-2006, 06:05 AM
This certainly seems to be the way in which many people view Aikido... it's somehow "spiritual" but stripped of the overtly religious aspect which it had in O-Sensei's view. O-Sensei was clear, though, that he did not see Aikido "as" a religion but rather as a practice that enhanced all religions. It is that statement that seems to leave quite alot of leeway in defining what Aikido spirituality can be for different individuals.
And isn't this leeway the reason why so many people are now attracted to Aikido? By stripping the overtly religious practices of O'Sensei and keeping a separate definition of spiritual allows people to practice their religious/philosophical beliefs through Aikido.

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2006, 07:45 AM
And isn't this leeway the reason why so many people are now attracted to Aikido? By stripping the overtly religious practices of O'Sensei and keeping a separate definition of spiritual allows people to practice their religious/philosophical beliefs through Aikido.

Yes, According to current aikido 'theory' (peace & harmony, but with a pronounced non-religious 'spiritual' dimension, the spirituality being what you make of it) prevalent outside Japan, and in Japan also, you are right. However, my own view is that there is a danger that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and that a deeper study of Ueshiba's overtly religious practices is necessary.

I know what he said (I can read O Sensei in Japanese), but I am not sure how much he believed that aikido was simply a morally neutral vehicle for allowing people to practise their own religious/philosophical beliefs. If this were right, then AUM Shinrikyou could also enlist O Sensei in their avowed mission to promote world peace and harmony.

Best wishes,

Ron Tisdale
06-28-2006, 08:10 AM
then AUM Shinrikyou could also enlist O Sensei in their avowed mission to promote world peace and harmony.

With liberal applications of sarin gas along the way? Hmmm, right.

Best,
Ron (hope you are well Peter)

dps
06-28-2006, 08:13 AM
. If this were right, then AUM Shinrikyou could also enlist O Sensei in their avowed mission to promote world peace and harmony.,

Oh my, violent Buddhist or are they Jewish now.

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2006, 09:00 AM
With liberal applications of sarin gas along the way? Hmmm, right.

Best,
Ron (hope you are well Peter)

Hello Ron,

Remember that the young 'sakurai' officers used to meet in the Kobukan Hombu and plan assassinations, and that Nadolski's Ph.D. thesis suggests that Morihei Ueshiba's Omoto-kyou's beliefs allowed him to be the bodyguard of a highly right-wing officer, whom I belive was executed for war crimes.

I have the feeling that you guys believe that there is a built-in ethical component to aikido that prevents aikido from being used in any context except that of peace and harmony, as a westerner would understand this. I disagree completely.

To be blunt, yes, I think that Aum Shinrikyou members could well use aikido in support of their aims.

Best

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2006, 09:02 AM
Oh my, violent Buddhist or are they Jewish now.

I have no idea. Is this relevant?

dps
06-28-2006, 10:07 AM
I have no idea. Is this relevant?

From Wikipedia,
"The name "Aum Shinkokyu" (Japanese: オウム真理教 Om Heinrikō) derives from the Hindu syllable Aum (which represents the universe), followed by the three kanji characters shin ("truth," "reality," "Buddhist sect"), RI ("reason," "justice," "truth"), and KYō ("teaching," "faith," "doctrine"). In 2000, the organization changed its name to "Aleph" (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), changing its logo as well.
Aum attempted to borrow scriptural authority for its doctrines by claiming they were based on the ancient Buddhist scriptures included in the Pail Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Aim/Aleph also borrowed and reinterpreted other religious texts, including a number of Tibetan Buddhist straws, some Hindu yogi straws, and Taoist scriptures."


An example of a group of people trying to find a religion/philosophy to justify "their avowed mission to promote world peace and harmony" with violence. The religions these people are using all have built in ethical componets that does not stop them from using them the way they want to.

Peter Goldsbury
06-28-2006, 10:38 AM
From Wikipedia,
"The name "Aum Shinkokyu" (Japanese: IE^ Om Heinrikō) derives from the Hindu syllable Aum (which represents the universe), followed by the three kanji characters shin ("truth," "reality," "Buddhist sect"), RI ("reason," "justice," "truth"), and KYō ("teaching," "faith," "doctrine"). In 2000, the organization changed its name to "Aleph" (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), changing its logo as well.
Aum attempted to borrow scriptural authority for its doctrines by claiming they were based on the ancient Buddhist scriptures included in the Pail Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Aim/Aleph also borrowed and reinterpreted other religious texts, including a number of Tibetan Buddhist straws, some Hindu yogi straws, and Taoist scriptures."

An example of a group of people trying to find a religion/philosophy to justify "their avowed mission to promote world peace and harmony" with violence. The religions these people are using all have built in ethical componets that does not stop them from using them the way they want to.

Sure, you can quote Wikipedia, but some of my students belonged to the organization and also practised aikido.

Ron Tisdale
06-28-2006, 11:37 AM
Hi Peter.

I did not mean to suggest that aikido couldn't be used in that context...it certainly has been in the past, as proven by your historical reference.

I really meant to suggest that *I* personally wouldn't buy it. The Yoshinkan has been known in the past (maybe the present) to have some rather right wing supporters. I like the style of aikido...but I don't buy into the ideology of all of it's supporters. Similarly, I like the idea of world peace and harmony, but when people try to achieve that by using sarin gas, I stop short, whether or not they also practice aikido. Reminds me of a nut in California not too long ago who supposedly taught aikido, but ended up killing several people.

I guess this would be a good segway into a discussion on Expedient Means? ;)

Best,
Ron (people use all sorts of things for all sorts of things, don't they? Really amazes me sometimes...)

Fred Little
06-28-2006, 01:41 PM
I have the feeling that you guys believe that there is a built-in ethical component to aikido that prevents aikido from being used in any context except that of peace and harmony, as a westerner would understand this. I disagree completely.

Hello Peter,

I would have to agree with you here. But I would go a bit further, and suggest that there may be rhetorical component that has been built in to the public presentation of the art since at least the adoption of the designation "aikido" that has long been intended to create precisely that belief.

How traditional budo concepts of "omote and ura" might relate to that sort of presentation is also a question worthy of consideration.

Best,

Fred Little

George S. Ledyard
06-28-2006, 03:01 PM
Yes, According to current aikido 'theory' (peace & harmony, but with a pronounced non-religious 'spiritual' dimension, the spirituality being what you make of it) prevalent outside Japan, and in Japan also, you are right. However, my own view is that there is a danger that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and that a deeper study of Ueshiba's overtly religious practices is necessary.

I know what he said (I can read O Sensei in Japanese), but I am not sure how much he believed that aikido was simply a morally neutral vehicle for allowing people to practise their own religious/philosophical beliefs. If this were right, then AUM Shinrikyou could also enlist O Sensei in their avowed mission to promote world peace and harmony.

Best wishes,

This is pretty much my own viewpoint. It is not as well founded as your own since I do not read Japanese. I have "grown up" with quite a bit of information about O-sensei as imparted by Saotome Sensei but, frankly, much of what I belive is just an intuition based on my own practice. As I have made some jumps and seen a bit of what is at the heart of the art, it has only served to open up new areas of exploration.

It's almost like trying to find a "black hole" in space, you look at a portion of sky and observe what you DON"T see. Everything I know about my own Aikido, makes me realize that there is "something", as yet undefined, which needs to be added to the practice to take it to whatever higher level I am aspiring to.

I think that, quite a bit of the discussions amongst the more experienced forum participants seems to revolve around our various attempts to discover and define what that missing "something" is that seems to separate our level of attainment from those that preceded us (Takeda Sensei, O-Sensei etc). I think this is taking place in lieu of having much ability to understand and duplicate precisely what the Founder did to create this amazing art.

Erick Mead
06-28-2006, 03:03 PM
This term "spiritual" is coming to mean something specific in the American mind. When polled, some large proportion of Amereicans stated that they were "spiritual" but not religious. So the term is starting to have a meaning that counterposes "spiritual" against "religious" which I take to mean having to do with the established religious faiths.

This certainly seems to be the way in which many people view Aikido... it's somehow "spiritual" but stripped of the overtly religious aspect which it had in O-Sensei's view. O-Sensei was clear, though, that he did not see Aikido "as" a religion but rather as a practice that enhanced all religions. It is that statement that seems to leave quite alot of leeway in defining what Aikido spirituality can be for different individuals. This is long, but, I hope, worth it. It pulls together several threads of thought I have been considering separately until late.

The history of religion is sadly neglected and vastly more important now as its influence becomes far less explicit -- in the manner that Ledyard Sensei accurately describes, as well as positively aggressive and dangerous (as discussed at length in the "Aikido, military, fighting" thread and in a related OT discussion over on Aikido_L).

Rome, Persia, China, and even Japan historically were organized along the ancient "priest-king" model. The very idea of a division between religious and secular matters was at one time simply, and almost literally, inconceivable. Religion was seen in ancient societies as the glue that held the people together. Religion means "To bind together." A highly accurate translation of the Latin (religere) into Japanese, BTW, is "Musubi." Christians were early on described as "atheists" by pagan Romans, for whom the idea of breaking the relationship between the secular and religious was simply indecent and disordered.

Buddhism broke this paradigm in the East. Christianity broke this paradigm in the West. There have been contenders against the principle in both areas, notwithstanding that, but the principle has held, by and large despite the exceptions proving the rule. Kokugaku represents one fairly recent attempt at revival of that mode.

The same conceptual division of sovereignty led to the ideas of British constitutional restraint of sovereignty and ultimately to the U.S. constitutional federalism, and without the prior ("give unto caesar ...") example the idea of a "divided sovereignty" would be a nonsensical non-sequitur. That divided sovereginty was premised by and exists to protect individuality.

What has this to do with Aikido and spirituality? Religion requires (creates) form and structure. People do not like to live without form and structure. Religion is therefore a necessary condition of social existence. Spirituality is the morphing of religion into an individualistic form -- as so many other social concerns have morphed into individualistic forms.

Those opposed can rail against it all they want, but the ideals of individualism are not going to go away and they will inevitably affect all human societies and all aspects of them. With religion however, strict individualism is somewhat at odds with the basic function of religion, of which "spirituality" is the individualistic evolute. What "spirituality" lacks is form structure and common bond, which is precisely what indivdualism strips away and religious need requires. As the King of Siam said "It is ... a puzzlement."

I believe that one cannot practice aikido and get any good at it without inculcating its spirituality into the very fibers of your body, and to the same degree that one becomes technically capable in it.

Aikido is therefore religious in its mode, -- it is a coherent form and structure and ethics manifested and requiring devotion of self in committed connection other human beings, even if it cannot be adequately identified with any one religion of local adherence, even those of its place of origin. Just because it is religious in mode, does not make aikido a "religion."

Aikido is something rather new, actually. It is not superior to any of those religions of local (or global) adherence, nor is it necessarily antithetical. Of course, I would not hold to any system of belief that would likely violate my sensibility of aikido, and I do not find that any principle or practice of aikido violates any precepts of traditionally orthodox Christianity either. I see no reason for any necessary conlfict with any traditional religion of consequence.

I find this to be true even acknowledging Prof. Goldsbury's points about the seemingly contrary actions by some practitioners ( and even O-Sensei) at odds with this sense of spirituality. Even saints are still sinners -- the difference is, a saint who sins will repent of his error, and the magnitude of the repentance will be matched to the degree of realization of the error. O-Sensei even said once to the effect that he did not cease making the same errors that new students made, he just had learned to make them less often and to recover from them faster.

The loss of religion as a separate and independent pole of "binding together" in all modern societies, (as this is a general worldwide trend) has resulted in the continuing displacement of religious primacy in areas in which religion formerly held sway and in the growth of secular control over those areas, and increasingly to the detriment of individual liberty -- which was formerly the watchword of opposition to certain religious mandates. Such is the irony of history and power.

Secular powers increasingly act in ways to discredit or diminish or push out the influence of all religions over many areas of social and individual existence. This is also a part of the impetus of radical Islam's highly reactionary push-back that is ongoing.

Many people in modern societies also sense this. Lacking as much confidence in religion of their forebears (for the foregoing reasons of its active displacement and discrediting by secular forces) they are actively seeking a replacement for the absence that they feel.

Some people seek out cult religions of specious sorts. Many seek the roots of their own traditional religion -- but in a modern mode that has yet to come to grips with modernity's individuality of expression or opinion and yet also maintain coherence as a system of common bond. Some make a religion out of secular power, which is becoming a very dangerous thing, and arguably, more dangerous than the ancient kind.

This does not mean that Aikido is about to become a religion, now or ever. The modern sense of individuality is antithetical to the development of the coherence known to traditional religions. Even the fairly sober non-traditional religious cults are ever so slightly pathetic, because they are attempting to recreate something in a place that is not fit for its present development. Modern cults (including Omoto) have largely tried to collectively individuate or individually collectivize -- in the collective chant of Monty Python's 'Life of Brian' "Yes! We're all individuals! We're all different!"

Traditional religions developed in circumstances where the individual as an ideal did not seriously affect social evolution. They have developed along with the trend toward indivuality, and are indeed responsible in many respects for incubating, and causing it to flourish it. Both Christianity and Buddhism enjoy this accolade, and Islam is not wihout its own contributions, present controversy not withstanding. Traditional religions will continue and they will grow because their essential function is not lost and their necessity remains. But reckoning with the full flower of individuality they have nurtured has yet to occur.

Aikido stands apart from this -- but yet in the middle of it, somehow. Its paradox intrigues without end. There is an overall historical trend toward individualization. Like the political split of sovereignty in federalism that exists to protect individuality, Aikido has to some degree split the idea of religious connection from doctrinal agreement, without deeply wounding the benefits of either one.

The concept of Musubi is at the heart of this, it seems to me, and O-Sensei's emphasis on Takemusubi (conflict/connection) underlines this. Musubi individualizes the notion of gaining meaningful religious connection to other human beings, in a way that does not dminish their individual differences and in many cases, oppositions, and both permits and teaches means to develop common bonds despite, and in some respects BECAUSE OF those differences. Takemusubi is a foundational concept upon which ecumenical ideals have far greater range to play.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

George S. Ledyard
06-28-2006, 03:16 PM
I have the feeling that you guys believe that there is a built-in ethical component to aikido that prevents aikido from being used in any context except that of peace and harmony, as a westerner would understand this. I disagree completely.

I think that this is the area in which there is the greatest gap in understanding between the way in which O-Sensei understood the values of what Aikido represents, how the Japanese practitioners in general understand what they do, and what the folks around the world have understood it to be.

Saotome Sensei used to do demos around the country back in the seventies... one time he had just finshed a very martial demo with Ikeda Sensei as uke and a woman came up to him and informed him that he hadn't understood O-Sensei's message at all... He was, of course, stunned to find that there were people all over the place who, after reading the very minimal amount translated into English that were authored by the Founder, felt that they understood him better than someone who had trained directly with him for fifteen years. The fact that Sensei had been a deshi, was a native speaker of the language, had a common cultural connection with the Founder made no difference. I have been present when various senior Americans stated that the deshi of the Founder hadn't understood his teachings... While I am not in total disagreement with that statement, the assumption that we as Western practitioners do "get it" is groundless. There simply isn't enough information to make that assumption. There is certainly enough information available to know that many Westerner's ideas of what O-sensei believed is simply wishful thinking, reflecting their own ideas of what they think Aikido "should" be.

Ron Tisdale
06-28-2006, 03:32 PM
Amen to that, George...

Thanks,
Ron

Don_Modesto
06-28-2006, 03:46 PM
This thread is definitely going into my archive. Thanks, guys.

Peter Goldsbury
06-29-2006, 04:22 AM
I think Eric Mead's long post is one way of approaching Morihei Ueshiba's aikido as religious practice. What I tried to do in the Touching the Absolute articles is to achieve the same purpose via a different route, not through a general history of religion, but through a closer examination of the context of Ueshiba's own time. This approach requires a close acquaintance with the history of intellectual ideas of Meiji, Taisho and early Showa Japan. It also requires a close study of what he actually wrote. Much is available, but very little is in English.

A significant next step would be to separate out the tantric and Omoto elements in his own training. If any of you ever get the chance to train with Hiroshi Tada, go for it. Tada Sensei gave a 12-hour seminar in Hiroshima recently and gave long explanations of the kokyuu training he does and how these are fundamental to aikido waza. He has changed his explanations in the years I have known him and his terminology more closely approximates to that used by O Sensei hinself.

In Hiroshi Tada you have a rather untypical (in my opinion) product of postwar aikido. He entered the Aikikai around 1950, so never experienced the rigors of the Kobukan. However, his long experience with the Tempukai and the Ichikukai was clearly an effective spiritual substitute and closely meshed with Ueshiba's own training and teaching. What you have is someone who replicated Ueshiba's own training regimen (there is real shugyou here), but emphasized less explicitly the tantric and Omoto elements.

Hiroshi Tada and Shigenobu Okumura are the only two living 9th dan holders in the Aikikai who had a close relationship with Morihei Ueshiba. Okuura Sensei is 88 and has virtually stopped aikido practice, though his mind is still sharp and his memory acute. Tada Sensei is 75 or 76 and shows signs of going on forever. Neither of them has written a book or made a video/DVD.

dps
06-29-2006, 07:24 AM
There is certainly enough information available to know that many Westerner's ideas of what O-sensei believed is simply wishful thinking, reflecting their own ideas of what they think Aikido "should" be..
It will never be as O'Sensei had.
You can't put the toothpaste back into tube once it has been squeezed.
O'Sensei what hath thou wrought upon us?

Erick Mead
06-29-2006, 10:28 AM
I think Eric Mead's long post is one way of approaching Morihei Ueshiba's aikido as religious practice.

Much appreciated, especially from your perspective, in situ, as it were, and given your committed efforts otherwise. 有り難う御座います.
What I tried to do in the Touching the Absolute articles is to achieve the same purpose via a different route, not through a general history of religion, but through a closer examination of the context of Ueshiba's own time. This approach requires a close acquaintance with the history of intellectual ideas of Meiji, Taisho and early Showa Japan. It also requires a close study of what he actually wrote. Much is available, but very little is in English. And thus the problem of attempting a proper scholarly analysis and exegesis of primary sources. While my background allows me some insight into the overall philosophical milieu of Japan as aikido and its antecedents were developing and particuarly the continental Chinese streams of thought that it relates to, most aikidoka have neither the time, resources or inclination to follow the path of original development to understand the phenomenon as it exists. Or like me they can follow so far, but not much farther. The effort is invaluable -- but not generally applicable.

The problem of ignorance of foundational issues is not trivial. Deconstructing and rebuilding the edifice to understand its proper workings may work, and in some cases is in harmony with the overall tenor of thought that aikido expresses (as for instance in the twenty-year rebuilding of of the Ise shrine.) But this method of symbolic analysis is particularly Western and linear. It has poor fit (i.e. -- poor musubi) with the dynamism of learning in aikido as a living system of knowledge.

To put it plainly, I fear that the results of an analytical, exegetical approach to this body of knowledge will produce results more reflective of the process than of the organic structure and substance of its object of study. (Tool=hammer :: problem=nail, but not all problems are nails).

Those in the broader field of interest without deep knowledge of the primary sources are not realistically able to judge its analysis critically. Peer review, which is critical for the reliability of any analytical discipline, (and which this venue is an able place to provide) becomes exceedingly narrow and difficult to achieve.

Don't get me wrong -- as a lawyer, close analysis is my stock in trade, but transmitting broader comprehension, effective persuasion (i.e - learning) and attention to traps of knowledge or ignorance, are equally my concerns. We need the analysis that you suggest, (which I hope you or someone in your privileged position regarding primary sources will continue to attempt). We also need a way to relate the essential elements of primary source knowledge to the operation of that knowledge -- many more learn it far from its context of development, and must apply it far from the context of its initial application.

What was precisely envisioned by O-Sensei (or his deshi) and what was made possible by the inherent structure of his design, may not require one for one congruence. His genius lies in the design, not in the immediate intent. Newton 's three laws were genius precisely because the breadth of their impact in areas that did not even exist when he formulated them. Applications he did not envision could be accomplished only because his ideas were both robust and subtle.

A significant next step would be to separate out the tantric and Omoto elements in his own training. If any of you ever get the chance to train with Hiroshi Tada, go for it. Tada Sensei gave a 12-hour seminar in Hiroshima recently and gave long explanations of the kokyuu training he does and how these are fundamental to aikido waza. He has changed his explanations in the years I have known him and his terminology more closely approximates to that used by O Sensei hinself.
... his long experience with the Tempukai and the Ichikukai was clearly an effective spiritual substitute and closely meshed with Ueshiba's own training and teaching. What you have is someone who replicated Ueshiba's own training regimen (there is real shugyou here), but emphasized less explicitly the tantric and Omoto elements. What you describe is very close to what I am suggesting (proving again my premise that none of my ideas is ever original). A bit of knowledge that permits efficient action, is fit for that purpose. It has musubi with the problem the action is hoped to deal with. A hammer has very poor musubi with a screw, for instance. If I have a nail to compare, I will intuitively grasp the significance and degree of fit -- or its lack.

Musubi exists at the point of connection, not at the initiating intent that brought about the connection. As a necesasary adjunct to analysis of origin, takemusubi would suggest more thorough exploration of the immediate points of connection, as Hiroshi Tada did in the connection between his own personal experience and aikido. Both are enriched threreby, and the understanding of aikido thus expands with every new connection. I find much connection to Christian theology bound within name and structure of techniques and their principles as discussed and expounded by O-Senei and his Deshi. By virtue of these connections, and their historical connections, I canalso see relationships with Islamic Tawhid, Jewish mitzvah and tikkun, even though these are not my native idiom.

Anaytical technique ("A is not B" logic, at its base) depends on knowledge as a linear function. Takemusubi as a form of understanding presupposes that knowledge is distributed, non-linear, multifarious and organized into points of connection -- nodes in a network that is only as strong as the connections that make it up. It is not illogical in the A=B sense, but it is irrational in the numeric sense -- too complex for most schemes of analysis to determine whether any given node is A or B. It can be computationally modelled but is not easily reduced in any algebraic sense.

As we are discovering about this type of knowledge more generally, such systems are typically holographic or fractal, the shape of the whole is written to some degree in every part, and vice versa. Ensuring the strength of every individual connection is the work of takemusubi, and helps both to maintain and to understand the structure as a whole.

I see the difficulty of grasping O-Sensei's mind and statements from an analytical perspective as partly the fact that he seems to have walked around thinking this way, decades before these ideas became more common currency or methods for its quantitative assessment and analysis had been invented and verified.

In an interview Abe Sensei noted that among O-Sensei's books kept after his death by Morihiro Saito at Iwama were several works by Einstein. It was Einstein's dogged attempt to disprove quantum mechanics (another form of this type of complex knowledge) that resulted in experiments confirming it.

That was Takemusubi.

Hiroshi Tada and Shigenobu Okumura are the only two living 9th dan holders in the Aikikai who had a close relationship with Morihei Ueshiba. Okuura Sensei is 88 and has virtually stopped aikido practice, though his mind is still sharp and his memory acute. Tada Sensei is 75 or 76 and shows signs of going on forever. Neither of them has written a book or made a video/DVD.

Please tell us someone is going to remedy this oversight, and at least prepare some thorough oral history while they can give it to us.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

George S. Ledyard
06-29-2006, 11:47 AM
Musubi exists at the point of connection, not at the initiating intent that brought about the connection. As a necesasary adjunct to analysis of origin, takemusubi would suggest more thorough exploration of the immediate points of connection, as Hiroshi Tada did in the connection between his own personal experience and aikido. Both are enriched threreby, and the understanding of aikido thus expands with every new connection.

If I am understanding you properly, you are saying that musubi exists at the point in time and space at which physical contact takes place. Is that what is being said here?

It would be my belief that musubi pre-exists the instant of physical contact. It starts at the moment one projects his attention out and touches the partner and visa versa. It only begins to manifest at the instant that an intention is formed to initiate physical movement but it is there before. When physical contact is made, the musubi manifests as katsu hayabi or instant victory. In other words one has the partner's center at the instant of contact. In order to do this one has to already have done this with his Mind, it cannot be done by "reacting" to the partner. That's why O-sensei said that what he did wasn't about "timing". Timing is a relative term which has to do with when one reacts to another's movements. It would be my understanding that one doesn't react to another's movement, rather the Mind has already moved, the physical movement is simply allowing that movement of the mind to manifest. If the musbi exists before physical contect, on a psychic level, it would be impossible for the partner / opponent to move separately from the nage.

Anyway, this is something of a tangent off the main discussion... it just caught my eye.

Mark Freeman
06-29-2006, 01:02 PM
Good post George, thanks. I believe that the point being made here is what makes aikido what it is when practiced at the higher levels. I'm not sure how well it is generally understood though.

regards,

Mark

Erick Mead
06-29-2006, 02:33 PM
If I am understanding you properly, you are saying that musubi exists at the point in time and space at which physical contact takes place. Is that what is being said here?
Musubi in my understanding exists at any time when a sensible communication exists between one being and another being. The mode of communication is not important -- physical, visual, aural, emotional, or even pre-conscious.

Musubi is more subtle than "send a message." More like an open channel. An unrealized potential energy. The best iriminage never touches uke, and kiai can break a vulnerable attack before it is launched or landed.
It would be my belief that musubi pre-exists the instant of physical contact. ... When physical contact is made, the musubi manifests as katsu hayabi or instant victory. In other words one has the partner's center at the instant of contact. ... If the musubi exists before physical contact, on a psychic level, it would be impossible for the partner / opponent to move separately from the nage. We do not disagree at all. Katsu hayabi to me seems like the lightning cascade that collapses the conduit path between segregated positive and negative charge potential once their mutual movement becomes slightly out of harmony.

Musubi is not a matter of conscious intent but it is a matter of will, however, and does not occur on its own. i.e. -- bumping accidentally into someone in the hallway does not create musubi unless I have trained to accept that commmunication and to make it musubi. Put another way, two inanimate objects colliding do create musubi. Two live attentive beings, connecting with one another do create musubi.

Too many people do live their lives colliding like billiard balls.

Predictable, dead, and very, very sad.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Fred Little
06-29-2006, 02:40 PM
If I am understanding you properly, you are saying that musubi exists at the point in time and space at which physical contact takes place. Is that what is being said here?

It would be my belief that musubi pre-exists the instant of physical contact. It starts at the moment one projects his attention out and touches the partner and visa versa. It only begins to manifest at the instant that an intention is formed to initiate physical movement but it is there before. When physical contact is made, the musubi manifests as katsu hayabi or instant victory.

Hi George,

I wouldn't dare to speak for Erick, but I've found that if I have the key to my post office box lined up on all axes before it makes physical contact with the lock, the mailbox opens much more easily than if I don't.

My attention certainly has something to do with that, but unlike a human partner, when working with a lock and key, it's comparatively easy to isolate the physical principle from any notions about some sort of higher order response to my attention, intention, contention, etc.

Of course, when I open the mailbox, the only thing I generally find is bills that need paying and junk mail, much of which seems to relate to products intended to enhance my spiritual development.

Hmmmmmmmmm.....

Best,

Fred Little

Erick Mead
06-29-2006, 03:27 PM
Put another way, two inanimate objects colliding do NOT create musubi. Two live attentive beings, connecting with one another do create musubi. Stoopid sepll chekc.

"Always blame the equipment."

Cordially,
Erick Mead

George S. Ledyard
06-29-2006, 05:22 PM
Musubi in my understanding exists at any time when a sensible communication exists between one being and another being. The mode of communication is not important -- physical, visual, aural, emotional, or even pre-conscious.

Musubi is more subtle than "send a message." More like an open channel. An unrealized potential energy. The best iriminage never touches uke, and kiai can break a vulnerable attack before it is launched or landed.
We do not disagree at all. Katsu hayabi to me seems like the lightning cascade that collapses the conduit path between segregated positive and negative charge potential once their mutual movement becomes slightly out of harmony.

Musubi is not a matter of conscious intent but it is a matter of will, however, and does not occur on its own. i.e. -- bumping accidentally into someone in the hallway does not create musubi unless I have trained to accept that commmunication and to make it musubi. Put another way, two inanimate objects colliding do create musubi. Two live attentive beings, connecting with one another do create musubi.

Too many people do live their lives colliding like billiard balls.

Predictable, dead, and very, very sad.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Ok, I misunderstood your meaning... looks like there is no disagreement. Thanks so much!

George S. Ledyard
06-29-2006, 05:37 PM
Hi George,

I wouldn't dare to speak for Erick, but I've found that if I have the key to my post office box lined up on all axes before it makes physical contact with the lock, the mailbox opens much more easily than if I don't.

My attention certainly has something to do with that, but unlike a human partner, when working with a lock and key, it's comparatively easy to isolate the physical principle from any notions about some sort of higher order response to my attention, intention, contention, etc.

Of course, when I open the mailbox, the only thing I generally find is bills that need paying and junk mail, much of which seems to relate to products intended to enhance my spiritual development.

Hmmmmmmmmm.....

Best,

Fred Little
Hi Fred,
In my understanding of musubi, or aiki for that matter, these concepts describe aspects of the relationship between two conscious, alive, energetic systems. They do not apply to opening the mail box or lifting rocks or pulling stumps, the actions of which can be adequately described using motor learning terms like "the summation of forces" etc.

It is true that the mailbox lock has a set of built in parameters that determine whether it opens or not. But the mail box is completely unaffected by changes in mindset, emotion, intention, etc. The difference is that a human being is conscious and is
directly effected by these things. Aiki is the use of the partner's perceptual sensory system to move his mind and thereby get him to move his body. Musubi is the connection that is required to accomplish this.

jeff.
06-29-2006, 09:35 PM
hi

"In my understanding of musubi, or aiki for that matter, these concepts describe aspects of the relationship between two conscious, alive, energetic systems. They do not apply to opening the mail box or lifting rocks or pulling stumps, the actions of which can be adequately described using motor learning terms like "the summation of forces" etc."

would osensei agree with this? in my reading, it seems he believed everything was, in some sense, alive / imbued with energy. in saotome-sensei's story about osensei moving the marble step, it seems like he certainly used aiki / musubi to move it. or did i miss the point?

George S. Ledyard
06-29-2006, 10:29 PM
hi

"In my understanding of musubi, or aiki for that matter, these concepts describe aspects of the relationship between two conscious, alive, energetic systems. They do not apply to opening the mail box or lifting rocks or pulling stumps, the actions of which can be adequately described using motor learning terms like "the summation of forces" etc."

would osensei agree with this? in my reading, it seems he believed everything was, in some sense, alive / imbued with energy. in saotome-sensei's story about osensei moving the marble step, it seems like he certainly used aiki / musubi to move it. or did i miss the point?

It would be my understanding that feats such as lifting marble steps, breaking the mochi pounding bowl, etc would have to do with kokyu power. This is "internal power" and is not the same thing as aiki and musubi.

Peter Goldsbury
06-29-2006, 11:44 PM
Warning: Very Long Post Ahead.

I think that this is the area in which there is the greatest gap in understanding between the way in which O-Sensei understood the values of what Aikido represents, how the Japanese practitioners in general understand what they do, and what the folks around the world have understood it to be.

Yes. There is the observation that aikido is no longer practiced in precisely the religious way that Morihei Ueshiba practiced it There is a constant refrain here these days that Japan has lost its spiritual values, that young people have no 'morals', the term used being not ϗ rinri (= ethics) or doutoku (= morality), but the katakana . It is not clear that the meaning is precisely the same as that of the two older terms. There are horror stories, e.g., young mothers leaving their baby kids in their cars with no windows open while they go off and play pachinko. On the inevitable death of said children, there is a general chorus that young people have lost . On the other hand, there was a general outpouring of 'grassroots' help in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake and at Hiroshima University we were specifically asked not to fail the large number of students who absented themselves from classes to go and help in the relief work. Usually, the reason given is that Japan 'lost' these spiritual values as a result of the defeat in WWII. The bad old militaristic 'opiate' was swept away, and the certainties that go with it, but apparently much else went as well.

Sometimes in the aikido world the observation and the refrain are put together and causally connected, so have the result that postwar aikido has lost its spiritual values because it is no longer practiced in the religious way that the Founder practiced it. Even a cursory glance at Kisshomaru Ueshibafs writings should be enough to show that this is not the case. There are two observations that can be made in this regard.

1. It would be an interesting exercise to draw parallels between the 'loss of spiritual values' that resulted from the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate and the 'loss of spiritual values' that resulted from Japan's defeat in WWII. John Dower has produced some impressive work on the latter, but as far as I know, no one has studied the two eras together (perhaps Masao Maruyama).

The phenomenon of Japan's New Religions arose from around 1800 onwards, about 60 years before the Tokugawa shogunate collapsed. This is according to Nobutake Inoue's impressive Shin Shuukyou Jiten, a work that, if translated, might also enlighten popular understanding of Morihei Ueshiba. In other words, the 'loss' of the 'spiritual values' of Tokugawa led to a vast outpouring of substitute systems, all pretty well emphasizing the promise of a better tomorrow, if 'we all stick together' (as Russell Crowe put it in Gladiator) and, most importantly, if we all trust our Founder, who has invariably had personal communication with the Divine. Along with Tenri-kyou, Oomoto-kyou was central among these religions and Ueshiba was the righthand man of the religion's second founder.

The power of the New Religions still exists. However, there has not occurred the general outpouring of new religious forms that characterized the bakumatsu period. Oomoto-kyou soon broke up into factions and offshoots, but a very large number of Japanese (some 10%) officially proclaim belief in some New Religion or other. Recently I was surprised to be visited by a neighbour. She runs a ryokan (actually Jun and his girlfriend stayed there). She wanted me to join the New Religion of which she was an active member (active enough to make house-to-house calls, Jehovah's Witness-style). When I stated that my Catholic Christianity was sufficient, her answer was eerily similar to Morhiei Ueshiba's comment about aikido. There was no problem whatever in being a Catholic and joining this new religion, for doing so would make me a better Catholic: it would 'perfect' or 'complete' my Catholicity. This leads me to the second observation.

2. Japanese have no problems about embracing several religions at once and I think this colours Morihei Ueshiba's views on religion.

Actually, when I retire from Hiroshima University, I could get a lucrative 'second-life' job as a 'priest' at 'Christian' weddings. Christian weddings are very popular nowadays and wedding 'churches' are springing up all over the place, a notable one being a smaller but almost exact replica of Cologne Cathedral not far from Fukuyama JR Station. Of course, I would not need to be ordained. Fake ordination papers would be furnished by the wedding company and I would simply need to look benevolently 'priestly' and unctuous, and speak very good Japanese. My success at the job would depend on making the bride, groom and guests 'feel' sufficiently 'spiritual' on such an important day of their lives. I do not know how to describe this otherwise, in the absence of any cognitive concepts that would come from actual belief. The fact that you can have a echurchf wedding in such a completely fabricated setting is not seen as at all unusual: in fact it would probably be preferred, compared with what would be involved in marrying in a real church.

The fact that 'foreign' religions were not allowed to take root in Japan is well-known. What is more interesting is the extent to which those who do embrace 'foreign' religions actually 'Japanize' the content. In other words, what is the general impact of the history and culture of popular shinto and Buddhism on a religion like Christianity? This is one question. Another would be: to what extent do Japanese regard the New Religions as different from these older eforeignf ones?

It is clear that Oomoto-kyo was syncretistic and simply borrowed liberally from other sources. After all, if you are not tied to a specific credo of Catholic-type doctrine, it is probably best to be as all all-embracing as possible. But Oomoto followed the usual pattern, of a founder who suffered deprivation of some sort, had visions, did things that she should not have been able to do, and (this is important) attracted many followers who found solace in belonging to a large group and also found, in the person of Onisaburo Deguchi, a powerful right-hand man who was able to expand and transform the mumblings of the Founder into a coherent and powerful message. (The parallel with Kisshomaru Ueshiba is striking here.)

One might compare Japan with a country like France, where I stayed for two years as a student of philosophy. Postwar France, like Japan, has suffered a decline in spiritual values, and this would probably be measured by the sharp decline in church attendance. The magnificent cathedrals and churches that are dotted all over France are more like museums or empty shells than centers of a living faith, but the spirituality that has so declined is still expressed in terms of a religion commanding a specific set of beliefs. Where you do not have such a religion, in a country like Japan, because one was never allowed to take root, how do you measure the loss of spirituality compared with what has gone before?

I think I will break off here, otherwise this post will become unmanageably long.

Ron Tisdale
06-30-2006, 08:40 AM
Not too long at all. I have a very difficult time imagining how japanese society functions in relation to religeon (and a lot of other things) and your questions and the framework you place them in helps a great deal.

Thanks,
Ron

Fred Little
06-30-2006, 10:28 AM
Hi Fred,
In my understanding of musubi, or aiki for that matter, these concepts describe aspects of the relationship between two conscious, alive, energetic systems.

.... The difference is that a human being is conscious and is
directly effected by these things. Aiki is the use of the partner's perceptual sensory system to move his mind and thereby get him to move his body. Musubi is the connection that is required to accomplish this.

Hi George,

I don't relly disagree about those higher-order descriptions of interaction between living systems. I would however contend that musubi covers a broad range from simple physical connection at one end to those more energetic connections at the other, all the way up to "spooky action at a distance."

But one of the things I find intriguing about aikido is that, depending on the inclinations and capacities of any given individual, where along that continuum the individual is capable of engaging with the practice of "musubi" or "connection" varies widely.

For some people it is rigidly mechanical at the beginning. For others it can be pretty vaprous.

Wherever along the continuum people start out, it seems to me that long-term serious practice and study naturally leads to a broadening of their understanding of "musubi."

Those inclined to the vaprous end up learning about mundane physical connection and vice versa.

The openness of the system in terms of a practitioner's starting point is, and the scalability of the core metaphors are, to my mind, two of its most unusual, if not magical, qualities.

Best,

FL

Erick Mead
06-30-2006, 01:56 PM
Warning: Very Long Post Ahead. I'll likely fail in making mine shorter ...
... to join the New Religion of which she was an active member (active enough to make house-to-house calls, Jehovah's Witness-style). When I stated that my Catholic Christianity was sufficient, her answer was eerily similar to Morhiei Ueshiba's comment about aikido. There was no problem whatever in being a Catholic and joining this new religion, for doing so would make me a better Catholic: it would 'perfect' or 'complete' my Catholicity. This leads me to the second observation.

2. Japanese have no problems about embracing several religions at once and I think this colours Morihei Ueshiba's views on religion.

And yet, I have the impression that the kindly old proselyte for her sect meant it in a way different from that meant by O-Sensei, and that O-Sensei came to understand it in a way different from what Onisaburo meant when he said essentially the same thing. They seem to see the addition of every possible spiritually efficacious practice as part of bringing spirituality "to completion."

They seem to assume that all religious conflicts are only apparent and need not be resolved. Becasue they need not be resolved, no connection betwen them is ever really established. They pass like ships in the night -- one unaffected by the other, which to the Western mind leads to the sometimes odd-seeming adoption of the Western wedding trappings, utterly disconnected from either its own tradition or the native traditions that it supplements.

This is in fact a larger criticism of Japanese culture, which is in my view a consequence of a common misreading of in-yo as a cultural paradigm. Many very intransigent and dangerous problems are not addressed because the appearance of any conflict is to be avoided (the status of ethnic Korean Japanese being a sterling and sad example.) If anyone has been in Japan and seen a groups of very loud drunks after the end of the workweek (no decent Japanese would be seen drunk alone) being studiously "not seen" by passers-by -- you know precisely what I mean.

O-Sensei understood conflict as very real. He fought in Manchuria. He was bodyguard for a dissident figure of national proiminence. He did not assert that conflct did not need ot be resolved. He prescribed direct entry (irimi) and connection with the opponent, without opposition to him as the solution to a conflict once it had arisen. For this reason, O-Sensei's approach is much more in keeping with the objective and rationalist elements of Christian tradition partuicularly, and Wetsern tradition generally, which posits very real and objective opposition and conflict to exist in spiritual matters.

In this sense O-Sensei's view or approach to the religious question is almost the obverse of ordinary Japanese syncretism desribed above, despite his using similar language to describe it. Aikido is a practice of spiritually efficacious dimension. O-Sensei plainly viewed it as a practice that could be grafted within other traditions, but, as he said to Andre Noquet -- not in the sense described above.


I asked him one day if there wasn't a similarity between his prophecies and those of Christ. He answered, "Yes, because Jesus said his technique was love and I, Morihei, also say that my technique is love. Jesus created a religion, but I didn't. Aikido is an art rather than a religion. But if you practice my Aikido a great deal you will be a better Christian." Then I asked, "Sensei should I remain a Christian?" He replied,
"Yes, absolutely. You were raised as a Christian in France. Remain a Christian." If he had told me to stop being a Christian and become a Buddhist, I would have been lost.

It seems to me that O-Sensei sought connection, not as a sterile adjunct, but as a fertile participant in new growth within ans trengthening existing traditions, rather than altering it or simply being laid alongside ( like utensils in a drawer), unconnectedly, in the manner of Omoto (as I perceive Onisaburo's writings) and the kindly old lady Prof. Goldsbury mentions.

Actually, when I retire from Hiroshima University, I could get a lucrative 'second-life' job as a 'priest' at 'Christian' weddings. Christian weddings are very popular nowadays and wedding 'churches' are springing up all over the place, a notable one being a smaller but almost exact replica of Cologne Cathedral not far from Fukuyama JR Station. Of course, I would not need to be ordained. Fake ordination papers would be furnished by the wedding company and I would simply need to look benevolently 'priestly' and unctuous, and speak very good Japanese.

This a good point to make. Japanese religion is almost purely sacramental in its approach, focussed on (almost any) action deemed spiritually efficacious. Fundamentalist Protestantism is by contrast almost purely scriptural and creed centered in its focus, to the near exlcusion of sacramentla acts. Islam has a curious mix of the two -- a universal faithulness to a minimalist creed (Tawhid), and a minimalist set of sacramental observation, salat, zakat etc. with a maximalist but widely diverse scriptural tradition over which there are many contending interpretations, at least four main traditional schools, plus Shi'a, and Sufi and other more minor sects and varaiations.

Catholicism embraces a more evenly balanced tension between creed/scriptural fidelity, and a sacramental life of spiritually efficacious actions. That, in very basic sense, is what makes it "catholic," i.e. -- universal or all-encompassing. Mind and body. Objective and subjective.

The fact that 'foreign' religions were not allowed to take root in Japan is well-known. What is more interesting is the extent to which those who do embrace 'foreign' religions actually 'Japanize' the content.

For the aforementioned reasons, Japanese religion has very little difficulty in accepting any spiritual practice, regardless of context and adapting it to their sacramentally-centered understanding of spirituality. Islam on the other hand depends on its social cohesion across many cultures for adherence to a single untranslated text and very small set of sacramental observances and creed requirements, such that the adoption of any practice seen as "spiritual," that is not in strict comformity with those observances is seen as threatening to the most essential elements that tie adherents of very differnt backgrounds together. Fundamentalist Protestantism has the same basic issue.

Catholicism finds ways to embrace "gifts of the spirit" to expand the sacramental side of life, not in the somewhat ad hoc manner of Japanese culture, but in a way that considers, reflects and then critically adapts spiritual practices seen as efficacious vehicles of God';s grace, so long as it is seen that they do not impair of undermine the sacramental life of the Church already established in its scriptural revelation and proven traditions. Classical Buddhism also had aspects of this same deliberate openness to human experience as contingently valuable revelation of its own kind.

For this reason it is fascinating to see the coalescence of contemplative practices jointly within sacntioned Catholic religious orders and traditional structures of Buddhist sangha (Morning Star Zendo being an excellent example, whose Roshi and Dharma heir is also a Jesuit priest. The book ' Zen Catholicism' by Dom Aelred Graham is also a treasure for such exploration)

I find that Aikido is an able adjunct to Christian faith in the Catholic tradition, in just this same way. Given the manner in which Zen is now being adopted within Christian tradition I have a concrete basis for this hope and expectation for aikido, that O-Sensei perhaps could not have, but to which he plainly aspired. It should have greater exposure in this sense.

One might compare Japan with a country like France, where I stayed for two years as a student of philosophy. Postwar France, like Japan, has suffered a decline in spiritual values, and this would probably be measured by the sharp decline in church attendance. The magnificent cathedrals and churches that are dotted all over France are more like museums or empty shells than centers of a living faith, but the spirituality that has so declined is still expressed in terms of a religion commanding a specific set of beliefs. Where you do not have such a religion, in a country like Japan, because one was never allowed to take root, how do you measure the loss of spirituality compared with what has gone before?

The experience of aikido in the secular West has great possibility, but Europe also is in great danger on this front (read Pope Benedict's "Truth and Tolerance," which will explain the basis for gathering rapprochement this theological Pope is making among the secular intellectual establishment in Europe).

But I will note one thing as to aikido specifically. Nearly everyone I have known who is more or less secular in their orientation, yet seems to seek for the spiritual foundation "behind" aikido. I suggest that the way in which O-Sensei transmitted it neither depended upon nor intended any such foundation as a necessity. Possible, yes, reproducible, perhaps, but not necessary.

That does not mean he intended for aikido to be apart from a living spiritual tradition. Too many people, I think, do not give O-Sensei sufficient credit for understanding the world outside of Japan, simply on the evidence he was so deeply attuned to his own native tradition. His own reading and the breadth of library give the lie to that.

Perhaps O-Sensei demonstrated his method to emulate -- not his actions to reproduce. Kotodama, for instance, while it gives insight to understand how he related deep tradition, communication in language, sound and movement to physical action and spiritual effects, is almost incomprehensible, and of therefore doubtful utility to anyone who does not natively speak Japanese.

One cannot help, however, to notice the religiosity with which O-Sensei viewed his art, and the heartfelt expression of spitual consequence he gave it in his Doka. He did not attend to seeing that his deshi transmitted very much of this esoteric knowledge of his views on Shinto, but he was, neverthless, very outspoken about it in other settings, and committed to it in his own life. This is a discrepancy to be reconciled. This is one way to reconcile it.
It seems almost a direct challenge (irimi) to confront aikido in our OWN traditions and to create musubi with the tools he gave us.

I think I will break off here, otherwise this post will become unmanageably long.
Ditto, here. I think I achieved what you avoided

Cordially,
Erick Mead

dps
06-30-2006, 02:40 PM
Good post Eric.

Umm could anyone recommend a good dictionary software program? :)

Erick Mead
06-30-2006, 03:31 PM
Good post Eric.

Umm could anyone recommend a good dictionary software program? :) Japanese? This free website dictionary is invaluable and has fairly good coverage -- romaji, kanji and kana, even name kanji which can be highly variant.

http://www.nihongoresources.com/

Cordially,
Erick Mead

dps
06-30-2006, 08:24 PM
Onyomi. :)

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2006, 01:37 PM
Hi George,

I don't relly disagree about those higher-order descriptions of interaction between living systems. I would however contend that musubi covers a broad range from simple physical connection at one end to those more energetic connections at the other, all the way up to "spooky action at a distance."


Yes, I would agree with that. Aiki describes the energetic connection itself while musubi is descriptive of the act of establishing that connection. Musubi is tying you and the opponent / partner together in a way that isn't optional for the other guy. So it exists on the level of joining your "intention" with the opponent's and it also exists on the level of meeting his physical attack in a way that makes it impossible for him to move separately from you.