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takver
07-25-2009, 06:18 PM
I have been training for a long time. In the last few years I have had growing doubts about the place of aikido in my life and its value as a practice. When I hear about "the life-giving sword" etc, I feel a bit sick. I doubt the philosophy, I don't think controlling people "for their own good" is a great goal, I don't want to fight anymore by whatever name. Aikido has been so important to me in the past, just wondering if anyone else has been through this and stuck with it, and if so what happened...
thanks

Janet Rosen
07-25-2009, 10:12 PM
Yes, doubts about ANYthing we do are normal, and actually a good sign (IMO) of mindfullness and evaluation values.

Having said that, devil's advocate hat on for a question: What makes you think aikido is about controlling another person?

takver
07-25-2009, 10:56 PM
Hi Janet,
Sometimes we say its not, but sometimes we say swords are compassionate.... most everyone practices to control and to win: many people would ask what is the point of calling it a martial art if its not... I know of a few possible exceptions: Wendy Palmer Sensei, Mary Heiny Sensei maybe, maybe Endo Shihan, of the people I have seen - and except for Wendy I don't have much experience of them so I could be wrong. Even Wendy Sensei expects to throw people, most of the time - but in any case, I was more wondering if anyone has felt like this and gotten through it and is still training, not wether I am right. If anyone has, what changed? how did you begin to see it differently? Did you find a different teacher? Change the way you teach? Was there a book you read or a person who said something? Did something come out of the practice itself? Has anyone left aikido and taken up dance or gardening or devoted themselves to meditation (probably not who is reading this forum...)

Suru
07-25-2009, 11:03 PM
Like Leonard Sensei writes about in "Mastery," any new enjoyable activity is bound to lose its "shiny newness" after some time. Many people, whom he labels, "dabblers," will leave the activity and perpetually seek new ones until their shininesses comes off. Leonard Sensei really doesn't make the master's journey seem exceptionally fun, as he speaks of increasing plateaus between decreasing advancements. Anyway, that book should offer perspective, and there are some other really good ones to keep you motivated.

Drew

ChrisHein
07-25-2009, 11:44 PM
I guess I don't understand the trouble you are having with your practice.

Are you saying that you have become a complete pacifist and cannot ever see yourself "fighting" over anything?

Shadowfax
07-26-2009, 09:02 AM
One of the things that attracted me to aikido is the idea that one looks for the most peaceful possible solution to an attack. In this world of getting even and get him before he gets you this is really a very loving art. Stop and think about it. You learn how to prevent someone from hurting you while if at all possible not hurting them and if it is necessary to hurt them to control it in order to do only the minimum needed in order to end the conflict. We are not taught to fight for the sheer joy of inflicting injury or knowing we can. We are taught to defend while keeping ourselves and our attacker as safe as possible and even more desirable to neutralize the attack hopefully before it can really occur.

To me this is a valuable thing to be know how to do.

I am still quite new to Aikido (2+months training) but this is the impression I have gotten so far. I've spent a lot of time reading and learning about this before I ever stepped onto a mat.

The idea of controlling people for their own good under such a situation again seems a kindness more than something to consider in a negative light. Not to mention in such cases the control is also for the good of the one who has been attacked.

If you have doubts perhaps you need to take a break or reevaluate what Aikido is to you. You have to make the choice that works best for you.

Lee Salzman
07-26-2009, 09:26 AM
Depending on how you meant "I have been training for a long time", I may have been training far less long than you, so take my advice with a grain of salt and all that. :)

But, for me, I found the idea of treating aikido, and indeed any martial arts practice as self-defense, a philosophy, a way of life, etc. etc. was basically destructive to me. It was the very fact that I put such monumental importance that precipitated burn-out and a lack of enjoyment of it. I couldn't just go in and practice for the pure fun of it; 'cause, ya know, every interaction had to be deadly serious or I felt my practice was "wasted" or not "real" enough, or that if I wasn't doing what so-and-so was doing or training so-and-so amount that I was failing at elevating my practice to whatever pedestal I was putting it on.

At some point, well, I just stopped doing that. I stopped looking at aikido as self-defense or "fighting" or "not fighting". I stopped worrying about the philosophy of it. I just went in to practice for the simple sake of exercise and interacting with people. And at the same time, I was suddenly free to be more adventurous in what I was doing because the outcome did not matter. I could go off on tangents, and if they took me nowhere, so what? Eventually I just put my aikido training on hold, and I went off to new places that had that whole "shiny newness" again (in the words of the above), still martial arts - because I still like them on some level more than other sports, but I was no longer afraid to let myself suck again and learn new things.

So maybe if you can stop looking at aikido in terms of any purpose and just accept the practice at face value for what it is, a practice of some movements with other people, devoid of any meaning beyond this, it might help you work through it. Or maybe you might find you're happier just learning gardening and putting your practice on hold till it interests you again, why make training torture if you're just not that into it anymore?

Janet Rosen
07-26-2009, 12:29 PM
Hi. I wasn't asking a question of "right" or "wrong." It's a matter of how one frames or defines what one does.
If one frames aikido as being about controlling another, decides that this is not congruent with one's values, then aikido is not congruent with one's values.
My question was meant to open the larger issue of: how do YOU define aikido and why you are doing it? Because I think this is the crux of the, if you will, existential crisis you are experiencing with your training.
And my point is, we ALL go through this and all the things you ask about (books, teachers, etc) have been used by individuals and can be a help, but ulitimately it is an internal question only you can answer.

Karo
07-26-2009, 03:40 PM
I agree with what Janet and Cherie said. The particular interpretation of aikido's purpose and nature which you give is just that: an interpretation. It's true that aikido, being a martial art, stems from ideas that are inherently about conflict, about fighting, and about winning; but you might just as well see it as self-defense with minimal injury to opponent (as Cherie views it), as an engaging exercise practice (as Lee sees it), as a demonstration of universal forces (physical or spiritual) interacting with each other , as a sort of meditation, or as anything else that makes sense to you.

I think what might help you now is to find another teacher, at least for some time, someone who sees aikido and its philosophy differently from your current teachers. Maybe even try a different style?

jonreading
07-27-2009, 11:48 AM
I have been training for a long time. In the last few years I have had growing doubts about the place of aikido in my life and its value as a practice. When I hear about "the life-giving sword" etc, I feel a bit sick. I doubt the philosophy, I don't think controlling people "for their own good" is a great goal, I don't want to fight anymore by whatever name. Aikido has been so important to me in the past, just wondering if anyone else has been through this and stuck with it, and if so what happened...
thanks

1. Janet is correct about aikido - it is not about controlling others, its about controlling yourself. There are several great books which explain in different ways different philosophies behind aikido. Hit a couple of those and see if it helps.
2. Aikido is about conflict resolution, not necessarily "fighting." You will always have conflict in your life even if you choose not to fight. I know several people who have successfully adopted this understanding and continue to train.

As a personal note, I rarely hear explained correctly the dicotomy of satsujinken (the killing sword) and katsujinken (the life-giving sword). That particular analogy seems to be a big buzz-word in aikido that sometimes does not get a good translation.

Shadowfax
07-27-2009, 02:51 PM
1. Janet is correct about aikido - it is not about controlling others, its about controlling yourself.
2. Aikido is about conflict resolution, not necessarily "fighting."

Personally I decided to try Aikido in order to improve my horsemanship which it has done already as well as actually enhancing my skills as a trainer of horses and of people in the equestrian world and in my job. I could go into a lot of ways Aikido has enhanced aspects of my life, given me a different point of view or better way of handling things but I'd wind up writing a book.

I come from a background where there was a lot of violence and conflict. The last place I would have expected to find a way to deal with the scars was martial arts.

I also have for the past 15 years or so led a life that completely avoided anything that might be considered violent or encouraging violence. In that world taking a martial art was not just frowned on it is forbidden. While that life worked for a while I discovered that it did not fully help me to deal with those scars it simply tried to ignore them. Life however does not take that into consideration and eventually it catches up with you.

Not saying that the OP is right or wrong in how they feel about this but the OP posted that they find the idea of fighting to be a problem for them. At one time I would have looked at it the same way and did. I can understand that viewpoint as well as its flaws because that was me. I have since found a different understanding which I mentioned in my previous post.

I hope the OP can find inside themselves a resolution to their internal conflict. I can totally sympathize having been in a similar situation, only in reverse, in the not to distant past.

The answer to this in inside of you. Those of us here can only give you the reasons for our own choices in hopes it will help you to find your own. Whatever you chose, chose what is best for you as a person.

Takver
07-27-2009, 03:45 PM
Thanks everyone for your responses. I have to say I have never really experienced a plateau as Leonard Sensei decribes it before and maybe this is one! Though I have been around long enough to feel confident I am not just thrill-seeking. For years the philosophy of compassionate response to conflict, was the way I saw it. I also trained to learn about and understand my own capacity for violence and for empathy. At times I have trained for excercise, increased bone density and beer with buddies after class. I value that and a lot else aikido has done for me. But, is it actually a generative, creative thing to do at this point? Or is it a martial art for people who can't admit they are practicing ways of hurting and killing people? (I know there are aikidoists who make no bones about that, and I respect their position, but its not something I want to do). I am getting no younger and don't want to waste time and damage my joints for no purpose. But I guess it is just something I have to figure out in my own way. perhaps by blending with my doubts and trying to go deeper with my understanding of violence. Or possibly what I am feeling is the need to take my aikido off the mat and into my life in a new way.

I am curious, what does the life-giving sword really mean? is there a discussion of it you can point me to?

dave9nine
07-27-2009, 04:23 PM
Not that i have more time in this then you or others, or that ive figured out a (the) key, but i offer my take:

you said: "is it actually a generative, creative thing to do at this point? Or is it a martial art for people who can't admit they are practicing ways of hurting and killing people? (I know there are aikidoists who make no bones about that, and I respect their position, but its not something I want to do). I am getting no younger and don't want to waste time and damage my joints for no purpose."

seems like you're making a '2-sides-only' assumption that may not be accurate of fair. i think aikido can be many things for many different people--of course based on how and with whom they train.

i personally see aikido as a moving meditation for myself: in sitting meditation, one sits, closes eyes, and concentrates on observation of breath in order to quite/clear the mind. it is a bridging of mind and body, with the understanding that this bridging of mind/body creates an optimal state for a being that exists as both mind and body. the quite mind results in a calmness and a focus that creates many benefits for a person in actual life. In moving meditation (aikido) one still works on bridging the mind and body to get the same stated benefits, the only difference is that it's done while moving and with the eyes open; and, it has the additional benefit of providing all of this in the context of physical/(spiritual) relationship to another person.

For me, this can be derived from training in Aikido without even once worrying about whether i can defend against the hooligan outside, or whether im teaching myself to be a controlling/dominating person (i most assuredly am not).

it is hard to "live in the moment" in general.
i suggest that "living in the moment" while on the mat is of utmost importance, and that your question appears to be from someone who is having trouble with doing just that.

my dos pesos..
thanks.

Lan Powers
07-27-2009, 04:54 PM
I particularly like the "living-in-the-moment" analogy from the previous post.
A concise wording of a simple pleasure.
Peace
Lan

Abasan
07-27-2009, 09:23 PM
Its not about controlling others. Just because there's waza it doesn't mean Aikido ends there. Its really about gaining control of yourself/ego.

Its a hard and neverending journey and that's why Osensei himself says he is still learning aikido even as he reached his deathbed.

You are of course free to leave at anytime and whatever you have learned will probably serve you in good stead. If you still continue to train to master yourself, in the end the path you choose is bound to meet someone who remained in Aikido seeking to master himself as well. Aikido is just one of the many ways to mastery.

Guilty Spark
07-31-2009, 11:44 AM
Blessed is the mind too small for doubt ;)

123
08-05-2009, 05:56 PM
I started way too many years ago because I had a huge chip on my shoulder and someone needed to get punished. I was immediately distracted by the ukemi and just had to learn that.

I recently had a prolonged plateau and was just sick of it. I was pushing through training but just kept getting worse and worse. The forum prescribed Mastery, which was interesting and helpful, but it was an off-hand remark in another book by Richard Heckler (something about teaching green berets) that gave me the "a-ha!" He noted that in his long illustrious career he had seen so many brown belts suddenly overcome with doubts, specifically about the efficacy of aikido. It just lit up the realization that whatever I was doing didn't work because I thought it wouldn't. Seems really simple, right?

Making assumptions gets me every time.

Yes, I started aikido because I wanted to be a bad-ass, no doubt about it. I have long since given up such childish things. I don't even really know why I practice anymore, I just know that I need to. It is a constant source of wonder to me, as well as deep joy.

ruthmc
08-06-2009, 08:31 AM
I am getting no younger and don't want to waste time and damage my joints for no purpose.

Hi,

If people in your dojo are damaging your joints, then I'd say that they have completely missed the point and are not practising Aikido.

Many folk don't understand that they have a duty of care towards their ukes, and get focussed on improving their interpretation of technique to the exclusion of everything else :straightf

Some folk are downright sadistic and enjoy inflicting injury :uch:

To practise Aikido one must develop a spirit that is above all compassionate, and also dedicated to allowing uke's force to become his undoing, which takes a great deal of understanding of the person attacking you (and I'm not just talking about mental understanding here!)

There are relatively few people who train this way, but there are enough and their numbers are growing :) Choose to join them and it will open up many new dimensions in your training :cool:

Ruth

jxa127
08-06-2009, 09:38 AM
I'll have been practicing for 10 years next month, but in many ways, I'm still an extreme newbie.

But, is it actually a generative, creative thing to do at this point? Or is it a martial art for people who can't admit they are practicing ways of hurting and killing people? (I know there are aikidoists who make no bones about that, and I respect their position, but its not something I want to do).


I don't think this is an either/or situation. Aikido as an art has a broad continuum from controlling pins to potentially killing moves -- often all in the same waza. My instructor talks about "nice guy" ways to do technique and "mean" ways to do technique.

I've always figured that it's better to know the killing technique and then be able to choose not to use it then to not know it and need it.

Having said that, the two times when I really needed my training, I used it to control somebody who was under the influence and a danger to himself. I didn't hit, kick, or harm the person in any way.


I am curious, what does the life-giving sword really mean? is there a discussion of it you can point me to?

You can read it yourself:

The Life-Giving Sword: The Secret Teachings From the House of the Shogun (Hardcover)
by Yagyu Munenori (Author), William Scott Wilson (Translator)

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Giving-Sword-Secret-Teachings-Shogun/dp/4770029551/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249568584&sr=8-1

Here's the book's description:

This is a translation of an important classic on Zen swordfighting. Yagyu Munenori was so widely renowned that he was appointed official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. (The position was always coveted by Miyamoto Musashi, but he never succeeded in gaining the post). Yagyu's style is known as the Shinkage-ryu style, for centuries the official style of the Tokugawa dynasty. His spiritual mentor was Zen priest Takuan. Here, Yagyu's Buddhist spirituality is clearly reflected in his central idea of the "life-giving sword" - the notion of controlling an opponent by the spiritual readiness to fight, rather than during the fight. His mastery of restraint and diplomacy made him a trusted political and military advisor to the shoguns. This book is a look into a master swordsman's thoughts on nonattachment and even non-violence.

Regards,

NagaBaba
08-06-2009, 01:10 PM
I have been training for a long time. In the last few years I have had growing doubts about the place of aikido in my life and its value as a practice. When I hear about "the life-giving sword" etc, I feel a bit sick. I doubt the philosophy, I don't think controlling people "for their own good" is a great goal, I don't want to fight anymore by whatever name. Aikido has been so important to me in the past, just wondering if anyone else has been through this and stuck with it, and if so what happened...
thanks
I think the source for your current situation is a fact that you have some kind of 'philosophy' of aikido as a prerequisite step before techniques. I believe it is huge mistake, very common in Califonia.
Instead you have to have 'empty mind' (from this kind of misleading prejudges) and let the actual aikido techniques create a certain understanding of aikido.

If you really practice for long time, you have to learn now from a student of O sensei.

Carsten Möllering
08-07-2009, 04:38 AM
Hi
I think the source for your current situation is a fact that you have some kind of 'philosophy' of aikido as a prerequisite step before techniques.
I think that is the crucial point: Terms like "love", "harmony" and so on can easily lead in the wrong direction.

let the actual aikido techniques create a certain understanding of aikido.
But that will lead to the insight, that waza controls another person, that the techniques have big pontential to hurt another person and that aikido is indeed a martial art.

If that insight can not be accepted, you can't really practice.
If you can accept it, you will experience the "peace bringing" potential of aikido.

Carsten
.

Basia Halliop
08-12-2009, 02:59 PM
I doubt the philosophy, I don't think controlling people "for their own good" is a great goal,

Interesting -- when I have heard it described that way -- or had that thought myself from practice -- it always sounded great to me -- momentarily controlling someone rather than destroying them or letting them destroy you. Like a third way...

Marc Abrams
08-12-2009, 03:10 PM
When two or more people are interacting with one another, there are efforts in controlling the nature of those relationships at both a covert and overt level. This is simply a fact based upon the differing need and want states in the individuals that get expressed through the nature of the interactions and communications.

If we place a positive value on that type of control, we typically talk about it in terms of "positive influence", "guiding", "assisting", or some other word (s) that convey a positive valence. If we do not place a positive value on that type of control we typically describe it in terms of "manipulating", "controlling", "authoritarian"... or some other word (s) that convey a negative valence.

The larger reality of the fundamental nature of human interactions will be expressed in our human endeavors such as Aikido. It does not matter whether you call it fighting, influencing, ...... By virtue of the fact that you interact with others, such a "duel" of influencing will occur. Unless you live alone on an island, make the most of it!

Marc Abrams

Nicholas Eschenbruch
08-12-2009, 03:13 PM
"takver",
I have probably been in similar places and would be willing to share, but not in public. If you are still interested, since I cannot pm you, pm me.

Best wishes for your situation!

N

Ryan Seznee
08-14-2009, 01:03 PM
Doubts happen. Aikido isn't for everyone, unfortunatly. I can't speak as to the deep meaning and phylisophical powers that Aikido has for me, I honestly have never thought about it. I don't belive in perfection, so I knew coming into Aikido that I would not become some kind of enlightened being who could be at peace with all upon completion of my training. For me, it is just living life. My favorate expression from one of my Senpai is "Iremi is to acept your own death" and "think only 'cut and die'". I take that to mean don't be focused on "winning", "success", or "failure" to quote our favorate greek god of victory, "Just Do It". That is enough for me.

K. Abrams
08-14-2009, 03:39 PM
Maybe you'd be happier with yoga, instead of something that has its basis in martial arts and self-defense. That part of aikido is always there and never goes away, but my feeling is that thet more skilled you are in a martial art, the less you feel you need to use it.

If you can't stand the thought of "controlling" anyone, I doubt you'd be happy in aikido or any martial art as long as you think of them as being controlling. Why not focus on aikido as a way of improving your SELF for self's sake. I never thought of aikido as controlling someone else, but in controlling myself!

In that respect, at its end aikido lets you become a more peaceful person as you build confidence in yourself, so you can spend more time just having fun with the aesthetic aspects of the art and less time or no time thinking about the martial.

phitruong
08-14-2009, 04:30 PM
somewhere sometimes in your life where, most if not everyone, will hit that existential wall and start asking questions like,

what am i doing?
why am i here?
why am i doing that?
what's the point of that?
who am i?
what do i want in life?
is my aikido suck or what?
do i want fries with that?
and
why in the hell did i order double espresso non-fat no-whip with nutmeg?

when you reach that point, you just have to ask someone to kick you in the nuts to restart your existential process or lack thereof. :D

thank god i stay away from that existential wall like the plague, because i don't like the restart process.

K. Abrams
08-14-2009, 04:41 PM
Are you a professional stand-up comic, Phi?
You are very funny. :)
But you made a very good point, too.

Rob Watson
08-14-2009, 08:35 PM
SNIP I don't think controlling people "for their own good" is a great goal SNIP

Such control is an illusion. If we are lucky we can learn to control ourselves. It takes two to tango .. what if one decides not to tango - what is the other doing?

Aiki is driven by the proper intent. Aikido with improper intent will always produce dissoluiton. Once so confilcted change the intent and repeat. As the man says "aikido is a means to purify the universe" - that can't be very easy.