View Full Version : Winning vs. Not Losing
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12-23-2010, 06:55 PM
The promise of Aiki is potentially limitless in terms of applying its impact and significance to Aikido. Any viewpoint of its martial relevance to Aikido, whether deemed major or minor, is totally on the declarer to clarify and to justify. One can take as narrow, or as broad a paint brush to color in the shapes, hues and lines of their understanding of Aiki's role in describing the Founder's aikido, and realize that tens of thousands of others have done the very same thing. It is my opinion that it is not up to us to teach others of what Aikido is or isn't, but to quietly and humbly allow Aikido to reveal its connections to Aiki principles to us directly over a lifetime of diligent training.
There is to be found a certain purity of purpose on the road of self discovery, and hopefully of some level of mastery, as one decides to devote mind, body and spirit to dealing with any worthwhile endeavor, struggle or challenge. This definitely rings true for the promise from general Aikido research and training, to the individual who commits unconditionally to do whatever it takes to stay the lifelong course of unrelenting study, focused training, and by incorporating subsequent understanding into meaningful behavior and results.
It is my sincere stance, that we should study Aikido primarily as a discipline to undertake, correct and refine our search for meaning within ourselves, and for the pursuit of excellence within our art. We should not study the Aikido of systems, techniques, and martial philosophy, simply to emerge victorious in any confrontation we may encounter. Rather, we should consider using any such confrontation as a self test to measure and appreciate how close, or how far we have progressed towards or from our stated goals of embracing fully the potential of studying this art called Aikido.
Rather than focusing on a "win", which is no more than an event, we should resolve to endure and persevere by "not losing", forging this concept into a lifestyle attitude and commitment. In essence, the notion of "not losing" totally rejects the need to control the win-lose outcome of any confrontational scenario, in favor of a mind set of achieving genuine "self defense", where we successfully preserve intact all that we deem valuable and essential to continuing to live and to thrive in the manner we choose.
When asked about the true purpose of Shorin Ryu Karate, Master Yoshimitsu Onaga, 8th dan Kyoshi, stated that "The purpose of Karate is not to win. Its true purpose is not to lose.". Undoubtedly, he was referring to the mind set necessary to successfully do one's best to emerge victorious in a confrontation. Yet, did he mean it only to apply for tournaments, sparring training, and the rare occasion of a physical altercation? I think not, as men of that stature surely think about their way of life 24/7, and look to be in the moment at all times. Their purpose is to be correct in all phases of their lives, and to live and act honorably, consistent with the traditions that bind them.
What are we then defending or preserving that is worth more than a "win"?
I would humbly submit that we must attempt to "not lose ", in no particular order, our personal sense of integrity of purpose, the respect and expectations from those close to us, and to maintain this identity unshakably against the negative words or actions of others. I would think that it is essential, not to lose our self respect, our hard won self esteem, and a healthy self image, and to continue being faithful to our ideals and our standards of personal conduct, of correct thinking, speech and behavior, to respect others, as well as ourselves, in our environment. Isn't this what being a genuinely consistent leader is all about? Don't we need to be aware of what we have to lose, vs. what we hope to gain? It is said that "the fear of loss is a greater motivator than the hope of gain".
We must seek to be a part of the solution, and to not be a complicit part of the problem. This is what I see as the message from the Founder in his admonition to use the lessons of Aikido training to form and keep relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial, and to refuse any invitation to engage in "survival of the fittest" games with the misguided, the misinformed, and the mistakenly disingenuous.
Other considerations of value that I dare not lose are intimately tied to the Principles of Aiki as I understand them to be, and remain at the core of my own cultivated self image as a martial artist. These things that I hold so dear, do not in turn require me to collect "victories" over enemies, real or imagined. Rather, they require me to first attempt to clarify any misunderstanding, to resolve potential conflicts by compromise and reason, and to constantly be vigilant in speech, mannerisms and behavior that may be misunderstood by others.
In the interesting world of "modern Aikido" there is no lack of reasoned positions about what the Founder meant his art to be, nor to what extent succeeding generations may exercise "license" to interpret his mission and legacy for their own purposes.
A popular notion I often encounter is that "Aikido is not about fighting", but to "win" absolutely via "Masakatsu Agatsu". Really? While noble sounding, and echoing the Christian ethic of "taking the high road", is it really the purpose of Aikido to choose passivity, and to avoid confrontations at any cost? No, I will not gently into any good night, thank you. I will not mistake the Founder's example of integrity with that of the great Gandhi. I will stand strong for my principles, choosing to "not lose" my centering and my focus on what I hold important. The choice, if offered, is to do so in a non violent way. Nonetheless, we need to look no further than the Founder himself for the answer needed, as he abundantly demonstrated all the ways of appropriate response. You simply commit yourself to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.
Yes, I will do whatever it takes to "not lose" what I deem precious or vital to me.
So, if I can be sure that I am no longer in danger of "losing" what I cannot afford to lose, why, my antagonist is then totally welcome to any "win" left over from our encounter. Hopefully, we can both live with the results.
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.
12-25-2010, 05:46 PM
As is your norm, Sensei, your write is an impassioned and thought-provoking one. I especially liked your carefully worded reference to there being "no lack of reasoned positions"... :p Where I'm from, this is usually followed immediately by "everybody has one..." :D
I agree with your position that it was not O'Sensei's intention that the Aiki way be one of passivity, but only that one should consider less destructive solutions when available. I like to think it's much akin to "Walk softly, but carry a sturdy bokken...".
Thanks again for a great read.
12-25-2010, 08:00 PM
Greetings, Bateman Sensei, and a very Mele Kalikimaka, and a Haolui Makahikihou to you and the family!
Your generous and unstinting support for Aikido, for Stan Pranin, for Aiki Web, and for wandering shugyosha like myself is most admirable, and very much appreciated!
Thank you for adding your quiet voice of gentle reason, and kind regard for people and topics that revolve around Aiki and Aikido. I, and many others, can hardly wait for your extended contributions to join the team effort that make the online blogs interesting and worthwhile.
All the best of the Season, and all the more Reason to be happy!
12-25-2010, 11:48 PM
Takahashi Sensei thank you for your thoughtful contributions always.
Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason is a perfect description of aikido or budo - or life. And by keeping (= not losing) your centre you can make the right decisions.
There is also a hierarchy of not losing. In the Aikido in a street situation thread Henry Ellis told the story of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei being prepared to die for his wallet. Marty McFly in Back to the Future could be provoked by anyone calling him chicken. But a wallet can be replaced and you know what they say about sticks and stones.
The Irish version of Clark Bateman's/Theodore Roosevelt's Walk softly, but carry a sturdy bokken... is You can accomplish more with a kind word and a shillelagh than you can with just a kind word.
I am thinking of writing a blog post about ai uchi and so your article is especially interesting. Ai uchi - when two attacks strike simultaneously - in kenjutsu would probably mean death for both swordsmen. So for a samurai ai uchi would be not losing but the same as losing.
Best wishes for the season and for a great 2011,
12-25-2010, 11:50 PM
Mahalo nui loa, Sensei. The same to you and yours.
12-26-2010, 01:16 AM
Domo Arigatoo gozaimashita, Matthews Sensei.
What a real pleasure it is to read your blogs that give such unique insights into little known things Japanese, and in language this Hawaiian transplant can understand. Keep up the good work please!
Ellis Sensei's historical anecdotes and accounts of both Abe and Abbe Sensei's, give us Americans truly rare and valuable insights into Aikido's little known impact on the Continent, and on Aikido's identity at large.
Perhaps some day Americans and our brothers in Europe and elsewhere can swap stories, train in harmony and really raise the level of Aikido in the direction indicated by the late Doshu. The recent AI Bridge seminar in New Jersey was an excellent start, if I may be so immodest.
Of course, our brethren in Japan, with yourself, Goldsbury Sensei and others, will continue to share invaluable perspectives as well, and what a never ending party that will be.
I am looking forward to your treatment on "ai uchi", and want to compare perspectives with you at that time.
Thank you again for your kind words, your passion for Aikido, and your wonderful gift of making "Japanese" notions and concepts so entertainingly interesting.
12-26-2010, 04:17 AM
Sometimes when trying to explain Aikido ethics, we still get caught up in the dualism of fighting not fighting, winning vs losing, right way wrong way, defend vs attack, etc..
Sensei this is a perfect explanation of Aikido for begginers. To do whatever it takes not lose, and forget about wining because it is irrelevant. Is this not Budo? Thank you Sensei, Seasons greetings and a happy new year.
12-26-2010, 04:20 AM
Also, I cant remember where I read this but it has stuck with me for a long time and I think it is relevant here, "a true passafist is not so unless he can strike down a man in a blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending doom chooses peace". Domo arigato Sensei.
12-26-2010, 07:34 AM
Takahashi Sensei thank you so much (and please call me Niall). I can add the source for Andrew's quote:
A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence.
and this is the interview it comes from.
12-26-2010, 03:05 PM
Agreed, wining and losing are antagonistic.
IMHO, doing what we all already know is the right thing is a statement of fact and daily discipline. As long as we do the right thing, in the short term we may win or lose, but in the long run we will only win. It isn't the high road or the low road, its the only road.
12-27-2010, 01:01 AM
Greetings, Seiser Sensei,
Once again, I find you both generous and kind with your words of agreement.
May I also add that your contributions augment your obvious passion for original interpretations of Aikido, and its role in today’s search for meaning and answers.
I enjoy and appreciate your work.
In terms of the seeming antagonism of the notions of “winning” vs. “not losing”, is it possible to also appreciate the potential of their being mutually complementary to each other, owing their significance and potential to the possibly beneficial impact they can have on the other. In this way, we can imagine a co-existence of sorts which we may find useful, as we deal with concepts, things and people we have yet to reach agreement, and harmonious accord with, at least for now.
By choosing to “not lose” our hard won core values in times of stress and confrontation, we may even dare to redefine “winning” by using applicable Aiki Principles to discover common grounds for agreement and accommodation, even while remaining in respectful disagreement on other issues. Can this become a means for us to use the Aiki toolbox in more constructive ways, agreeing to disagree at times, yet with an eye ever on the prize of peaceful co-existence and the mutual allowance of rightful expression.
Perhaps we actually can achieve both “winning”, and “not losing”, by resolving to remain respectful and sincere in our regard and treatment of one another in all phases of our existence.
12-27-2010, 07:00 AM
Perhaps we actually can achieve both “winning”, and “not losing”, by resolving to remain respectful and sincere in our regard and treatment of one another in all phases of our existence.
Thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot especially beause we have known each other for a while and you have actually shared space and time on the mat (and the chairs) with me.
I attribute a lot of my attitude of acceptance and appreciation to the models I had early in my Aikido experience. You were and have remained a major influence in my Aikido on and off the mat. Your kindness and generousity will never be forgotten.
I also remember this same attitutde in my Sensei and Sempai at Westminster Aikikai. When I began the higher belts took away from their own workouts to instruct me. They told me I had to pass it on. While I may never be able to repay the debt, I can perpetuate the attitude.
In the military I learned to leave no one behind.
I like the concept on inter-connectedness, inter-relatedness, and inter-dependency that supports the mystic vision of non-dualism. We all win or we all lose. And yes, many times, not losing is winning.
I tend to break the Golden Rule because I would never treat myself with the same respect I will treat others. But I try to practice acceptance and appreciation of what is and who we are, with all of our ignorance and attachments.
12-27-2010, 10:40 PM
I will stand strong for my principles, choosing to "not lose" my centering and my focus on what I hold important. The choice, if offered, is to do so in a non violent way. Nonetheless, we need to look no further than the Founder himself for the answer needed, as he abundantly demonstrated all the ways of appropriate response. You simply commit yourself to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.
So simple, direct and obvious. A fine read. Thank you.
All the Best,
12-28-2010, 01:58 AM
Thanks for your interesting post Takahashi Sensei and the thoughtfull answers of the others.
Due to my poor vocabulary I cannot explain myself very well, just this humble thought: it depends always in one, what we do or get of every situation of our training and in our life. Even if we lose we win experience and knowledge. We just must try to find the positive side of everything.
Like Nialls example Kenshiro Abe prepared to die for his wallet, even if we lose our wallet we are winning our life.
I wish you all a happy New Year full of health.
12-28-2010, 03:38 AM
Words that pour from the energized heart are often more honest and revealing than those from educated intelligence.
Your understated eloquence, Carina, speaks volumes to me and says much of what interests you. Thank you for your kind response, and the gifts of your interest in and caring of Aiki matters.
Thank you Ron, for your thoughtful comments. I miss reading your interesting viewpoints on Aikido and related matters, and look forward to more of what you have to share.
To everyone, I wish a sincere Haouli Makahiki Hou!!
01-01-2011, 02:55 PM
Good day Francis:
I have never cared who won or lost which must have been hard for my basketball coaches. I love aikido because correct feeling is the focus.
Your column made me think of my coming of age (it was rather late)...when I decided that I could do whatever it takes to protect myself and my family.
My fiercness and my commitment to be aware and mindful are more truthful to me than my learned victimhood.
Aikido training has helped me become responsible and accountable...a far journey from the weak willed woman I was.
I believe the right response for every situation is found in the mindfulness of each moment...more will be revealed.
Thank you and Happy New Year!
01-01-2011, 09:17 PM
Thank you for sharing your very personal and heartfelt perspectives that you have apparently achieved through going through both positive and negative experiences with courage and determination. This means that you made a powerful commitment to not lose your core sense of hard won values. Even then, you have also maintained a very Aiki calmness in defining where you are today, even as your ongoing journey continues.
There are undoubtedly many lessons that reading your post can reveal to those with open minds and hearts, and I thank you for sharing this with us. Those who train with you are fortunate indeed, as is your marvelous teacher, Ron Ragusa Sensei.
Please take full advantage of all that 2011 has in store for you and your family, and may your training always be rewarding and joyful.
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