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gates
09-25-2011, 10:06 AM
I am interested to hear peoples perspectives on the spiritual aspects of Aikido. Specifically in how they see Aikido working for them practically as a tool for spiritual development.

For the purpose of the discussion we will borrow a couple of definitions to reduce the likely hood of semantic debates.
Define spirituality as:

"the search for connection with one's true self and a core reality that gives value and meaning to life" Andrew Canale, The cry of the desperate, (http://www.sanjosepby.org/Refmsprt.html)

"a state of interconnectedness with the Other - the divine, the self, the human, the natural, or any combination thereof - resulting in a state of security with a sense of worthful purpose" Caleb Rosado, What is spirituality? Memetics, Quantum Mechanics, and the spiral of spirituality (http://rosado.net/articles-qumetics.html)

Obviously I have some clear opinions of my own, but I'll chime in if people are interested in the discussion of the topic. If possible I'd like to avoid quoting O'Sensei, I am more interested in peoples individuals perspectives, not interested in a 'quotation debate', and if you feel spirituality doesn't have a place in your Aikido practice, there is no need to post !!

Keith

Janet Rosen
09-25-2011, 01:25 PM
To me, short version, aikido gives me a place/means to explore being the human I want to be in dealing w/ other humans. I experience this as spiritual but for another YMMV.

To put is longer: from perspective of being nage: I have to stand before another human and on a basis that is kinetic/energetic/tactile etc but nonverbal engage in the martial interaction in the way that aikido expects. This means not fighting or running away, but accepting the attack as it is; allowing it to express itself while at the same time holding firm to myself (I tend to not see what I do as "blending" but as entering and holding a center line even my feet appear to go to the side or even step back). It means finding a way to form a tactile/energetic connection with my partner that temporarily makes us one unit, then releasing my partner from that unity in a way that preserves my integrity while not doing him harm. In the dojo, which is not a street or combat situation, I want each of us to stand and face each other again smiling with the same open eyes, mind and heart as when he attacked me.
When I'm uke the same feeling pervades; I want to give the best attack I can, aiming for his center, and continue to be connected and aiming for his center as long as it is possible so I can give the gift of the right attack for the technique.
Even when I am partnered with someone I don't like or who has different training goals then I do or I've had a crappy day or whatever....under all circumstances, this is my practice and what I seek to gain from it besides the technical competence.

And, yes, I firmly believe that
1. it is the regular hard work on the technical competence that makes this happen, not the other way around and
2. one does not have to frame one's aikido the way I do for aikido to have meaning or be complete. Totally a matter of YMMV.

hughrbeyer
09-25-2011, 01:59 PM
As I see it, the spirituality of aikido is expressed in the physicality of aikido. They are one thing, not two.

This was really brought home to me a while back when I took up boxing to address weaknesses in my aikido. What struck me most was what a different attitude boxing teaches from aikido, starting with the basic stance. The boxing attitude is: mitts up, light on your feet, eying your opponent from behind your defenses. Turn palms out instead of palms in and you'd almost be cringing. It's both more aggressive and more defensive than the basic aikido kamae.

The aikido stance is neutral, neither attacking nor defensive. In fact, we train not to have either a mindset of aggression or defense, because both are self-defeating. Instead, we train to be balanced in ourselves--if one side retreats, the other takes up the space, and vice versa. And our intention throughout remains one of connection--'hearing' what the other side has to 'say' and responding to it, not necessarily on their terms, but on our own.

Aikido teaches an attitude towards conflict that starts before the conflict starts. We practice to take sente from the first moment, kuzushi from first touch, zanshin when the conflict is resolved. At no time do we give over initiative. Neither do we allow ourselves to become over-committed to the conflict itself. Once it's resolved we either disengage with a throw, or finish it with a simple pin. And the techniques are designed to encourage full awareness of our larger environment throughout.

The spiritual lessons, I think, teach themselves.

graham christian
09-25-2011, 04:39 PM
Hey Keith, good idea for a thread, especially with your parameters for it set out.

I like it. I will definitely contribute to this one but better limit myself or I'll be hogging all the space,

I will start with an example of your first definition, true self. This is more to do with HOW I was taught. Not long after starting, (thus not after a wait of twenty years) I would try a technique on my teacher and he would go down if technically correct. On the second attempt he would remain unmoved.

His explanation would always be the first was him connected to my body but the second was him connected to me.

He would then go on to say the true me has to do it now for it to work on him. Thus started what was for me a great adventure.

Thereafter each time I got stuck he would observe and merely point to what was out. He may say 'no one point' or 'no circle' or many things in such a simple manner and leave me to get on with it trying to discover what new level of one point or such he was now talking about. However, when I would be confidently trying to do a technique on him unsuccessfully and he would say'that's your body' or on other occasions would say 'that's your mind' then those times were stunners and often. For to me how could he know? How could he see what even I was sure wasn't the case. Yet each and every time I finally found myself there he would be on the floor, now saying 'very good'.

Thus I gradually discovered more and more the quiet, silent me of no mind and no body. So many things came from this which helped in life. For instance the realization through doing such discipline that a basic simplicity was that of the true me just being willing to be there and be with and that ability helps in all walks of life.

It showed me that arguing with some one in life or even thinking too much and worrying in situations in life was me bringing in the mind to face the situation and in fact was merely a way of me avoiding being there and being with. How can you communicate well or view properly and calmly and bring about a good or better solution when you are not even there?

Anyway, enough from me.

Regards.G.

mathewjgano
09-25-2011, 05:34 PM
I am interested to hear peoples perspectives on the spiritual aspects of Aikido. Specifically in how they see Aikido working for them practically as a tool for spiritual development.

What comes to my mind are the benefits of creating stillness. Perception (mindfulness) takes energy; in quieting my mind/body (stripping superfluous activity), I can perceive better. In perceiving better, I can act better. In acting better, I can "quiet" better. If I have diligence throughout the process, I create a kind of upward spiral that affects everything I do.
I had these ideas before I came to Aikido, and it's from them that I chose what I perceived to be a more meditative approach to physicality (and was reinforced in a somewhat profound way).
That's the general gist. Specifically, I practice Shinto meditation along with my meager physical aiki practice and that fits perfectly (minus the "meager" part) with my search for "inner peace" (stillness/clarity). Water misogi; various breath exercises; and gratitude might be a good description of my practice, and in doing them I've seen my body develop an element of what I call indominability. I've seen that as my mindfulness for practice declines, so too does my stability. So where I'm at now is trying to reclaim lost ground and developing a solid rythm of living/doing.
That's what comes to mind, at any rate. As I type different sections I get a bunch of other ideas, so it's hard to pick one. Each connection a thousand others. Another example of where I'm at with quieting my mind.
Lord I was born a ramblin' man...:D
Take care,
Matt

DH
09-25-2011, 06:29 PM
Budo is not always about fighting, although it's the greater part.
Budo is also about living your life. I know any number of guys who can really kick ass and take names and they found things in Aikido that were very, very good for them. I am in Aikido Dojos everywhere and from an outsider looking in, I would say that for many reasons you people are dong something ...very right.
Cheers
Dan

George S. Ledyard
09-25-2011, 07:47 PM
What comes to my mind are the benefits of creating stillness. Perception (mindfulness) takes energy; in quieting my mind/body (stripping superfluous activity), I can perceive better. In perceiving better, I can act better. In acting better, I can "quiet" better. If I have diligence throughout the process, I create a kind of upward spiral that affects everything I do.
I had these ideas before I came to Aikido, and it's from them that I chose what I perceived to be a more meditative approach to physicality (and was reinforced in a somewhat profound way).
That's the general gist. Specifically, I practice Shinto meditation along with my meager physical aiki practice and that fits perfectly (minus the "meager" part) with my search for "inner peace" (stillness/clarity). Water misogi; various breath exercises; and gratitude might be a good description of my practice, and in doing them I've seen my body develop an element of what I call indomitability. I've seen that as my mindfulness for practice declines, so too does my stability. So where I'm at now is trying to reclaim lost ground and developing a solid rythm of living/doing.
That's what comes to mind, at any rate. As I type different sections I get a bunch of other ideas, so it's hard to pick one. Each connection a thousand others. Another example of where I'm at with quieting my mind.
Lord I was born a ramblin' man...:D
Take care,
Matt

I think, in general, there are two main approaches towards what we might call spirituality in Aikido. First, there are the technique folks. Then there are the Spiritual folks. This isn't a new phenomenon, it was always there from the start of Aikido.

Generally, the technique folks worry more about the how to, the martial application, the development of traits we would directly associate with martial practice, or Budo etc.

The Spiritual folks are usually folks who found Aikido because it fit with their already existing values system. They develop their technique to reflect their spiritual outlook.

In my experience, it is somewhat rare that the technique folks ever develop much of a sense of the spiritual possibilities of the art through their pursuit of effective technique. They develop certain martial traits like toughness and discipline, and on some level they get less fearful of physical threat, but they are typically not all that good at applying the various lessons that could be learned from training off the mat. O-Sensei used to caution students repeatedly that they missed the point by over focusing on waza.

On the other hand, the spiritual folks seldom seem to have taken their understanding of the technical very deep. Very seldom do you find people within this category who could hold their own with someone of equivalent experience in another martial art. Nor do they have the ability to connect the waza they do on the mat with the spiritual values they espouse on anything more than a superficial level.

In O-Sensei's Aikido these two areas were just sides of the same coin. They could not be separated. When O-Sensei demonstrated waza he was showing physical manifestation of certain energetic aspects of the universe. His Aikido was a martial embodiment of the concept that goes all the way back to the Upanishads that what is out there (the Universe) is duplicated in here (the Body).

So, O-Sensei's training was about reorganizing his body to reflect the principles that are manifest on the universe. To do this it required that he reorganize his mind the same way because one can't organize the body properly when the mind is doing something else. It has to go together.

On some level. if there isn't a balance between the physical waza and the spiritual side of the art, then it isn't really Aikido. It's an Aikido-like substance.

I think that the spiritual ideal can certainly precede the technical, in fact, I believe it must. Ones waza will be what one trains. If ones focus is simply on how to defend oneself, how to defeat another, how to be powerful, etc. that will almost certainly be what one gets out of training. If, on the other hand, ones focus is on understanding the underlying connection between all things, ones practice will tend to develop a sense of that. Martial skill, in my opinion, is a by product of proper training, but not the point. The reason that the martial paradigm is important is that it is the instant and immediate confirmation or denial of ones understanding in that instant. If one is training properly, with partners that are giving correct feedback, every technique demonstrates your level of understanding. Without this, ones understanding is not tested. One has no real idea whether what one believes to be true is really true. The whole process is just wishful thinking.

Just because you understand the nature of things in your mind does not mean you do in your body. Doran Sensei once told me he did a class for some advanced Zen practitioners. These were fairly senior folks, quite experienced in the spiritual realm. But on the mat, he said they were just like any other beginners. The fact that they had achieved a certain direct perception of the nature of things did not mean that they could connect that understanding to their bodies.

People constantly try to reshape Aikido into something that reflects their own preconceptions and the avoid doing anything which calls those preconceptions into question. On some level every person who walks into an Aikido dojo did so because they knew on some level, that they needed to change. Otherwise, you'd never have even seen them. They be home watching TV like everyone else. But, the instant they get inside, they resist changing like crazy. They want the art to affirm their ideas of who they think they are rather than call for them to change.

I think think that, when training is structured properly, each person is called upon to change on a fundamental level. This is because Aikido is all about balancing things out. We are striving for that still point, that physical balance and mental balance where we are free to move as we wish. Training is about achieving freedom. In the physical sense it is about understanding that no other person can really take away your freedom to move. The more you balance your own structure, calm your own mind, and learn to relax, the more you understand that no one else can take away that freedom. You can get to the point at which the very thought of an attack has already defeated itself.

To really attain a level of technique that is anything more than simply mechanical, you have to "let go". Strong people have to stop relying on being strong, weak people have to become strong, aggressive people need to become less aggressive and shy people need to become assertive. Taking ones Aikido beyond the superficial level requires doing what is most difficult for any of us, namely, change that which is our dominant way we see and present ourselves and develop its opposite thereby achieving balance. Balance is what it's all about. Achieving that balance is clearly not an easy matter or everybody would be great at Aikido waza and possessed of profound insight.

We need to understand that this is the goal of training. If the goal is martial capability and the ability to effectively confront all comers regardless of martial style or skill, one will training one way. While it is possible that deep spiritual insight and personal transformation can come out of this process, it isn't terribly likely. Witness the number of really ferocious and accomplished fighters who are also wretched human beings.

Why do we think O-Sensei created this art? Pursuit of fighting skill alone is a distraction, it is a false path that will not lead to the kind of freedom and balance or understanding that we are talking about. On the other hand, the folks who ignore principle, tailor their technique to reflect their pre-existing notions, insist that their ukes act in a way that confirms these ideas are just as side tracked. Whatever beautiful ideas they have about oneness, connection, conflict resolution, peace, etc are totally superficial until they can manifest them on the mat physically.

It's not that the ideas are not true or that they are not manifesting their values in their lives... Mother Teresa was an extremely, profoundly, spiritual person. She lived her spirituality every day. But she didn't do Aikido. It is only Aikido when you can manifest this knowledge in ones waza. The understanding of Aikido is a Mind / Body understanding that reveals and demonstrates spiritual insight. Spiritual insight without the mind / body manifestation isn't Aikido. It's not wrong or in any way inferior, it just isn't Aikido. That's what makes Aikido such a unique practice.

So, we all need to take a look at our Aikido training... It's one thing to be able to say I get his out of it or I get that out of it... It's quite another to ask oneself what you should be getting out of it, or what you would like to get out of it? What does your teacher want you to get out of it? What might O-Sensei have wanted you to get out of it? Think about those answers... Are your answers reflective of what would make you feel better or be better? They are not necessarily the same. In my own case, some of the things in my life that made be better were things that, at the time, made me feel the worst I had ever felt.

Anyway, whatever you decide those answers are, then you must structure your training so that it directly addresses those issues. Unless you have an enlightened teacher (and I can't think of one off hand) you can't simply trust this process to that teacher. You have to look at what you want and need to get out of the training and find those teachers (notice I did not say just one) who can help get you there. This is what we all have to do.

Anyway, that's my take on it.

Mary Eastland
09-26-2011, 07:28 AM
Aikido training helps me develop being in the now. God is in the now for me.

lbb
09-26-2011, 07:34 AM
I am interested to hear peoples perspectives on the spiritual aspects of Aikido. Specifically in how they see Aikido working for them practically as a tool for spiritual development.

My take on it: aikido is not a spiritual practice, and if a spiritual practice is what you want, aikido is not an adequate substitute for it. The large majority of sensei have no training in teaching esoteric practices, and (appropriately) therefore don't attempt to teach them. If you have a personal spiritual practice, there are certain things about aikido that make some parts of the practice a useful vehicle for reinforcing some of the lessons of some spiritual paths. Also, for people who don't have a personal spiritual practice, some aikido practices can be conducive to giving you glimpses of something beyond the thing itself. In both cases, though, aikido is not unique: the same reinforcement or the same glimpses can come about through many other activities, and indeed, there are others that are probably better than aikido in that regard.

gates
09-26-2011, 07:48 AM
Interesting that there are such contrasting opinions back to back !

There does appear to be recurring theme happening.

Which is: Aiki-do practice helps many to be more grounded within themselves.

lbb
09-26-2011, 08:55 AM
Interesting that there are such contrasting opinions back to back !

There does appear to be recurring theme happening.

Which is: Aiki-do practice helps many to be more grounded within themselves.

I don't find it to be such, but you'd really have to get into a whole discussion of what we mean by "grounded". IMO it's like "closure", a buzzword that we use for some kind of vague good feeling -- in this case, for being sure and settled. But this illustrates the fact that the umbrella term "spiritual" encompasses many beliefs, including some that directly contradict each other. In order to be "grounded", to be settled and sure, you must believe that there are things or truths that do not change -- and certainly some spiritual traditions, such as Christianity, would hold that this is the case. But other traditions, such as Buddhism, believe that nothing is fixed, that everything changes -- and furthermore, that it's a bad habit to try to seek ground, to find things to cling to for surety. So, in the Buddhist view, aikido practice can't possibly help you to be grounded in yourself -- and if it lets you think so, that's a bad thing.

Tim Ruijs
09-26-2011, 08:59 AM
Georges,
interesting read. When you talk about balance; do you mean be (spiritually) in the moment (of conflict) and let go of 'self/intention'? This I can relate to, but always be in balance would that imply always be without self/character/intend?

gates
09-26-2011, 10:00 AM
I don't find it to be such, but you'd really have to get into a whole discussion of what we mean by "grounded". IMO it's like "closure", a buzzword that we use for some kind of vague good feeling -- in this case, for being sure and settled. But this illustrates the fact that the umbrella term "spiritual" encompasses many beliefs, including some that directly contradict each other. In order to be "grounded", to be settled and sure, you must believe that there are things or truths that do not change -- and certainly some spiritual traditions, such as Christianity, would hold that this is the case. But other traditions, such as Buddhism, believe that nothing is fixed, that everything changes -- and furthermore, that it's a bad habit to try to seek ground, to find things to cling to for surety. So, in the Buddhist view, aikido practice can't possibly help you to be grounded in yourself -- and if it lets you think so, that's a bad thing.

Hi Mary,
Thanks for your input. I was careful to set some sort of definition as to what spirituality was so we need not go down a semantic path.

In terms of Martial Arts as Buddihist Practice I would refer you to 2010 August edition of: The Middle Way, Journal of The Buddhist Society, August 2010 Vol 85. Article entitled "Martial Arts as Buddhist Practice" by Benjamin Charlton.

What I mean when I say 'being grounded' does not mean 'seeking ground' as you seem to have defined it. Perhaps I should clarify. We could argue here about interpretations of the Dharma and the meaning of Anitya, but lets not. I am looking for common ground not a debate over doctrine, although some other time I'd love to. Comparative religion is a favourite topic of mine !

Many believe Aiki-do can serve as a valid and effective tool to understand ones own inner (true / original) nature more deeply. That is a little simplistic but by the contemporary definitions given above it qualifies.

You obviously have some strong feelings on this issue. If I were to ask you what spirituality means to you perhaps we could find some common ground?

Keith

mathewjgano
09-26-2011, 10:22 AM
My take on it: aikido is not a spiritual practice...

I think Aikido can be a spiritual practice since to my mind spiritual practices are entirely individualized in nature. I would agree, however, it is not necessarily a spiritual practice, but that's not unique to Aikido either, since all practices, even those regularly accepted as "spiritual," can be described as such.

Abasan
09-26-2011, 11:31 AM
What comes to mind is surrender.

When you search for spirituality you are actually surrendering yourself to a higher power. It doesn't make sense to even think that you can get to a higher power using your own. You can't dictate terms against something which is immeasurable.

Now in aikido, it teaches you a path to surrender. You surrender your ego, instead of doing something to uke, you let uke come to a conclusion on his own. The less you do, the more you achieve.

Again this may seem so esotherical. But physical aikido can only take you so far. Behind the body, there is ki. Behind ki there is intent. And behind intent there is the mind.

Tim Ruijs
09-26-2011, 12:39 PM
Ahmad,

that is exactly what I referred to. Behind ki there is intent, behind that the mind. What intend would you have outside conflict situation? During/in conflict one seeks to balance and go from there, but then what is your intend then?

lbb
09-26-2011, 01:49 PM
Hi Mary,
Thanks for your input. I was careful to set some sort of definition as to what spirituality was so we need not go down a semantic path.

I accepted your definition. I thought I made that abundantly clear. What I said was NOT "going down a semantic path".

In terms of Martial Arts as Buddihist Practice I would refer you to 2010 August edition of: The Middle Way, Journal of The Buddhist Society, August 2010 Vol 85. Article entitled "Martial Arts as Buddhist Practice" by Benjamin Charlton.

That article is not available on their website, so since it's germane here, perhaps you could give us the gist of it?

What I mean when I say 'being grounded' does not mean 'seeking ground' as you seem to have defined it. Perhaps I should clarify. We could argue here about interpretations of the Dharma and the meaning of Anitya, but lets not. I am looking for common ground not a debate over doctrine, although some other time I'd love to. Comparative religion is a favourite topic of mine !

I wasn't debating. What I said was meant to reflect what I think most people mean when they talk about "being grounded" -- not what YOU mean by it.

Many believe Aiki-do can serve as a valid and effective tool to understand ones own inner (true / original) nature more deeply. That is a little simplistic but by the contemporary definitions given above it qualifies.

Well, yes, but this brings up another issue: that of getting what you asked for, but that it's very different than you thought it would be. Pema Chodron talked one time about how a lot of people come to meditation because they imagine that it will make their minds become like a tranquil pool...and that does happen...but that's when you get to see all the old tires and refrigerators and skeletons lying at the bottom of the pool. Getting to understand your own inner/true/original nature is the same: you get a good look at who you really are...and (at least initially) that's a pretty uncomfortable experience. it's not at all what most people imagine when they talk about getting to know themselves.

You obviously have some strong feelings on this issue. If I were to ask you what spirituality means to you perhaps we could find some common ground?

Keith

My definition of spirituality isn't the point of disagreement.

lbb
09-26-2011, 02:00 PM
Ledyard Sensei, I generally agree with what you've said, but one paragraph confused me:


It's not that the ideas are not true or that they are not manifesting their values in their lives... Mother Teresa was an extremely, profoundly, spiritual person. She lived her spirituality every day. But she didn't do Aikido. It is only Aikido when you can manifest this knowledge in ones waza. The understanding of Aikido is a Mind / Body understanding that reveals and demonstrates spiritual insight. Spiritual insight without the mind / body manifestation isn't Aikido. It's not wrong or in any way inferior, it just isn't Aikido. That's what makes Aikido such a unique practice.

I don't get it. Are you saying that Aikido is the only practice in which a physical practice is a manifestation of a spiritual state?

Demetrio Cereijo
09-26-2011, 03:07 PM
In terms of Martial Arts as Buddihist Practice I would refer you to 2010 August edition of: The Middle Way, Journal of The Buddhist Society, August 2010 Vol 85. Article entitled "Martial Arts as Buddhist Practice" by Benjamin Charlton.


Let's see...

"When the handgun appeared five centuries ago, traditional martial arts were among its first victims. Swaggering grandmasters, the erstwhile tigers and dragons of Asia, became the dodos of the battlefield. Their unequalled ability to hack, slash and grapple equipped them perfectly for an environment that no longer existed. They seemed destined for extinction"

Stopped reading at this point.

donhebert
09-26-2011, 05:08 PM
I have often found Spirituality in Aikido to be a muddled topic. This is despite the fact that I have always been keenly drawn to this aspect of the art. By muddled I mean that most Aikidoists (there are few notable exceptions) seem to avoid talking about spirituality and when they do, the discussion is often fatuous and not too useful or (infrequently) questioning but with few authentic answers.

Why is the practice of Aikido any closer to a spiritual path then, say, playing soccer? They both involve grace and beauty. They both require technical skill. They both provide immediate feedback and are extremely challenging.

Perhaps the answer is that they are both equally valid spiritual paths as long as the individual plays them that way. Of course, it seems obvious to most that just because one plays soccer doesn't mean one is on a spiritual path. In fact most soccer players probably could care less - why should they? This is also true for Aikido , even though in its genesis, Aikido was intended to have a spiritual dimension. However, the landscape of Aikido practice is so large that people can easily stay in the "Aikido as non-spiritual activity" terrain their entire lives and have a perfectly fulfilling training.

It is evident to me that not everyone needs Aikido to augment their spirituality. For example, many of the best people I have ever known have never even seen Aikido. The most important mentor in my life never even heard of the art. I was drawn to Aikido because I sensed there was something in it that I needed.

Here is a list of some of the spiritual elements that have developed in my own training. Please excuse some of the broad metaphors. I don't necessarily mean them literally.

1. I practice Aikido to more fully inhabit my own life and become the person that the gods had in mind when they created me. I don't want to get to the end and think that I missed this one.

2. I want to enhance my EXPERIENCE of being alive.

3. I am seeking for an experience of a larger connection to my world and a sense of the greater mystery that underlies all things.

3. Aikido cannot be practiced between a person and a lamp-post or and inanimate lump. It is a feedback system that occurs between living beings. It is a generous engagement that we provide for each other.

4. Aikido is an art in the fullest sense of the word. It requires skill, training, vision, courage and an aesthetic sensibility. True Art can connect us to a larger experience of the world and trigger transformation within.

5. Aikido is rooted in a martial edge. By this I mean that its fundamental lessons are contained in the martial integrity of the practice. On some level "its gotta work". Practices such as "internal power" training encourage physical transformations that can reverberate spiritually in fundamental ways.

6. My spiritual state is immediately reflected in how I execute technique or take ukemi, whether I want it to or not. The feedback provided by my movements and my partner and felt in my body provides a continuous stream of information and countless opportunities to adjust and improve. By paying attention to this information and changing how I manifest technique I can change my inner landscape.

7. I have to define for myself what it means to grow spiritually. What does it mean to continually advance the task of becoming who I am meant to be? What are my values? What does the soul want? In any case, what I intend when I practice Aikido, over time, is likely to be what I will get.

8. By default, any fundamental human capacity we avoid gets placed into our shadow. The shadow is our dark side where dangerous and unacceptable energies are imprisoned. These energies are the Mr. Hyde of our lives and cause all kinds of mischief. This is why there are as many soft, spiritual people who unconsciously manifest betrayal as there are aggressive people who unconsciously promote a kind of spiritual poverty. By taking material out of my shadow bag in a physical way and letting it breathe I can access energy that was formerly unavailable and become a more balanced person.

9. Like most people, I grow by working my edges. For example, one of my personality traits is that I naturally tend to avoid aggression. Thus it is really good practice for me train in situations where my level of assertiveness is challenged and exposed. In such situations I am forced to move out my comfort zone and practice projecting myself. Taking manageable risks is the key to effective training and if I don't have some moments where I am feeling uncomfortable then I am probably not growing.

10. The practice is designed to encourage our thinking out of the mundane onto a more aware and vital plane. This is why I agree to wearing old-fashioned Japanese formal-wear and practicing in a consciously designed dojo. By placing myself in a this created sacred space I am reminding myself of the higher purpose of training and connecting to a larger tradition. Otherwise I could do just as well wearing sweats. Without this purpose the wearing of a gi and hakama is like a Japanese person dressing up in a cowboy outfit - harmless enough but perhaps a bit daft.

11. Aikido is an art that really does have its own parameters. One can have a practice with all of the above attributes and not be practicing Aikido. Aikido is rooted in a tradition that sprang (at least) from the explorations of Morihei Ueshiba and practioners need to follow that transmission as best they can if they want to call what they are doing Aikido.

Geez - this is longer than I intended. I am sure that there are many who can't see putting all of this stuff into their Aikido practice, but I appreciate the opportunity provided by this thread to talk about it.

Don Hebert

graham christian
09-26-2011, 06:39 PM
My second contribution to this thread is that in my Aikido I am not interested in connecting mentally. Physical connection is is merely because our body is stable reality. All techniques and motions are based on connection from true self to other true self.

In life this reminds me to do the same and not go into mind versus mind or physical versus physical. In true self there is no versus.

Regards.G.

Abasan
09-26-2011, 07:33 PM
Sorry Tim, but I couldn't find what you wrote when you referred to intent behind ki. But I reread George's post instead of skimming that almost book'ish post like the first time around.

Interestingly enough we under stand the path to aikido to be...
Aiki no Kokoro, aiki no genri, aiki no waza, aiki no chikara, aiki no seishin.
So although principles is right there at the beginning before technical waza and physical training.... Without the heart (or mind) to embrace wiki, you really can't begin.
That chimes with the distinction of technical folks and spiritual folks...but only to an extent. Spiritual for spirituality's sake isn't going to get you far here. I won't argue for technical side, since being technical is an important third of aikido. Without equilibrium we'll all be lopsided in our approach.

What I meant by spirit in aikido is essentially a warrior's spirit. It is not love all mankind and be one with the force kind of mentality. It's to live a life to protect what is right. The abject subjugation to something greater. To understand that life is so fleeting and to realize that it has to be valued as a precious gift to mankind.

Osensei admonishes his students to always contemplate with nature. To listen to the voice of earth and voice of heaven. This has no bearing to the technical development of aikido. Yet it develops the mind, the heart and the spirit. You then have to manifest that in your waza... Otherwise it's still not a true reality. Eg, translate what you think you've understood into the physical otherwise it might just be a daydream.

Outside of conflict, the practice of aikido is conducted to find your true self. To purify or distill your movements beyond your ego. At my level...to just concentrate in getting center right and aligning intent, ki and physical as best as I can. So I don't really think I can contribute anymore in this thread since I know I haven't even approached the spiritual level at this juncture. My mind is still too much in this world i'm afraid.

graham christian
09-26-2011, 09:24 PM
Hey Keith.
I think it's about time you 'chimed in' with one of your own.

Respectfully.G.

graham christian
09-26-2011, 10:25 PM
I must say I like Georges post. Being on the spiritual side of Aikido, at least promotion wise, I am seen by some as not technically aware.
The complete opposite is true. However this is not really about that it is more to do with peoples perceptions or assumptions and I am guilty of letting them have them and not interfering.

When people talk about a group of zen practitioners or yoga or some other spiritual discipline stepping on the mat and being surprised that they had a harder time as students I thoroughly agree.

In fact I would say I am more of an expert on this than nearly everyone on this forum.

This fact is one of the reasons I loved Aikido. As I explain to all spiritual people who come to me to see what I mean when I tell them Aikido will give you more reality on what you already believe in.

The beauty of Aikido for me is a simplicity referred to by George and if I'm not mistaken positively shouted about by Dan in one context and that is this: The truth of spiritual aims of oneness, meditative stillness, universal love etc. are quite easy to get a feel of through various forms of meditation but to maintain it whilst facing and handling an opponent is the true test.

Thus for me it is a great vehicle for those following a spiritual path.

Regards.G.

gates
09-27-2011, 05:05 AM
Hey Keith.
I think it's about time you 'chimed in' with one of your own.

Respectfully.G.
I have enjoyed hearing different perspectives but just for you Graham when I arrive home tonight, I'll put finger to qwerty.

worrier
09-27-2011, 08:28 AM
My second contribution to this thread is that in my Aikido I am not interested in connecting mentally. Physical connection is is merely because our body is stable reality. All techniques and motions are based on connection from true self to other true self.

In life this reminds me to do the same and not go into mind versus mind or physical versus physical. In true self there is no versus.

Regards.G.

That's a good way of putting it, I think, that in true self there is no body vs mind. Still, I would be interested how exactly that works in life, because in my experience, blending mind and body is a lot harder than it sounds.

phitruong
09-27-2011, 10:05 AM
still trying to figure out what is this "spirituality" thingy that folks are talking about. where do you find it? how would you know if you found it?

i read the 20 principles of karate from Funakoshi sensei. one of them was "Spirit first. Techniques second." haven't quite figure that one yet. of course, for some, it would be "hell ya! lets drink first then beat up each other afterward!" :)

gates
09-27-2011, 10:19 AM
On the mat Aikido training is Budo, first and foremost. It has to be this way. I never consider spiritual or philosophical concepts or abstract ideas whilst training. Training is training. I'd prefer to train harder (in a controlled fashion) to help ‘beat' the impurities out of body and mind.

I can see commonality between spiritual practices and many martial arts training, in both form and function. They both have tradition, ethics, structure and teaching and both require of the participants certain things: concentration, inward refection, mindful awareness.

As does snooker and maypole dancing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxcIqMmlVOs). So what?

As suggested prior there is no conflict resolution in Snooker or maypole dancing. Through the process of placing ourselves in a conflict situation we can learn certain physical lessons. These lessons can then be applied back to non physical situations. For an example, unbendable arm, if we resist it what we are actually doing is pushing back against it. To do this we contract muscles, muscles only contract. So now instead of one contraction we now have two, one on top of the other. Fighting back in this way restricts the other systems in the body to help take the load, facia system for instance, which as we have recently discovered acts in tension throughout the entire body, it is stronger the more flexible it is. If we relax and extend we can engage with connection throughout our entire bodies and into the ground.

This example has clear crossover to verbal confrontations as well, under verbal assault our minds undergo stress. Stress is a contraction, it encumbers our mental agility, we freeze up, cant think what to say. On the other hand if we are able to stay relaxed we can more easily do a verbal irimi tenkan and get out of there safely. In this way Budo reduces the fighting mind, you can't argue with somebody if they don't argue back, it is just not possible.

For me Aikido is much like a Zen Koan, it asks of us a seemingly impossible question, this acts to force us into a state of intuition. Latent forces, can by definition, not be seen but are only to be felt and known through intuition. They cannot be clearly understood intellectually. By giving up and giving in to the process we are forced to let go of the self, some negative emotions, skeletons, horrible personality traits may be revealed in the process, then hopefully we can drop them. I hope the process will lead me towards a real sense of the nature of life's inner activity.

Maybe the maypole dance representing intertwining the horizontal forces and the vertical forces in nature, the yin and the yang, vertical fire and horizontal water, male and female, may also teach me something, or perhaps it is just another bad example of ribbon dancing.

donhebert
09-27-2011, 10:45 AM
Hi Keith,

I respect what you are saying (which means, of course that I am about to disagree). Certainly "Aikido as a metaphor for something else" has its value. But metaphors only get me so far. I experience Aikido spirituality as the thing that is happening in the very moment when I am practicing and I think one can actually create a practical training framework for this process which is just as valid as the physical doing part.

I was in closer agreement when you said "For me Aikido is much like a Zen Koan, it asks of us a seemingly impossible question, this acts to force us into a state of intuition."

Best regards,

Don Hebert

gates
09-27-2011, 10:49 AM
Hi Keith,
I think one can actually create a practical training framework for this process which is just as valid as the physical doing part.


Hi Don,
I would be very interested to hear more about it, it is exactly why I started the thread, to hear others thoughts and experiences.
Keith

graham christian
09-27-2011, 11:01 AM
Hi Don,
I would be very interested to hear more about it, it is exactly why I started the thread, to hear others thoughts and experiences.
Keith

Hi Keith. I was interested in your description of unbendable arm. Is that how people do it? Is that the general concensus? If so it would make certain things make sense to me.

Regards.G.

gates
09-27-2011, 11:18 AM
Hi Keith. I was interested in your description of unbendable arm. Is that how people do it? Is that the general concensus? If so it would make certain things make sense to me.

Regards.G.

As I am sure you are aware it is a tohei method, as a ki aikido man yourself you probably know more about it than I do. Wouldn't know what the concencus is, that it just my limited understanding of it. We don't actually practice it very often.

If you have a different or another explanation feel free to elaborate.

graham christian
09-27-2011, 11:26 AM
As I am sure you are aware it is a tohei method, as a ki aikido man yourself you probably know more about it than I do. Wouldn't know what the concencus is, that it just my limited understanding of it. We don't actually practice it very often, pretty rudimentary stuff though.

If you have different or another explanation feel free to elaborate.

Just curious Keith as I have seen discussions on this kind of thing before and seen people going into discussions on muscles and contractions etc.

When it comes to such things I personally can do unbendable arm or let's say the tests of being unable to be lifted up with two people trying one on each wrist by various methods rather than just one. So I'm just interested that's all.

Anyway good on you for posting your view, like you I look foreward to reading more perspectives.

Regards.G.

lbb
09-27-2011, 12:07 PM
For me Aikido is much like a Zen Koan, it asks of us a seemingly impossible question, this acts to force us into a state of intuition. Latent forces, can by definition, not be seen but are only to be felt and known through intuition. They cannot be clearly understood intellectually.

For me, I'd say it's more like an inductive proof. Most people only ever learn deductive reasoning: A leads to B, B leads to C, and so on. But there's also this thing called inductive reasoning, where you start by assuming that what you want to prove is so...then prove a base case...then prove that if the base case is true for x, it's also true for x+1. Aikido is like that: I see someone doing something, I can't see how they're doing it (I can't deduce it)...but I can see that it is being done. So the conclusion is true, I just don't know (yet) how to get from here to there. And that's where I have to start out by "proving" (on the mat, the hard way) that the base case is true...and then it's a long, long series of "proving" that if it's true for x, it's also true for x+1.

Mary Eastland
09-27-2011, 02:21 PM
For me, I'd say it's more like an inductive proof. Most people only ever learn deductive reasoning: A leads to B, B leads to C, and so on. But there's also this thing called inductive reasoning, where you start by assuming that what you want to prove is so...then prove a base case...then prove that if the base case is true for x, it's also true for x+1. Aikido is like that: I see someone doing something, I can't see how they're doing it (I can't deduce it)...but I can see that it is being done. So the conclusion is true, I just don't know (yet) how to get from here to there. And that's where I have to start out by "proving" (on the mat, the hard way) that the base case is true...and then it's a long, long series of "proving" that if it's true for x, it's also true for x+1.

I think thst is a good way to deduce things. However, if x+1 equals something for you that doesn't mean that x+1 equals the same thing for someone else because Aikido is not math.

lbb
09-27-2011, 03:31 PM
I think thst is a good way to deduce things.

On the contrary, it breaks the rules of deduction. It uses a different set of rules.

However, if x+1 equals something for you that doesn't mean that x+1 equals the same thing for someone else because Aikido is not math.

It doesn't have to be for the statement to be provably true, as long as x is the same in both cases. Take two things that are the same, add the same thing to each, get the same result. Identical ingredients, identical process, identical result.

But that's a digression. The point was not whether or not aikido is like math, or whether the rules of math can be applied to aikido. The point is that for people who have not learned any formal reasoning beyond deductive reasoning, everything else is "intuition" or some kind of magic -- and that this is a false belief. Just because someone does not understand a reasoning process, does not mean that there IS no process.

donhebert
09-27-2011, 04:14 PM
Hi Don,
I would be very interested to hear more about it, it is exactly why I started the thread, to hear others thoughts and experiences.
Keith

Hi Keith,

Before I respond I would just like to say that I posted on your thread because the topic is important to me and I am interested in the exchange of ideas and receiving feedback. However, I don't feel that simply by working on an approach means that my ideas aren't full of flaws. My own personal sense of success with experiencing spirituality in Aikido is often mixed. This is a work in progress.

Having said that, the framework I am looking for has mostly to do with the intention I bring to my training. Here are the guiding principles that I try to use:

1. I am not training for some future event (e.g. in case I am attacked while walking down Main Street in Brattleboro). The training time itself is what I want to be present to.

2. My body movements and the feeling I project is an accurate reflection of my present emotional and spiritual state. By exposing problems and blind spots in my physical practice I create the opportunity to identify problems and blind spots in my inner landscape as well.

3. The teacher and my training partners are crucial in that they provide immediate feedback about my efforts and thus allow me to see what I need to work on.

4. Good movement is identified by its martial intelligence, lack of openings, relaxation of the body and internal inter-connectedness that includes connection to my partner. Good movement can be described as both powerful and beautiful . The experience of both myself and my partner should be intense but also ennobling.

5. Aikido training involves being able to identify and balance both light and dark personal material. Since the practice is rooted in playing out human conflict, the opportunities for going down weird roads is everywhere. Accumulating experience with this is a way to obtain wisdom.

6. Training is about changing myself, not my partner. One consequence of this is that the Uke is always right. By this I mean that I have to figure out how to work with whatever stuff my partner is offering me. (I do retain the right to withdraw from my partner or ask for them to modulate their attack if it is too far beyond my ability).

7. Since Aikido movement is based on natural forms that exist everywhere in creation, its practice gives me a visceral sense of connection to a larger universe and its mysteries.

I think this framework parallels a successful approach to physical practice as well as provides a concrete way to grow spiritually. I don't claim it to be original - its principles have been absorbed from many teachers and sources. But with it, I feel that I am training a positive way for me to be in the world that has actual roots.

Best regards,
Don Hebert

kewms
09-27-2011, 10:06 PM
I think the uke side has lessons at least as valuable as the nage side. As uke, as in life, you don't always get to "win." Sometimes you have to take the fall. But you're much less likely to get hurt if you learn to roll with it rather than fight it.

Katherine

gates
09-28-2011, 01:27 AM
Thanks Don,
I liked the clarity of purpose that your framework presented. With a good solid framework such as the one you have presented, I think it will definately help to achieve goals and get to a deeper level of understanding.

There does seems to be some common ground between your points and the condensed forms where I suggested a commonality in what spiritual practices and MA require from us: from a starting point of tradition, formality and practice they:
require mindful awareness
require us to be present / fully engaged in the moment
require concentration and contemplation
require us to extend intuitive attention to our bodies and our surroundings
in the case of MA there is also a complex interplay between uke and nage

In terms of your framework, Would I be correct in assuming that none of these things actually change the way in which the waza is performed (outwardly), but act to change the intent and perseptions behind the movement. Which then in turn changes the way it manifests and feels to both parties?

Understanding how concious intent effects physical reality is a really interesting area of study, quantum physics is beginning to brige the gap from a scientific viewpoint.

Incidentally what I suggested using Unbendable arm as an example, was not intended as a simple metaphor is was intended as a demonstration of a directly learned experience from physcial waza extracted and directly apllied to a metaphyscial application somewhat akin to your point number 2. I was attempting to give a direct example of how this can actually happen and change the way we think and approach situations. I hope that in future I can make my case with as much clarity as you have shown, so that the point I intend to make is more clearly understood.

Your point number 7 for me strikes to the heart of the matter, and where I love to see this discussion go. Needless to say I have something to say on this matter but want to hear some other perspectives first. It is a big question. Is a clear understanding of how the physcial lessons learned are transmutable to a metaphyscial understanding of our life's most inner activity? And an even bigger question then is, how can we (if we can) transmit this understanding to others?

Regards
Keith

gates
09-28-2011, 01:48 AM
Correction: 'affects'

Tim Ruijs
09-28-2011, 02:19 AM
Do you differentiate between Uke and aite?

I agree that what changes is your internal approach towards practise of the techniques, rather that change the techniques themselves.

gates
09-28-2011, 07:36 AM
Do you differentiate between Uke and aite?



Tim, not quite sure where you are coming from. To be honest Aite is not a term we use so I am not clear on the implications of it's meaning. Please enlighten me.

Tim Ruijs
09-29-2011, 01:59 AM
I have been taught the distinction between attacker (uke) and partner (aite). Uke is the one you encounter in combat; the one that wants to kill you. Aite is a trainingspartner willing to help you understand technique and allows for 'some space' (openings, timing, relaxation) for purpose of training. Off course aite becomes tougher and tougher when you progress.
Hence we always say when you meet uke, kill him. He has no purpose to help you at all (he does what he does without adaptation to you for training purposes).
At higher level the distinction fades...ultimately disappears completely.

I asked because you said: uke is always right. In my understanding of uke I agree with you on this. But when you mean as aite (trainingspartner) I disagree. In practise you work together to make the technique work (globally) and progressively aite makes it harder. It is aite's responsibility to allow for tori to practise properly and challenge him.

gates
09-29-2011, 03:10 AM
I thought it was the Buddha we were supposed to kill if we ever met them on the road.