PDA

View Full Version : It Has to be Felt #0


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


R.A. Robertson
08-21-2012, 09:26 PM
Is what you are doing at this very moment the most worthwhile use of your time?

What is the difference between martial proficiency and thuggery?

In civilian self-defense, which is more important: damaging/apprehending the assailant, or liberating the prey and bystanders?

Are broken bones in the dojo a sign of realistic training, or unrealistic training? With what frequency?

In the hierarchy of rank and dominance, who is fittest for building a better world?

To what extent does your training make you feel invincible, and to what extent has it heightened your awareness of your vulnerabilities?

Do you know how to live? How to die? The difference between right and wrong? Real from unreal?

Is your training a commitment or an obsession? Is it a way of life, a hobby, a contingency, an art, a sport, a philosophy?

What is it that binds you to things you despise?

Is pain and discomfort a measure of seriousness?

What is aikido? What does it mean that the most senior practitioners cannot agree on meaning, purpose, or method?

Is O Sensei still relevant? Was he ever?

When was the last time someone said to you "My life is so much better because of your aikido experience?"

Again and again and again I ask, are you practicing self-defense or selfish defense? And what Self, anyway?

Are you still looking for magical powers? Esoteric knowledge? The world's most excruciating nikyo?

Who among us is heroic enough to break a cycle of abuse, even in a revered tradition?

Can you feel what cannot be felt?

Who are you, and where is your Art, once you've grasped the Void?

2012.08.02
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

www.stillpointaikido.com (http://www.stillpointaikido.com)
www.rariora.org/writing/articles (http://www.rariora.org/writing/articles)
@phospheros

Tom Verhoeven
08-22-2012, 09:05 AM
Seems to me to be all the right questions for anyone who takes his Budo practice serious.
Great column, thanks.
Tom

graham christian
08-23-2012, 07:24 AM
As I commented on the last column I must comment on this. Brilliant title! Very Zen as is the whole column. Thankx.

NekVTAikido
08-23-2012, 04:40 PM
To everyone I've ever trained with: My life is so much better because of your Aikido practice! Please continue!

My answers to any of these questions must vary from instant to instant. Any answer could be the right answer in a given moment, but I'm wrong if I hang onto any answer while the universe moves on. Sometimes (most times) hanging on long enough to put it into words is too long.

piyush.kumar
09-05-2012, 10:50 AM
Thank you for the reminders sensei :)

R.A. Robertson
09-07-2012, 11:27 AM
To anyone who has taken moments of their life-time to read my works, and especially to those who engage in this Great Conversation, my life is so much better because of you. Thank you.

sorokod
09-07-2012, 05:35 PM
> Is what you are doing at this very moment the most worthwhile use of your time?
Its good enough.

> What is the difference between martial proficiency and thuggery?
Same as the difference between a surgeon and a butcher - no normal people confuse the two.

> In civilian self-defense, which is more important: damaging/apprehending the assailant, or liberating the prey and bystanders?
In order of importance: 1.liberating the prey and bystanders 2.apprehending the assailant. Damaging the the assailant - are you serious?

> Are broken bones in the dojo a sign of realistic training, or unrealistic training? With what frequency?
Not necessarily, but they may be a sign of sincerity.

> In the hierarchy of rank and dominance, who is fittest for building a better world?
The best world builder.

> To what extent does your training make you feel invincible, and to what extent has it heightened your awareness of your vulnerabilities?
To some extent.

> Do you know how to live? How to die? The difference between right and wrong? Real from unreal?
Will see about death, generally yes regarding the rest.

> Is your training a commitment or an obsession? Is it a way of life, a hobby, a contingency, an art, a sport, a philosophy?
Let's say that I can answer this question to my satisfaction.

> What is it that binds you to things you despise?
Is this one of those "have you stopped drinking whiskey in the mornings" questions?

> Is pain and discomfort a measure of seriousness?
Not necessarily, but they may be a sign of sincerity.

> What is aikido? What does it mean that the most senior practitioners cannot agree on meaning, purpose, or method?
It's a martial art - A general outline available on Wikipedia, details in training.

> Is O Sensei still relevant? Was he ever?
O Sensei was relevant to his students. I am a student of a student of a student - this is one way in which he is relevant to me.

> When was the last time someone said to you "My life is so much better because of your aikido experience?"
Never happened to me, but people are generally very happy with my miso soup.

> Again and again and again I ask, are you practicing self-defense or selfish defense? And what Self, anyway?
Don't get attached to words too much, its just about extracting yourself unharmed from situations where someone is trying to physically harm you.

> Are you still looking for magical powers? Esoteric knowledge? The world's most excruciating nikyo?
I am trying to improve my Aikido.

> Who among us is heroic enough to break a cycle of abuse, even in a revered tradition?
Who are us? What abuse? Which tradition? Will happy to try and answer if you provide more details.

> Can you feel what cannot be felt?
Only the unmovable mover can do that.

> Who are you, and where is your Art, once you've grasped the Void?
I am David, my Art is in me and void is a reserved word in the C-derived programming languages.

Keith Larman
09-08-2012, 09:58 AM
> Who are you, and where is your Art, once you've grasped the Void?
I am David, my Art is in me and void is a reserved word in the C-derived programming languages.

Or if you want to start a real discussion among C-derived programmers, get going on the internal representation of NULL pointers. So I try not to grasp the void (grasping what is not there?), instead, I embrace NULL, however it is implemented, and accept the fact that I will never know precisely what it is.

Seems like a good metaphor itself.

Sorry, old-time computer geek couldn't resist. Carry on...

I'll give a +1 to David's post.

sorokod
09-08-2012, 12:07 PM
++post :)

Keith Larman
09-08-2012, 01:37 PM
Should be:

++post;

Can't leave off the semi...

Mark Gibbons
09-08-2012, 06:57 PM
Should be:

++post;

Can't leave off the semi...

I'd probably code it post++; , read it before applauding.

SteveTrinkle
09-09-2012, 08:21 AM
ithink ththe above questions are a kind of insinuation and sophistry

SteveTrinkle
09-09-2012, 08:34 AM
iwas told when istarted that aikido is a way of training the self that still resonates and holds true I'm stilltaking ukemi still from a recent stroke and Ican't yet practice my art back on the mats yeyet!

sorokod
09-09-2012, 03:10 PM
If self needs to be trained to make a practical and efficient martial art, then so be it.

Keith Larman
09-10-2012, 08:30 AM
I'd probably code it post++; , read it before applauding.

I need a golf clap emoticon...

Tim Lee
09-16-2012, 06:11 AM
What is being said here is, are we doing the right things for the right reasons, for the right people which includes ourselves and yes it is Zen. I don't really get the point of someone being somewhat rude in their answers to the open ended questions. Maybe they need to polish the mirror.:do:

Tim Lee
09-16-2012, 06:14 AM
Oh! and Sensei, nice column as always....

Carl Thompson
09-16-2012, 07:19 AM
ithink ththe above questions are a kind of insinuation and sophistry

The level of intention behind that is debatable, but it is a shame that these questions have been pitched in connection with a series of Aikiweb columns (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20638) that are intended to archive people's personal experiences of some important figures in aikido. If there were to be an "It Has to be Felt #0", I'd prefer a contemporary account of how Osensei felt by someone familiar with the current scene.

Diana Frese
09-16-2012, 07:57 AM
I have commitments to some people this morning, but would like to say briefly that I consider AikiWeb as a sort of spectrum of points of view on Aikido. I find Ross' column very valuable though I have only commented maybe once or twice and I will read this month's with the comments again when I return. Please do not take offense, but to the person who felt that using the It Has or Had to Be Felt format other than in its original format and content was inappropriate, then I also am guilty, because in my own blog I described being thrown by Kanai Sensei in a similar title, It Was Not Felt. Oh well, having said that, I do enjoy Ross' columns and the variety of comments they inspire. Thanks, everyone.

Carl Thompson
09-16-2012, 09:37 AM
Please do not take offense, but to the person who felt that using the It Has or Had to Be Felt format other than in its original format and content was inappropriate, then I also am guilty, because in my own blog I described being thrown by Kanai Sensei in a similar title, It Was Not Felt.

Presumably I am that person. No offense taken. :)

Just to clarify, I'm not saying it is inappropriate to use the It Has to Be Felt format other than in its original form. In any case, this usage isn't an account of getting thrown by anyone as you described and even a spiritual "It Has To Be Felt" is not a problem here. Osensei did not just bring his hands together in the ceremonial claps to merge HI-dari (aka: fire or "KA" 火) and MI-gi (water 水) making KA-MI (God 神). HI-dari is also the spirit and MI is the body (the MI 身in Han-MI 半身 is 'body'). The wonders of kotodama also make this KA-kureteiru MI or the "hidden body" which cannot be seen, but which can be felt.

But Ross just wrote a list of rhetorical questions such as...


Is O Sensei still relevant? Was he ever? etc

...under a column title that uses a play on the title of another set of columns.

As I said, the level of intention behind any insinuation is debatable.

sorokod
09-16-2012, 10:54 AM
I tried to give an example of a possible way these questions may be answered (modulo questions such as "Can you feel what cannot be felt") by a reasonable person. In that the answers are as open ended as the questions.

Oh! and Sensei, nice column as always....

Please, call me David :-)

R.A. Robertson
09-17-2012, 02:17 PM
Happy International Aiki Peace Week, everyone!

void ()

Programming languages use functions that often return an output. Some functions do important things, but do not return anything. Depending on the language, the syntax might looks something like

void someFunction() { // do really cool stuff here. }

It's a little hard to explain briefly why this matters.

However, it's not all that different in aikido. What we usually think of as techniques are little programs, or at least sub-routines. You put something in (the attack form) and you get something out (throw, pin, etc.).

Then there is a method which I've encountered less commonly. The attacker puts something in, but gets nothing back. There is neither push nor pull. A process is definitely happening, something significant is transpiring with the data input. But there is nothing really in the way of output. The attack may redirect, or not. The attacker may be unbalanced, or not. Whatever happens is not "done" in the regular sense of doing.

Such methods or functions can be said to be "void."

sorokod
09-17-2012, 06:48 PM
Then there is a method which I've encountered less commonly. The attacker puts something in, but gets nothing back. There is neither push nor pull. A process is definitely happening, something significant is transpiring with the data input. But there is nothing really in the way of output. The attack may redirect, or not. The attacker may be unbalanced, or not. Whatever happens is not "done" in the regular sense of doing.

Such methods or functions can be said to be "void."

If there is a punch to your face you can redirect it or not. You can unbalance the attacker or not.

If you redirect/unbalance - you do something and there is no "void" in the sense you suggested where the input - punch, causes an output - redirection/unbalancing.
If you didn't, you simply get a bloody nose.

Chris Knight
09-19-2012, 06:43 AM
Then there is a method which I've encountered less commonly. The attacker puts something in, but gets nothing back. There is neither push nor pull. A process is definitely happening, something significant is transpiring with the data input. But there is nothing really in the way of output. The attack may redirect, or not. The attacker may be unbalanced, or not. Whatever happens is not "done" in the regular sense of doing.

Hi Ross, although I agree with much of what David is saying, I also agree with the above statement.

My own personal thoughts on this are that this is the yin/yang methodology - in which the the body is trained to be predominantly "physically" balanced, with opposing forces, thus when a force is "input"against you, there is no resistance, and no force can be applied. This is also reliant on various spirals.

I think the Aiki body has been discussed to death, but this is what we are talking about, in my eyes

sorokod
09-19-2012, 08:22 AM
I am totally for being balanced and if you developed the body mechanics to have this balance maintained under physical pressure - than thats brilliant. To put all this in a box labeled "VOID" looks inappropriate to me.

Chris Knight
09-19-2012, 08:47 AM
me? i cant do any of it - yet, just calling it as I see it

I suppose void could be a word to "describe" how it feels - dependant on how the practitioner "wants" you to feel it

Carsten M÷llering
09-19-2012, 08:48 AM
Can someone explain me why this column has got the same title like the series started by Ellis Amdur?
I don't get the connection or the intention of that? I simply was surprised when I opened it and found something completely different under the same title.

Also I can't connect to the questions:
They seem to point to a kind of "political/social" or "conflict-managing" or "peacemaking" Aikido? Is this existing in the US? This would be different from what I know and what I experience over here.

I hope, I don't offend anyone. I just wonder, what this is about.

sorokod
09-19-2012, 09:02 AM
me? i cant do any of it - yet, just calling it as I see it

I suppose void could be a word to "describe" how it feels - dependant on how the practitioner "wants" you to feel it

I was using 'you' in the 'y'all' sense.

Carl Thompson
09-21-2012, 09:30 AM
Can someone explain me why this column has got the same title like the series started by Ellis Amdur?
I don't get the connection or the intention of that? I simply was surprised when I opened it and found something completely different under the same title.

Also I can't connect to the questions:
They seem to point to a kind of "political/social" or "conflict-managing" or "peacemaking" Aikido? Is this existing in the US? This would be different from what I know and what I experience over here.

I hope, I don't offend anyone. I just wonder, what this is about.

So far it appears that no one can explain to you why this column has the same title as the one which was started by Ellis Amdur. The person who wrote this column is the one who should know.

So why did you use the same title Ross?

Regards

Carl

Diana Frese
09-21-2012, 10:37 AM
Maybe I should wait for Ross to answer, but it appears to me as if Ross is mentioning several issues that are important to how different people feel about Aikido, their attitudes so the title of Ellis' column inspired him to a different track of the word "feeling".

R.A. Robertson
09-21-2012, 05:13 PM
It's fair that I should explain myself.

First, I want to be clear: this column is not meant as an attack on Ellis or his columns.

It is, however, a response to a number of things that I've read in them, statements from various authors. Since we are not allowed to have dialogue with the authors in the context of those columns, I've opted to use my own soapbox (graciously provided by Jun) as a vehicle to let some of my feelings out in the form of questions.

Carsten writes:
Also I can't connect to the questions:
They seem to point to a kind of "political/social" or "conflict-managing" or "peacemaking" Aikido? Is this existing in the US?

Yes. But it is not unique to the US. Aikido is not aikido if it is stripped of its politcal/social relevance, or its conflict-managing and peacemaking aspect. And, I will add, it is not aikido if it is stripped of its martial aspect.

As to the Void, I will (yet again) quote O Sensei, who reportedly (and in translation) said

Except for blending with the void
There is no way to understand
The Way of Aiki.

and

If you have not linked yourself to true emptiness,
you will never understand The Art of Peace.

I consider these things to be solid, practical recommendations by the Founder. I do not agree (or understand) everything O Sensei said, and I mistrust those who say they do. But in this case, I think there is something worthy of careful consideration.

sorokod
09-21-2012, 06:03 PM
Aikido is not aikido if it is stripped of its politcal/social relevance, or its conflict-managing and peacemaking aspect. And, I will add, it is not aikido if it is stripped of its martial aspect.

I like this example of a "politcal/social relevance" and the "martial aspect" because it shows the considerable freedom one has in applying context

"Ueshiba Sensei's techniques are genuine, you know. They can be applied to anything, including financial, political or military matters. For example, the air strike against Pearl Harbor was a method of irimi tenkan. Because the Japanese bombers flew there in front of the American Air Force, the men at Pearl Harbor thought that they were American troops. That was irimi tenkan. I heard that the Japanese headquarters talked about applying this irimi tenkan in their tactics."

-- http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=394



As to "conflict-managing and peacemaking". I suppose it's there too as long you are OK with living in the greater co-prosperity sphere

R.A. Robertson
09-21-2012, 06:25 PM
Wonderful reference. Thank you, David.

Carl Thompson
09-21-2012, 09:44 PM
It's fair that I should explain myself.

First, I want to be clear: this column is not meant as an attack on Ellis or his columns.

It is, however, a response to a number of things that I've read in them, statements from various authors. Since we are not allowed to have dialogue with the authors in the context of those columns, I've opted to use my own soapbox (graciously provided by Jun) as a vehicle to let some of my feelings out in the form of questions.

Thank you for the clarification.

For my part, I don't necessarily disagree with your feelings, it was more how they were targeted. As I understand it, there is no problem regarding discussing the columns on a separate thread. Perhaps you could quote some of the relevant parts that you have these feelings about?

Regards

Carl

wxyzabc
09-22-2012, 01:28 AM
Hya Ross

A really nice post and a very important one imho...so much said and not said too : )...a difficult subject.

For sure it's very easy to go wrong even when you think you're going in the right direction.....and how will you know until you get there? here's hoping everyone stays in the light...

Carsten M÷llering
09-23-2012, 06:15 AM
Thank you Ross for your detailed answer!

Aikido is not aikido if it is stripped of its politcal/social relevance, or its conflict-managing and peacemaking aspect.
And thank you for being this clear!
I was a bit baffled. In all those years I've practiced with a lot of different people. I never heard someone state so firmly that what I learn and teach would not be aikid˘. So I was unsure about how and what to reply.
I decided to just take note of your statement. If this is your truth it's fine with me. I myself will simply go on learning, practicing, teaching what I know as aikid˘. For me it has got it's worth/merit in itself, no matter you call it.

Ernesto Lemke
09-23-2012, 09:57 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2jSiY-Vo8g&feature=youtube_gdata_player
:D

Carsten M÷llering
09-23-2012, 10:08 AM
Can't see the video in Germany ...
... but can read the title.
:-)

R.A. Robertson
09-28-2012, 02:01 PM
First, I want to observe with real gratitude that people have kept comments and disagreements civil. I knew this column could become contentious, and I'm relieved that is has not. I don't mind being occasionally provocative, but it never serves my aim to muckrake and sow discord.

Aikido is, as a friend of mine once said, a deep well. So deep that none of us limited beings can take it all in. Nevertheless, I am always perplexed by those who take a decidedly limited view of aikido and dismiss or denigrate the rest.

Two common extremes are the hard-assed militant macho types, and the new-age psychobabble types. If ever there was a left hand in need of a right hand (and vice versa), we see it here.

In order for aikido to be socially relevant, in order for it to be meaningful as a transformative way, it has to have hard physical discipline. It has to confront, in the body, life and death. It has to embrace conflict and lessons learned in combat, and find creative and constructive outcomes.

In order for aikido to be valid as a combative art, it has to offer something worth fighting for. It has to bring something new to the equation that does not merely recapitulate millennia of human degradation and environmental pissing. It has to find its heart, and rise to the challenge of O Sensei's realization of budo as love.

Can we do our sincere best to see the grand picture that is aikido, and still say "this is aikido, and this is not?" I think we have to try. We may fail, or miss the mark, but if so it should not be because we refuse to even look at the immensity that is aikido.

I won't cite specific authors or columns in the "It Had to be Felt" series. And to repeat, I do think they are a valuable repository of experiences. But I find it especially troubling when senior aikido instructors, veterans with formidable experience, relate with barely disguised pride in the number of broken bones in the dojo or the number of bar brawls one has engaged in to "test" their mettle.

Doing so conveys a certain kind of toughness. But it's of a limited sort, and one that too easily serves to hide the weakness and fear behind the bravado. Discipline in aikido does require us to be tough, physically and mentally in proportion to our means. But toughness is not the same as brutality.

Without the kind of emotional toughness that impels us toward compassion, aikido is not aikido. A broken bone, deliberately or wantonly inflicted, and well outside of the necessity of medical healing, is not a victory, but a clear loss. It is a loss for the recipient, it is a loss for the community, and it is a special kind of loss for the one who inflicted it and who carries forward the delusion that they've done something special.

Dang. I think I just wrote another article. Thanks again for your patience in hearing my views, and for the respectful points of both agreement and disagreement.

R.A. Robertson
09-28-2012, 02:13 PM
Thank you Ross for your detailed answer!

And thank you for being this clear!
I was a bit baffled. In all those years I've practiced with a lot of different people. I never heard someone state so firmly that what I learn and teach would not be aikid˘. So I was unsure about how and what to reply.
I decided to just take note of your statement. If this is your truth it's fine with me. I myself will simply go on learning, practicing, teaching what I know as aikid˘. For me it has got it's worth/merit in itself, no matter you call it.

To be clear, are you stating that your aikido as you know and teach it is by design devoid of social or political relevance? Are all elements of conflict-management and peacemaking absent, or for that matter, forbidden? I want to be sure I'm not misunderstanding you.

How would you describe the basis for the worth/merit of your art in itself? In what way is aikido meaningful to you and your students?

Chris Li
09-28-2012, 02:37 PM
Yes. But it is not unique to the US. Aikido is not aikido if it is stripped of its politcal/social relevance, or its conflict-managing and peacemaking aspect.

I think that Hiroshi Tada addressed this point a little bit in part 5 of the "Budo Body" interview (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-09-09/aikido-shihan-hiroshi-tada-the-budo-body-part-5), when he discussed the difference between ethics, or morals, and Budo.

Isn't political relevance a little tricky? Would political relevance to a conservative Republican mean the same thing that it does to a liberal Democrat? Doesn't social relevance, if we're talking about values, have the same problems?

Or am I misunderstanding what you mean by political/social relevance...

Best,

Chris

R.A. Robertson
09-28-2012, 06:20 PM
[\] Isn't political relevance a little tricky? Would political relevance to a conservative Republican mean the same thing that it does to a liberal Democrat? Doesn't social relevance, if we're talking about values, have the same problems? [\]

Yes. Very tricky. And yes, many divergent interpretations and agendas. Always a plurality of competing values and world views. Thankfully!

It would be a loss if aikido could magically and miraculously make all this disappear, to unify human thought into a single monolithic dogma. Naturally I would oppose this.

However, I think it should be productive to ask if aikido training has anything to offer how we approach such differences. If, in the United States, Republicans and Democrats, or liberals and conservatives everywhere, could dialogue in aikido's particular brand of constructive adversity? Can we get fundamentalists and secularists to work together on worthy charitable causes?

The world and its many paths can get there without what we explicitly call "aikido." But if aikido does not actively and self-consciously participate in this social process -- not so much to take sides, but to bring factions together to make something larger and more coherent -- then I can't for the life of me see it as something to brag about.

Thank you for the article reference by the way, and your work as translator. These are the things that enrich us, individually as well as socially.

Chris Li
09-28-2012, 06:56 PM
However, I think it should be productive to ask if aikido training has anything to offer how we approach such differences. If, in the United States, Republicans and Democrats, or liberals and conservatives everywhere, could dialogue in aikido's particular brand of constructive adversity? Can we get fundamentalists and secularists to work together on worthy charitable causes?

The world and its many paths can get there without what we explicitly call "aikido." But if aikido does not actively and self-consciously participate in this social process -- not so much to take sides, but to bring factions together to make something larger and more coherent -- then I can't for the life of me see it as something to brag about.

So you're thinking of Aikido as a negotiation technique? Something along of Terry Dobson's "Giving in to get your way"?

Personally, I don't see much of a real track record for that in Aikido - not even from Morihei Ueshiba himself...

Best,

Chris

Peter Goldsbury
09-28-2012, 09:35 PM
However, I think it should be productive to ask if aikido training has anything to offer how we approach such differences. If, in the United States, Republicans and Democrats, or liberals and conservatives everywhere, could dialogue in aikido's particular brand of constructive adversity? Can we get fundamentalists and secularists to work together on worthy charitable causes?

The world and its many paths can get there without what we explicitly call "aikido." But if aikido does not actively and self-consciously participate in this social process -- not so much to take sides, but to bring factions together to make something larger and more coherent -- then I can't for the life of me see it as something to brag about.

In view of Christopher Li's response to this, on aikido as a form of negotiation, I think I need to come in here. Negotiation is one aspect of communication, which is also one aspect of a wider frame of discourse, commonly called rhetoric. In terms of rhetoric, Japan and the USA are at opposite ends of the spectrum and it would not be surprising if this opposition were not also found in an art like aikido, which is fundamentally based on Japanese culture and values. Yes, I know that postwar aikido can be called ‘international' in some sense, but this is ex post facto, so to speak.

I believe the models of rhetoric commonly found and taught in the US are based on Greek models and a very good example of this is Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, which is based on the oratory of Pericles. The Greek model was fundamentally adversarial, since the speeches were aimed at an audience, of jurors or electors, who would eventually vote. It was in no way ‘win-win', as the publications of the Harvard Business School might suggest. The rhetorical and logical tricks actually used during debate were originally catalogued by Aristotle in his Topics and Refutations Against the Sophists. The model of negotiation taught by those such as Howard Raiffa or Roy Lewicki is an American development of the original Greek model and parallels the later history of western rhetoric. This rhetorical tradition was based on Aristotle's Organon and his Rhetoric & Poetics.

This rhetorical tradition has some very interesting parallels with the Chinese rhetoric that flourished at the time of the Mohists. However (1) Chinese rhetoric followed its own path after this date and (2) these are not the only rhetorical traditions that exist. Ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia and ancient India also had their own traditions of rhetoric that were certainly not Greek, but—and this is very important—these traditions were not seen as distinct subjects with their own internal structure and rules. Indian rhetorical forms, for example, were seen as a part of general ethical discourse and this is certainly true of Buddhist rhetoric. These traditions were overwhelmed by the Greek / western model, but certainly did not disappear.

It is a subject of great interest that Japan does not have a tradition of rhetoric and there are very few books on rhetoric, especially on negotiation, for example, written by Japanese scholars. Those that are tend to follow the postwar American dialectical models of ‘win-win' etc, but in my experience the Japanese do not actually follow these models in practice and 'win-win' is certainly not a model in aikido.

So when we talk of aikido as a martial art that is essentially an art of negotiation or conflict resolution, I think there is some anachronism here, for I believe that neither the Founder himself nor his son Kisshomaru ever saw the art in these terms.

Best wishes,

Carsten M÷llering
10-02-2012, 07:44 AM
To be clear, are you stating that your aikido as you know and teach it is by design devoid of social or political relevance?Yes.

Are all elements of conflict-management and peacemaking absent, ...Yes.

... or for that matter, forbidden?There are no restraints or proscriptions in the aikid˘ I know. Nothing is forbidden. The aspects you mentioned are just not topic of our practice. They just do not occur.

I want to be sure I'm not misunderstanding you.I think, you got me right.

How would you describe the basis for the worth/merit of your art in itself?
To make a very, very long story very, very short:
To me aikid˘ in the first place is a certain way of body work that helps to connect my body and helps to connect me myself to my own body. Kneading and connecting the body, polishing the mind, developing the self, growing. It's a way of individualistic personal growth using a certain form of body work.

Because aikid˘ is a definite form of bodywork of a certain person, there is no way it can "get outside", no way to play a role on the pollitical or social stage. Connecting your toe to your thumb is very interesting, maybe helpfull for the person doing it. But it is in no way of political or social relevance.

The outcome of this bodywork is designed to be martially effective. It is designed to defend against bodily - not verbal! - attacks. To manage bodily - not intellectual - conflicts. There exist beautyfull methods of conflictmanagement and peace making. I very much recommend the Non-Violent-Communication of Marshall Rosenberg. Because aikid˘ is body work it is not needed as long as talking is possible.

Finally: What I know as aikid˘, what I learn for nearly 19 years now, what I try to teach since six years now is a Japanese bud˘.
We have a lot of people here who know more than I do about both parts of this term: Japanese and bud˘. Much more than I do. But I think that it is obvious that a japanese bud˘ is just different ... ?!
bud˘ is just not designed to solve problems or fit into the schemes of the questions of our culture, isn't it?

Diana Frese
10-02-2012, 08:47 AM
Though I am still reading around in this excellent thread, which has attracted so many great posters and their posts, I am going to jump in again, because perhaps my advanced age (cough, cough) and lack of much training in recent decades, makes my early training and learning stand out in my memory.

Among my teachers in those early years were Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, and Terry Dobson Sensei. Many continued to study with them, I ended up changing jobs and getting married and staying connected with my birth family and my in-laws, which took a lot of time and focus, though I always wanted to get back to practicing Aikido. Like so many others I have read about on Aiki Web!

I was fortunate to learn from all three, and others, so that is why this thread and the OP and all the other posts are so fascinating to me. Frankly it didn't really bother me, I just accepted it as different "takes" on what Aikido meant to each teacher, and their ways of transmitting it. Terry was known to take educators, business people, and use the physical metaphors of Aikido to teach conflict resolution at special workshops at their schools or offices. He was a pioneer in this and I was very fortunate to be at that time and place, partly due to the fact my small YMCA dojo at the time was affiliated to the larger New Haven Aikikai, which went to seminars at Bond Street Dojo.

But I also had ties to my original dojo, which was New York Aikikai. I find it hard to accept the notion that just because Yamada Sensei did not speak about conflict resolution in societal terms, that it was not a strong basis of what was taught, how to "neutralize" the attack, how to "divert" it or whatever word is appropriate, I can't think of the perfect description here, but I guess that's okay too. What crossed my mind back then, during those days, is that it must be doing something to a person's deeper consciousness and attitude to life to, in the time and space of an Aikido class, be attacked, with, say, shomen uchi, dozens of times and (usually!) not be struck and not feel resentment.

It's not that every problem in life will roll off our backs like water off a duck's back (I often refer to the "duck oil" that some people seem to naturally have that keeps them from getting annoyed at small things)... But I do remember one of the New York Aikikai flyers at the time that said something about "In our frenetic world....." although I can't remember the exact words. Also the phrase "Have you ever felt that there must be a better way?" Please excuse any inaccuracies, but I'm sure I'm correct in remembering some of the basic themes of those little advertising flyers from the late 1960's and early 1970's.

Saotome Sensei was chosen, and accepted the request of Peter Shapiro, now teaching in France from what I read on Aiki Web many months ago, because he had focused on much of the Shinto teaching that O Sensei had spoken about. Peter was also a student of Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei, who was a Shinto Priest, whether or not officially registered as such with the Japanese government. Although, as has been stated elsewhere on Aiki Web, only the foreign student special classes had weapons training, and that was what was taught in those classes, Japanese culture and Shinto were discussed after training in the little coffee shop around the corner and across the street from Aikikai Hombu.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I wanted to explain at least a little of the spectrum that was available even in those comparatively early years. I don't think I'm qualified to post in Voices of Experience, if one counts actual months trained in each year, but maybe a report from the old days will further this discussion, which is a good one and I hope it continues. In closing, I'd like to mention that Saotome Sensei emphasized that the meaning of the word Samurai had within it the concept of Protection.
Anyway, these teachers are still around, thankfully, and anyone can look them up. Even in the case of Terry, who unfortunately for us, passed on, his books and his students are still around.

Whew! Now I've said a mouthful, but I hope I've added a little perspective on the background of these different points of view mentioned on this thread. Some are from the lineages, and some are from the individual backgrounds and other studies of the individual posters and are very fascinating to me. Thanks, everyone!

Diana Frese
10-02-2012, 09:15 AM
Just a note, Peter Shapiro Sensei, who organized the foreign students class I mentioned, was listed on the Aikikai Hombu lists of promotions in the beginning of this year as Sixth Dan. I hope he won't mind my mentioning he told us at the time back in 1974 that he had chronic back problems so he, like many others in Aikido has overcome handicaps with courage and determination. Just another note on Aikido and the people who practice!

Keith Larman
10-02-2012, 10:32 AM
Dr. Goldsbury, thank you for the post. Lots to think about. I need to go read some old books I've got around here somewhere on constitutive rhetoric...

So when we talk of aikido as a martial art that is essentially an art of negotiation or conflict resolution, I think there is some anachronism here, for I believe that neither the Founder himself nor his son Kisshomaru ever saw the art in these terms.



I'll also comment that I'm reminded of a line from the Godfather. "Make him an offer he can't refuse." If the word 'negotiation' can include the notion of having a gun pointed at your head, well, maybe that isn't so far off. And furthermore the conflict is "resolved", one way or the other, at least in some sense of the word. So we have negotiation and conflict resolution, right? :)

DH
10-02-2012, 12:44 PM
Dr. Goldsbury, thank you for the post. Lots to think about. I need to go read some old books I've got around here somewhere on constitutive rhetoric...

I'll also comment that I'm reminded of a line from the Godfather. "Make him an offer he can't refuse." If the word 'negotiation' can include the notion of having a gun pointed at your head, well, maybe that isn't so far off. And furthermore the conflict is "resolved", one way or the other, at least in some sense of the word. So we have negotiation and conflict resolution, right? :)
I think Ueshiba making a statement that "Aiki allows you to exert your will on others".... pretty much blew the cooperation model right out the window. Perhaps it's interesting to consider whether or not he needed cooperation...to achieve aiki?
Dan

Rob Watson
10-02-2012, 03:52 PM
Where is the Aikikai Foundation Hospital? Habitat for Humanity? Aikido giants leading social change for justice ... etc. Spend as much time training in the dojo or out in the community doing coastal cleanup, clinic work, meals on wheels, helping at the elder care facility, soup kitchen ...

So many ways to help that are not found in a dojo. Reconcile the universe indeed.

R.A. Robertson
10-12-2012, 01:53 PM
Lots of accumulated responses by now. I wish I could get all of us in a room together for a full, real-time conversation.

Aikido as Negotiation:
Yes, I do think of aikido as negotiation. Of course I see budo as negotiation. One does not lessen the other. On a large scale, we make distinctions and create departments between the military and the State Department. But they are not really separate. Diplomacy is warfare; war is diplomacy. These/this can be done badly or with nefarious aims, or executed with great skill and toward maximum benefit for all.

East vs. West:
As a Westerner, I know better than to think I will ever fully understand the Eastern world view, and specifically that of the Japanese. Understanding in its degree is desirable, but I would consider myself presumptuous and arrogant to believe that I know, or even can know, what it means to see things from a Japanese perspective. So while I do what I think is proper to respect the Japanese origin of our discipline, I must necessarily see, explore, and relate my art from my own perspective. It's the only one I have any authority over, and the only one I have a real responsibility to report from.

That said, aikido is a human derivation, with universal potential. While it possibly might never have emerged in its particular form outside of Japan, it nevertheless is more Human than it is Japanese. Else its value is limited. If I can never understand aikido the way the Japanese do, then I must abdicate the field entirely, or claim what part of it is truly mine. Only then can I rightly have something worth sharing.

Individual vs. Social:
Another false dichotomy. Whether we're speaking of aikido or political arenas, it is a mistake to treat these as separate or opposed. Will emphasis on creating strong, independent, self-sufficient individuals automatically lead to a more perfect society? It's a start, but it can also lead to greed and tyranny. Does building a strong community that emphasizes social welfare benefit every individual? It should, but we see too often the loss of privacy and personal freedom as a result. What we do need, wherever we look, is individuals taking responsibility for their own experience, and positioning themselves to assist others in ways that foster healthy interdependence.

If you specifically don't want your aikido to have social relevance, then practice alone. If you don't want to, or can't practice alone, then realize the discipline of the dojo is one of relationships. The quality of relationships has a direct effect on the quality or your own experience and progress. If aikido gives you a greater understanding into the nature of relationships and how to do them well, then why would you not practice that outside the dojo? This is social relevance.

Aikido Outreach:
Where indeed is the Aikikai Foundation Hospital? Where are the great aikido figures operating on the world stage or with dedicated focus in their own local communities? In some sense, the fact that the question has to be asked (and indeed it does) is an embarrassment. If the best aikido has to offer is a cohort of self-aggrandized individuals, enabled by dojo brands and tribal affiliations tending their own gardens and guarding their own turf, then I'm ready to call it a failed experiment.

Of course, we need only look at the US budget proportion allocated to the Pentagon vs. the Peace Corps to see the problem is not unique to aikido.

But, in fact, the outreach is there. It's not often making headlines, It's far from universal among dojos and affiliations, but it exists. It is nascent, fragile, immature, not yet well coordinated. There are cases of viable and successful dojos that have the resources to focus some of their energy on benefiting their local communities, and this is integral to fostering the notion of self-defense. There are aikido groups around the world working together and with other martial artists on the problems of global conflict and local inequity. These groups tend to be horribly underfunded and not always as effective as could be hoped. But they're there, and you can find them if you look. Probably they could use your help, and would welcome your contributions. But if you don't like what they're doing or how they're doing it, you could always lead your own initiative. IF you have the resources. Not everyone does, and that's something we should all be working on as well.

Carsten M÷llering
10-14-2012, 07:27 AM
... executed with great skill ...
But bud˘ does not teach talking? aikid˘ does not?
And there are excellent methods which can be used for talking. But none of them teaches how to deliver a punch to the throat. Wich aikid˘ does.
Why confusing those methods?

I must necessarily see, explore, and relate my art from my own perspective. It's the only one I have ...
When I meet a different context of life (be it regional or historical) I find it very interesting to learn about the different perspective of this given context. Getting to know the strange (?correct word?), the different then helps to develop oneself and to understand oneself far better.
And: I think l real learning only works when one trancends ones own perspectiv. Ohterwise you only learns what you already knew.

... it nevertheless is more Human than it is Japanese.
Thist, I think, can only be said about certain abstractions you may get from doing aikid˘. I also thougth this when I startedt practicing. But the more I get into aikid˘, the more it becomes "Japanese". Because the more you get into details, the more you get into the context they come from. At least this is my experience.

Else its value is limited.
Sure it is!
It's just like practicing koryű. What "value" does this have?
This is what I tried to say above: The only value it has, is practicing it. That's it.
Why do you think practicing aikid˘ should save the world, but TSKSR or KSR or ... should not? The talking of peace or love or building society we know from Ueshiba, can be found - more or less - in a lot of other bud˘ aswell.
Sure is it's value limited! Why do you assume it shouldn't?

Will emphasis on creating strong, independent, self-sufficient individuals automatically lead to a more perfect society?
I think so. I may be wrong.
But that's simply not important: I don't practice or teach to build a better society. That's just not the aim of my practice in the d˘j˘. So it doesn't matter at all.

Like I said above: To me this menas just to confuse things. To use the wrong method.

(I myself am a very political and socially engaged person: I did political work for much years. My job helps to build a better society. I just don't need to put these aims into aikid˘. I simply practice.)

If you specifically don't want your aikido to have social relevance, then practice alone.
Individuals just coming together, working together and going back to their lives does not necessarily create any kind of community.
(Btw. since some time about 50% of my practic is solo practice.)

... realize the discipline of the dojo is one of relationships.
Well it is a very hierarchical relationship in the d˘j˘. It is clearly not a model for the society I want to live in. (I'm saying this albeit I'm the co-head of the hierarchy in our d˘j˘.)

The quality of relationships has a direct effect on the quality or your own experience and progress.
This, I admit, I don't understand: I have practiced in a d˘j˘, where everybody was good friends. I've practiced in a d˘j˘ where nobody liked each other. I go to seminars, where people simply don't know each other. I know d˘j˘, which are not so hierarchical structured, like it is usual.
I clearly feel different in different scenarios. But whether I learn some aikid˘ or not, does clearly not depend on this feeling. I don't have to like the teacher or the other students to progress.
So I don't get your point here.

If aikido gives you a greater understanding into the nature of relationships and how to do them well, then why would you not practice that outside the dojo? ?
As I said: I would not like a world that is socially structured like a d˘j˘.

If the best aikido has to offer is a cohort of self-aggrandized individuals, enabled by dojo brands and tribal affiliations tending their own gardens and guarding their own turf, then I'm ready to call it a failed experiment.
In which way do you think aikid˘ to be an "experiment" that could fail or succeed?
If aikid˘ is seen like a philosophy or religion or political party to have a certain message how to make the world a better place. And if the experiment would be develop our world or society, it only can fail.
Because aikid˘ - as I see it so far - simply is not designed for this. It simply does not give us the right methods for this.

Carsten M÷llering
10-14-2012, 07:59 AM
Sorry for the orthographic mistakes! I missed the time for being able to edit my post.

... at least:
Please read "succeed" as "be successful".

Diana Frese
10-14-2012, 09:21 AM
I left something out of a previous post, which had gotten too long, and then work and home duties prevented me from studying the rest of the thread in depth. But I want to say that Carsten's posts are always interesting and well thought out and have a convincing background in his personal experience as he has mentioned, especially the religious point of view, so I'm going to just jump in for now and add some detail about Saotome Sensei, whom I mentioned along with Yamada Sensei and Dobson Sensei as each having different approaches to the value of Aikido to Society.

To be brief, Saotome Sensei's point of view in his lectures and conversations was that O Sensei's message tied in with present day concerns for the environment. The honeybee crisis in the news these days was foreshadowed by the problem some Japanese farmers faced as a result of the overuse of pesticides. This was in the mid 1970's. When his classes became popular with a wide variety of college students, I felt part of the reason was that his message resonated with the concerns of a lot of Americans, and that maybe he felt that in Japan, people were not ready at the time.

I respect the teachers that do not teach the connection to the environment in practical terms, that we should be directly concerned in such endeavors, it should be up to the individual. It is possibly just one of many interpretations of O Sensei's message. But "Aikido and the Harmony of Nature" is a book that is a good resource for anyone to read of the connection that Saotome Sensei feels could be made from O Sensei's teaching to concerns of the modern world.

So I believe in all three approaches, because Yamada Sensei, Dobson Sensei and Saotome Sensei were all teachers of mine, and I am grateful to them. Every day, even in my regular daily life, I see examples of how their teachings are relevant to me, even personally, and to everyone else on our little planet here.

Thanks for reading, I will go back to studying the thread whenever I have a chance. Judging by the amount of responses and their serious intents, it is one of the more important threads on Aiki Web and gets to the heart of many matters.

R.A. Robertson
10-26-2012, 01:39 PM
But bud˘ does not teach talking? aikid˘ does not?
And there are excellent methods which can be used for talking. But none of them teaches how to deliver a punch to the throat. Wich aikid˘ does.
Why confusing those methods?

If aikido, or budo, does not on some level teach talking, negotiating, then it is an incomplete art. Bruce Lee spoke of the art of "fighting without fighting," and Sun Tsu and others spoke of how to avoid war, as well as how to engage it. As for aikido's tactical expressions, well, of course this is why I practice it instead of simply studying rhetoric. It's aikido's wonderful synthesis of physical self-defense and mental/emotional conditioning, and social and environmental awareness that excites me so much. That may qualify as confusion, but if so, I'll follow Neal Stephenson's lead -- much of aikido is about becoming "fused with," or "con-fused."

When I meet a different context of life (be it regional or historical) I find it very interesting to learn about the different perspective of this given context. Getting to know the strange (?correct word?), the different then helps to develop oneself and to understand oneself far better.
And: I think l real learning only works when one trancends ones own perspectiv. Ohterwise you only learns what you already knew.

Of course. I cannot disagree. But having learned, we eventually assimilate and synthesize the knowledge and experience. We come to take ownership, and from this derives true authority and expertise. Which is to say that we should never abdicate what becomes our own, through repeated encounters with the strange. Again, this has much to do with how we can be of service to others.

This dialogue between you and me is a perfect example. I do expect to become transformed by it, specifically because you invite me to engage with the "strange." If even in small ways, I become better for it, and if being better helps me serve others, then I am grateful to you.

Thist, I think, can only be said about certain abstractions you may get from doing aikid˘. I also thougth this when I startedt practicing. But the more I get into aikid˘, the more it becomes "Japanese". Because the more you get into details, the more you get into the context they come from. At least this is my experience.

Again, yes. But also, if you look deeply enough into the context of what it means to be Japanese (for example), I think you will find everything therein is fundamentally human.

[\]
It's just like practicing koryű. What "value" does this have?
This is what I tried to say above: The only value it has, is practicing it. That's it.
Why do you think practicing aikid˘ should save the world, but TSKSR or KSR or ... should not? The talking of peace or love or building society we know from Ueshiba, can be found - more or less - in a lot of other bud˘ aswell.
Sure is it's value limited! Why do you assume it shouldn't?

First, I don't choose to practice koryu. Or zen, for that matter. I can of course enjoy doing things for their own sakes, and I am not against hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes. I myself have much enjoyed rock climbing when I am fit enough for it, and I don't feel any great urge for it to pave the way to utopia. Although, on a good day, nothing seems more relevant or immediate...

I would turn the question around. Why shouldn't we save (or sustain, or repair, or improve) the world? Why shouldn't aikido be a vehicle for that, given that it was specifically retooled by Ueshiba from the ancient arts and reoriented toward this idea that "true budo is the loving protection of all things?" As for TSKSR or KSR and the rest, why shouldn't they also be tools for improving the quality of life?

[\]
But that's simply not important: I don't practice or teach to build a better society. That's just not the aim of my practice in the d˘j˘. So it doesn't matter at all.

Forgive me if you've said it before, but if so, can you restate what exactly is your purpose for your practice in the dojo? To "simply practice" is not an aim or purpose. Would you say that your practice has any purpose?

[\]
(I myself am a very political and socially engaged person: I did political work for much years. My job helps to build a better society. I just don't need to put these aims into aikid˘. I simply practice.)

I respectfully bow to you and the work that you do. I do trust it is good work. I wish you all success, and I thank you, even from this distance, for whatever you do that has enriched me and that which I care about.

Maybe your experience of your art is a simple relief, a kind of rest and distraction from the stresses of your other activities. Nothing wrong with that.

Individuals just coming together, working together and going back to their lives does not necessarily create any kind of community.
(Btw. since some time about 50% of my practic is solo practice.)

Sadly, what you say is true about community. But I think it takes a certain kind of sustained effort to come into regular contact with others and NOT care about them, NOT commune with them somehow.

Too, communities can be transitory, temporary, and still be rich and vital.

Well it is a very hierarchical relationship in the d˘j˘. It is clearly not a model for the society I want to live in. (I'm saying this albeit I'm the co-head of the hierarchy in our d˘j˘.)

A good dojo culture in my view is both hierarchical and heterarchical. And that would be closer to my view of a more ideal society. Life is both vertical and horizontal. There are good and bad heterarchies, just as there are good and bad hierarchies.

In a good hierarchy, we learn from and respect those whose knowledge and experience and capabilities surpass our own, and we often do well to benefit from their authority.

In a good heterarchy, there is the egalitarian spirit of collaboration, cooperation, and a willingness to explore, experiment, create, and discover.

These are not mutually exclusive. I have experienced instances of a right synthesis of the hierarchy and the heterarchy working together, in a dojo context. It is powerful and exciting, and yes, of course I would want more of that for the larger world that I live in.

This, I admit, I don't understand: I have practiced in a d˘j˘, where everybody was good friends. I've practiced in a d˘j˘ where nobody liked each other. I go to seminars, where people simply don't know each other. I know d˘j˘, which are not so hierarchical structured, like it is usual.
I clearly feel different in different scenarios. But whether I learn some aikid˘ or not, does clearly not depend on this feeling. I don't have to like the teacher or the other students to progress.
So I don't get your point here.

What is progress? Toward what are you progressing? When I understand this better, I might be better able to answer your question.

Secondly, liking or enjoying someone's company is incidental to caring for them, or being cared for by them. Or otherwise exchanging benefit. It helps, but it's not necessary. The central feature of community is caring for (taking care of) one another.

As I said: I would not like a world that is socially structured like a d˘j˘.

Perhaps you have an opportunity to restructure your dojo with an orientation toward your more ideal society? Not that we expect to reach our ideals in every way and at all times forever and always, but surely we can take steps to improve our situation?

For me, a dojo is a laboratory. It is a specifically designed environment conceived as a containment area for the safe experimentation and refinement of more optimal ways of being. When these are found, I believe they should be carried out of the dojo and into the world.

In which way do you think aikid˘ to be an "experiment" that could fail or succeed?
If aikid˘ is seen like a philosophy or religion or political party to have a certain message how to make the world a better place. And if the experiment would be develop our world or society, it only can fail.
Because aikid˘ - as I see it so far - simply is not designed for this. It simply does not give us the right methods for this.

Well... I have to admit this is very difficult to know how to respond to. What you say genuinely touches me with sadness.

I think if we study history, we come across many many instances of a religion or a philosophy or an ideology or a movement, all with grand designs to improve the human condition and make a better world. And what we see again and again is that messages of love and compassion turn to violence, power struggles, pogroms and genocides, and fundamentalist rigidity of thought and expression.

It would be tempting to conclude that all our best efforts lead only to ruin. Tempting, but facile. For if we simply look for it, we find also abundant evidence for the success of human kindness, both institutionalized and spontaneous. We face some unprecedented challenges in this century, but the clear trajectory overall is toward greater health, prosperity, opportunity, longevity, and freedom for all.

We are not there yet, and there are large and widespread pockets of resistance. The outcome is far from certain. I don't mind being at war with these backward forces.

Yet I feel what is needed is a new kind of warfare. A new kind of budo. Or perhaps, a return to the original purpose and meaning of budo, which is to serve and preserve and wage a campaign of well-being.

For myself, and for those whom I most would like to train with, we need a framework. Something that goes beyond what has been done before. Something disciplined, rigorous, and focused on finding a better way to creatively engage conflict and the problem of violence.

I do have a name for this. And while it is large enough to have a boundless set of expressions, it is still what it is, and there are things that are not it.

Are you and I doing different varieties of the same thing? Then we can agree on what is the same for us, and we can call it by the same name. If we are not, then there is nothing inherently wrong with what either of us are doing.

But then, should we call it the same thing?

Carsten M÷llering
11-09-2012, 05:42 AM
If aikido, or budo, does not on some level teach talking, negotiating, then it is an incomplete art.
Again: How do you teach, practice, learn talking and negotiating in your d˘j˘? What methods of talking/negotiating do you teach in concreto? How do you connect this to the waza or the bodywork of aikid˘? How do you connect those methods to the specific methods of talking/negotiating?

... aikido's ... mental/emotional conditioning, and social and environmental awareness ...
In which way do you see aikid˘ to be emotional coditioning? How does aikid˘ teach social and environmental awareness?
And once again: How do you teach, practice, learn this in your d˘j˘? I never had this in my aikid˘ life. So I don’t have a clue what can be added to the usual keiko to meet this aim.

To "simply practice" is not an aim or purpose. Would you say that your practice has any purpose?
Tissier sensei, when asked about the purpose of practice, once said: “I train, because it feels right to do so.”
Endo sensei once said: “I practice because there are many things I don’t know.”
I like both answers.
I'd like to add: I practice, because it kneads, opens, connects my body, because it is a way to change the body. I practice, because it helps to get away from the mind being the center and instead concentrate more on my body. I practice, to get able to move towards the dao.

Maybe your experience of your art is a simple relief, a kind of rest and distraction from the stresses of your other activities.
Well, to be honest, practice comes first in my life. I built my family and job around my practice.

A good dojo culture in my view is both hierarchical and heterarchical.
I don't see how a certain tradition of knowledge can be transmitted using heterarchical structures. And that’s what I think, keiko is: Transmitting a given tradition.

What is progress? Toward what are you progressing?
Progress means the development of certain abilities of the body.
Getting softer, getting connected, getting more open, more centred and grounded while affecting the structure of uke more effectively.
Being relaxed and free while controlling uke more clearly and easily.
Getting more towards me. Unfolding the abilities of the body. Change the body.

Perhaps you have an opportunity to restructure your dojo with an orientation toward your more ideal society?
As I said above I not only do not expect a d˘j˘ to be the image oft a ideal society. I on the contrary think this would hinder the transmission of aikid˘. But to me this is no problem, because I don’t see aikid˘ to be a way or a vehicel to create a certain society.

For me, a dojo is a laboratory. It is a specifically designed environment conceived as a containment area for the safe experimentation and refinement of more optimal ways of being. Wow. How can keiko be experimentation?
It’s funny that 同情 d˘j˘ means compassion, empathy. But 道場d˘j˘ seems to be a traininghall for a Japanese martial art?

I think if we study history, we come across many many instances of a religion or a philosophy or an ideology or a movement, all with grand designs to improve the human condition and make a better world.
Yes. But how come, you count aikid˘ as one of those movements?

Are you and I doing different varieties of the same thing?
I don't know. If I remember it right I only once in 19 years met someone who connected aikid˘ to somewhat similar ideas like you do. (He is am member of a group or association called “aiki extensions” as far as I know.) Regarding this person you won’t find his aikid˘ “different” during practice. It is only when you talk to him, that you come to know that his understanding of aikid˘ differs. So you don’t have to think about it during practice.
Wether you and I are doing varieties of the same thing may depend on how we practice.
(Regarding the German Ki-Aikido, following Yoshigasaki it is my opinion by know that we do different things. Because it is not only the thinking that is different, but also practice has not much in common.)

But then, should we call it the same thing?
If it where different things, we both use the name we inherited. It’s just that. There is no brand or trademark. (In German forums I distinguish "Ki-Aikido" and "aikid˘". This is mostly accepted.)

R.A. Robertson
11-09-2012, 03:26 PM
Hi Carsten,

More deeply nested quotes will get confusing, so I'm going to try to address your points without quoting all of them back.

Aikido for me is about engaging structures. On the mat, this plays out as a kind of ritual combat. For lessons to be learned in earnest, the self-defense (martial) applications have to be genuine. But...

I've never been in a fight in my life. I expect I might live out the rest of my days without ever needing to do hand-to-hand combat. If I do need it, I fully expect my aikido training to be there for me.

Still, I do engage in conflicts all the time, every day. Many are within myself, many are between me and others, me and my world. Many are of my own making, many are not. My experience on the mat is available (when I have the good sense to access it) to help navigate these structures when they do not fit well together. I can learn to find increasingly better pattern-matching strategies that promote equilibrium and flow.

For me, this can and should be applied in all arenas, not just conflict areas, but also in wellness and opportunity. So I try to do my best to use my aikido while driving, working, conversing, playing, lovemaking, in relaxation and recreation. (I'm also working at improving my ability to do aikido through writing.)

You ask how. For now I must disappoint you with a lack of details, but a broad answer is twofold:

First, by accepting that the patterns and forms of aikido can be analogues to all other life experiences. In this modality, no special modifications to regular aikido practice are necessary. However, the mindset matters, so that attention is given to how the mat relates to the larger world, and vice-versa. When this is so, washing dishes is also aikido practice. Not in a way that can substitute for mat training, but rather, they inform one another.

Second, explicit practices do exist for promoting calmness, for learning to not overreact when threatened, and how to act decisively in the face of a challenge or opportunity. These are manifold, but often involve attention to breath, tension in the body, awareness of posture and body language.

I do like your stated goals of training. The point where we may disagree is that being more "open, centered, and grounded," being more "relaxed and free" while remaining in control, and "getting more towards me [you]" all sound like extremely desirable traits off the mat as well as on the mat. And if aikido training, in itself, improves your quality of life in other domains, that sounds like a good thing.

Is it automatic? Ideally, it should be. Yet I think aikido is vulnerable to the same kind of mindset of certain religious folk, who believe their salvation and all their religious practice is satisfied by merely showing up once a week and going through the motions. I'm not getting that sense about you, except it almost seems like that's what you're arguing in favor of.

Aikido is indeed a transmission of a tradition, and that is precisely what hierarchies are good at.

Aikido is also a work in progress. O Sensei said that we should discard the old ways that do not work. Tohei Sensei himself was a true innovator. My main influences (R. Kobayashi, H. Kono) have been experiential in their orientations. Thus, my tradition, my lineage, if you will, IS one of research, investigation, and experimentation. And that's what heterarchies are optimized for.

If I quote O Sensei, it's not meant to invoke him as an ultimate authority. Rather, I will refer to some things he expressed that I strongly agree with, or am powerfully excited by. Also, for the historical precedents of how aikido has been framed and conceived.

So when I go to the mat, I try to remember that I am there to try to find a way to unite the world into one family. (I understand that to mean a healthy family that loves one another and fosters unity through diversity, rather than through monomaniacal fundamentalism.) When I go to the mat I try to remember that I am there to penetrate the mystery of why true budo is the loving protection of all things. This is the self-defense I want to practice, to learn, to teach, to promote, and to evolve.

Disclosure: I myself am somewhat connected to Aiki Extensions, and I serve on the board for Peace Dojos International.

On the subject of naming, I generally agree with what you say. There are those who would say that what I do these days is not aikido. I can't be too concerned about that. The Aiki no Michi is the road that brought me here, and as far as I'm concerned, it's still the path that I'm on. Yet I'm not prepared to say that a thing is aikido just because someone says it is. And part of the process of refinement is the continuing discovery of what a thing is, and what it is not.

By the way, I've looked at your dojo web site. The language there (admittedly through horrible Google translation) seems to generally agree with me. There are good thoughts about the value of community, and the importance of training "off the tatami." Or am I simply projecting my own interpretations into the language?

I do want to say that engaging with you in dialogue is a pleasure, and I hope I have not at any point offended you in any way. I do respect your point of view, and am eager to understand it better.

Janet L.
11-12-2012, 07:22 PM
You asked, 'When was the last time someone said to you "My life is so much better because of your aikido experience?"'

Well, I've said it myself, and not that long ago. My housemate who drug me to the dojo for the first time a year and a half ago has said it as well with some frequency.

There have been several obvious improvements in my life which go beyond the dojo walls:

My posture is dramatically improved. I was shrinking and have recovered nearly an inch in height.

My flexibility and mobility has dramatically improved. When I started I couldn't come anywhere close to touching my toes without bending my knees. Hadn't been able to in decades, if I ever could. And that's just one benefit among many.

You also asked: "Is your training a commitment or an obsession? Is it a way of life, a hobby, a contingency, an art, a sport, a philosophy?"

I would say Aikido is a darn near all-encompassing way of life. Its influence extends deeply into relationships, the way I approach disputes, it has even influenced the way I walk my dog!

That said, I'm about as likely to miss Aikido as my parents were to skip Church. In short, It just doesn't happen unless I'm out of town.

You asked: Is O Sensei still relevant? Was he ever?

O sensei was surely relevant, 'cause he taught Koichi Tohei Sensei, the first soshu of the Ki Society. Now, I understand Tohei Sensei discarded a lot of stuff he learned from O Sensei, 'cause he discovered his own variants that either worked better, were easier, or were less likely to accidentally injure uke.

A good, thoughtful column, Robertson Sensei.

- Janet.

Carsten M÷llering
11-13-2012, 07:30 AM
I clearly don’t understand the practice of aikid˘ to be about the structure of the meeting of two persons or actually two persons in conflict. Because the structure is set when practicing kata. It is simply given what happens.
So the meeting when set by kata is not ritual combat, but is one person performing (-> shite) some technical work and another person giving feedback (aite) through his body.
In kata – the way I understand and practice it – there is no conflict. And so there are no structures taught or even just to find, you can implement into other situations. This is simply not what we do. ln our aikid˘ the actual meeting (deai) of shite and aite is taught under just technical aspects.

Second: I think if you want to try to get analogies out of your keiko referring to structures of managing conflicts or social relationships or even other aspects of live, you have to understand aikid˘ as a way to blend with a partner via the outward or external movements. There you may find someone call it irimi to speak out the truth loud and clear. Or ura if you first accept the reasons and arguments of a discussion partner. Things like that.
I don’t know whether you can imagine what’s it like when aikid˘ is not about this external meeting, but about what happens within you yourself. And about having a partner who willingly helps you realizing “how” you are. This Training pattern does not give you analogies to be used in daily life or verbal conflicts. As far as I understand it now.

About your comparison to “certain religious folk”: You compared aikid˘ to religion more than once in this thread. To me this makes no sense. To me there is no point of comparison. In don’t see something which aikid˘ and religion have in common. When it’s me I compare aikid˘ to koryű, to bud˘, to yoga, to qi gong, to forms of bodywork like structural integration (just translated this, don’ know whether this exists in English), anatomy trains, ICMA, tai chi … . But I don’t see, how aikid˘ is connected to religion? I think I get an idea about how it is for you. But here again: I would say if you think you need religious aspects in your life, you should try to find them in religious contexts.

So when I go to the mat, I try to remember that I am there to try to find a way to unite the world into one family.
We are definitely heading in different directions regarding aikid˘. But even in other aspects of my life this is not my concern.

inframan
11-15-2012, 03:40 PM
Ross Sensei,

At first glance, the title of your column had me thinking you must have written about training with Rod Kobayashi, or maybe Bill Sosa?

Let me just say that after reading it, I'm now thinking more about my aikido training rather than someone else's.

thanks
-Andy

R.A. Robertson
11-19-2012, 02:50 PM
Hi Janet,

I just wanted to take a moment to say that my life is better because you practice aikido, and because you share some of that with me.

Thank you,

Ross

R.A. Robertson
11-19-2012, 03:11 PM
Hi Again, Carsten,

One thing I've clearly mis-communicated: aikido is not a religion, and I strongly do not wish it to be. I am not looking for a religion, as I am resolutely secular in my orientation, and do my best to govern my life and outlook and decision processes on evidentiary premises. Sorry for any confusion about that.

One area where I do think we may diverge is on the primacy of kata. For me, kata comes after the fact. Kata is sometimes useful for isolating fleeting instances of particular dynamics for certain pedagogical purposes. But in my experience, too much emphasis on this leads to people thinking of kata as aikido. As both teacher and student, I find this restrictive when over-emphasized.

To the point, I find that the forms arise organically and spontaneously when we do aikido; but doing the forms does not automatically cause aikido to arise naturally.

My aikido tends not to be based in kata. Form happens, of course, and is useful to a degree. But I agree with (what I think might have been meant by) O Sensei when he referred to all the many techniques of aikido as "empty shells."

Ross

R.A. Robertson
11-19-2012, 03:38 PM
Ross Sensei,

At first glance, the title of your column had me thinking you must have written about training with Rod Kobayashi, or maybe Bill Sosa?

Let me just say that after reading it, I'm now thinking more about my aikido training rather than someone else's.

thanks
-Andy

Hey Andy,

Sorry to disappoint. In many ways, that would have made for a much better article, but less to my immediate concern when I first wrote the essay.

I have not yet decided if I will eventually participate in the actual IHTBF series. I do think they provide an excellent vehicle, and illuminate, if not these great teachers themselves, then at least people's experience of them. To your list, I might also add Fumio Toyoda, Peter Ting and Henry Kono.

I have gotten so much from so many, there is a real desire to convey it forward in some measure. Yet I'm afraid that when it comes to writing about these great teachers, I wind up feeling like I'm trying to shine a flashlight on a mountain. Fine for seeing where to put your foot next, but not so much for appreciating the grandeur.

But if your reflections have turned back to your own training, that's not so bad. At the same time (and in the spirit of so much of the article's subsequent discussion) I might propose that none of us really own our own training. Whatever dues we pay, whatever effort we put towards earning our belts, aikido comes to us as a gift from a long lineage and multiple channels of benefactors. And whatever self-improvements we enjoy, and whatever skill and knowledge and experience we acquire, if it is not shared with others, we become an evolutionary dead-end for all that was given us.

Ross

Tom Verhoeven
11-19-2012, 07:58 PM
Ross,
Thank for all your additional explanations, I found that very insightful and interesting to read. I had never heard of the peace dojos international - just had a quick look on their website; this might be something that I will look into in the near future to learn more about it and maybe to join.
I think Aikido has a deeper layer and meaning that is not always so easy for everyone to see or perhaps has for some less urgency then for others. Or the emphasis lies on a different aspect - like training the body or looking at Aikido as kata that need to be learned.
Besides O Sensei's teachings and my own Aikido teachers, there are others whom I find a continuing inspiration - among them is Thich Nhat Hanh and a few other Buddhist teachers. Although there might be differences in details, what they have in common is that they all see the Way as a route to peace, happiness and enlightenment. Without it Aikido would for me nothing more than a exercise routine. Maybe nice to do but not very fulfilling.
Anyway, just wanted to thank you for the column and the follow-up in this thread.
Best wishes,
Tom
http://aikido-auvergne-kumano.blogspot.fr/2012/11/thich-nath-hanh-mindfullness.html

Tom Verhoeven
11-19-2012, 08:15 PM
I left something out of a previous post, which had gotten too long, and then work and home duties prevented me from studying the rest of the thread in depth. But I want to say that Carsten's posts are always interesting and well thought out and have a convincing background in his personal experience as he has mentioned, especially the religious point of view, so I'm going to just jump in for now and add some detail about Saotome Sensei, whom I mentioned along with Yamada Sensei and Dobson Sensei as each having different approaches to the value of Aikido to Society.

To be brief, Saotome Sensei's point of view in his lectures and conversations was that O Sensei's message tied in with present day concerns for the environment. The honeybee crisis in the news these days was foreshadowed by the problem some Japanese farmers faced as a result of the overuse of pesticides. This was in the mid 1970's. When his classes became popular with a wide variety of college students, I felt part of the reason was that his message resonated with the concerns of a lot of Americans, and that maybe he felt that in Japan, people were not ready at the time.

I respect the teachers that do not teach the connection to the environment in practical terms, that we should be directly concerned in such endeavors, it should be up to the individual. It is possibly just one of many interpretations of O Sensei's message. But "Aikido and the Harmony of Nature" is a book that is a good resource for anyone to read of the connection that Saotome Sensei feels could be made from O Sensei's teaching to concerns of the modern world.

So I believe in all three approaches, because Yamada Sensei, Dobson Sensei and Saotome Sensei were all teachers of mine, and I am grateful to them. Every day, even in my regular daily life, I see examples of how their teachings are relevant to me, even personally, and to everyone else on our little planet here.

Thanks for reading, I will go back to studying the thread whenever I have a chance. Judging by the amount of responses and their serious intents, it is one of the more important threads on Aiki Web and gets to the heart of many matters.

Diana,
Good point! O Sensei gave the example himself in his efforts to protect local nature sites. I feel that protecting the environment is a responsibility of the community as a whole rather than for the indiviual. And Aikido can set an example. There is really nothing better than practicing in the middle of nature. And as O Sensei pointed out, nature itself can teach us a lot about Aikido. The way everything in nature is connected is a good example - human culture often miss out here. Bees are of course one of my favorite examples. Japanese bees have a In - Yo method of defending there beehive!
Thanks for your post!
Tom