PDA

View Full Version : Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?


Please visit our sponsor:
 

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


Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 06:09 AM
This is a questions I've thought about quite a bit, and recently someone asked me this point blank. The short answer is, yes, I think you can, but it takes some extra work. The detailed answer is here:
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/10/can-you-truly-understand-budo-without.html
Please let me know what you think of my ideas.

OwlMatt
10-22-2013, 06:19 AM
What about budo needs to be understood?

oisin bourke
10-22-2013, 06:41 AM
What about budo needs to be understood?

Correct training using kata for one thing. Japanese people understand this better than foreigners because it's used as a teaching tool from the time they are children. As Peter said, it's by no means impossible but it takes extra effort for non-Japanese to practice in this method.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 07:09 AM
What about budo needs to be understood?

That it is far more than a simple system of combat. It is a means for self-development and understanding. Without an understanding of the background of a Way, it is pretty much impossible to get everything worthwhile that can be gained from practicing it.

lbb
10-22-2013, 07:59 AM
Correct training using kata for one thing. Japanese people understand this better than foreigners because it's used as a teaching tool from the time they are children.

That's really interesting. You mean other than martial arts? How is this done?

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 08:05 AM
In Japan there is a kata for doing just about everything. The idea is that there is a best way to do things, and they codify this into a form. The most obvious examples are arts like tea ceremony, flower arranging and calligraphy, but there are kata for pretty much everything.

phitruong
10-22-2013, 08:24 AM
In Japan there is a kata for doing just about everything. The idea is that there is a best way to do things, and they codify this into a form. The most obvious examples are arts like tea ceremony, flower arranging and calligraphy, but there are kata for pretty much everything.

are there kata for drinking, carousing, partying, being a public nuisance? just wondering.

Derek
10-22-2013, 08:29 AM
Point 1: I've not been to Japan and do feel that I understand budo (or at least this one). And granted it has taken me a while, but more interestingly.....

Point 2: I meet people from around the world in my real life that are not involved in the budo and I recently met with a group of Japanese. We had some limited language agreements between us, so I tried to speak about things that they might know like origami and aikido. They knew neither. I wonder what percentage of "modern" Japanese really agree with our conception of them? What percentage of them practice a Way. If they are not involved in the budo do they understand them any better then a non-Japanese?

Derek
10-22-2013, 08:31 AM
are there kata for drinking, carousing, partying, being a public nuisance? just wondering.

I want to train in this style!

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 08:33 AM
There are correct, expected ways to drink and party, yes. There are kata and ways that you would never dream of. This is a link to the National Cleaning Federation and their soujido (Way of Cleaning)
http://www.soujikyoukai.jp/掃除道
(I'm not sure if the kanji link will work, but it's worth a try)

Cliff Judge
10-22-2013, 08:36 AM
are there kata for drinking, carousing, partying, being a public nuisance? just wondering.

Yes - there are hazing rituals for first-year college students, and there are numerous and intricate rituals for getting sloshed / public group shaming for officemates. Seriously. Mostly they do not actually seem like fun.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 08:37 AM
Point 2: I meet people from around the world in my real life that are not involved in the budo and I recently met with a group of Japanese. We had some limited language agreements between us, so I tried to speak about things that they might know like origami and aikido. They knew neither. I wonder what percentage of "modern" Japanese really agree with our conception of them? What percentage of them practice a Way. If they are not involved in the budo do they understand them any better then a non-Japanese?

Origami is fairly widely practice in Japan. Aikido is pretty obscure. Not as obscure as some of the koryu I do, but still, I'd be surprised if even 5% Japanese have even heard of Aikido.

Much more common Ways in Japan are sado, shodo and kado. These are quite widely practiced, so a conversation about them would be more likely to meet with someone who knows something about them.

phitruong
10-22-2013, 09:25 AM
There are correct, expected ways to drink and party, yes. There are kata and ways that you would never dream of. This is a link to the National Cleaning Federation and their soujido (Way of Cleaning)
http://www.soujikyoukai.jp/掃除道
(I'm not sure if the kanji link will work, but it's worth a try)

amazing. learned something every day. i wonder if the Japanese have a high degree of OCD in general population.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 09:28 AM
amazing. learned something every day. i wonder if the Japanese have a high degree of OCD in general population.

They don't call it OCD. They call it normal.

aikidark
10-22-2013, 09:44 AM
...you must go to the Degobah system.

Peter, you're translation of bu/wu seems a little off. Additionally the kanji you reference and their meanings have their roots in China. The Chinese and Koreans also held these values, and taoism and confucionism are imported from the mainland, and still very much part of life in Japan. These concepts and these people have travelled the world, and are available to anyone that is willing to understand them. I would speculate that it is possible, without travelling to Japan to learn budo. Based on your position even if one were to travel to Japan they may not learn it because they were not born there, it is not part of their psyche from day one....maybe that should be the question, can a foriegner learn budo? But I think, we as learning creatures can learn anything.

....so luke went to the Degobah system, but in my opinion it was really Han Solo who embraced budo .

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 09:52 AM
..

Peter, you're translation of bu/wu seems a little off. Additionally the kanji you reference and their meanings have their roots in China. The Chinese and Koreans also held these values, and taoism and confucionism are imported from the mainland, and still very much part of life in Japan. These concepts and these people have travelled the world, and are available to anyone that is willing to understand them. I would speculate that it is possible, without travelling to Japan to learn budo. Based on your position even if one were to travel to Japan they may not learn it because they were not born there, it is not part of their psyche from day one....maybe that should be the question, can a foriegner learn budo? But I think, we as learning creatures can learn anything.
.

I think you missed the last part of the blog post

"I’m not trying to suggest that budo teachers outside Japan have to become experts on Taoist and Confucian philosophy. That is a life’s work by itself, and there are precious few Japanese budo teachers who are also masters of philosophy. Most Japanese teachers have a native cultural understanding of the concepts that they have absorbed from living in Japan. For a teacher outside Japan, I think some reading of the classic texts from Taoism and Confucianism along with plenty of quiet thought about how they relate to budo practice is probably enough. Quiet thought fertilized with the ideas of Lao Tsu, Chuang Tzu and Confucius should bring about some profound realizations on the nature of practice and what the great teachers who created the Ways hope for us, their students, to achieve"

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 09:54 AM
.
Peter, you're translation of bu/wu seems a little off. .

I'm curious. How would you translate it?

OwlMatt
10-22-2013, 10:08 AM
That it is far more than a simple system of combat. It is a means for self-development and understanding.
First of all, that's what it is for you. Maybe it is something different for someone else. Second, I think most Westerners are quite aware of the fact that most budo were intended by their founders to be more than simple systems of combat.
Without an understanding of the background of a Way, it is pretty much impossible to get everything worthwhile that can be gained from practicing it.
Everything that you find worthwhile, you mean. What is worthwhile is subjective, and different people are looking for different things out of their training.

Correct training using kata for one thing. Japanese people understand this better than foreigners because it's used as a teaching tool from the time they are children. As Peter said, it's by no means impossible but it takes extra effort for non-Japanese to practice in this method.
Can you explain what you mean by "correct" in this context, or give an example? I'm not sure I understand.

aikidark
10-22-2013, 10:12 AM
I'm curious. How would you translate it?

Well, from what I have read it is a foot raised...so it is not clear if the foot is going up, or going down, advancing or retreating...it is in a position to do any of these. Then there is the staff, spear, or halberd...also not specific, but from what I have read / learned it is "stop spear."

Added note....so the spear is not advancing or retreating, it stops.

oisin bourke
10-22-2013, 10:17 AM
That's really interesting. You mean other than martial arts? How is this done?

Adding to the other posts, children learn pretty much everything in a formal setting by Kata. When I was teaching English, a lot of kids would mimic not just my pronunciation, but also my gestures and body language in order to get it. Also, when my daughter was in kindergarten in Japan, the teachers there would teach the kids basic skills, like doing up shirt buttons and folding clothes by showing them in a step by step manner the "set" way to do it. The kids would then repeat the "set" way until they could do it "properly" (i.e. the "set way). When I was training with adults and kids in budo, everyone would constantly (some would say obsessively) mimic the instructor, even while the instructor was verbally explaining something. Basically, they watch, copy and learn, and in general, can pick up a lot of detail. It's a great skill to have, and I suppose most aikido and budo practicioners do this to some extent, but the level generally done in Japan is quite hard to recreate in "the West" We just have a different approach to learning. BTW, this has positives and negatives, but it is definitely a Japanese cultural hallmark.

oisin bourke
10-22-2013, 10:20 AM
Can you explain what you mean by "correct" in this context, or give an example? I'm not sure I understand.

I mean recreating the instructor's movement down to the minutest detail, because everything the instructor does is packed with layers of meaning and information.

oisin bourke
10-22-2013, 10:21 AM
They don't call it OCD. They call it normal.

Indeed.

OwlMatt
10-22-2013, 10:32 AM
Adding to the other posts, children learn pretty much everything in a formal setting by Kata. When I was teaching English, a lot of kids would mimic not just my pronunciation, but also my gestures and body language in order to get it. Also, when my daughter was in kindergarten in Japan, the teachers there would teach the kids basic skills, like doing up shirt buttons and folding clothes by showing them in a step by step manner the "set" way to do it. The kids would then repeat the "set" way until they could do it "properly" (i.e. the "set way). When I was training with adults and kids in budo, everyone would constantly (some would say obsessively) mimic the instructor, even while the instructor was verbally explaining something. Basically, they watch, copy and learn, and in general, can pick up a lot of detail. It's a great skill to have, and I suppose most aikido and budo practicioners do this to some extent, but the level generally done in Japan is quite hard to recreate in "the West" We just have a different approach to learning. BTW, this has positives and negatives, but it is definitely a Japanese cultural hallmark.

I mean recreating the instructor's movement down to the minutest detail, because everything the instructor does is packed with layers of meaning and information.

This is a really interesting take on things. I had never considered the possibility that there were such drastically different approaches to learning from kata.

Walter Martindale
10-22-2013, 12:53 PM
I was in training in Tokyo when I was told directly by my Japanese friend that I could (not would) never understand Budo properly because I was not Japanese.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 01:02 PM
t.

Everything that you find worthwhile, you mean. What is worthwhile is subjective, and different people are looking for different things out of their training.
.

These things are available, whether someone is interested in them or not. However, if your goal is to understand as much of the system as possible, then you need to go after everything, not just what seems worthwhile at the moment. If you are satisfied with a shallow understanding of the surface of the art, that's ok too. Many people never get further than that.

TokyoZeplin
10-22-2013, 01:35 PM
In Japan there is a kata for doing just about everything. The idea is that there is a best way to do things, and they codify this into a form. The most obvious examples are arts like tea ceremony, flower arranging and calligraphy, but there are kata for pretty much everything.

Don't spout nonsense. I've lived in Japan, and by no means are there "kata for pretty much everything".

Unless you start simply defining kata as "choreographed/ritualized/drilled movement/ways of behaving/learning" - but in that case, there's "kata in pretty much everything" all over the world.
What you have mentioned so far, isn't by any means normally used within the young population - except, of course, that many train a sport when in high school. But those sorts of choreographed drills are used in sports all over the world.

Point being: No, kata is not an "everyday thing" in Japan.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 01:52 PM
Well, from what I have read it is a foot raised...so it is not clear if the foot is going up, or going down, advancing or retreating...it is in a position to do any of these. Then there is the staff, spear, or halberd...also not specific, but from what I have read / learned it is "stop spear."

Added note....so the spear is not advancing or retreating, it stops.

Those pieces may be used to write it now, but I think that how the word is actually used is much more important than what elements were chosen to create the character 3000 years ago. Both usage and written form have evolved since then.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 01:56 PM
Unless you start simply defining kata as "choreographed/ritualized/drilled movement/ways of behaving/learning" -
.

That's exactly what kata is.

HL1978
10-22-2013, 01:57 PM
There are kata in baseball and you can get kyu ranks in baseball, the japanese cup and ball toy and even surfing. I've got no clue how seriously people take those ranks or kata though.

lbb
10-22-2013, 02:06 PM
Adding to the other posts, children learn pretty much everything in a formal setting by Kata. When I was teaching English, a lot of kids would mimic not just my pronunciation, but also my gestures and body language in order to get it. Also, when my daughter was in kindergarten in Japan, the teachers there would teach the kids basic skills, like doing up shirt buttons and folding clothes by showing them in a step by step manner the "set" way to do it. The kids would then repeat the "set" way until they could do it "properly" (i.e. the "set way). When I was training with adults and kids in budo, everyone would constantly (some would say obsessively) mimic the instructor, even while the instructor was verbally explaining something. Basically, they watch, copy and learn, and in general, can pick up a lot of detail. It's a great skill to have, and I suppose most aikido and budo practicioners do this to some extent, but the level generally done in Japan is quite hard to recreate in "the West" We just have a different approach to learning. BTW, this has positives and negatives, but it is definitely a Japanese cultural hallmark.

Thanks, Oisin, that's really interesting. I knew (from studies of quality and business processes) that Japanese business culture emphasizes doing a thing as correctly as possible, and I know that it's a mindset that pervades traditional Japanese arts, but I didn't know it was quite that pervasive.

You probably know the "ritual cat" Zen story, which goes something like this: a spiritual teacher used to hold meditation sessions, which were disturbed by the monastery's cat, which made noise (and, if it was like my roommate's cat, did a lot of other "cat vs. meditation" things). So the spiritual teacher tied up the cat in another room, which solved the problem. Time went on, new disciples came to study, eventually the teacher died and another teacher took over, and all this time the cat was tied up during meditation. Finally, one day the cat died...and what did they do? They went out and bought a new cat so that they could tie it up, because tying a cat up was necessary to create the right environment for meditation.

Here in the West, we tend to get againsty when we're asked to play "monkey see, monkey do". We want to understand why we're doing what we're doing, even before we do it for the first time. The problem, of course, is that unless the thing you're doing is completely straightforward, or you can relate prior knowledge from another domain, you're unlikely to understand the explanation. So, you get stuck, and you never get beyond the first step. I think we all understand the dangers of "monkey see, monkey do" -- that's how you end up buying a new cat so you'll have one to tie up during meditation -- but I think you need a body of knowledge to hang any explanations on, and I don't think there's any way to get that body of knowledge without a good chunk of "shut up and train". Lots of practice, a little theory, lots more practice, a little more theory. Not always in that order, but the understanding comes with practice, not in advance of it. At least I think so.

ExBoss told an interesting story. He said that if you had a manufacturing facility in Japan and another in the US, making the same part to the same specs out of the same material, you'd find that in the US, they would aim at the tolerances, while in Japan, they'd aim right at the mark. In other words, if the spec said 100mm plus/minus 2 mm, the US plant/workers/process would focus on hitting anywhere between 98mm and 102mm (and would consider them all pretty much equally good...isn't that what the spec says?), whereas in Japan they would focus on hitting 100. As a result, products made with the same part manufactured in two different plants would have a different MTBF, because the US plant would turn out more 98mm and 102mm parts, which would go out of tolerance and cause problems sooner.

aikidark
10-22-2013, 03:19 PM
Those pieces may be used to write it now, but I think that how the word is actually used is much more important than what elements were chosen to create the character 3000 years ago. Both usage and written form have evolved since then.

Lol....but the concepts of budo have not.

TokyoZeplin
10-22-2013, 03:30 PM
That's exactly what kata is.

If that's how we're defining Kata, then the fact that "there is kata in pretty much everything in Japan", has nothing to do with Japan. Then you might as well say "there is kata in all systematic learning in the world" - it has nothing to do with Japan, or Martial Arts at all. Essentially, you've defined kata as a system of learning. Not a specific system, just any systematic learning. And that exists everywhere in the world.

Ritualized social interaction is also extremely common in every part of the world.

My point being, if that's how we are defining kata, then there's no point in discussing this anymore at all. It's like saying "people are learning things everywhere in the world" - yep, true, so what?

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 03:39 PM
Lol....but the concepts of budo have not.

Actually, the concept of "budo" is only about 500 years old. When it first emerged and how it is evolved in that time is something I would love to study academically.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 03:42 PM
If that's how we're defining Kata, then the fact that "there is kata in pretty much everything in Japan", has nothing to do with Japan. Then you might as well say "there is kata in all systematic learning in the world" - it has nothing to do with Japan, or Martial Arts at all. Essentially, you've defined kata as a system of learning. Not a specific system, just any systematic learning. And that exists everywhere in the world.

Ritualized social interaction is also extremely common in every part of the world.

My point being, if that's how we are defining kata, then there's no point in discussing this anymore at all. It's like saying "people are learning things everywhere in the world" - yep, true, so what?

It's not the kata, it's the social, cultural and philosophical ideas about their practice, meaning and goals that are interesting. The world outside Japan doesn't have the this huge philosophical construct built on Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist foundations. And that's the interesting part.

TokyoZeplin
10-22-2013, 03:53 PM
It's not the kata, it's the social, cultural and philosophical ideas about their practice, meaning and goals that are interesting. The world outside Japan doesn't have the this huge philosophical construct built on Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist foundations. And that's the interesting part.

If that's all, then I'm fine with that. Of course it's interesting. I don't see it having anything to do with Kata anymore though (other than in the sense of systematic drilling, of course).

Though I should add, if that's what we're talking about, that Japan is notoriously bad at teaching a vast amount of different subjects, and international students will often complain about this. I have a friend who took his Masters Degree at Todai (Japan's, without question, best University), he's currently taking his PhD in the UK, and have nothing but bad things to say about the training methodology.

The vast majority of my Japanese friends, have also agreed that the training methodology in Japan (which is basically just endless drilling of everything, mostly textbooks) is largely outdated, and just not very good. I remember interviewing for an English teaching job years ago, when I was on my Working Holiday visa at the time and needed money - at the interview, I was told the teaching methodology: tell your students to read this Disney book 1000 times, and then they will know English. Never had I heard such rubbish before.
There's a reason that Japan, even with an average of 7 years of English language learning, has one of the lowest levels of English as a second language, in the world.

Fred Little
10-22-2013, 04:07 PM
Lol....but the concepts of budo have not.

Rather than merely echo Peter's reply, I thought I might point anyone who is interested to a fine piece of scholarship that addresses that notion in a fairly rigorous and sometimes surprising manner:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Taming-Samurai-Honorific-Individualism/dp/0674868099

To that, I would only add that while the concept of "michi" or "do" has a long provenance, the opening of those arts to broader social circles, while not entirely unknown, particularly during the very late Tokugawa era, didn't really become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji era, and both functional and conceptual change are associated with that opening.

Hope this helps.

FL

OwlMatt
10-22-2013, 04:39 PM
These things are available, whether someone is interested in them or not. However, if your goal is to understand as much of the system as possible, then you need to go after everything, not just what seems worthwhile at the moment. If you are satisfied with a shallow understanding of the surface of the art, that's ok too. Many people never get further than that.
What "things" are you talking about?

Stephen Nichol
10-22-2013, 05:13 PM
They don't call it OCD. They call it normal.

Agreed.

In fact, I feel that OCD is too often seen/felt as a bad thing as opposed to a healthy practice of ritual. (of course it can be unhealthy, depending on the behavior in question.)

Typical day in ones life, alarm goes off, wake up, get ready for your day (set of tasks usually done the same way) go to work (usually done the same way each time, same path to get there) Do work, same thing over and over... come home, make dinner...eat dinner, clean up after and so on.. some variations may appear but we all follow patterns. We often feel off balance when we fall out of those patterns:

Alarm does not go off, skip breakfast, get stuck in traffic, realize your car is almost out of fuel, have a close call changing lanes or crossing the street to catch public transit.. and so on and so forth...

You know what amuses me most is people that still feel the need to maintain some type of schedule each day even while on 'vacation'... to the point of being more rushed and stressed trying to get all the stuff done during their attempt to relax and unwind... now that is crazy. :crazy:

Stephen Nichol
10-22-2013, 05:16 PM
are there kata for drinking, carousing, partying, being a public nuisance? just wondering.

Generally taught in late high school through college and university as the Ura practice. Typically hidden in plain sight.

To be honest Phi... I am surprised you need to even ask.. or perhaps you were were/are just naturally talented in this and surpassed the Kata phase and immediately grasped the true essence of the technique. :D ;)

TokyoZeplin
10-22-2013, 05:27 PM
Agreed.

In fact, I feel that OCD is too often seen/felt as a bad thing as opposed to a healthy practice of ritual. (of course it can be unhealthy, depending on the behavior in question.)

Just wanted to chime in here, and say that while I agree that it's incredibly common in Japan, I don't agree that it's healthy in any way. I have never, in all my travels, ever found a country with more mentally unstable (in various forms and degrees) people than in Japan. Stress, loneliness, and depression are incredibly widespread.

Heck, this almost neurotic tendency, especially in work, is often cited as one of the key reasons for the countries continually declining birthrate (Japan is currently one of the most "sexless" countries in the world, and is estimated to lose 1/3rd of it's population by 2060).

The reason why many people don't realize this, even if living in Japan for a while, is that it often doesn't show on the surface, due to the Japanese tradition/custom/culture of keeping up appearances at all costs. (If you're interested in that, have a look at Honne and Tatamae in Japanese culture (vaguely translated as public and private face)).
Going on sick leave for depression, people have been told "You have betrayed me" by their boss, for instance. I once read an article where the Japanese company owner, insisted that the rising depression rates in Japan were due to western influence in the job market, and had nothing to do with it now being more socially acceptable to actually say you have depression.

When discussing these things, it's incredibly important to remember, that just because something is a normal cultural practice, doesn't mean it's actually good for you (or anyone).

(quick disclaimer: I absolutely adore Japan, in many different ways, have many incredibly good friends in the country, and wish to return if a job opportunity ever presents itself - but that doesn't mean the country is perfect, it's customs perfect, or that you shouldn't discuss the negative consequences it's culture can also have).

Stephen Nichol
10-22-2013, 06:04 PM
Just wanted to chime in here, and say that while I agree that it's incredibly common in Japan, I don't agree that it's healthy in any way. I have never, in all my travels, ever found a country with more mentally unstable (in various forms and degrees) people than in Japan. Stress, loneliness, and depression are incredibly widespread.

Heck, this almost neurotic tendency, especially in work, is often cited as one of the key reasons for the countries continually declining birthrate (Japan is currently one of the most "sexless" countries in the world, and is estimated to lose 1/3rd of it's population by 2060).

The reason why many people don't realize this, even if living in Japan for a while, is that it often doesn't show on the surface, due to the Japanese tradition/custom/culture of keeping up appearances at all costs. (If you're interested in that, have a look at Honne and Tatamae in Japanese culture (vaguely translated as public and private face)).
Going on sick leave for depression, people have been told "You have betrayed me" by their boss, for instance. I once read an article where the Japanese company owner, insisted that the rising depression rates in Japan were due to western influence in the job market, and had nothing to do with it now being more socially acceptable to actually say you have depression.

When discussing these things, it's incredibly important to remember, that just because something is a normal cultural practice, doesn't mean it's actually good for you (or anyone).

(quick disclaimer: I absolutely adore Japan, in many different ways, have many incredibly good friends in the country, and wish to return if a job opportunity ever presents itself - but that doesn't mean the country is perfect, it's customs perfect, or that you shouldn't discuss the negative consequences it's culture can also have).

Hi Phillip,

While this could be a thread of it's own, I will take a moment to respond in this one.

OCD behavior of certain kinds can be alright in my opinion. They can be beneficial and not hurtful just because one practices 'something' with what could be viewed in an OCD manner. I agree that if said practice becomes socially debilitating then yes, you have a situation that needs to be addressed and this goes into a rather large can of worms about watching out for that development cycle and so on... so another thread on a different forum altogether if you ask me.

I saw a news bit about Japan's declining population rate and projections earlier this week myself and the brief sound bites about why the people there felt the way they do.. and to me it has more to do with 'being alone even in a sea of people' due to cultural 'issues' than any particularly perceived OCD patterns Japanese people may have.

All of this is unrelated to the original post so if you would like to discuss it further just PM me.

I should point out myself that I did not address the original post so to CMA (cover my @ss, not Chinese Martial Arts) I will state for the record that: No, I do not believe one needs to train or live in Japan to understand budo... truly.

One can find access to a teacher who may or may not be Japanese that has 'been there, done that' and learn from them.

People at or near the source can often loose their way over time. Many threads on this forum about that alone... (transmission, inheritance, emulation, did it get passed on? Did the students figure it out?)

Even more simply put, the source is only the source... the individual as willing and able to study and learn from it is one part, the connection (teacher) they find to that source makes all the difference. Once an individual comes to 'truly understand budo'... they become the source for others.

They can find as many paths (teachers/styles) as they can to that source, some paths will be better than others, yield more results, different flavors but then again, even the best path can only be followed if the commitment and ability is there to do so.

As we know often the most difficult part of someone with the commitment, desire and ability is finding the right teacher(s).. who actually knows the path and can show it to them. Thankfully, the internet can help (once one wades through the endless amounts of not so helpful stuff out there) someone find a starting point.

It has done so for me.

Mary Eastland
10-22-2013, 06:18 PM
:) I wonder if one can really understand basketball without having played in Springfield, Ma?" :D

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 06:26 PM
Though I should add, if that's what we're talking about, that Japan is notoriously bad at teaching a vast amount of different subjects, and international students will often complain about this. I have a friend who took his Masters Degree at Todai (Japan's, without question, best University), he's currently taking his PhD in the UK, and have nothing but bad things to say about the training methodology.
.

Having spent some years teaching in Japanese public schools, you will get only agreement from me on this. The kata based method of teaching is great for physical skills. It doesn't work worth a damn for cognitive fields such as language and sciences and Western philosophy.

The thing here is, we're talking about physical skills and how they can be a means for understanding and putting into action some extremely sophisticated philosophical concepts. For this sort of learning, the kata based system is excellent.

P.S.
I would not say that Todai is the best university in Japan, merely that it is the most prestigious in Japan.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 06:43 PM
What "things" are you talking about?

Concepts like Tao/Mich 道, Wuwei 無為, Te 徳, and these are only the large ones from the Taoist side of things. There are also Convfucian ideas that I'm still digging out, and Japanese ones such as mushin. The Japanese Ways are all methods for realizing these concepts and incorporating them into ourselves.

TokyoZeplin
10-22-2013, 06:55 PM
Having spent some years teaching in Japanese public schools, you will get only agreement from me on this. The kata based method of teaching is great for physical skills. It doesn't work worth a damn for cognitive fields such as language and sciences and Western philosophy.

The thing here is, we're talking about physical skills and how they can be a means for understanding and putting into action some extremely sophisticated philosophical concepts. For this sort of learning, the kata based system is excellent.

P.S.
I would not say that Todai is the best university in Japan, merely that it is the most prestigious in Japan.

I agree on all levels here!
My reply originally was solely meant in the context of "kata is everywhere", and the indirect implication of the replies to the thread, that it worked well.

I agree that drilling is an essential part of any physical learning activity, be it martial arts, soccer, or whathaveyou.

For the P.S., fair point.
I should perhaps have phrased it "most highly sought" or something along those lines.

aikidark
10-22-2013, 07:18 PM
Actually, the concept of "budo" is only about 500 years old. When it first emerged and how it is evolved in that time is something I would love to study academically.

What you have to take into account is the concept of budo before recorded existed longer than the 500 years you mention, and long before on the mainland. The characters used are quite specific. Interesting how one half of your premise one chatacter changes, but the character for tao, or do, does not...

And even if that one character does change from its originsl, does that now mean a person must travel to Japan? Does that support your theory in any way?

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 07:30 PM
What you have to take into account is the concept of budo before recorded existed longer than the 500 years you mention, and long before on the mainland. The characters used are quite specific. Interesting how one half of your premise one chatacter changes, but the character for tao, or do, does not...

And even if that one character does change from its originsl, does that now mean a person must travel to Japan? Does that support your theory in any way?

道 has changed significantly. Old forms of it at are at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bronze.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bigseal.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-seal.svg

And unless I completely misunderstand the blog post I wrote, I don't say that a person must travel to Japan.

OwlMatt
10-22-2013, 08:10 PM
Concepts like Tao/Mich 道, Wuwei 無為, Te 徳, and these are only the large ones from the Taoist side of things. There are also Convfucian ideas that I'm still digging out, and Japanese ones such as mushin. The Japanese Ways are all methods for realizing these concepts and incorporating them into ourselves.
That is how some people use them, but I think it's going a little overboard to suggest that people who don't use them that way don't "truly understand budo".

The more I train and the more I read, the more it bothers me when people talk about a martial art as if it had opinions, goals, and a philosophy. Those are characteristics of people, not activities; martial arts have none of them. And that means that when people start talking about what a martial art is about, what a martial art is for, or who really understands a martial art, they're usually confusing their own subjective ideas with objective truths.

Peter Boylan
10-22-2013, 08:19 PM
That is how some people use them, but I think it's going a little overboard to suggest that people who don't use them that way don't "truly understand budo".

The more I train and the more I read, the more it bothers me when people talk about a martial art as if it had opinions, goals, and a philosophy. Those are characteristics of people, not activities; martial arts have none of them. And that means that when people start talking about what a martial art is about, what a martial art is for, or who really understands a martial art, they're usually confusing their own subjective ideas with objective truths.

I guess I could be more precise and say that the objectives of the people who created the art, and the philosophy the art is intended to teach, and what the art is designed for, but that gets a little long I think. The language is flexible enough to handle the discussion.

aikidark
10-22-2013, 08:46 PM
道 has changed significantly. Old forms of it at are at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bronze.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bigseal.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-seal.svg

And unless I completely misunderstand the blog post I wrote, I don't say that a person must travel to Japan.

So with the introduction of taoism tao has changed? And with each change budo, or wushu, or mudo does not mean what it once meant? And then if you are not suggesting one travel to Japan to learn budo, I guess you have answered your own question? What answer were you looking for?

aikidark
10-22-2013, 08:49 PM
Also, though the writing of a pictogram may have been simplified over time for ease, does not corelate to a change in meaning. Did the simplification change how the word or its components is/are used? And did it change the compound as it has been meant to be used, with all of its inferences, through time. And what does any kind of a transliteration have to do with your original question?

OwlMatt
10-22-2013, 09:09 PM
I guess I could be more precise and say that the objectives of the people who created the art, and the philosophy the art is intended to teach, and what the art is designed for, but that gets a little long I think. The language is flexible enough to handle the discussion.

Well, if that's what you mean, then I agree with you. If it's important to you to understand a Japanese art as its Japanese creators understood it, and to pursue the goals that those creators had in mind, then it makes sense to try to get a Japanese perspective on it, and it makes sense that such a perspective would be hard to come by just training in the West under Western instructors.

aikidark
10-23-2013, 01:07 AM
Rather than merely echo Peter's reply, I thought I might point anyone who is interested to a fine piece of scholarship that addresses that notion in a fairly rigorous and sometimes surprising manner:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Taming-Samurai-Honorific-Individualism/dp/0674868099

To that, I would only add that while the concept of "michi" or "do" has a long provenance, the opening of those arts to broader social circles, while not entirely unknown, particularly during the very late Tokugawa era, didn't really become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji era, and both functional and conceptual change are associated with that opening.

Hope this helps.

FL

Thank you for the link, looks very interesting.

Peter, I guess one is faced with the original....the tao that can be spoken is not the original tao, that you mention...add to that, if you seek it, you cannot find it. Seeking the teacher, the right teacher especially if on does not know what to look for is going to be a huge hinderance. I think there are plenty of westerners that have brought back with them the tennets of budo, and have been given authority to teach their art. Additionally there are quite a few Japanese that have moved here and passed on their art to westerners, such that with a little effort one may find the right teacher. I dont believe this is just limited to aikido, as one can find many other martial arts forging the path in traditional styles.

I wonder if cultural influence may not be as important a factor as you place on it. Not everyone raised in Japan understands budo as a way of life, and budo has survived alongside, or inspite of cultural or social norms. Then I think it is important to ask what influence this might have had, if any on non warrior classes.

Peter Boylan
10-23-2013, 04:56 AM
Also, though the writing of a pictogram may have been simplified over time for ease, does not corelate to a change in meaning. Did the simplification change how the word or its components is/are used? And did it change the compound as it has been meant to be used, with all of its inferences, through time. And what does any kind of a transliteration have to do with your original question?

Sorry about that. I misunderstood your question. A lot of people try to claim that the elements of kanji are influential in giving meaning to the kanji. My point there was that the elements we have ended up with have little to do with the origin of the character.

As for the meanings, the understanding of Tao has taken many many forms over the years. As I point out in the post, there are a variety of philosophical schools using the term and how they interpret and conceive of it has changed and evolved. That's why I think reading just the Tao Te Ching is not enough. On the other hand, the existence of foundational texts such as the Tao Te Ching, the Chuang Tsu and the Great Learning, tends to anchor the meaning of the term so it doesn't drift too far from the original.

Peter Boylan
10-23-2013, 05:04 AM
I was in training in Tokyo when I was told directly by my Japanese friend that I could (not would) never understand Budo properly because I was not Japanese.

Oddly enough, with as much time as I have spent in Japan, I've never run into that. In fact many of the Japanese I meet are embarrassed that I have a better understanding of something they consider fundamental to Japanese culture better than they do.

There is an excellent interview here with a great 20th century budo teacher who points out, quite correctly I think, that modern Japanese are nearly as culturally different from Sengoku and Edo Period Japanese as Westerners. So if cultural purity is required to understand budo, than no living person is qualified. I'm not arguing particular cultural experience is required. I am arguing that particular historical and philosophical knowledge is. That knowledge is available to anyone who puts forward a little effort and thought.

Peter Boylan
10-23-2013, 06:44 AM
There is an excellent interview here with a great 20th century budo teacher who points out, quite correctly I think, that modern Japanese are nearly as culturally different from Sengoku and Edo Period Japanese as Westerners. So if cultural purity is required to understand budo, than no living person is qualified. I'm not arguing particular cultural experience is required. I am arguing that particular historical and philosophical knowledge is. That knowledge is available to anyone who puts forward a little effort and thought.

Sorry, forgot to include the link. The interview is at http://www.shinyokai.com/interviews.htm

Walter Martindale
10-23-2013, 07:26 AM
Oddly enough, with as much time as I have spent in Japan, I've never run into that. In fact many of the Japanese I meet are embarrassed that I have a better understanding of something they consider fundamental to Japanese culture better than they do.

There is an excellent interview here with a great 20th century budo teacher who points out, quite correctly I think, that modern Japanese are nearly as culturally different from Sengoku and Edo Period Japanese as Westerners. So if cultural purity is required to understand budo, than no living person is qualified. I'm not arguing particular cultural experience is required. I am arguing that particular historical and philosophical knowledge is. That knowledge is available to anyone who puts forward a little effort and thought.

It was interesting - about the same time, the guy's father came home from work (he worked out of town and was only home intermittently). I got real polite and bowed and said I was honoured to meet him. He got his son (this in in 1977) to tell me that he was a modern Japanese and didn't do all that formal bowing stuff even though it was a samurai family. The kid... I showed a photo of him to some other friends in Tokyo... apparently he was part of an ultra-right wing, ultra traditional group, so.. perhaps his father was more 'modern' than the kid.
Not long after the father told me to back off trying to be "too Japanese" my friend told me the good news that, because I wasn't Japanese, I could never understand or be any good at budo (I was training in judo at the time).

WRT Kata - sometimes I have trouble seeing the point of kata...

W

Cliff Judge
10-23-2013, 08:21 AM
To the original topic, I would say that budo undergoes a shift - IMO a breakdown - when groups have less exposure to Japanese culture, particularly in America.

Because kata is absolutely everywhere in all interactions between human beings in Japan - I'm shocked that anybody who has lived there would call this notion nonsense, if you've got some empathy you only have to visit there once to see that this is true - and kata is focused on internalizing a form, that is sort of how "budo is supposed to work." That's not where the learning process stops, of course, not even in budo, but it needs to be a personal subversion to break from the kata or it won't mean anything.

In the West we tend to not have patience for the repetitive formal part. Culturally we are taught that it is a waste of time, and we idolize outsiders and naturals who either never had to learn the steps or just dispensed with all that and skipped right to success. Our educational methods became more cognitive in the 60s and 70s in general, also, with teachers asking us what we thought and trying to encourage us to experiement and play with concepts earlier on.

One thing I have noticed and commented on quite a bit is that it is very easy, if you don't have this inherent trust in the system, to decide that because you cannot make something work, *IT* doesn't work, and therefore should be dispensed with or modified. If you don't have seniors in your organization who understand the system as it was laid out and are willing to enforce a form, it starts to drift.

And budo is supposed to change you - you lose a lot if you think you can take a little bit here or a bit there, or step on the mat day one with the intention of adapting budo to meet your ideas.

OwlMatt
10-23-2013, 08:36 AM
Everyone adapts budo to meet their own ideas. If they didn't, budo would never change and everyone would do budo exactly the same way.

Cliff Judge
10-23-2013, 09:08 AM
Everyone adapts budo to meet their own ideas. If they didn't, budo would never change and everyone would do budo exactly the same way.

But which ideas? That is the question. The first ideas you have when you step onto the mat, or the ideas that you develop over years and years of proper training? There is a big difference between saying "I think I will take up Aikido so I can learn the wrist locks" and something like "What if this feeling of extension from my back heel into uke's center is supposed to be in EVERYTHING?"

It is fundamentally impossible for everyone to do budo the same way - even if everybody is trying their hardest to engage in ignorant, mindless repetition.

aikidark
10-23-2013, 10:24 AM
Cliff, I really appreciate your insight.

Peter, nice link referencing shindo yoshin ryu, skimmed over it, will have to read it more in depth a little later today. This is exactly what I am talking about, though. The entire lineage of Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu has been passed onto, and entrusted to a westerner.

OwlMatt
10-23-2013, 11:14 AM
But which ideas? That is the question. The first ideas you have when you step onto the mat, or the ideas that you develop over years and years of proper training?
Both. The ideas we bring with us and the ideas that develop over years of training. We all have both these things, and we all let both these things affect the way we train.
There is a big difference between saying "I think I will take up Aikido so I can learn the wrist locks" and something like "What if this feeling of extension from my back heel into uke's center is supposed to be in EVERYTHING?"
There is a big difference. I just don't think I have the authority to decide which of these two is "right" or which amounts to "true understanding". I know which one is more interesting to me and more relevant to my life, but to claim to know any more than that is to speak for an art that never named me its spokesman.
It is fundamentally impossible for everyone to do budo the same way - even if everybody is trying their hardest to engage in ignorant, mindless repetition.
I agree.

lbb
10-23-2013, 12:49 PM
Both. The ideas we bring with us and the ideas that develop over years of training. We all have both these things, and we all let both these things affect the way we train.

There is a big difference. I just don't think I have the authority to decide which of these two is "right" or which amounts to "true understanding". I know which one is more interesting to me and more relevant to my life, but to claim to know any more than that is to speak for an art that never named me its spokesman.


It strikes me that you're talking about two different things here: what budo is, and why someone would do it. To me, the question that began the thread implies the former (it concerns what budo is) and does not at all address the latter.

Peter Boylan
10-23-2013, 03:38 PM
Peter, nice link referencing shindo yoshin ryu, skimmed over it, will have to read it more in depth a little later today. This is exactly what I am talking about, though. The entire lineage of Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu has been passed onto, and entrusted to a westerner.

And my conclusion was that with study and effort, there is no reason why a non-Japanese can't understand the depths and heights of budo. I concluded the blog post with

For a teacher outside Japan, I think some reading of the classic texts from Taoism and Confucianism along with plenty of quiet thought about how they relate to budo practice is probably enough. Quiet thought fertilized with the ideas of Lao Tsu, Chuang Tzu and Confucius should bring about some profound realizations on the nature of practice and what the great teachers who created the Ways hope for us, their students, to achieve.

OwlMatt
10-23-2013, 04:07 PM
It strikes me that you're talking about two different things here: what budo is, and why someone would do it. To me, the question that began the thread implies the former (it concerns what budo is) and does not at all address the latter.
When I first asked Peter what this understanding is that he's talking about, he started talking about what budo is for and what is "worthwhile" about it. I do not think these things are separable from the question of why we practice budo.

lbb
10-23-2013, 08:12 PM
When I first asked Peter what this understanding is that he's talking about, he started talking about what budo is for and what is "worthwhile" about it. I do not think these things are separable from the question of why we practice budo.

Well, this is still a departure from what budo is (yes, what it's for and what's "worthwhile" about it are not the same as what it is), but...why aren't they separable from the question of why we practice? Seems to me y'all are trying to come up with unified definitions, and maybe you can, of what budo is/is for/has that's "worthwhile". But there will never be a unified answer to why we practice.

OwlMatt
10-24-2013, 01:58 AM
Well, this is still a departure from what budo is (yes, what it's for and what's "worthwhile" about it are not the same as what it is), but...why aren't they separable from the question of why we practice? Seems to me y'all are trying to come up with unified definitions, and maybe you can, of what budo is/is for/has that's "worthwhile". But there will never be a unified answer to why we practice.
If coming to "truly understand" budo revolves around comprehending budo's purpose and perceiving what parts of budo are worthwhile or important (as Peter suggests), then it's impossible to "truly understand" budo, because it's impossible to categorically determine what budo is for and what is important about budo. We decide those things for ourselves on an individual basis; that's where the question of why we train comes in.

Carsten Möllering
10-24-2013, 02:57 AM
"Training in bujutsu is to foster yamato-damashii." Ueshiba Morihei, budo
"True budo is an offering to the emperor." Sugino Yoshio, budo kyohan

"aikidō is japanese and will allways be." a shihan.
"I can teach you only a part of what I know. Because you are not Japanese. You are not able to understand." a shihan.
"You will never be able to learn aikidō because foreigners are not able to form the japanese sounds correctly." a shihan

...

TokyoZeplin
10-24-2013, 03:57 AM
"aikidō is japanese and will allways be." a shihan.
"I can teach you only a part of what I know. Because you are not Japanese. You are not able to understand." a shihan.
"You will never be able to learn aikidō because foreigners are not able to form the japanese sounds correctly." a shihan
...

I should add, that this is a fairly typical Japanese mentality, not restricted to Aikido or Martial Arts in particular. This mentality is often referred to as "Nihonjinron" - that Japan, and ethnically Japanese people, are "uniquely unique".
Other examples of this, is that "you can never learn to be Japanese", that "Japan is the only country with 4 seasons" (I've actually met people that told me this, with a straight face), that "Japanese people used to walk differently than the rest of the world", and so forth.

It is, frankly, silly to say the least, and is a big part of the discrimination that half-Japanese children and foreigners face in the country.

I just wanted to point out, for those who don't know, that this has nothing in particular to do with Aikido, but is more a Japanese mentality all around.

aikidark
10-24-2013, 07:32 AM
Interesting mentality given the number of dojo around the world teaching aikido to non Japanese. This is what Osensei envisioned, right? That aikido would be spread around the world? He built a "silver bridge" to Hawaii in what....1950 was it? Now 63 years later, you can find an aikido dojo in just about every country on the planet.

TokyoZeplin
10-24-2013, 08:03 AM
Interesting mentality given the number of dojo around the world teaching aikido to non Japanese. This is what Osensei envisioned, right? That aikido would be spread around the world? He built a "silver bridge" to Hawaii in what....1950 was it? Now 63 years later, you can find an aikido dojo in just about every country on the planet.

Well, while not exactly the same, you do see these sorts of things often in Japanese culture.
Japanese people will be more than happy to spread their language, literature, culture and so forth to other countries, but many will at the same time insist, that to truly understand it, you will have to be Japanese. Even during WWII, you can sort of see this concept: Japan still had the same mentality back there, yet fought a massive war, to try and bring in major parts of Asia in under its rule.

It's somewhat self-contradictory, yes, but in my experience, Japanese culture is largely made up of extremes, and opposites. You can see this in vast areas of Japanese culture. An easy example: the Japanese do not openly talk about sex, and has massive issues with a declining birthrate, yet holds the most active porn industry in the world. Or that prostitution is outlawed, yet brothels ("Soaplands") are scattered visibly and openly in every major city in the country.

Seen through those eyes, it doesn't surprise me that someone could hold the belief that "Aikido is meant to be spread to the world, and bring peace through unity through the art" and at the same time say "You have to be Japanese to truly understand it".

Now, whether the founder intentioned it like that or not, I can't say. But that a student would later say so, doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Cliff Judge
10-24-2013, 08:26 AM
Japanese people will be more than happy to spread their language, literature, culture and so forth to other countries, but many will at the same time insist, that to truly understand it, you will have to be Japanese.

they say this because they feel that you have to have been born Japanese to be properly exposed to all of the kata in their society. ;)

TokyoZeplin
10-24-2013, 08:47 AM
they say this because they feel that you have to have been born Japanese to be properly exposed to all of the kata in their society. ;)

Not sure if you are joking or not (with the little smiley at the end there!), but just to add that (at least in modern Japanese society) being "Japanese" is largely defined by your ethnicity, not your culture. While I love many things about Japan, this is not one of them, as I know many "foreigners" that have been born and grown up in Japan their entire life, but are not considered "Japanese" because one, or both, of their parents are not ethnically Japanese. In the same vein, ethnically Japanese people born outside of Japan and then returning to Japan later, are fully accepted as "Japanese", even if they do not know anything. It's a big weird!
The funniest thing I read once, was a post a friend who had just gotten a baby, put up. While reading up on material for his newborn, he encountered the quote, "Be sure to feed your baby lots of rice, or it will not grow up to be a proper Japanese". Fun (scary?) stuff!

Peter Boylan
10-24-2013, 09:10 AM
Japanese people will be more than happy to spread their language, literature, culture and so forth to other countries, but many will at the same time insist, that to truly understand it, you will have to be Japanese

Japan, like all countries, contains a huge variety of opinion, though in Japan, most people keep their opinions to themselves out of fear of creating social upset. There are Japanese who believe that anything Japanese can only be understood if you are born and raised there. There are others who think that Japanese things can be readily understood by non-Japanese, and there are a huge number in between the two ends.

Japan was a closed society for 250 years, and even now, 160 years after it was blasted open, most Japanese have little or no real contact with non-Japanese. It's still essentially a closed culture. That doesn't mean you can't grasp the ideas and concepts that form the base of the culture, it just means that learning to function smoothly in Japanese culture is really, really difficult. It can be done, but I'm pretty sure the reward is nowhere near the value of the effort.

TokyoZeplin
10-24-2013, 09:26 AM
Japan, like all countries, contains a huge variety of opinion, though in Japan, most people keep their opinions to themselves out of fear of creating social upset. There are Japanese who believe that anything Japanese can only be understood if you are born and raised there. There are others who think that Japanese things can be readily understood by non-Japanese, and there are a huge number in between the two ends.
Of course, if it sounded like I was putting every single Japanese person in the same drawer, I'm sorry!
Particularly the younger generation is much more open in many ways, and much more inter-cultural. With that said, I see many of these principles still running deep even in my young Japanese friends. Particularly the point about Honne and Tatamae (public and private face, as you mention in the first sentence) is as widespread as anything. Naturally this means that people that don't agree won't say anything - though at the same time, it also means nothing changes, even if no one agrees with it. As the Japanese saying goes: "The nail that sticks out, will be hammered down".

Japan was a closed society for 250 years, and even now, 160 years after it was blasted open, most Japanese have little or no real contact with non-Japanese. It's still essentially a closed culture. That doesn't mean you can't grasp the ideas and concepts that form the base of the culture, it just means that learning to function smoothly in Japanese culture is really, really difficult. It can be done, but I'm pretty sure the reward is nowhere near the value of the effort.
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, and for that, I apologize going a bit off topic, and focusing too much on these things. But this is again the whole "Japan is uniquely unique" concept, which is just silly.

Japanese culture is no more difficult to learn, than any other. As long as you are not a foreigner living in your own little "gaijin bubble" (having only foreign friends, eating at only the foreign restaurants, etc.), it really doesn't take too long to get acquainted with Japanese customs, and how to smoothly fit in.

Japan is a wonderful country, with an incredibly rich history and a wealth of traditions. But it is no more unique, or difficult to grasp, than any middle eastern country, African country, European country, or any other culture. Of course, time and effort will be needed, to fully understand the deeper points within the culture - but the same could be said, for an American coming to Denmark, a Dane coming to Pakistan, a Pakistani coming to China, and so forth.

Peter Boylan
10-24-2013, 09:45 AM
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, and for that, I apologize going a bit off topic, and focusing too much on these things. But this is again the whole "Japan is uniquely unique" concept, which is just silly.

Japanese culture is no more difficult to learn, than any other. As long as you are not a foreigner living in your own little "gaijin bubble" (having only foreign friends, eating at only the foreign restaurants, etc.), it really doesn't take too long to get acquainted with Japanese customs, and how to smoothly fit in.

Japan is a wonderful country, with an incredibly rich history and a wealth of traditions. But it is no more unique, or difficult to grasp, than any middle eastern country, African country, European country, or any other culture. .

I agree with this. That's why I carefully chose the phrase "to function in". Grasping and understanding Japanese culture is quite doable. It's internalizing the myriad social rules and operating under them smoothly which is the challenge. And it's a challenge I don't think is worth the effort, because Japanese social rules are a very tight straightjacket. My life as a gaijin in Japan is much more relaxed and easy, and I can do many things that Japanese don't just because it isn't the proper social thing to do. I knowingly and willingly cross all sorts of lines in Japanese society that natives won't. I do this understanding what I am doing. Grasping Japanese culture and social mores is one thing. Being able to operation smoothly within them is another thing entirely.

TokyoZeplin
10-24-2013, 09:49 AM
I agree with this. That's why I carefully chose the phrase "to function in". Grasping and understanding Japanese culture is quite doable. It's internalizing the myriad social rules and operating under them smoothly which is the challenge. And it's a challenge I don't think is worth the effort, because Japanese social rules are a very tight straightjacket. My life as a gaijin in Japan is much more relaxed and easy, and I can do many things that Japanese don't just because it isn't the proper social thing to do. I knowingly and willingly cross all sorts of lines in Japanese society that natives won't. I do this understanding what I am doing. Grasping Japanese culture and social mores is one thing. Being able to operation smoothly within them is another thing entirely.

Ah, I seem to have slightly misunderstood you, when you said "function in", sorry about that!
If I understand you correctly now, you meant the difference between "understanding" and "becoming", correct? For instance, with proper study, I can understand the mind of a psychopath, but that doesn't mean I can just become a psychopath myself (I may well be able to act like one, if needed, but it isn't "me", so to speak).
Is that correct?

Peter Boylan
10-24-2013, 11:38 AM
Ah, I seem to have slightly misunderstood you, when you said "function in", sorry about that!
If I understand you correctly now, you meant the difference between "understanding" and "becoming", correct? For instance, with proper study, I can understand the mind of a psychopath, but that doesn't mean I can just become a psychopath myself (I may well be able to act like one, if needed, but it isn't "me", so to speak).
Is that correct?

Pretty much. Becoming as smooth and comfortable with Japanese custom and culture as someone who grew up in it is quite a task.

Stephen Nichol
10-24-2013, 05:17 PM
I was in training in Tokyo when I was told directly by my Japanese friend that I could (not would) never understand Budo properly because I was not Japanese.

Other people have commented on this already but I happened to come across an interview with Morihiro Saito Sensei on Aikido Journal (1979 part 2 (http://members.aikidojournal.com/private/interview-with-morihiro-saito-sensei-part-2-1979/)) for those with a subscription:

"Those who think in that way are people who can’t teach. As they can’t teach correct Aikido, they create that kind of situation. I’m against this. I think Aikido will be reimported to Japan in the future. All the genuine aspects of Aikido will be taken to foreign countries. All the foreigners will take back authentic Aikido. I think in the future Japanese will go to foreign countries to learn it."

Ok, so this may be in the context of Aikido and some may separate that from 'budo'. However it has been recorded that O-Sensei stated that Takdeda Sensei opened his eyes to true budo... so by extension, in my opinion, I feel that Saito Sensei was exposed to and taught this 'true budo' and for Saito Sensei to say what he did... back in 1979.. wow... just wow.

Also, insert IP/IS/Aiki proponents here on Aikiweb that are trying so very hard to get a 'complete model' (please do not ask me to clarify that in this thread) of it back into Aikido so that people can once again have their eyes opened to 'true budo'. These people tend to be largely not Japanese in origin nor do they all live in Japan.

So once again, I do not believe you need to train in Japan to truly understand budo when we have so many sources and access to them. If you are truly passionate about it, you will seek and find a way to learn as much as you can, take on as much as you can and find what budo 'truly is to you' in the end.

Carsten Möllering
10-25-2013, 12:59 AM
... These people tend to be largely not Japanese in origin nor do they all live in Japan.
There are some strong connections to Japan. Be it via the teacher-student-lineage or be it via the personal biography.
But nevertheless I think there is defintely a movement of emancipation in it.

TokyoZeplin
10-25-2013, 01:24 AM
Also, insert IP/IS/Aiki proponents here on Aikiweb that are trying so very hard to get a 'complete model' (please do not ask me to clarify that in this thread) of it back into Aikido so that people can once again have their eyes opened to 'true budo'. These people tend to be largely not Japanese in origin nor do they all live in Japan.

The myth of "Asian Mysticism" is still quite huge in the West, even in the face of vast amounts of readily available information on the internet. I, personally, find that the people who are very vocal about such subjects, are often people who have never actually lived, or spent a considerable amount of time, in the Asian country of their liking. Even in modern movies, as an example, are these concepts taken to a crazy extreme - the Japanese lady in the recent "Pacific Rim" movie, was so cliché of a Japanese that it bordered on racism, yet I know many people who simply assume that Japanese people do indeed still live and act like that. "I SHALL AVENGE MY FATHER! FOR MY FAMILY!" :crazy:

Chinese Internal Arts seem flooded with this, as well as many Japanese Martial Arts. With the recent hype and popularity of Korean pop music, I'm sure it's not long before focus shifts to Korea! :freaky:

Carsten Möllering
10-25-2013, 01:53 AM
The myth of "Asian Mysticism" ...
Just to get you right:
You understand the teaching of "IP/IS/Aiki" as Stephen called it at as form of "Asian Mysticism"?

... often people who have never actually lived, or spent a considerable amount of time, in the Asian country of their liking
Do you know the biographies of people who are teaching this stuff ?

TokyoZeplin
10-25-2013, 02:10 AM
Just to get you right:
You understand the teaching of "IP/IS/Aiki" as Stephen called it at as form of "Asian Mysticism"?
I was referring more his overall statement, as well as the "true budo" statement.
That said, depending (heavily) on how you want to define it, yes, I would call IP/IS/Aiki "Asian Mysticism". But since we haven't specifically defined that right now, it's hard to say if I feel it is that or not. People define these things incredibly differently, and without knowing more, I really can't say.

Do you know the biographies of people who are teaching this stuff ?
Well that's a silly question. "the people teaching this stuff" is obviously not a question I can answer. Even if I knew who you were referring to, it's beyond silly to insinuate that I would need to know the biographies of all of them. And even if I did, or do not, and whether those specific people went and lived in Japan or not, that really has nothing to do with my reply.

Overall, you seem to have taken my reply horribly out of context, and trying to get something else out of it, than what I was saying.

Carsten Möllering
10-25-2013, 02:38 AM
Thank you!

I was refering to the phrase of Stephen Nicol: ... IP/IS/Aiki proponents here on Aikiweb ...
This to me indicates that he is talking about certain persons (i.e. "proponents") and about their certain concept of aiki and thus refering to the old and ongoing discussions here about internal practice. (see the ""IP/IT/IS" vs technique"-thread )

You where quoting his phrase "these people".

Thus I wondered whether you also refer to this certain persons and their certain concept of aiki.

phitruong
10-25-2013, 06:21 AM
That said, depending (heavily) on how you want to define it, yes, I would call IP/IS/Aiki "Asian Mysticism". But since we haven't specifically defined that right now, it's hard to say if I feel it is that or not. People define these things incredibly differently, and without knowing more, I really can't say.
.

a bit off topic, but the funny thing is that i, an asian, got hand-on instruction of IP/aiki from a couple of american white boy gringo. ok, one of them is a jew, but his aiki-jewjutsu is pretty good. :)

Demetrio Cereijo
10-25-2013, 06:35 AM
... ok, one of them is a jew, but his aiki-jewjutsu is pretty good. :)

http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~magi9/isracame.htm

:eek:

oisin bourke
10-26-2013, 02:50 PM
Also, insert IP/IS/Aiki proponents here on Aikiweb that are trying so very hard to get a 'complete model' (please do not ask me to clarify that in this thread) of it back into Aikido so that people can once again have their eyes opened to 'true budo'. These people tend to be largely not Japanese in origin nor do they all live in Japan.



Well, I am going to ask you to clarify who or what you mean. I trained in Daito Ryu Aiki in Japan, so who do you consider are teaching disseminating this outside Japan?

aikidark
10-26-2013, 07:19 PM
Well, I am going to ask you to clarify who or what you mean. I trained in Daito Ryu Aiki in Japan, so who do you consider are teaching disseminating this outside Japan?

I saw a website with some guy named Oisin Bourke teaching daito ryu in Ireland. Does that count? :D

Stephen Nichol
10-27-2013, 08:20 PM
Well, I am going to ask you to clarify who or what you mean.

Alight, I did not think it would be necessary to do it in this thread. Most people on Aikiweb have been here long enough to know 'that conversation' and hopefully have used the 'search' feature of the forum. However the points contained to the statement made by Ueshiba Morihei 'Takeda opened my eyes to true budo' and that as I understand it he was referring to Takdeda's skill with Aiki (IP/IS/IT et al).

Granted we have to accept that Ueshiba's concept and understanding of what 'true budo' is correct and that was what Takeda opened his eyes to. It is difficult to not fall into the trap of 'grabbing one detail or thing someone said about a topic and building an entire point from it' however in this case..

Given that, the core of my point in this context is: Aiki is Budo. Aiki is a specific skill set of body work, not techniques of locks, pins, throws, weapons and so on. As others have stated on this forum and I agree with them: Aiki is the system/engine that powers and drives everything you do, whatever shape or form that your 'art' takes.

All 'arts' that contain 'Aiki' are methods that have 'wrapped' techniques around 'Aiki' to showcase how one can use it do all the stuff you may be interested in within all things considered 'martial arts.' The techniques can be considered an expression of Aiki.

1. Accept that there is a complete 'Aiki' skill set out there.
2. 'Assume' Takeda had it.
3. 'Assume' Ueshiba learned it from Takeda.
4. It would appear from many interviews and general observations made over the decades that not everyone learned the entire 'Aiki' skill set from both Takdeda or Ueshiba but did get parts of it.
5. Many systems have evolved from students of Takeda and Ueshiba (withing the context I am referring to here) that had some Aiki in them, the completeness of that is difficult to measure however when you read interview after interview, consider sources, context and so on... I for one get the distinct impression that many of the founders of these systems for many reasons, did not get the complete skill set for Aiki from their teachers.

Some had to go outside their parent art to get the core Aiki skills and try to get it back into the form of their art.

I trained in Daito Ryu Aiki in Japan, so who do you consider are teaching disseminating this outside Japan?

Oisin, assuming your teacher learned 'aiki' as demonstrated by Takeda Sokaku, described abilities from all the interviews we can read about such abilities, and demonstrated them to you, explained them , taught them to you to the point were you are able to perform the same feats that Takeda Sokaku was known for... then you have been shown 'true budo' following in the same path as described by Ueshiba Morihei.

To be clear: I consider those who learn the Aiki skill set in its complete form, the 'internals' as it were, to the point of being able to perform the feats described that Takeda and Ueshiba demonstrated (not just the visible techniques either) and people who have felt them described in interviews that you can read on Aikido Journal.

With the Aiki skill set you can perform Budo (Stop Spear, or however you wish to interpret that) within whatever context you and the art you practice. I do not believe they are mutually exclusive. It is only that most often these days we see and learn the external expressions of Aiki/Budo and not the true driving skills inside it.

Once again, this is my opinion and position on this topic. If you believe that there has been a continuing separation or loss of transmission of the complete Aiki skill set within the art you are practicing, you can still practice the outside/external form while seeking the internal part from another source if necessary and then try to bring it back into the 'form' without having to give up on their art. That source for some will come from the most readily available area.

In my own personal situation the information came from this forum, lead to people like Dan Harden, from there to Gleason Sensei, Akuzawa and Sam Chin (3 out of 4 on my short list are not in Japan), any of their advanced students who possess what I understand and accept as 'Aiki' IS/IP etc. While I feel that my teachers possess some of the Aiki skill set, I have not experienced what I understand to be the complete set. Some of them understand this as well and actively seek out and study from other teachers in the tradition of having the mind of the 'continuous student'. I believe that Aiki skills as described to be an essential core to what I want to learn. I have decided to try and learn them along with the Aikido I practice and express it within that context.

I hope this clears up my thoughts and feelings on learning budo sources not in Japan.

Cliff Judge
10-28-2013, 06:47 AM
So if Takeda opened Ueshibas eyes to true budo, and only Dan Harden's This Stuff method is true Aiki....then only This Stuff is true Budo. At least Ark is doing This Stuff so the poor people of Japan have some opportunity to feel true Budo!

Didn't Ueshiba also say Aiki is Love? That can only mean that you must practice This Stuff to develop Aiki to know what love is... :cool:

phitruong
10-28-2013, 07:40 AM
Didn't Ueshiba also say Aiki is Love? That can only mean that you must practice This Stuff to develop Aiki to know what love is... :cool:

come on Cliff! just admit it, that you loved Dan. i can feel the aiki all the way from here, because there is a disturbance in the force. :D

Cliff Judge
10-28-2013, 08:04 AM
come on Cliff! just admit it, that you loved Dan. i can feel the aiki all the way from here, because there is a disturbance in the force. :D

That's from the Indian food I ate last night for dinner!

akiy
10-28-2013, 10:30 AM
As outlined in this announcement (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22167), if you wish to discuss internal training in aikido, please be sure to start a new and separate thread in the Internal Training in Aikido (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=81) forum.

-- Jun

Peter Goldsbury
10-29-2013, 03:55 AM
Rather than merely echo Peter's reply, I thought I might point anyone who is interested to a fine piece of scholarship that addresses that notion in a fairly rigorous and sometimes surprising manner:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Taming-Samurai-Honorific-Individualism/dp/0674868099

To that, I would only add that while the concept of "michi" or "do" has a long provenance, the opening of those arts to broader social circles, while not entirely unknown, particularly during the very late Tokugawa era, didn't really become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji era, and both functional and conceptual change are associated with that opening.

Hope this helps.

FL

Hello Fred,

Have you looked at her other work, entitled Bonds of Civility? I think she focuses more generally on the arts that were opened to the broader social circles, all of which I suspect involved mastering 'forms', as exemplified by those with 'true' understanding. (Chapter 12, entitled, "Hierarchical Civility and Beauty: Etiquette and Manners in Tokugawa Manuals," presents some intriguing evidence of this.) She focuses on the so-called za (= sitting) arts, but I think the link with martial arts is not so distant.

The other issue for me is that of invented tradition and this is connected with the question of 'true' understanding. If you remove this word from the title of the thread, it becomes a no-brainer. Of course, one can understand budo without training in Japan, but what does 'true' understanding add?

Best wishes,

PAG

MRoh
10-29-2013, 07:13 AM
Granted we have to accept that Ueshiba's concept and understanding of what 'true budo' is correct and that was what Takeda opened his eyes to.

I don't think what Ueshiba meant with "true budo" was what he learned from takeda.
Indeed he said that takeda had opened his eyes to budo, and I also agree that this statement refers to daito-ryu-aiki.

But I think this:
O Sensei: Aikido is Ai (love). You make this great love of the universe your heart, and then you must make your own mission the protection and love of all things. To accomplish this mission must be the true Budo. True Budo means to win over yourself and eliminate the fighting heart of the enemy...

is not what was taught to him by takeda.

Peter Boylan
10-29-2013, 08:17 AM
Have you looked at her other work, entitled Bonds of Civility? I think she focuses more generally on the arts that were opened to the broader social circles, all of which I suspect involved mastering 'forms', as exemplified by those with 'true' understanding. (Chapter 12, entitled, "Hierarchical Civility and Beauty: Etiquette and Manners in Tokugawa Manuals," presents some intriguing evidence of this.) She focuses on the so-called za (= sitting) arts, but I think the link with martial arts is not so distant.


Thank you for the tip. I will add this to my reading list.

Keith Larman
10-29-2013, 08:19 AM
The other issue for me is that of invented tradition and this is connected with the question of 'true' understanding. If you remove this word from the title of the thread, it becomes a no-brainer. Of course, one can understand budo without training in Japan, but what does 'true' understanding add?

In reading this thread and a few others related to it, I was reminded of the concept of the so-called "pizza effect". Not that it is a completely consistent analogy with Aikido and it's global spread, but there is a lot here to be "chewed" on (pardon the pun). It seems to me that Aikido in many cases is a great example of an art "marketed" in some sense to the larger, global community and that in itself fed back in to what is done today. So I wonder how much of what is done today and seen as "tradition" is actually more along the (rather slippery) lines of so-called "invented" tradition.

And oddly enough some of my friends in koryu arts sometimes (not always) seem *less* concerned about some of these cultural things than those in Aikido, an art that is quite clearly vastly more modern.

Anyway, just a comment from the cheap seats. That's about the limits of my knowledge on these topics and it is more a sign of my own skepticism about many things.

So, carry on... :)

aikidark
10-29-2013, 09:04 AM
Kieth, I'm not quite sure I agree with the marketing aspect you mention, or maybe I misunderstood your post. I think that aikido would like to market itself, but either does not or falls short. I am surprised by how many people I encounter that have never heard of aikido, some of them even practicing martial arts themselves. Then just about every martial art with a few exceptions (silat, caporeia, systema) are more popular and offered in more locations and stripmalls (the quality of such places may be questioned), but overall the popularity of other martial arts leaves aikido far behind.

For those that practice, there are always questions as to the effectiveness of any given art, but the showcasing of other arts, and their availability seems to me to leave the marketing factor out of aikido.

Then the issue must be raised, should aikido change to attract a larger base? I personally do not think so, but then again there are so many different styles and orginizations, each with their own take on the art. Couple that with the time it takes to learn and refine even the basics versus other martial arts, and I wonder again if marketing is prevailent or needed. Aikido will attract those to it that wish to train, as evidenced by the numbers who give it a try and then move on, and I don't think marketing has any significant role in that.

Then figure in the costs of marketing, in addition to just keeping the dojo doors open and the lights on, leaves little in the way of a marketing budget.

Anyways, I've rambled on enough :)

Keith Larman
10-29-2013, 11:21 AM
Kieth, I'm not quite sure I agree with the marketing aspect you mention, or maybe I misunderstood your post.

Actually I was referring to the early history of Aikido, primarily when Tohei was just rising in the organization and Kisshomaru was making his presence felt in the original organization. I think a good argument could be made along the lines of Hobsbawm's discussions that an awful lot of what most now take as "traditional" arose at this time. Bits of this, bits of that, some long standing traditions, but many others "created" along that time. These things allowed participants to feel "part of the group" or maybe better yet, part of an "elite" group. Hobsbawm goes in to a lot of this stuff in his introduction to his book on invented traditions. When I first read that a few years ago I kept smiling thinking about the "evolution" of Aikido. How much was done to "meet the needs" of the consumers at the time, all very necessary I think to keep Aikido afloat in a very difficult time in Japan. And the "repackaging" of some of O-sensei's stuff in the more mystical vein also fed in to the stereotype of "mystical oriental arts" that still attracts many. And then notions of being one with the universe, peace, love, understanding, and all that good stuff that really started to kick in during the 60's and 70's. The timing was incredible if you stand back and consider it all.

Anyway, the point of invented traditions is that many things are to some extent taken to be "tradition" that are on closer examination rather recent and to some extent "artificial". They can be more about inclusion (or exclusion), about group dynamics, about creating an identity, about yearning for the mythical days long gone (that often themselves didn't exist). I'm reminded of books like the Hagakure, and various things we still hear today with alarming frequency about "Bushido". Well, today we talk about "budo". But I think there is a tremendous amount of idealized and self-serving views of these things.

Anyway, not really my area, I'm just an amateur that loves to read stuff.

Oh, the pizza reference is about how you can go to Italy today and get a "traditional" pizza. And how people here will argue incessantly about what style of pizza is "truly authentic". All when pizza as we know it was a somewhat American thing that Italians now make for American tourists looking for the "real deal".

Or to put it another way... It's complicated.

Anyway, a lot of Mr. Boylan's threads lately have reminded me of all of that. So I just dusted off my copy of Invented Traditions for when I finish the book I'm on now. All interesting stuff so I'm sorry if I went a bit far afield.

Carry one as they say... :)

aikidark
10-29-2013, 12:05 PM
Ahh...makes perfect sense, Kieth. Thank you for the explination, and introducing me to another facet of aikido I had never considered.

Demetrio Cereijo
10-29-2013, 12:15 PM
How much was done to "meet the needs" of the consumers at the time, all very necessary I think to keep Aikido afloat in a very difficult time in Japan. And the "repackaging" of some of O-sensei's stuff in the more mystical vein also fed in to the stereotype of "mystical oriental arts" that still attracts many. And then notions of being one with the universe, peace, love, understanding, and all that good stuff that really started to kick in during the 60's and 70's. The timing was incredible if you stand back and consider it all.
Totally agree and, to some point, it explains why previous attempts to export Aikido were not so succesful. I'm thinking in pioneers like Abbe Kenshiro in UK, Mochizuki Minoru or Abe Tadashi in continental Europe or Tomiki Kenji in the USAF.

Budd
10-29-2013, 01:07 PM
Actually I was referring to the early history of Aikido, primarily when Tohei was just rising in the organization and Kisshomaru was making his presence felt in the original organization. I think a good argument could be made along the lines of Hobsbawm's discussions that an awful lot of what most now take as "traditional" arose at this time. Bits of this, bits of that, some long standing traditions, but many others "created" along that time. These things allowed participants to feel "part of the group" or maybe better yet, part of an "elite" group. Hobsbawm goes in to a lot of this stuff in his introduction to his book on invented traditions. When I first read that a few years ago I kept smiling thinking about the "evolution" of Aikido. How much was done to "meet the needs" of the consumers at the time, all very necessary I think to keep Aikido afloat in a very difficult time in Japan. And the "repackaging" of some of O-sensei's stuff in the more mystical vein also fed in to the stereotype of "mystical oriental arts" that still attracts many. And then notions of being one with the universe, peace, love, understanding, and all that good stuff that really started to kick in during the 60's and 70's. The timing was incredible if you stand back and consider it all.

Anyway, the point of invented traditions is that many things are to some extent taken to be "tradition" that are on closer examination rather recent and to some extent "artificial". They can be more about inclusion (or exclusion), about group dynamics, about creating an identity, about yearning for the mythical days long gone (that often themselves didn't exist). I'm reminded of books like the Hagakure, and various things we still hear today with alarming frequency about "Bushido". Well, today we talk about "budo". But I think there is a tremendous amount of idealized and self-serving views of these things.

Anyway, not really my area, I'm just an amateur that loves to read stuff.

Oh, the pizza reference is about how you can go to Italy today and get a "traditional" pizza. And how people here will argue incessantly about what style of pizza is "truly authentic". All when pizza as we know it was a somewhat American thing that Italians now make for American tourists looking for the "real deal".

Or to put it another way... It's complicated.

Anyway, a lot of Mr. Boylan's threads lately have reminded me of all of that. So I just dusted off my copy of Invented Traditions for when I finish the book I'm on now. All interesting stuff so I'm sorry if I went a bit far afield.

Carry one as they say... :)

This is a great post, Keith. Pretty much a joy to read. :)

Peter Goldsbury
10-29-2013, 07:33 PM
Anyway, the point of invented traditions is that many things are to some extent taken to be "tradition" that are on closer examination rather recent and to some extent "artificial". They can be more about inclusion (or exclusion), about group dynamics, about creating an identity, about yearning for the mythical days long gone (that often themselves didn't exist). I'm reminded of books like the Hagakure, and various things we still hear today with alarming frequency about "Bushido". Well, today we talk about "budo". But I think there is a tremendous amount of idealized and self-serving views of these things.

Anyway, not really my area, I'm just an amateur that loves to read stuff.

Oh, the pizza reference is about how you can go to Italy today and get a "traditional" pizza. And how people here will argue incessantly about what style of pizza is "truly authentic". All when pizza as we know it was a somewhat American thing that Italians now make for American tourists looking for the "real deal".

Or to put it another way... It's complicated.

Anyway, a lot of Mr. Boylan's threads lately have reminded me of all of that. So I just dusted off my copy of Invented Traditions for when I finish the book I'm on now. All interesting stuff so I'm sorry if I went a bit far afield.

Carry one as they say... :)

Hello Keith,

When I wrote my earlier post, I was thinking of the essay on judo in the collection edited by Stephen Vlastos. The title of the book is Mirror of Modernity and the essay is entitled "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Kano Jigoro Kano and Kodokan Judo." The essay is by Shun Inoue, who is listed as a professor of sociology at Kyoto University.There is a lengthy translator's note on p.163, but it is unclear to what extent the (anonymous) translator's comments about budo are a reflection of Inoue's thinking about budo or the translator's own ideas.

I recently gave a lecture at Kogakkan University, which is a school for training Shinto priests. The university is situated in Ise and is very close to the two shrines. In the evening I had dinner with some of the professors and we discussed Hobsbawn's ideas. The general tone was, 'Well, in Shinto we invent traditions all the time: the emphasis is more on the quality and value of the tradition itself, rather than whether it is invented or not.'

Best wishes,

PAG

hughrbeyer
10-29-2013, 09:30 PM
Actually, it's my understanding that pizza is something that Italians now make for other Italians because it was imported from America and re-imagined for the Italian market. An Italian pizza is rather different from an American pizza.

Alex, I think you offer a valuable perspective re the marketing of Aikido. If Aikido or the Aikikai really wanted to be a marketing organization, there are lots of models out there which would be much more successful than your typical Aikido dojo. Just visit your local Tae Kwon Do outlet for an example. If Aikido has been adapted (or "simplified" or "dumbed down") for easy dissemination to a wider audience, it's still attempted to maintain some integrity as a martial *art*.

As for invented traditions, there are some videos available of O-Sensei warming up a group before a practice (see the Aikido Journal series of 5 DVDs), which are shocking to modern eyes. There is the Founder, running through his exercises--and half the group is doing something totally different, almost nobody is keeping time with him, the whole thing seems pretty much random. It's a problem to fetishize traditions, perhaps, but requiring people to sit up and pay attention does not seem so much of an ask.

As for O-Sensei's mystical vein, remember that the man evolved. He himself talked about re-envisioning Aikido in the wake of Japan's defeat in the war--and not just Japan's defeat, but in consideration of Japan's role and actions in that war. When you quote him, you have to think about when the quote came from. I'm sure he did mean exactly that Takeda Sokaku opened his eyes to "true budo." I'm also sure his idea of "true budo" expanded over time.

Stephen Nichol
10-29-2013, 10:46 PM
As for O-Sensei's mystical vein, remember that the man evolved. He himself talked about re-envisioning Aikido in the wake of Japan's defeat in the war--and not just Japan's defeat, but in consideration of Japan's role and actions in that war. When you quote him, you have to think about when the quote came from. I'm sure he did mean exactly that Takeda Sokaku opened his eyes to "true budo." I'm also sure his idea of "true budo" expanded over time.

Thanks Hugh,

That is a very good point.

Keith Larman
10-30-2013, 07:47 AM
Hello Keith,

When I wrote my earlier post, I was thinking of the essay on judo in the collection edited by Stephen Vlastos. The title of the book is Mirror of Modernity and the essay is entitled "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Kano Jigoro Kano and Kodokan Judo." The essay is by Shun Inoue, who is listed as a professor of sociology at Kyoto University.There is a lengthy translator's note on p.163, but it is unclear to what extent the (anonymous) translator's comments about budo are a reflection of Inoue's thinking about budo or the translator's own ideas.

Thank you, Peter. I will add it to my reading list. I find it quite amazing how very complicated our social interactions can be. And how some things coalesce over time and develop a life of their own.

I recently gave a lecture at Kogakkan University, which is a school for training Shinto priests. The university is situated in Ise and is very close to the two shrines. In the evening I had dinner with some of the professors and we discussed Hobsbawn's ideas. The general tone was, 'Well, in Shinto we invent traditions all the time: the emphasis is more on the quality and value of the tradition itself, rather than whether it is invented or not.'

Best wishes,

PAG

Their candor in this admission is quite remarkable to a western mindset, but I suppose it is not surprising otherwise. And I think that's where some discussions between the two cultures tend to veer in to precarious territories. When I first started doing work in the Japanese sword crafts I spent a lot of time simply astounded at things I heard and learned. I am quite lucky to have a number of friends, mentors and now customers who are deeply involved in any variety of old sword arts, both in the craft but also "usage" of the sword. I found it amazing to hear stories of how certain things were "discovered" within some arts/ryuha. The wild creation myths seem to be quite acceptable with Tengu revealing techniques to founders. Or dubious claims of histories going back thousands of years (often with remarkably large holes in the history) where most just smile, repeat the story, and get on with training. So there seems to be an easy "flexibility" and even an acknowledgement of invented tradition as being a practical part of the evolution of things. It just is and it can often carry useful information for the area. Whereas for the more westernized minds it comes as a shock to find that deeply held traditions can often be, well, not so "authentic" as they appear. The fact that some histories in Japan seem to quite easily accommodate mystical inspirations is really quite interesting. And how easily that is accepted or just, well, not really considered a problem is a sign of a different attitude (or maybe more relaxed attitude) about needing concrete, "objective", and non-mystical roots for an art. It says something about both cultures. Then the western mindset seems quite uncomfortable with any uncertainty or non-absolutes. So we are surprised to find that some of our "traditions" may not be quite so traditional.

And I think it also gives us a lot to think about when we start to idealize etiquette, tradition, etc. in the non-western arts we study as westerners. Some, I think, take it more seriously and try to make it more concrete than maybe they should.

Demetrio Cereijo
10-30-2013, 08:35 AM
There is a lengthy translator's note on p.163, but it is unclear to what extent the (anonymous) translator's comments about budo are a reflection of Inoue's thinking about budo or the translator's own ideas.

Or Turnbull's

Keith Larman
10-30-2013, 09:37 AM
I'll also toss in that it is amazing to me that people so conveniently forget that Japan was rocked with massive upheavals in social norms and all things related for the last 150 years. So many things changed and changed profoundly. Some resisted, others embraced it. And everything in between. There was the Meiji Restoration, the rise of the ultra-nationalists, excursions in to China, etc., the crushing defeat of WWII, and so forth. The cultural/political changes were incredibly profound so there should be little wonder that some things were held on to with a fanatical enthusiasm while other things were adopted to justify changes and behaviors. I wonder how many people ever ask whether their groups with highly militaristic training and "culture" are more a reflection of early 20th century nationalist fervor rather than the often posited "samurai" origins (and whether those origins existed at all in any sort of consistent fashion). The next logical question is to ask how much things like this (and many others including the longer term traditions) affect our understanding of meaning of the term "budo" today. Is what makes it something "authentic" or "true" more a reflection of a 20th century fascist fanaticism rather than the idealized view of the warrior sage? Or some combination of both? And if it is a complex interwoven mess (my position I suppose) how do we unravel the history and define "authentic" or "true"?

Or are we just choosing and defining the tradition we find most helpful and consistent with what we find valuable today... There's nothing wrong with doing that as long as, like Peter's Shinto professor acquaintances, we recognize what we're doing and why. So I suppose I'm saying I have no problem with invented traditions, I'm just hesitant to give them the weight of historic authenticity many in the west in particular seem to feel tradition grants them.