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rugwithlegs
07-10-2016, 11:09 AM
http://john-hillson.blogspot.com/2016/07/reconciled.html

We're supposed to offer a better path for the world. We are a spiritual path, a spiritually minded martial art. Ueshiba is frequently quoted calling for peace.

So after a particularly grotesque week in the USA news, I have to ask. What is our role? Do we actually have one?

lbb
07-11-2016, 10:12 AM
Do WE have a role? No, I think not, not as such, because there is no "we". "We" are not a unified body; we don't share a consensus. Those who share consensus can act as a group, as a body. Otherwise. it dissolves into platitudes and misunderstandings.

Should we create this kind of consensus? Maybe, but I'd argue that the past week's events are not the reason why. The consensus is the long way round, and won't work in any event without individuals doing their own individual work. I've been struck at the response of many white people to this week's events, which can be summed up as, "This is awful, I feel awful, I'm overwhelmed, make it better." I have nothing but compassion for this emotional response -- I share it -- but I think that a big part of how we got into this sad state, seemingly with so few tools to "fix" it, is through a long-established habit of seeking comfort when things get bad. It's an instinctive human response -- but is it always healthy?

A character in Toni Cade Bambara's "The Salt Eaters" pointed out that when terrible things happen, we should expect to feel awful, and to keep on feeling awful for a while. Healing takes time, and there aren't any shortcuts (although there sure as hell are ways to set your healing back). But there are also always ways to feel better. Got a broken leg? Take morphine. Keep taking it, and after a while, you realize, "Hey, this stuff works for headaches too!" This will end well...

And there are other ways of seeking comfort when the ill is social, and some are healthy, and many are not. Many are born of privilege. Privilege allows me to get away from the uncomfortable feelings caused by this week's events, distract myself with a drink or dinner or a trip to the beach or a lovely day at the spa or some mindless entertainment, to blow all that bad feeling out of my head and come back to my normal life with some assurance that I won't open my email and read about my son, my brother, my cousin, my neighbor dying because of this insanity. I can go on with my life, and not feel uncomfortable, and that's a problem.

See, here's the thing about discomfort. Humans don't like it. That's natural and never changes. But discomfort is part of doing the worthwhile and necessary work. We all know that from our time on the mat. We've all seen newbies come into the dojo and leave, for various reasons, but many for the reason that they just could not break the habit of avoiding discomfort -- of all kinds, physical, mental, emotional, social. They didn't like the discomfort of new stresses on their body, or the embarrassment of looking silly, or the fear/anger/feeling of threat when someone grabbed them or threw them or tried to hit them. They could not learn to stay with the discomfort for long enough to learn what it was trying to teach them.

And we are the same in our response to these disastrous times. "This is awful, I feel awful, I'm overwhelmed, make it better." Some of us have the option to do that -- for now. We're still stuck on this spaceship called earth, and seeking comfort is just a way of kicking the can down the road, as we avoid the hard and necessary work of reconciling the world. Seeking comfort prevents us from doing so much that we might do in this moment.

If we can stay with our discomfort, we can listen to others tell their story -- without the need to interrupt, interpret, shut it down.

If we can stay with our discomfort, we can learn compassion for others who do not have the privilege or resources to opt out of this uncomfortable moment. We can learn what their lives are like all the time.

If we can stay with our discomfort, we can see our weaknesses and our failings in a compassionate light. We can see them in others in the same way.

If we can stay with our discomfort, and lose the habit of needing to make things better for ourselves right now, we can learn patience.

If we can stay with our discomfort, we can free ourselves of the need for an instant response, rejoinder, comeback, snark, reaction. We can free ourselves from being used by others who count on that instant response to manipulate us.

If we can stay, just stay, we can learn what is the truth. We can learn that there are many truths, and that they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Staying with discomfort is not some act of martyrdom, it isn’t an act of penance. Our suffering doesn’t pay for the suffering of others; that’s not the point. The ability to stay with discomfort is a superpower that makes you into that warrior, the one who can do the hard and necessary work. And yes, comfort does come. It comes sooner than you’d imagine, just as a wound heals faster if you endure the discomfort of a good thorough cleaning rather than slap a bandaid on it dirty and take a painkiller. But we need the comfort of things made right, not the comfort of anesthesia.

Carl Rylander
07-13-2016, 01:44 PM
The solution in Dallas was to sack a load of troublesome police. That should be part of progressive policing everywhere.

rugwithlegs
07-15-2016, 05:36 PM
Great comment Mary, lots to unpack there. And you're right about discomfort - in budo we forge our minds and bodies in the fires of our will. There will be pain. Balance and reconciliation should not be the same as anesthesia or apathy, nor tolerance for the intolerable.

More blood spilt by terrorists this week in Nice, and the KKK are handing out fliers in Florida.

In my experience, online discussions about martial effectiveness and aikido will have at least one someone say they are more interested in the art of peace, or making peace, or avoiding conflict, or self-improvement.

Aikido is indeed fractured and there is little consensus on how to do virtually anything technical or tangible. Morihei Ueshiba was a spiritual man advocating peace, and so was his son. That part of aikido legacy is usually agreed upon.

I've had students equate O Sensei and Ghandi, for all I told them not to. I have fellow students say their veganism/vegetarianism/organic gardening, etc is related to their understanding of aikido philosophy and ethics; their understanding of the Art of Peace. I have fellow students in my dojo who have joined protestors but relatively few.

donhebert
07-18-2016, 01:34 PM
Hi Mary,

Your post was very insightful and true.

Many thanks,

Don Hebert

Cromwell
07-20-2016, 06:13 PM
In this crazy political times. I hope us Aikidoka can be the instruments of harmony around the world.

nikyu62
07-21-2016, 03:03 PM
A challenging task to reconcile the world, when there is so much dissension among aikido practitioners and associations, to the point of historical revisionism.

Dan Richards
07-27-2016, 09:57 AM
The world has never been in a more peaceful and prosperous time than right now.

Watch this Ted Talk by Hans Rosling. The data absolutely backs it up.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w

Every day we take in impressions in the things we read, the people who talk around us, the media we watch, etc.. It's just like a diet, but on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.

Every day we have the opportunity to take in good "nutrition" to feed our physical, emotional, and mental bodies.

Every day we can make decisions on what we allow into our bodies and minds. How many of those decisions are conscious? Can we increase the amount of conscious decisions we make?

How are you nourishing yourself—every day? What are you reading? What are you watching? What are you experiencing?

If you want to see the peace in the world—look for it. It's there in an infinite abundance.

If you want peace in the world—become peaceful.

If you want to bring the practice of aikido into the mix, the main principle of aikido is non-resistance.

Look for areas of resistance in your body and life, and you'll become aware (conscious) of where you're not allowing the life energy to flow. It's just like turning a light on. See it. And be at peace with it.

Mary mentioned discomfort. That's one of the best examples. Many of us remember the discomfort of some of the locks applied to us in our early training days. After a while, we found that it was actually our own resistance that was causing the pain, and not any outside force.

Let that sink it.

Then you'll find the answer to where peace in the world lies.

JW
07-27-2016, 01:30 PM
Mary mentioned discomfort. That's one of the best examples. Many of us remember the discomfort of some of the locks applied to us in our early training days. After a while, we found that it was actually our own resistance that was causing the pain, and not any outside force.

Let that sink it.

Then you'll find the answer to where peace in the world lies.

I can't watch the TED talk right now (but will later, thanks for link).

Dan, can you tell me if I misunderstand you? Sounds like you are saying that if people in this world (few or many, near or far) are being abused by others, whether physically, politically, or economically, I should just try harder to not worry about it, and thus ease my discomfort about it.

lbb
07-28-2016, 08:10 AM
Dan, can you tell me if I misunderstand you? Sounds like you are saying that if people in this world (few or many, near or far) are being abused by others, whether physically, politically, or economically, I should just try harder to not worry about it, and thus ease my discomfort about it.

I don't think that's the message, but I agree that it's important to be careful about what we mean, here. We need to say explicitly that the path to peace is not to blame the victim, or to turn from the victim's plight, or to deny that it's happening. At a guess, Dan's talking about the fact that when bad things happen to us (or around us), our response to them can either help or hinder us. If someone has you in a joint lock, the joint lock is real, the discomfort it causes is real -- but you can respond to the joint lock in such a way as to minimize the discomfort and keep yourself as safe as possible. Or, suppose someone has an abusive boss. That's a power-over relationship, and as long as you stay in that relationship (stay at that job), that's a reality. You don't control your boss, but by your response to the situation, you can minimize your discomfort. Or, you can internalize what your boss does, go home in a towering rage every day, go over and over what was done to you and build up a really good head of steam. Your boss sleeps like a baby while you're up all night, stressed and miserable.

It's really important not to tell yourself that bad things aren't happening, and I think equally important not to seek comfort in denial. There's a movement that seeks to plaster so-called "positive" images on Facebook and other social media, supposedly in an effort to "counter the negativity". Words cannot express how fatuous I find this. To turn to cute images of puppies to cheer yourself up from drowning migrants in the Mediterranean, that's just wrong. But there's a difference between this behavior, what Pema Chodron calls "numbing out" -- denying the reality that's going on -- and what my sister calls "awfulizing", which is also a denial of reality, only in the other direction. And, to be honest, I see a behavior when people get into a good bout of awfulizing and get to feeling good and miserable about their situation or the state of the world...and then, to make themselves feel better, they "numb out" with puppy pictures or alcohol or chocolate or any number of things that aren't bad in and of themselves, but are a problem when they're used as anesthesia. Yoyo behavior, the awful world justifies treating yourself sweet and denying the reality of the awful world.

When I was a kid, if I'd get a scrape or a cut, I was unable to look at it. It hurt, and it was awful, and I just didn't want to look at it. Over the years I learned to make myself look, and I discovered an interesting thing: whenever I looked at the injury, it was never as bad as my imagination had made it. Or, on the few occasions when the injury itself was actually worse than I'd imagined (more severe), the experience of looking at it was somehow not as bad as the experience of imagining it. And, looking at it, seeing it for what it is, freed me to deal with the reality of it -- which meant dealing with it effectively -- and in a calm way. And every time I did this, it got easier to do it, and I got better at noticing when the "pain" -- the discomfort of the situation -- was coming from the actual injury (the reality) and when it was coming from my own imagination feeding the fire. I think what Dan's talking about is trying to look at the thing for what it IS, neither making it worse than it is nor making it better than it is, and how the practice of doing this consistently teaches us the skill to deal the reality of things, good and bad, without being overwhelmed by either.

rugwithlegs
07-28-2016, 09:13 AM
Don't merely look for anesthesia - I completely agree.

We are statistically safer than we have ever been; there is some defense for that statement. It is cold comfort to those outliers who find themselves the anomaly.

Also, yes I am unlikely to have someone pull a knife on me and steal my wallet than I would have been years ago - but I have had my credit card company catch fraudulent use of my account twice in the past year alone - for more cash than I ever carry.

I am rather careful. The perpetrator maybe couldn't bring themselves to pull a trigger over a few dollars, and with no personal attachment they might even consider it a victimless crime. White collar is typically not violent; not the same thing as not harmful. Similarly, cyber bullying is not considered violent compared to an actual fight, and abusive behaviors can be classified as just fine.

I'm not sure that the legal definition of safer is quite the same as the harmony and universal reconciliation that O Sensei was referring to. HB2 was passed in North Carolina with the full gentile force of law and with a pen, but that does not make our state government a paragon of harmony just because a trigger wasn't pulled and no punches were thrown.

Peace can start in my heart and mind, and if we all have peace in our hearts maybe we can have a better world. Sometimes the world calls for more than that. We had Vietnamese people stay with us in the 80s, and my parents are now working with Syrian families.

I am on the opposite side of the world from France and Syria, and in different states than the latest shootings. So, I can sleep undisturned. Social media does mean I have friends who are directly touched. I have a house and enough food and I am in no pain; many of my patients are not so lucky. I do regard my charity work as an extension of my Aikido practice, as do I treat my facility's active shooter drills.

Dan Richards
07-29-2016, 09:10 AM
I think what Dan's talking about is trying to look at the thing for what it IS, neither making it worse than it is nor making it better than it is, and how the practice of doing this consistently teaches us the skill to deal the reality of things, good and bad, without being overwhelmed by either.

Let's go with this. Thanks, Mary.

The "reality of things" is not found on 24-hour news channels. John, it's interesting how you start out your blog entry, and where you're deriving your information to come to the conclusion, "We're all losing."

I think if you really look into the "reality of things," the information you're receiving, it's source, and your conclusions—are grossly distorted.

Here's a comment I made recently on the problems with media.

I stopped watching local news when I was in NYC in the late 80s. Every newscast begin with, "This is blah blah with today's top stories. Two black men were shot..."

What nonsense. In NYC of all places with a million things going on, and that's all they could come up with—every day.

My earlier post in this thread asked people to question and decide where and how they're receiving information from which they create their worldview. And that information and impressions we take in are akin to nutrition.

What are you feeding yourself with?

JW, did you get a chance to watch Hans Rosling's Ted Talk? If and when you do, you may take my comments in a different light. John, did you watch it? We're not losing. Not by a long shot.

Peace and prosperity, and longer and healthier lives are increasing on this planet and have been exploding exponentially for years.

rugwithlegs
07-29-2016, 06:26 PM
Thank you for your comments Mr Richards.

Respectfully, the TED talk that came up was a European anthropologist (?) Hans Rosling who was advocating for statistical data from the UN and other sources being publicly available and easier to combine in what I assume was a meta analysis. He was talking a lot about infant mortality and developing nations and the talk was interesting, but from your comments I had the impression you wanted us to see something else? I have a second blog on health care technologies which did explore several similar TED talks related to the public sharing of individual health data in the context of EHRs that work to hide an individual's data due to HIPPA, compared to the increase in STDs that is attributed to social media. I enjoyed the link you provided, but maybe you meant another link?

I did have some memories come up with your comments. Having been working in corrections and health care while training in a dojo with police officers, penitentiary guards, doctors, and nurses I had an environment where a bad day was something I could work through on the mat. Today I know of a few dojo where I would not have been welcome - my day to day back then would be an unwelcome counter point to the other student's lives. I do have a happy life for the most part, and my practice helped me to move forward anyway - there was always the next incident, and the next patient.

Statistics for the majority do not mean we have a perfect world, or that all reconciliation is now done. When I ask about O Sensei's Medicine For A Sick World, your comments seem to be the world is all better now? I am not advocating ignoring where we are or how far we've come when I say I feel that we are all impoverished by events that leave my friends in law enforcement feeling threatened, and my black coworkers afraid. Talking about the reality of gender inequality now, does not mean I have forgotten that a woman now represents a major political party, or that they have been able to vote for decades. That is not the same thing as saying all inequality has been resolved.

You say turn off the news, compare the news to maybe junk food? I agree with only hearing about violence and bloodshed, one's viewpoint can become skewed. I love a good triumph of the human spirit moment. I do come home on particularly rough days and chose to watch cartoons instead of the news. The good guys always win in 20 minutes and no one gets hurt. I think this is much closer to what Mary is referring to as anesthesia than what O Sensei meant by reconciling the world.

Dan Richards
08-01-2016, 12:08 PM
Statistics for the majority do not mean we have a perfect world, or that all reconciliation is now done. When I ask about O Sensei's Medicine For A Sick World, your comments seem to be the world is all better now?

What Ueshiba taught has everything to do with not interpreting "external events" on a lower fear-based level. That is at the very heart of effective aikido. Even Jesus said, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy." Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

The world does not have to be someone's version of "perfect" for peace and harmony to be the dominant desire and focus.

I am not advocating ignoring where we are or how far we've come when I say I feel that we are all impoverished by events that leave my friends in law enforcement feeling threatened, and my black coworkers afraid.

You "feel" we are all "impoverished" by events...

Why are you impoverishing yourself due to events, and then further impoverishing others? It is your thoughts and feelings that have become impoverished.

Rather than go the route of either staring at the news and becoming paralyzed, or watching cartoons and zoning out, there are other more edifying paths. Deeper reflection, thoughts, and a change in the state of being are not only possible, but vital to the very topic here.

Some suggested reading on the matter:

http://spiritlibrary.com/alan-cohen/where-terrorism-ends

https://dontmakemeangrymrmcgee.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/aikido-medicine-for-a-sick-world-in-2015/

Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning?"
https://www.sonoma.edu/users/s/shawth/mans%20Search

JW
08-04-2016, 12:28 PM
OK I watched the TED talk and I understand. Basically, don't form your impression of reality based on a cherry-picked, small sample of the worst things that happen, when the big picture (visible if you have a more "balanced" informatic diet) is actually much better than that.

Agreed, but I guess I'm a pessimist at heart. Positive change happens when we focus on the bad and fix it.. I agree it's important to keep an accurate picture of reality; but once you have that, if you are interested in doing something to manifest change (for the better I hope) then the relevant information is "what things are bad about the world" rather than "how is the world in general right now?"

Also agree that your "inner terrorist" needs to be addressed, but once you have that under control there needs to be good action, rather than just good temperament. John, it sounds like things like what your parents do is one good course of action. Your blog post seems so beaten down. I don't know, I guess I'm saying that looking at the bad stuff should show us what good works to perform in the world, but not drive us crazy.

rugwithlegs
08-08-2016, 12:08 PM
Well and good, I had a bad week. I also am working on a series of articles on O Sensei's guidelines for practice, and this is the one talking about how we offer character development. Training the mind and body, and people of extreme sincerity.

There are some great things happening out there. One Iwama student in Florida was holding a benefit for a battered women's shelter, and he was active on social media encouraging locals to stay safe during protests. Another man made it public again that he will teach LEO for free (training is minimal for most agencies and departments) and he works with Boy Scouts regularly. This week, I found great articles on advising victims of abuse entering a dojo, and how meditation helps with depression. One recently departed Shihan taught a form of zen meditation. Another dojo opened up an organic vegetarian restaurant, and had several community charities that students would work in. Until this week's news, I had thought the use of Aikido to diffuse violence in schools was a good one. Some members of our dojo were very much part of protests for several issues.

Morihei Ueshiba, the spiritual man who offered a martial art as a spiritual path to peace is a beautiful vision - but often I am not clear on how. I have no formal meditation training from an Aikido dojo, no ethics training, no particularly spiritual training. If I talk with other Aikido students, or students of other martial arts this is what we are known for. What role we play, or could play is not something homogenous. So, interesting to ask myself, what did I do today?

jonreading
08-10-2016, 07:38 AM
I will venture two comments for this and a number of concurrent posts of similar content:
1. Comparative relativism is a dangerous metric by which to compare quality [of life]. We are all better off than before penicillin, right? Comparative relativism compared against a hypothetical is even more bad-er.
2. Narration is not fact, but a set of facts selected to present a perspective. As the current thread about the Kentucky school system illustrates, perspectives shift.

Aikido is not religion. O Sensei was a religious man who created Aikido to express a vision he had for martial arts. I think we sometimes imbue aikido with super powers that give us permission to impose our perspective into a realm outside of martial arts. We are "known" for a philosophy of non-violence because of what some would argue was a PR stunt to get aikido on the map.

I am supportive of people who get involved in solutions to address real problems. The fact that a person may train aikido simply creates a correlation of training and morality - it does not create a causal relationship. A jerk that trains aikido is a jerk, that trains aikido. I think the idea behind things is that good people can be united around something like their training, and through that relationship get involved in issues. This is different than claiming aikido will teach people good values.

mathewjgano
08-10-2016, 05:27 PM
I remember reading about a police officer who responded to a domestic disturbance call after attending a meditation retreat. In the retreat, if I recall correctly, she expressed a fear that her job might make her unsuitable to be there since her job required her to potentially shoot people. The reply was something to the effect that they would rather have compassionate people doing that job. There was an anecdote related to this wherein the officer described a domestic disturbance call she took right after the retreat. Her compassion allowed her to connect with the man on a personal level and really listen to him. I think they may have talked for a solid hour instead of forcing a quick authoritative resolution...again, if I recall correctly. She later ran into him at a store or something, and he came up and thanked her for saving his life that day.
I consider this kind of thing to be emblematic of how to reconcile the world. We simply must be prepared to get "martial" if we need to, but we should be just as prepared to begin from a position of compassion and maintain that compassion throughout...which can be hard because it's not always easy to sympathize; sometimes it's damned hard in fact. Sometimes it can be easy to assume we need to force the situation into compliance, but resistance tends to arise quickly when we feel forced, no matter the intent behind it, and that complicates things.
I would agree with the idea that we often absorb the "energy" we are surrounded by, and that sometimes we need to be careful to curtail those influences...or to otherwise shape that mindfully, whether by avoiding certain political pundits or what have you. I would also agree with the idea that we must face negativity in order to address it. Yes we can probably transcend it to some degree by focusing on the positive things, but, in my opinion, not by turning a blind eye on the negative. We should more or less maintain our sight on both, balancing the two, while maintaining that all-too-important compassion/love...unity of opposites and all that.
My two bits at any rate.
:)

Dan Richards
08-16-2016, 10:31 PM
Timely article. "The Decline of War"

https://medium.com/@angushervey/the-decline-of-war-8760f9a5b5ce#.r8cwalwof

If you can tear your attention away from the 24 hour news cycle, you’ll be astonished to hear that we are experiencing one of the least discussed, yet most remarkable cultural shifts of all time: war, one of our species’ most abiding and defining social practices, is at its lowest ebb ever.

lbb
08-17-2016, 10:34 AM
Timely article. "The Decline of War"

I looked at that map and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I guess what's happening Yemen is just "low-intensity conflict".

nikyu62
08-17-2016, 03:42 PM
It is nice to be optimistic, as the author of the piece above is, but not helpful to limit the definition of war so as to apparently minimize the number of conflicts, while millions of people still suffer, and governments are becoming increasingly more totalitarian. Perception management is highly developed and utilized by governments and their handlers through television "programming"; to me, reconciling the world begins with seeing all things clearly for what they really are.

rugwithlegs
08-17-2016, 06:50 PM
The Vietnam War was technically not a war as the US never declared war. Apparently the US has not declared war since the 1940s. So, the US war of Vietnam is sometimes called a conflict and sometimes called a police action. There has been very few formal wars declared since the last world war. Even the Cold War was officially by rigid dictionary definition not a war.

So Syria is not a war as the world sits back and watches. Assassination is not a war. Without the legal declaration of war, everything done the same as in a war s not a war.

Technology has also changed. Instead of ships bringing thousands of soldiers to the conflict, someone can sit in a bunker in Nevada and carry out attacks on the other side of the world. If war is defined by number of boots in foreign soil, then drone strikes take on the appearance of peace.

Linguistic and legal minimization of violence and suffering because someone else is facing it. Medicine for a sick world?

I find this comment of Professor Goldsbury's in another thread perhaps more on point: "Any ethical superstructure that aikido might have (in western terms) is secondary to its structure as a Japanese martial 'way'."

rugwithlegs
08-19-2016, 07:48 AM
An important caveat here — the data does not suggest that war is over, nor does it suggest the end of low level conflicts within states. It also feels strange, almost perverse to be writing an article entitled “The Decline of War” when we know hundreds of thousands of people around the world are still suffering and when millions of displaced people are being shunned by countries that are turning their backs on the principles they agreed to in the UN’s Refugee Convention. Our work is only just beginning. As large scale war declines, we have an opportunity to turn our collective efforts to overcoming other forms of violence such as domestic abuse, slavery, and racial, political and religious persecution. We’ve got a long way to go: from ethnic violence in the Congo, state collapse in Venezuela and persecution in Tibet, to drug wars in Mexico and Brazil and the rise of far-right extremism in Europe.

The author does go on to make a call to arms of sorts Mr Richards. War is strictly the province and tool of politics; the relative stability of my own country gives me opportunities to try to reduce violence and suffering in my own backyard. Do you encourage your own students to embrace these opportunities? What work do you think the author says is just beginning?

Prof Rosling is clarifying his work in this article too - you have to keep two ideas in your head at once - the world is better than ever before, and it is not good enough yet.

akiy
08-20-2016, 05:45 PM
Hi folks,

Please be sure to explicitly relate your posts to aikido here in the General forum.

If you wish to discuss topics without explicitly talking about aikido, please do so in the Open Discussions forum.

Thank you,

-- Jun

rugwithlegs
08-20-2016, 10:55 PM
We're supposed to offer a better path for the world. We are a spiritual path, a spiritually minded martial art. Ueshiba is frequently quoted calling for peace.

So after a particularly grotesque week in the USA news, I have to ask. What is our role? Do we actually have one?

Jun, apologies, Aikido did not explicitly get mentioned in the past few posts here.

In the Guidelines for practice, O Sensei defines Aikido as a potentially lethal art. This is not what many Aikido people train in Aikido for, nor what many Aikido practitioners will say that's what Aikido is about. Yet I can recognize many things shown in a Daito Ryu demonstration and I can see the link. I can see the link between Aikijo and Juken in a demonstration.

Rather than a lethal martial art, Aikido is most commonly defined as a philosophical, ethical practice and influenced by his Shinto religion, Oomoto Kyo. I have to assume that most of O Sensei's spirituality, ethics training, and philosophy were heavily influenced by Oomoto Kyo.

Yet, if I read an Oomoto Kyo text or have a discussion with an Oomoto Kyo practitioner I do not get the same Ah! Moment; the same glimmer of recognition that I do watching a Daito Ryu demonstration. I think I am more divorced from the ethical and spiritual practice than I am the combat tradition.

This discussion has been useful. IME, most dojo pay at least lip service to the "Way of Harmony" or the "Art of Peace." Does Aikido genuinely have a ethical and philosophical tradition, do aikido people genuinely believe in or work toward an Art of Peace? Probably not. Jon labeled this as a marketing gimmick, and he may well be right. In the full scope of our collective art, we may have more physical movement in common that we do vision, ethics and philosophy.

RonRagusa
08-20-2016, 11:28 PM
Does Aikido genuinely have a ethical and philosophical tradition, do aikido people genuinely believe in or work toward an Art of Peace? Probably not.

I think Aikido has both an ethical and philosophical tradition. I also think Aikido has a martial tradition and that the ethical, philosophical and martial traditions are not mutually exclusive. Working one's Aikido toward any specific goal is a personal choice that each practitioner continually refines as the years of practice mount up. So why not a martial art of peace?

Ron

rugwithlegs
08-21-2016, 08:28 AM
I think Aikido has both an ethical and philosophical tradition. I also think Aikido has a martial tradition and that the ethical, philosophical and martial traditions are not mutually exclusive. Working one's Aikido toward any specific goal is a personal choice that each practitioner continually refines as the years of practice mount up. So why not a martial art of peace?

Ron

Thank you.

How is this ethical and philosophical tradition represented in your dojo and your own practice? How does this manifest outside of the dojo, or does it? How is this passed on to students, how is it taught?

No reason that "How" and "Why" need to be mutually exclusive in any practice. But do we actually do this?

RonRagusa
08-21-2016, 02:14 PM
...there is no "we". "We" are not a unified body; we don't share a consensus.

I want to preface my attempts at answering your questions with that quote from Mary M. I agree with that view and further assert that since O Sensei's writings are full of imagery, metaphor and outright contradictions, when I speak of Aikido ethical and philosophical traditions I'm using my own interpretations gleaned from the years I've spent studying and training. Other teachers and students are free to form their own opinions of what he meant.

How is this ethical and philosophical tradition represented in your dojo and your own practice? How does this manifest outside of the dojo, or does it? How is this passed on to students, how is it taught?

Regarding ethical tradition in Aikido I can sum it up by saying you don't swat a fly with a nuclear weapon. Ueshiba addresses the negative consequences to one's self of inflicting unnecessary damage to an opponent repeatedly. Enough is enough and any more is just adding insult to injury. Our training reflects this idea in that we treat each other with respect and dish out no more than our partners can comfortably handle, from both sides of the interaction.

Philosophically speaking we are an egalitarian dojo. While we do have a traditional ranking system, rank doesn't equate to position in any pecking order. There's no "step 'n fetch it" activity here. The main reason that Mary E. and I frown on the hierarchical nature of many dojos is that we want our students to grow strong and keep growing stronger as they train. So we absolutely reject any behavior that permits students to give away their power to their more advanced partners and visa versa.

Our dojo traditions are passed onto students by example. Students who have trouble conforming to our standards inevitably leave and there have been more than a few over the years.

As far as "reconciling the world", I think the study of Aikido can lead one to a more peaceful existence, it certainly has for me. But I don't see Aikido as a system that will ever operate on anything greater than say a dojo wide level. As Mary M. said above, there is no WE in the collective sense; there's only us as individuals and we must decide for ourselves the path that's right for us.

Ron

rugwithlegs
08-21-2016, 10:04 PM
Philosophically speaking we are an egalitarian dojo. While we do have a traditional ranking system, rank doesn't equate to position in any pecking order. There's no "step 'n fetch it" activity here. The main reason that Mary E. and I frown on the hierarchical nature of many dojos is that we want our students to grow strong and keep growing stronger as they train. So we absolutely reject any behavior that permits students to give away their power to their more advanced partners and visa versa.


Thanks Ron,

You and your dojo looks to have put a lot of thought into how to transmit character development. This one aspect is something I haven't seen elsewhere and I like it. Sometimes blind obedience, subservience, and loyalty get confused. I've wondered how students get taught to think and act for themselves in a more rigid military style top-down environment. You're giving your students autonomy and authority early on, which is rare.

Some students are more senior than others, and the teachers are more senior as well. Do you have a problem keeping a class on task in a more egalitarian environment? Some aspects of etiquette like bowing contain aspects of juniors giving away power to their seniors - hand position, timing, lining up to bow in, who goes first after bowing in to each other, etc - do you still teach this?

jonreading
08-22-2016, 12:05 PM
A couple of thoughts...

1. Martial arts is a collection of athleticism, unified with a purpose - effective combat. Look at a similar group, say baseball, and you will find a collection of athleticism unified with a purpose - winning a baseball game. You could argue that baseball teaches ethics (sportsmanship, self-discipline, etc.), yet most people would not specifically argue that baseball is an ethical pursuit. Aikido has chosen to make a point of arguing its ethical position.
2. Decisions have value. Every decision we make has a value and a consequence. The concept of perception management deals specifically in altering the perceived value of the decision. The idea the resonated with our earlier aikido generations was the potential injury they could inflict was significant and therefore their actions should be weighed accordingly. This idea generally resonates across most martial arts.

I can chose to behave in any manner when I am on the mat, but my partner can likewise choose. Etiquette is designed to create some ground rules. Seniority is designed to let seniors demonstrate to juniors the "real" value of a decision, not the perceived one. A common thread that runs through several of these issues is a generation(s) of students who don't understand the "real" value of what they are doing and therefore can't share it with juniors. So in many ways we are susceptible to perception management because we don't understand the value of what we are doing.

Pointing back to our Kentucky issue, it's not that the teaching didn't work. As reported, it appears the techniques were [too] effective. The problem was the perception of aikido did not match the outcome of the training. In reading the thread, the super-position of the ethics of aikido being impugned would seem to support our priority to preserve our appearance.

In many ways, Aikido has worked so hard to elevate the perception if its position as an ethically-driven martial art that it almost can't support the weight of its own claims. This warps our training and I think that is not necessarily a good thing.

RonRagusa
08-22-2016, 02:35 PM
Do you have a problem keeping a class on task in a more egalitarian environment?

No John. Most of our students have been with Mary E. and me between 10 and 20 years. Our practice has developed a particular rhythm and flow as we have aged together (both Aikido-age and real-age :)). New students are infrequent and get absorbed into the group in relatively short order.

Some aspects of etiquette like bowing contain aspects of juniors giving away power to their seniors - hand position, timing, lining up to bow in, who goes first after bowing in to each other, etc - do you still teach this?

Not formally, no. Pretty much everything to do with etiquette on the mat gets absorbed via student to student communication and experience. I'm not sure how bowing to one another implies a transfer of power; when we do bow in & out it's a gesture of courtesy, thanks and mutual respect. Same goes for bowing before and after drills with a partner.

Ron

rugwithlegs
08-22-2016, 06:35 PM
I'm not sure how bowing to one another implies a transfer of power...

Ron

First off, your dojo sounds like a great place to train!

In terms of bowing, I had it taught to me that the depth of the bow was lower for the junior student, how quickly the left hand left the hip to join the right on the floor or if it went down at the same time was a motion of deference (how quickly can the sword be drawn, and the senior was given deference in the timing, junior bowed first and held the bow longer, etc. Lining up, the most senior by the door to protect the kohei and Sensei and everyone else in descending order both by rank and time in rank. There's about nine different ways to say thank you apparently, and some are very deferential, some are very informal for among friends or a dismissive insult used wrongly. It got a little complicated some days.

I did like that the start and end of every class was a visual reminder who I was to protect and nurture, and who I was to learn from. On the other hand, so many ways drilled in to "not give offense" got mixed up with so many reasons I "should take offense" at other student's perfectly happy bowing.

rugwithlegs
08-22-2016, 07:22 PM
A couple of thoughts...

1. Martial arts is a collection of athleticism, unified with a purpose - effective combat. Look at a similar group, say baseball, and you will find a collection of athleticism unified with a purpose - winning a baseball game. You could argue that baseball teaches ethics (sportsmanship, self-discipline, etc.), yet most people would not specifically argue that baseball is an ethical pursuit. Aikido has chosen to make a point of arguing its ethical position.

Agreed. Ethics and philosophy are now defining features of Aikido to other martial artists and the public.

Defining our ethics is more of the trick. For example, some will say Aikido tries to not hurt their attackers - truthfully, safer techniques and safe, mutually beneficial practice was a goal of Kano Jigoro while O Sensei called Aikido a potentially lethal art.

2. Decisions have value. Every decision we make has a value and a consequence. The concept of perception management deals specifically in altering the perceived value of the decision. The idea the resonated with our earlier aikido generations was the potential injury they could inflict was significant and therefore their actions should be weighed accordingly. This idea generally resonates across most martial arts.

The warrior as an acceptible part of society. Part of the model for police officers and soldiers, and the foundation for society and law.

A common thread that runs through several of these issues is a generation(s) of students who don't understand the "real" value of what they are doing and therefore can't share it with juniors. So in many ways we are susceptible to perception management because we don't understand the value of what we are doing.

Is this only a knowledge deficit? Do we simply need to learn more?

...Aikido has worked so hard to elevate the perception if its position as an ethically-driven martial art that it almost can't support the weight of its own claims. This warps our training and I think that is not necessarily a good thing.

The claims are so varied and vast, and highly individual. They are not anchored in any one religious system nor uniform throughout the entire art - and maybe not even uniform in a single dojo. I do not think all of the widely varying ethics stances are all connected back to the Founder.

When a dojo talks about ethics driven training, and then only offers a class of Kotegaeshi and Ikkyo - is the art itself responsible for not supporting the weight of the claims?

jonreading
08-22-2016, 09:16 PM
Defining our ethics is more of the trick. For example, some will say Aikido tries to not hurt their attackers - truthfully, safer techniques and safe, mutually beneficial practice was a goal of Kano Jigoro while O Sensei called Aikido a potentially lethal art.
Or, maybe it's not that aikido people try not to hurt attackers... Maybe it's that attackers have a difficult time hurting aikido people. Unusual power and all that... Of course, the problem is that while that trait was manifest in the earlier days, its proven tough to replicate.

The warrior as an acceptible part of society. Part of the model for police officers and soldiers, and the foundation for society and law.
Its not an acceptable part of society. Look at the news. Since the second world war Western culture has not celebrated this model. Uncivilized and all that. Oddly, that's also about the time aikido started having problems...

Is this only a knowledge deficit? Do we simply need to learn more?
Yep. There is a lot of information out there that informs my training as unsatisfactory. I keep my eyes on my own paper and try to find satisfaction.

The art itself can only be as big as the people who represent it. I think that you are arguing the point... That maybe we can teach kotegaishi. But maybe we don't know what we don't know.

lbb
08-23-2016, 08:41 AM
When a dojo talks about ethics driven training, and then only offers a class of Kotegaeshi and Ikkyo - is the art itself responsible for not supporting the weight of the claims?

Does "the art itself" make the claims? Then no. The dojo that makes them has taken on that burden.

Ron says:

I think Aikido has both an ethical and philosophical tradition.

I don't think "Aikido" has anything that could be argued to be a coherent "ethical and philosophical tradition", and if it's not coherent, not intelligible to today's practitioners, does it make any practical sense to use it as a guidepost? And if your dojo has such a tradition, that's great, but should you be calling it Aikido's tradition?

Dan Richards
08-23-2016, 01:37 PM
The author does go on to make a call to arms of sorts Mr Richards. War is strictly the province and tool of politics; the relative stability of my own country gives me opportunities to try to reduce violence and suffering in my own backyard. Do you encourage your own students to embrace these opportunities? What work do you think the author says is just beginning?

War has a much wider scope than just politics. We can see it in many micro and macro levels.

With regards to training, most of what we do explores the micro level of the war taking place inside the self. The real fundamentals of aikido are found in moving yourself first—not other people. If you move correctly, by default others will move.

So we explore the war inside; the tensions, the structural misalignment, the misplaced focus, the fear,
the resistance, the non-integration and misunderstanding of forces.

There is an intrinsic strength and power in the design of the body. By bringing that into alignment we find that there is a wellspring of peace and effortless power available.

And we need to move into those levels on the micro before fretting about the macro. And when exploring the macro, where are we getting our information?

The baseline of this topic is your blog entry, and you obviously becoming disheartened by too much exposure to the effluvium of information that is programmed by interests that have the precise goal of disempowering you. It worked. You drank the Kool-Aid. And then you write your entry, post it here, and attempt to get others to join your impoverishment.

I don't buy it. Sorry. At the time of the writing of your entry, you had lost your center, and were not coming from an integrated and powerful place, and focused on the problem to the extent that you became so incapacitated that you further spread the defeat and resignation that you allowed to seep into your psyche.

There is another war waging in the world, and it's one waged by big corporations and industries whose sole purpose is to weaken by giving misinformation, unhealthy food, destructive drugs, and disempowering the population with unnecessary repetition and talking heads.

It is the default setting of this society. And the default setting of many people is that they don't know how to do very basic things in their lives: how to breath, how to sit, how to stand, how to move, how to select and make healthy and enriching foods for themselves and their families. Because of this, we have a society of tired, worn out... I guess we could say "rats."

Aikido at its best has everything to do with moving away from the learned default cultural settings that disempower us, and moving into natural intrinsic power—and therein lies the beginning of the peace that would reconcile the world.

Ueshiba was clearly coming from a place of higher consciousness. He understood the relationship of the micro to the macro, and as he found more peace inside himself it would naturally be reflected in his outer world.

Yes. We are that powerful. And this signpost is one that all the great teachers have shown us—and one which modern physics confirms.

Anyone who desires to reconcile the world has to first begin at home. And "home" in this case is the domain of our own bodies and minds. We all have internal wars and skirmishes we can use to awaken us, and expose areas we need to reclaim on the path of integration and power that nature has given us.

If we are poor, it's only because we are blind to the universal gifts that are constantly available and on tap for us.

If we want to see changes in the world, they have to begin inside of us.

That's not even philosophy. That's straight up engineering and science.

Peace.

RonRagusa
08-23-2016, 01:59 PM
First off, your dojo sounds like a great place to train!

Thank you.

In terms of bowing, I had it taught to me that the depth of the bow was lower for the junior student, how quickly the left hand left the hip to join the right on the floor or if it went down at the same time was a motion of deference (how quickly can the sword be drawn, and the senior was given deference in the timing, junior bowed first and held the bow longer, etc. Lining up, the most senior by the door to protect the kohei and Sensei and everyone else in descending order both by rank and time in rank. There's about nine different ways to say thank you apparently, and some are very deferential, some are very informal for among friends or a dismissive insult used wrongly. It got a little complicated some days.

Wow, that's pretty formal. I see your point though about how that kind of formality can be viewed as a method of defining a hierarchy within a dojo; creating the impression that levels of power and skill are a consequence of rank and time on the mat. It's been my experience that this "ain't necessarily so". Every student learns at a different pace and with an unique depth of understanding. I have seen relative beginners who quickly obtained a level of mind/body coordination that exceeded some of their seniors.

In your blog you wrote "I want the world reconciled. I want our one family, I want peace, I want this to stop. I want to do something. I want to play a role. I want to believe in Ueshiba's call for warriors for peace." Well, you have a role, we all do; but not, I think, as a collective. My Aikido path has led me to a point where I'm living a healthier, more peaceful and productive life than I might be otherwise. I, in turn, pass along the opportunity to others by providing a space where they can come to listen to my story and through their own practice see where their paths lead to. As an instructor you have the chance to transmit what you have discovered to your students. That is your role. Once you impart what you know the rest is up to them.

Ron

Dan Richards
08-23-2016, 02:21 PM
I have seen relative beginners who quickly obtained a level of mind/body coordination that exceeded some of their seniors.

Yes, Ron. This is the underlying beauty of it all. I've done little experiments with people who have no training at all. I'll ask them to remain just as themselves and relaxed, and completely forget about me. I'll then exert some forces on them, such as grabbing them somewhere. I ask them to do normal, daily things they do all the time. Touch your nose, take off your glasses, put them back on, reach in your pocket...

I've done this with children and with people in their 70s and 80s.

In every case, they can do exactly that, even while I'm restraining them. They quickly see that their own natural movement in a relaxed and integrated state is where the power lies. And that it does not lie in me and my hands grabbing them and attempting to restrict their movement.

They also quickly understand that when they focus on me and the point of restraint, they get caught and can't move.

They always get a big smile on their face, and I say, "See, you already know how to do this."

RonRagusa
08-23-2016, 02:52 PM
And if your dojo has such a tradition, that's great, but should you be calling it Aikido's tradition?

The traditions we have in our dojo, such as they are, weren't made up out of whole cloth. They evolved from what I was taught by Maruyama Sensei and from what I gleaned from the translated writings of O Sensei, Tohei Sensei and others. Since all those teachings and learned views were Aikido based then yes, I feel ok with saying those are Aikido traditions.

Ron

rugwithlegs
08-23-2016, 08:47 PM
Good conversation.

Firstly, Dan, I meant you no injury. Nothing was written as an attack on your world view.

I have actually been wrestling with this question for some time, and in other blog entries. Most quotes from the Founder are more spiritually minded than combat oriented. Personally, I feel distanced from this tradition. I do not feel well equipped to teach it. I go through life more answering to my conscience. When I teach Aikido, I research a topic I teach and I debate it and evaluate it.

It is interesting in a forum as well populated with senior students as this that every one has answered differently, with more diversity than might be seen on a more technique oriented question.

The mind-body exercises mentioned are interesting and profound - but ethics and philosophy is about Why. These exercises are about How. They are different questions. Relaxed and integrated movement is a goal in many martial arts; ethics and philosophy would be more about why do it? Doing this to inflict maximum damage versus avoiding damage, going on the attack versus defensive - I realize I am using tactical examples, which are different questions again.

Aikido doesn't seem to clearly have a coherent world wide tradition, for all that most writing attributed to the Founder seem to hint at one. In Aikido, students from different schools can argue about techniques, and names of techniques, and practice methods, and weapons use...but Aikido identified as an ethical practice is usually not challenged. Why would a school board look at aikido? Because a million Google hits will promise love, harmony, and never any injury to anyone. Do any aikido research, easy to find mention of Morihei Ueshiba's enlightenment. What do I do with the knowledge - harder to answer.

Students don't teach what they don't know, and maybe students adopt traditions - or take an opportunity to further justify already entrenched and cherished beliefs. Neither makes a student part of any lineage or allied with any founder. And some maybe just train How. Or respect memories and keep personal connections alive (I do.). That might not be a bad thing.