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Aribu
11-08-2002, 12:24 PM
I have seen a great many posting about Aikido as it pertains to Christianity, some about how Aikido is related to Zen or Buddhism, but I haven't really seen anything on Shinto practices. There are some questions posed at the end, but first I'll give a tad bit of personal experience/background info.

Recently, I've begun to train at Tsubaki Kannagara Jinjya, a shinto shrine in Washington state, under the shinto priest Koichi Barrish. (It's the U.S. branch of the Tsubaki O' Kami Yashiro in Japan, which enshrined master Ueshiba after is death. See www.kannagara.org/Quotes.htm (http://www.kannagara.org/Quotes.htm).)

Many of the "traditions" performed in Aikido dojo are actually shinto practices. As an example, I've read a couple of times on these boards about doing the 2-bows, 2-claps, 1-bow tradition, which is a part of many shinto ceremonies. When entering the shrine (after purifying our hands and mouth outside), we perform this (the bowing is to show respect for the enshrined kami, and clapping purifies the air - a remedial explanation, I'll admit...I'm no shinto expert.)

At the end of training, sensei performs a ceremony performed by master Ueshiba at the conclusion of his training sessions (it has never been made clear to me how often Ueshiba did this, and I've never asked. I believe ours is also somewhat shorter, as our time is limited in some respects.)

I would not give up the shinto ceremony aspects of training at the shrine for anything. It creates an atmosphere in which it feels like what we do has a connection with something, if that makes sense (this is on top of the innate tendency of Aikido to be extremely fun to practice). One of my largest complaints of martial arts in the past has been either the sportification or (to coin a phrase) "new-age-ification" of any given form. (In my opionion, this is largely the fault of people in the United States. Americans are generally - even if they don't want to admit it - offended unless something is either Christian or completely non-religious. As a result, to succeed commercially, a dojo must prove how non-religious it is by referring to blatantly religious acts as mere traditions...this may seem like nothing more than a digression, but it helps lead to the point of this thread...)

Some questions about which I have been curious are as follows:

Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?

Along the same lines, does the large-scale commercialization of martial arts detract from Aikido training?

Do you ever wish that your dojo was a little less religiously sterile, or do you prefer that it be more neutral?

Is it ok to traditionalize shinto religious practices so that they are acceptible to Americans, or would it be better to drop them entirely since their meaning is no longer present in many dojo?

tedehara
11-09-2002, 01:21 AM
"Jay Gerard (Aribu)"...Some questions about which I have been curious are as follows:

Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?

I would say overall, Christianity has improved Aikido in the US.

Along the same lines, does the large-scale commercialization of martial arts detract from Aikido training?

While I have visited some very sucessful dojos, I have yet to be involved in large-scale, commercial aikido training. So I cannot answer the question because of lack of experience. For me, Aikido training has never been a question of numbers.

Do you ever wish that your dojo was a little less religiously sterile, or do you prefer that it be more neutral?

What do you mean by religiously sterile? Spirituality and religion comes from the person not from props and ritual.

Is it ok to traditionalize shinto religious practices so that they are acceptible to Americans, or would it be better to drop them entirely since their meaning is no longer present in many dojo?

I think people should do things they are comfortable with. Maybe it would be better to traditionalize them. Ask me when I'm doing winter training and freezing my buns off in a river misogi. I might have a different answer.

It's good that you can make the connections between Shinto ceremony and dojo ritual. But these are just forms. Don't mistake the surface waves for the ocean.

aubrey bannah
11-10-2002, 03:15 AM
I think that christianity could hurt in Aikido training. To train with a open heart and in a sincere manner results in a knowledge of the prejudices that we carry in this life.

The greatest learning in Aikido is the understanding of direct connection [ spirit to spirit communion ], thus attaining a connection to the love aspect of the universe, and insight to the truth of reality.

Aikido ia a gift of the God's though O'sensei

O'sensei expressed Shinto practices because of the presence of Gods he was intimate with and part off.

Jeff Tibbetts
11-10-2002, 04:33 AM
You have some really good questions© Well, first off, I've heard from a lot of people that American instructor's are told to not mention some of the more esoteric principles of Aikido for fear of driving away some people who would see it as "hoky" or whatever© I can see why this is the case, but I think that overall if you're going to train in Aikido you have to be in agreement with the philosophy© I guess the thinking is that they can get you to like the philosophy after you realise how much you like the "other" stuff in Aikido© The other point I'd like to make, although it's kindof just what you're talking about, is that much of the bowing and ceremony is purely representational© Not to say that there's no meaning, it's just that you can view it from the secular standpoint as well as the spiritual© I've known people that think of bowing and breathing exercises as a barrier that they cross coming into the dojo, leaving the world behind for the time they're practicing© Overall, I think that it is what you make of it© If an atheist and a christian and a buddhist can all practice and share a philosophy without it being connected to one or the other than I don't see how that can be a bad thing© Anything in America will be altered to suit our tastes, however, like pizza and tacos© Not to compare Aikido to such trivial things, but our fast-food culture shows up in some weird places© We generally have no problem changing something quite a bit to make it "palatable" while claiming it's authentic© I think people do this to feel cultured without going too far into other territory, and you can see this in almost any restaurant or dojo© Again, don't get me wrong here, I think this happens on a sociological level, not that anyone starts a dojo and says "I have to pretend to be Japanese but remain American", it just kindof happens sometimes© In my personal opinion, I really love the Shinto aspects of Aikido, and I think that as a religion ¥debatably¤ it makes a hell of a lot of sense© Some people may not agree with that, and in some ways it's better not to force it on them and hope they like it later© It's tough, if I were running a dojo I can't say I wouldn't secularize it as much as possible, it seems like the only practical way to do it© hm©©©

G DiPierro
11-10-2002, 05:47 AM
Is it ok to traditionalize shinto religious practices so that they are acceptible to Americans, or would it be better to drop them entirely since their meaning is no longer present in many dojo?Not every dojo still uses Shinto practices. The ASU uses the shinto bow, the USAF does not. Even in the USAF, some teachers use Shinto warmups, like the rowing exercise, while some use more modern methods. Some dojos use Shinto shrines for their kamiza, some use a non-denominational tokonoma. Here again, I think the ASU, on average, employs more Shinto symbology than the USAF.

There is really nothing wrong with removing the Shinto aspects of the art in this country. O Sensei was personally quite enamored of the neo-Shinto cult Omoto but he never required his Aikido students to study or beleive in this religion. I think Shintoism is one of those cultural artifacts not directly related to Aikido that are sometimes needlessly dragged along with the art as it migrates to another culture. Another example of this is excessive use of Japanese in the dojo. The reason that they count and say "Thank you" in Japanese in dojos in Japan is because that is how those things are done in everyday life in Japan as well. Blindly mimicing that aspect of dojo behavior in the United States makes no sense.

Jeff Tibbetts
11-14-2002, 05:22 PM
I'm not so sure that using Japanese language and practices are out of place at all© I think that this performs several functions, wether on purpose or not© For one thing, it makes it possible for Aikido to be a truly international thing, and the top-ranking Sensei from Japan can come to an American or Norwegian or whatever Dojo and feel at home© In the same vein, many Aikidoka travel to Japan to study, and this is a lot easier when you already know what a "shihonage" is or whatever© Another reason is that Aikido is a VERY Japanese thing in itself, stemming from the mix of Shinto, Buddhism, and everything else in Japanese society, not to mention the style of dress and the reason that many of the techniques were created© The level of Japaneseness is part of the appeal for many people, myself included, who care a lot about Japan in general© I think that it makes it clear that you aren't just lifting weights at the gym or playing football or whatever, and it sets the right mood and atmosphere when you bow and such before practice© Besides the fact that people don't want to feel like they're pretending to be Japanese, I think they want to secularize it too much, some amount of that mysticism and intrigue make it so much more interesting© But that's just my opinion©©©

Jim ashby
11-15-2002, 04:02 PM
Jeff. Why are all of your sentences copyrighted?

Jeff Tibbetts
11-15-2002, 10:02 PM
Jim, I'm not sure, I was wondering that, too© It just happens to some of my posts in place of periods, maybe because I use the quick reply or maybe because I use Mozilla, could be a bug©©© dunno, but I think it's kind of funny© The really weird thing is that it USUALLY takes an hour or two of being normal, then switches© weird

ian
11-19-2002, 04:01 AM
It seems pretty formalised over there in the US on what you can and can't do. Pretty much the order of the day in the UK depends on the sensei.

I could understand how the shinto stuff makes you feel connected, but I'm sure some people think the same when they go to church. I would be interested in hearing more about how shinto relates to aikido. We don't do the clapping bit, we just bow. I've always considered the bow to Kami as as bow 'to the universe' (rather than to Ueshiba), as a sign of respect - and the bow to each other as an important sign of respect (in fact I wouldn't allow people to train who did not bow since I would believe they were not willing to protect those they train with).

In terms of spirituality - I believe if aikido incorporates a fixed ideology we will go down the road of organised religion with its power play. Personally I don't believe that peace is the natural state of the universe (as Ueshiba appeared to) but instead more in the yin/yang aspect found in taosim. I tell people about the philosophy of aikido in that it is designed to cause minimal damage - if they want to find out more they can find out themselves; its not for me to brainwash people (except of course on aikiweb)!

Ian

Ghost Fox
11-19-2002, 07:57 AM
First let me start by saying that I'm glad your posting. It will be interesting to have someone training at a Jinja relate his experiences. I look forward to reading more of your post.

Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?

Only in the fact that anything non-Judeo-Christian is evil and bad, and that any hint of spirituality should be banished from "non-religious" activities if it is not Abrahamic in origin.

Along the same lines, does the large-scale commercialization of martial arts detract from Aikido training?

Of course, when you commercialize something you tend to water it down and cater to the lowest common denominator in order to attract the largest number of students.

Do you ever wish that your dojo was a little less religiously sterile, or do you prefer that it be more neutral?

Absolutely, I don't think of Aikido as religion, but I do see it as a deeply spiritual experience. I would love to gather more information and learn some of the rituals that Ueshiba brought to Aikido.

Is it ok to traditionalize Shinto religious practices so that they are acceptable to Americans, or would it be better to drop them entirely since their meaning is no longer present in many dojo?

It would be great if more instructor where familiar with Shinto cosmology and how it applies to Aikido, as opposed to utilizing Zen precepts. Not that there is anything wrong with Zen, but I think many Americans teach from a Zen perspective because it's easier to grasp. Also, it is easier to separate religion from Zen and therefore make it more palatable to mainstream America. By comparison Shinto has a complex pantheon of major and minor Kami, and it's distinctly Japanese. I believe anybody who teaches Aikido should have a good foundation of Ueshiba's religious teaching. I'm not saying they should practice Shinto, but they should understand its teachings. Just like I feel anybody who teaches Aikido should have a good grasp of the history of Aikido. If you want to teach you should be held up to a higher standing.

:triangle: :circle: :square:

Peace and Blessings,

Ghost Fox
11-19-2002, 08:19 AM
Personally I don't believe that peace is the natural state of the universe (as Ueshiba appeared to) but instead more in the yin/yang aspect found in taosim.

Ian
Just a quick side note, natural/original state of the universe according to Taoism is the state of Wu-Chi. Wu-Chi gives birth to Yin/Yang. Wu-Chi is a state of stillness or how I like to describe it, extreme potentiality right before movement (Like the top of the swing in a pendulum). In a sense peace (Nirvana).

In all movements in Aikido, no matter how dynamic & powerful, there should be stillnes in the center.

In a sense everything in nature moves between states of Yin/Yang, but one wants to achieve a state of Wu-Wei (Actionless action, Enlightenment) which can only be achieved by aligning ourselves with Wu-Chi.

Just my 2 cents.

happysod
11-19-2002, 10:35 AM
Like the topic & the replies, but have to take issue with one phrase used so far:

Ian's "in fact I wouldn't allow people to train who did not bow since I would believe they were not willing to protect those they train with" did leave me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth I'm afraid (no offense meant, agreed with most of the post) as we'd had a bad experience of this being put into practice.

We had a occasional member of our dojo who was a practicing orthodox jew. He was occasional as he was based elsewhere and could only get to our dojo on an irregular basis. However, as he was worried about the "religious" aspects of the dojo, he'd asked his religious teacher and was informed that such bowing was contrary to his religion. His normal dojo couldn't accept his not bowing and did use pressure to make him conform. Result, both dojos lost a very promising aikidoka (and caused a nice guy an unnecessary soul-search).

Basically, I think the answer is we're supposedly adults and able to make informed decisions. If religion/spirituality works for you, fine, but the idea that a dojo would or should impose "religion" in the name of "tradition" (how old's aikido again..) seems absurd and not-so-slightly worrying.

Jeff Tibbetts
11-20-2002, 02:42 AM
Ian, I think I see your point about bowing and impressing Aikido's "religion" on people© I must add, though, that whatever you make of the bow before the Kami or O-Sensei, you must realise that the bow to another person is not religious at all© Well, it could be, and if your religion forbids it than I don't think it's a big deal, but the fact is that it's only a respect thing© I would tell him that it doesn't matter, but I would also think it very odd if an Atheist didn't want to bow to another student before they pair up, as it's not something that carries any religion with it© I don't know, I think people are very quick to add elements of meaning to the bows and everything without thinking about what they're really for© I think that you maybe didn't mean it the way I took it, and I'm sorry if that's the case© I've never had a problem doing anything that I found to be spiritual, and I'm an Atheist© Anyway, sorry if that post didn't make sense, I'm tired©©©

happysod
11-20-2002, 04:30 AM
Thanks for the reply Jeff, totally agree with you about the bowing and it's regard to being about respect, sorry if this was unclear. My comment about the bowing was more about how some dojos seem to want to make aspects of etiquette “set in stone”. In this instance, the bowing business clashed with a person’s deeply held religious views with no real point as far I could determine.

My missive against imposing religion in the dojo in general was a reference to the original posts query “Do you ever wish that your dojo was a little less religiously sterile, or do you prefer that it be more neutral? “ – I’m firmly on the side of the neutral. (note to self: be more clear of which bit of a post I’m ranting at)

ian
11-20-2002, 05:33 AM
natural/original state of the universe according to Taoism is the state of Wu-Chi. Wu-Chi gives birth to Yin/Yang
yep, you're totally right as far as I am aware! I was going to argue over some semantics but it doesn't seem worth it!

As far as the Jewish bloke who did not train - I would consider that his own predjudices (and that of his religion) which caused the problem. Fair enough, bowing may be considered a worthless ritual to some people, but I definately see it as a useful part of producing a safe training atmosphere. Maybe I was harsh saying I would exclude anyone who didn't bow - if they were physically incapable of bowing I would have to take the mutual respect for granted. (or maybe a different sign of respect could be used in case of religious beliefs - but it could get ridiculous).

However, just because religions are established, does not mean they are correct. Many religions DO treat others differently (excluding inter-marriage with those outside their race/religion etc) or are blantently racist or sexist. I don't think society should change rules which are there for the good of everyone for some belief system which was probably made up by a group of authoritarian people. Different ideologies rarely mix - so we should probably defer to the ideology which is to the mutual benefit; people should always come before religion.

Sorry if I'm getting off the track,

Ian

ian
11-20-2002, 06:17 AM
P.S. when I suggest different ideologies rarely mix - I didn't mean as peoples; I mean that if people have different ideologies there will be unresolvable conflicts in ideas and concepts somewhere along the line.

Also I understand that my insistence on bowing may be slightly bigoted; and I'd reserve the right to change my mind if the situation required it (rules serve people and not vice versa!).

Ghost Fox
11-20-2002, 07:02 AM
How would you feel about bowing to the Kamiza if there was an actual Kami enshrined inside?

Also I thought that bowing to ones partner was an acknowledgement of the divinity that resides in all mankind? I bow to you because Man was made in the image of the Creator and therefore contain part of the Divine Spark.

I tend to agree with Ian about the prejudices and bigotry that exist in most religion. If you truly want to embrace Spirituality you have to remove the shackles of Religion. Religion is the scaffolding of which Spirituality is built. Religion is for the masses not for the Superior Man (Taoist term).

DavidEllard
11-20-2002, 08:20 AM
One thing that worried when when my friends were convincing me to start aikido was the bowing to 'o-sensei' at the begining of the class. As someone with christian beliefs this looked a bit like "worshipping" to me.

They way I resolved this for myslef was looking into the history of aiki and finding out, with help, a little about O Sensei. I could then justify the bowing to him as a mark of deep respect for what he has done in creating aikido.

As for bowing to each other, that seems only correct to me, but i certainly see it as a respect thing not religous. If other people choose to see a religious aspect though I wouldn't for a moment dispute their right to do that. Indeed I quite like the image mentioned above of the internal divinity

In addition we have a Jewish Nidan in my organisation, and he does NOT bow to O Sensei at the begining of a class. We respect his right to do that, he has shown dedication to aikido by years of practise, and i don't see that forcing someone to "choose" between aikido and thier religon would be productive.

However,in my experience, the UK is more secular than america and japan. So in answer to the original question I don't think that incorpoerating more of the religous aspects would work here. It would certainly alienate people, or belittle those religous ideals.

achilleus
11-20-2002, 12:55 PM
I would just liek to remind us all that O Sensei was very fond of christianity. I can't say whether or not he really was one, but he had a very clear syncretic religious ideal which very much included christianity. Lets not forget how we all like to talk about MAs sharing what is true as a fundemental principle - so too the idea of Love that is the 'center' of O Sensei's aikido.

Also, although I understand that our protestant brothers and sisters may disagree, bowing as a religious action, is not always an act of supplication. Anyone who justifies not bowing to anyone or anything for religious reasons is thinking more of themselves than of the Other - which is contrary to the whole idea of bowing to someone, nes pas?

When I am feeling unduly hauty I mentally bow to the person, reminding myself that I am not always the most important thing in the universe.

Of course, this all comes from many many hours on the cold stone floors of monastic chapels.

ps

our dojo bows and claps and as others have mentioned, I try to practice as mich of my zen training as possible in our sacred space.

:circle:

DA

Rev_Sully
11-22-2002, 09:39 AM
To understand the "props" used in a dojo, one must understand their root. Shinto and Japan are almost inseperable. Shinto is a Partiotic religion that includes the veneration not only of differnt Kami but of ancestors and also gives the land of Ise (Nippon or Japan) it's unique status of Chosen Land.

Bowing to Kamiza and O-Sensei's portrait does invoke both of these venerations upon inspection. But Shinto itself is not worshiped as a religion that the West likes to think (in realms of the Abrahamic Three). Shinto is very equatable to "Hindu". "Hinduism" is a potpourri of different gods and legends spanning thousands of years of culture. The same goes for Shinto (Shin=God, To or Do=Way: The Way of the God(s)). Hindu isn't really an organized religion either but a collection of evolving Divine interpretations (it's only called Hindu because of the Indus Valley/River in India. Hindu, Indus, India...get it?).

Same with Shinto.

People threatened by the "religiousity" of Shinto icons/idols/practices in the AiKiDo dojo should inspect their feelings and see if what they do when they practice is true veneration or dojo culture with no religious signifigance.

I personally believe that Christianity cannot improve AiKiDo but AiKiDo can compliment and help/assist Christianity.

I will answer the original question from above:

<i>Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?</i>

Yes. Everyone is entitled and empowered to behave in manners that suit the individual or cult only. There can be no complience to discipline when exceptions are made because someone uses their religiousity to not comply. If they are so uncomfortable as not to bow in respect to altruistic ideas and sensei/sempai/women/eachother, then they should consult with their religious leaders (priest, rabbi, imam, etc.) to see if their religiousity and the dojo are truly compatable.

darin
11-22-2002, 11:21 AM
As Eric said, Shinto and Japan are almost inseperable. I don't view Shinto in Japan as a religion as Japanese in general are not religious.

Japan in many ways has never really opened its doors to the world. Its people have great pride in their culture and traditions. To them these things are a part of "being Japanese". This is hard for me to explain. I guess the only way is for people to go and live in Japan for a year or two. Then they will understand.

achilleus
11-22-2002, 12:03 PM
Eric,

nice point. although, my train of thought with respect to

"Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?"

was leaning more towards 'no it hasn't' (with the exception of some christian variants which I don't always consider to be christian).

I would say that American secularism is the culprit - something which not only negatively effects christianity (and other religions) but disciplines like aikido, too.

I think you are right on about some things being culturally inseperable from each other. Shinto/Japan and aikido is an obvious example. Are there such analogous inseperable-cultural traits in the West?

I would hazard to guess them too subtle to pin down in our multi-sultural society (in america). Sitting in a room with 3 other people and discussing the saints of the early christian church you'll get:

person 1: 'why do you worship saints & not G-d'

person 2: shares with you a mutual sneer at person 1

person 3: an 'enlightened-humanist' who cynically denies the significance of such people.

If each of those people were aikidoka would they resond similarly to the respectful observances of the dojo?

Are aikidoka out there just going through the motions?

:circle:

DA

Rev_Sully
11-22-2002, 01:59 PM
Eric, nice point. although, my train of thought with respect to "Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?" was leaning more towards 'no it hasn't' (with the exception of some christian variants which I don't always consider to be christian).

I would say that American secularism is the culprit - something which not only negatively effects christianity (and other religions) but disciplines like aikido, too.DA
No. I would have to disagree, courteously though. American Secularism encourages and allows for differences whereas exclusive religions and cults (especially those with eschatological goals) do now allow for its adherents to have other spiritual icons/idols/ideas beside and beyond its own. The goals of your cult are the goals of your salvation (and the only true salvation to boot). This is obviously an extreme and/or orthodox POV. I know quite well that usually there will be flexibility to things such as training in a martial art.

If you are a Christian learning AiKiDo and have no conflicts or problems, that's good. But what happens if you mention to your pastor that you bow to Shinto-oriented ideas and icons such as Kamiza and O-Sensei's portrait and they mention that it could be in violation of Biblical Covenants (esp. idolatry and and no gods other than YHWH). Would a conflict exist? It would depend on how Christian or how Jewish or how Muslim the Aikidoka was. The more Orthodox the Aikidoka, the greater the chance of conflict. Under inspection, there are violations of Christian covenants every time one steps on the mat.

It is a clash of Western and Eastern philosophies. Easter philosophies are much more syndaclistic than the polarized Western POV in regards to spiritual things. Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc all can accept and encompass the Abrahamic Three while the converse is not possible. So when an Aikidoka has exception due to a religious belief, it does take away from the dojo and the dojo culture. It creates incongruity. Dojo, IMHO is a secular but sacred space. Western thought used to have a tough time really grasping how something can be secular and sacred at the same time but use Ground Zero at the WTC as an example. There is no conflict really. Only when someone creates a problem will a conflict arise.
I think you are right on about some things being culturally inseperable from each other. Shinto/Japan and aikido is an obvious example. Are there such analogous inseperable-cultural traits in the West?

DA
Good question. Forth of July? 9/11 observances in the future? Bastille Day? December 8th. Christmas/Holiday Season? I think Christmas is a biggie. I work at a place where they're arguing the PC-ness of having a tree at the Holiday party but Santa is still there. No one has yet addressed that Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, Christian saint.
I would hazard to guess them too subtle to pin down in our multi-sultural society (in america). Sitting in a room with 3 other people and discussing the saints of the early christian church you'll get:

person 1: 'why do you worship saints & not G-d'

person 2: shares with you a mutual sneer at person 1

person 3: an 'enlightened-humanist' who cynically denies the significance of such people.

If each of those people were aikidoka would they resond similarly to the respectful observances of the dojo?

Are aikidoka out there just going through the motions?

:circle:

DA
I think person #1 would be the one who wouldn't bow to Kamiza/O-Sensei. Wouldn't practice with women. And all other Orthodox-type of personal deletions of dojo culture that anyone can name.

Ah HA! Aikidoka are ALWAYS going through the motions! (puncyes, bad pun). But it is rote exercise until one questions, any action I would broker.

BTW: is Achilleus your real surname? Only because I'm a perennial wiseacre and I was going to post as "Patrokolos Jones". ; ^ )

achilleus
11-22-2002, 02:35 PM
this is fun. I don't usually get to use my brain at work.

"No. I would have to disagree, courteously though. American Secularism encourages and allows for differences "

Lets just disagree then. We obviously have had very different experiences and studies of secularism. I have found it a cannabalistic and cynical excuse for hate mongering.

But I also have a very eclectic POV regarding religion (as in the literal meaning = discipline, viz. without all the supernatural trappings and feel good-ness). I come from very somber monastic roots.

I also think that religion, when rational, is a great foundation for tolerance, because after all, it is a choice and if you are comfortable with your choice you can be comfortabel with the choices others make as well.

Your point on eschatology is interesting but I don't see it playing out. If it were true then we simply wouldn't have had many of the positive exchanges like the East West Spiritual Encounter, which has had, I think, 5-6 incarnations. Fact of the matter is that most religions are not only very tolerant of each other but are also very cooperative. Perhaps this is more on the ecclesiasticle side of things where most people aren't privy to.

I also think that there is only a 'clash' if you are resisting...again, if you can't get beyond the fact that someone calls this or that shinto then the clash is meaningless in a cultural aspect - the clash only exists so far as you are unwilling to see the connections.

years ago when people talked about TM and zen meditation mainstream protestant christians would whoop and hollar. mostly because it was eastern but the greater sin (read miss the mark) was that they had no knowledge of christian centering prayer which is exactly the same thing.

I'm not going to touch christmas. Too much for too many people to argue about.

"I think person #1 would be the one who wouldn't bow to Kamiza/O-Sensei. Wouldn't practice with women. And all other Orthodox-type of personal deletions of dojo culture that anyone can name."

exactly where I was going with that!

But its funny that you are using "Orthodox" -

you are intending small 'o', yes? Because I am an 'Orthodox Christian'.

and yes, my real surname as it appears. you can google me.

I'd like to think I've made a friend today, but beyond that lets not take the patrokles imagery any further!

as an aside, I think the idea of sacred/secular is a good starting point (provided I can get past the secular part - I own that problem). In such a paradigm aikidoka can consider themselves as preserving a bit of japanese culture without turning japanese.

small clarification: regarding going through the motions on two points,

1. if you do you'll never really 'get it'

2. original remark was with respect to the observances of respect we show, i.e. do you bow only physically without intending any respect? or are you reaching out to the Other (good uke)?

Again, I don't think the bow is only an act of supplication; it can be one of extension, too!

:circle:

DA

Rev_Sully
11-22-2002, 03:01 PM
"and yes, my real surname as it appears. you can google me.

I'd like to think I've made a friend today, but beyond that lets not take the patrokles imagery any further! DA"

LOL!!!

Rev_Sully
11-24-2002, 09:24 PM
BTW: No offense with the capital "O". My usage of orthodox meant more stringent adherents of relgions and sects. But I an see how that wasn't assumed since I was using the capital "O".

The Christmas Argument is unfortunate though. Makes great fodder for discourse.

Jappzz
12-09-2002, 08:27 AM
"Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido? "

As always when you try to remove the roots or original motive of something to suite a larger group opposed to it's motive's, it's meaning is lost

"Along the same lines, does the large-scale commercialization of martial arts detract from Aikido training? "

Watering something down always makes it more apealing to a larger group scince they can apply their own motives to it. The question is if we want to dissect and modify an art with it's roots in a ancient foreign culture just because it takes some effort to grasp the cultural context.

"Do you ever wish that your dojo was a little less religiously sterile, or do you prefer that it be more neutral? "

I've learned to live with the fact that the majority of people (sweden too) do not want any spiritual or religious content in anything scince that means they'll have to ADAPT! to foreign concepts... *shivering*. They just want to come to class and "wrestle in white pyjamases" twice a week, go home and leave their "recreation" behind.

"Is it ok to traditionalize shinto religious practices so that they are acceptible to Americans, or would it be better to drop them entirely since their meaning is no longer present in many dojo?"

Given that you use shinto elements as part of Aikido ritual i think you should either respect them and carry them out in a faithful manner or not do them at all. We might not think that shinto should affect our training and if that is the case we could atleast have enough respect towards practicing shintoists that we don't try to make our own home-made, modified version just to fit our personal whim's.

Aikido is a japanese art created in a japanese enviroment. That's not an oppinion but a fact. Take it or leave it.

/Jesper Arenskog

Ghost Fox
12-10-2002, 06:54 AM
[QUOTE="Jasper Arenskogh (JappzzThey just want to come to class and "wrestle in white pyjamases" twice a week, go home and leave their "recreation" behind./Jesper Arenskog[/QUOTE]That's funny, I have to remember that. ;) :D

Ghost Fox
12-10-2002, 07:00 AM
I have a problem with people making Aikido into a Zen thing. Aikido has nothing to do with Zen. O'Sensei never practiced Zen and he wasn't a devout Buddhist. I've only read of one instance of Ueshiba and Buddhism. When he was a child he studied with some Esoteric Buddhist (not Zen), because there was no schools in the area.

Jeff Tibbetts
12-11-2002, 12:15 AM
Ghost, I know what you're saying, but you have to remember something about religion in Japan© There is little distinction between Zen something and Shinto something else© It's a fact that most Japanese, even non-religious Japanese, still take part in Shinto festivals, rituals and events every year© This includes Japanese priests of Christian and Buddhist persuasions© Most religious Japanese are more Syncretic than anything, and see no conflict between Buddhism and Shinto, because there is no conflict© There's no conflict with Christianity either, except that Christians see any other religion as a bad thing 9 times out of 10© So while Aikido may have roots deep in Shinto religion and beliefs, there is no conflict whatsoever with Zen, and in fact there are very many similar thoughts and concepts© There are a lot of other concepts in there, too, but Zen is an obvious candidate as it's considered a very Japanese thing© Many people have no idea what to make of Syncretism, as it seems like a lack of commitment or faith in one particular belief set, but in reality the spiritual context of all the world's religions are quite similar to one another© The denominations or Christianity are mostly contrived, for example, and break pretty far away from the true concepts in their bible© Same with the different schools of Buddhism and whatnot© Man has a tendency to overcomplicate everything, adding all sorts of artificiality onto things to suit their needs, whims, or whatever© The fact that O-Sensei grew up in Japan means that there were subtle but real influences of Buddhist thought and morality, wether he even wanted it or not© In a similar way, even non-christians in America pick up christian morals, myths and stories, and live in a society whose laws and structure are based on Western christian ideals© You can't escape that, so if an American made a Martial Art and started teaching it in Japan ¥yeah right©©© just play along¤ the Japanese would no doubt draw very many references to Christian thought, and they would be right in doing so wether the hypothetical American was even a practicing christian or not©

Sorry I got off on a hell of a rant, didn't mean to attack you in any way, just thought it needed to be pointed out©

Ghost Fox
12-11-2002, 08:07 AM
Ghost, I know what you're saying, but you have to remember something about religion in Japan© There is little distinction between Zen something and Shinto something else© It's a fact that most Japanese, even non-religious Japanese, still take part in Shinto festivals, rituals and events every year© This includes Japanese priests of Christian and Buddhist persuasions© Most religious Japanese are more Syncretic than anything, and see no conflict between Buddhism and Shinto, because there is no conflict© There's no conflict with Christianity either, except that Christians see any other religion as a bad thing 9 times out of 10© So while Aikido may have roots deep in Shinto religion and beliefs, there is no conflict whatsoever with Zen, and in fact there are very many similar thoughts and concepts© There are a lot of other concepts in there, too, but Zen is an obvious candidate as it's considered a very Japanese thing© Many people have no idea what to make of Syncretism, as it seems like a lack of commitment or faith in one particular belief set, but in reality the spiritual context of all the world's religions are quite similar to one another© The denominations or Christianity are mostly contrived, for example, and break pretty far away from the true concepts in their bible© Same with the different schools of Buddhism and whatnot© Man has a tendency to overcomplicate everything, adding all sorts of artificiality onto things to suit their needs, whims, or whatever© The fact that O-Sensei grew up in Japan means that there were subtle but real influences of Buddhist thought and morality, wether he even wanted it or not© In a similar way, even non-christians in America pick up christian morals, myths and stories, and live in a society whose laws and structure are based on Western christian ideals© You can't escape that, so if an American made a Martial Art and started teaching it in Japan ¥yeah right©©© just play along¤ the Japanese would no doubt draw very many references to Christian thought, and they would be right in doing so wether the hypothetical American was even a practicing christian or not©

Sorry I got off on a hell of a rant, didn't mean to attack you in any way, just thought it needed to be pointed out©
I know what you're saying about the syncretic view of Japanese culture (I myself have studied with Taoist, Yogis, Buddhist and Pagans to explore a more syncretic view of reality), but let's be honest. The only reason that Zen Buddhism is taught along with Aikido is mass marketing appeal to a western audience. Zen Buddhism, as it is taught in America, does not have anything to do with religion; it is filtered down to just sitting & breathing. Zen is simple in key principles compared with Esoteric sects of Buddhism, but in the West Buddhism in general lacks the religious overtones of the East. My point was not on the syncretic view of religion in Japan, but the West lack of religious flexibility. I have no real problem with Zen; heck Zazen meditation forms a cornerstone to most esoteric practices in every religion. Zen is taught in Aikido because it "feels" Japanese enough to be chic, without challenging most Westerner narrow belief structure.

Man does have a tendency to overcomplicate things, adding all sorts of artificiality onto things to suit their needs, whims, or whatever. That is exactly what Zen is in Aikido. It is an artificiality to patch up the missing Shinto piece, a crude bandage. Remember, Man is also extremely lazy, and rather than research Shinto and challenge her beliefs, she'll rather take something easier to understand (Zen) and plaster over difficulties & the past.

Like I said previously O-Sensei did have exposure to Buddhism when he was younger, but it was under the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Their practices are a lot more complex an esoteric than Zen Buddhism, including practices of Mantras (Kototama), Mudras (Kuji In) and Mandalas (??). So Buddhism did have an effect on O'Sensei it drove him to pursue more occult paths in his religious practices, namely Omoto Kyo.

To use your analogy, if an American similar to Ueshiba in personality & demeanor created a martial art, he would probably be a devout Christian (probably a Gnostic) deeply versed in Kabbalah. His martial art would be deeply seeded with Gnostic and Kabbalahic practices. Then after his death rather then try to understand those theories; we overlay his martial art with the Quaker practice of silent contemplation during services. That is my problem with Zen and Aikido.

:triangle: :circle: :square:

Peace and Blessings

Peter Goldsbury
12-11-2002, 08:53 AM
Like I said previously O-Sensei did have exposure to Buddhism when he was younger, but it was under the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Their practices are a lot more complex an esoteric than Zen Buddhism, including practices of Mantras (Kototama), Mudras (Kuji In) and Mandalas (??). So Buddhism did have an effect on O'Sensei it drove him to pursue more occult paths in his religious practices, namely Omoto Kyo.
Yes. It is a pity that very few of the writings of Onisaburo Deguchi have ever been translated into English (Carmen Blacker's "The Catalpa Bow" contains the only summary & extracts of "Reikai Monogatari" I know of in English). I think the jump from some of the practices of Shingon Buddhsim to those of Omoto-kyo is not very great.

One of my aikido teachers took up Zen because he could not understand the Founder's discourses (all Omoto-kyo), but needed a strong spiritual component to his training, just like the Founder did.

Best regards,

Jeff Tibbetts
12-12-2002, 02:34 AM
I see, Ghost© I'm sorry if I was too quick to judge, you are clearly very knowledgable on this matter© My apologies© You make a good point in returning to my analogy, I think you're right about how people would perceive our fictitious American founder and simplify his views© Some things you mentioned struck a chord with me©©© in my community college I often go to a "Japanese culture club" which is really just a bunch of anime geeks who watch anime© I go to see free videos and watch the hilarious music videos and commercials, but I can't stand the attitudes of a lot of the people© I'm not sure if you're familiar with it, but there's a snack called Pocky that's quite popular in Japan, and even more so among anime geeks© The reason for this is that it tasted EXACTLY like a "normal" American snack and doesn't conflict with our palette the way many Japanese foods do, so it's a way for some people to "feel" Japanese without being adventerous at all© There's nothing Japanese about it other than the packaging©©© I think that people do this all the time, with food, sure, but also with culture and religion© I think that the Zen that you're referring to is more like the "zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" variety, in that it's really tailored to a Western view and consequently dumbed down© I think that real Zen is quite esoteric and obtuse to the Western mind in it's own ways, but you won't get that around here© Zazen is, as you said, fairly universal, and I think that when people see others sitting in zazen they just immediately call it Zen© I can really see you're point about how Zen itself has nothing to do with Aikido, but the centering part cannot be overlooked© Much of what Zazen involves is centering, and when people call Aikido moving Zen they're really meaning that this is a way to maintain center in motion, not in Zazen© It would be more accurate to call it flowing Zazen, but that would also be silly in the Western sense© See what's happening here? There is no easy way for the Western mind to quantify a lot of these concepts© I really do think that you're on to something in that Aikido is constantly reworked to fit the comfort level of the "everyman", to the detriment of the serious philosopher, I'm afraid© I guess there's the element of "what can I do" involved at this point, it's out of our hands for now© If you run a dojo you simply will have a hard time attracting students if you're performing major misogi rituals for a half-hour before class and calling out the kami during practice© This is the price of trying to get rid of Christian mental oppression by secularizing the youth© No-one wants to believe anything, and anything that could be a belief is shut down so as not to offend anyone© ugh

Ghost Fox
12-12-2002, 07:42 AM
Yes. It is a pity that very few of the writings of Onisaburo Deguchi have ever been translated into English (Carmen Blacker's "The Catalpa Bow" contains the only summary & extracts of "Reikai Monogatari" I know of in English). I think the jump from some of the practices of Shingon Buddhsim to those of Omoto-kyo is not very great.

One of my aikido teachers took up Zen because he could not understand the Founder's discourses (all Omoto-kyo), but needed a strong spiritual component to his training, just like the Founder did.

Best regards,
It is for this reason I am so grateful for writers like you and Stan Pranin who take the time do exhausting research on our part. I just wish more people (especially Yudansha & Instructors) where willing to challenge their preconceived notions on Aikido and actually read the information out there.

The myths in aikido are necessary to satisfy our right brain need for a simple just world, but to often people sacrifice the intellect of the left for these myths. Does that fact that Jesus & Buddha were men who slept, ate and paid taxes a detriment to the philosophy & mythos that followed their passing, or does it strengthen us by putting greatness within everyone’s grasp?

Peace and Blessings,

Isaias of Aikido

Ghost Fox
12-12-2002, 09:15 AM
Jeff your post was very good on the syncretic nature of Japanese religious practices, and maybe that’s what I’m asking for in Aikido. Like I said before I see nothing wrong with Zen or teaching Aikido from that perspective as long as we are honest with what we are doing. The religious teachings of O’Sensei where extremely abstract and difficult to follow, many of O’Sensei’s own students admit to not understanding what he was talking about. As Aikido developed for various sociopolitical reasons the Shinto aspects was slowly separated from the art, and for some, Zen was used to fill the spiritual void that remained. I think it’s important for modern Aikidoka, especially those who would be instructors, to research, rediscover and reintegrate these traditions back into Aikido, since these sociopolitical stressors no longer pose as much of a threat. As we’re slowly reintegrating these “values” back into Aikido, we should utilize philosophies such as those found in Zen, Taoism & Wicca to temporarily fill in the gaps that are currently missing, just like your example on Zen and centering. And by all means bring in those beliefs from your personal life that correlate with the teaching of Aikido, as it can only help your teaching and understanding, but always return to the source.

As a newly honored Shodan (yeah for me) I am beginning the slow, exhausting process of acquiring this knowledge. I hope in 10 or 15 years if I’m blessed with the privilege & responsibility of a dojo that I will have an equally strong grasp on the spiritual side of Aikido as the physical. Your right that I will probably not have many students, I always preferred the Master – Apprentice model myself anyway. Like the Ethiopian fable by Lokman goes:

A hare meeting a lioness one day said reproachfully, “I have always a great number of children, while you have but one or two now and then.” The lioness replied, “It is true but my one child is a lion.”

I agree with you point on modern secularism leading to apathy towards religion & spiritual matters. It is for this reason that I began exploring various religious practices over a decade ago trying to find the kernel of truth in all faiths. For me Aikido is a natural outgrowth of my research as it has room for all the 10,000,000 Gods.

Peace and Blessings.

P.S. – I know what you mean about the Pocky sticks, I buy them all the time the when I’m in Japan, and Anime Rocks!!!!

Bruce Baker
12-27-2002, 12:29 PM
Jeff, ghost, and Peter ... quite an excellent dialog.

You covered most of the territory, not much left except ...

Christians don't understand their own religion, so why should they understand the Shintoism, Buddhism, or any other religion outside of their warm fuzzy blanket that gives them a ticket in heaven, Valhalla, the pearly gates, or whatever their illusions of a better life beyond this life?

It, life beyond death, is the creation of our own minds, isn't it? Like a mirage in the desert, we see what we want to see, and no on can change our minds if we do not want to listen or learn.

Of course, this is the mindset of any religion, any person intent on maintaining the closeness of their god, their religion.

In many ways, shintoism resembles the basis of being in touch with nature to understand the forces of this world, but it takes many of its cues from sages and spiritual leaders who have learned methods to become closer to the spiritual rather than the denial of Christianity and most Buddhists who follow the teachings of sacred texts and spiritual leaders who guide our steps to the world beyond. So many spirits, to be aware of in nature, so many things to do to purify the body and mind to become attuned to physical and spiritual aspect of our world?

Aikido seems to be, for most Americans, the past time, with a dabble of study into spirituality to progress in connecting body and mind, while for recreation, it is a soft martial application for the weekend warriors.

I guess that is what we become in time, recreational practitioners who take what we need, and get on with our lives.

Rarely do I see anyone who is astutely aware of Aikido as a martial art not previously engaged in another martial art, crosstraining, or crossstudying other religions ... either for educating themselves or seeking to move on to another type of religion.

Shintoism is not a necessity to study Aikido, although it does delve into the area of clearing the mind, becoming attuned to nature, and using the forces of body and mind to react in unison, these things can be learned, in time, with proper instruction from normal Aikido practice, without inserting the religious content.

Now, if we could just see that all religions are the means for humanity to balance the mind in the face of unexplainable events, death, and a whole host of bad things we need to cope with to balance our minds, we might a grip on this religious zeal and insert some common sense to the scholarly banter.

Most of the drills, the practices of Aikido are a physical practice that can teach you how to train body to connect to mind to be used either as martial techniques or as a means of enlightenment for your life.

How complicated you want to make things depends on how complicated your problems are, and how complicated you make the means to find solutions.

I wish I could remember who said that to me.

Oh, by the way, I do believe we must return to the earth, give up our energy to the universe, and in that giving of energy it is rejoined with all the energy that came before as it is joined the energy being given by all living things, now.

In a way, it is the same as believing in a heaven, but within a more realistic sense that you are born once, in this human form, then you must give everything back to be reformed into energy and matter .... not necessarily reborn but recycled.

Energy becomes matter, then matter becomes energy, and so on, and so on.

Scientific in its means, and yet I do not dispell anyones concept of life beyond death. No one promised you would retain this form or body after death?

Enough theology.

Practice.

Look.

Listen.

Learn.

That is your job while you are alive.

Don't know why, but it certainly is.

telecino
06-21-2005, 10:07 AM
I have been studying kuji-in for a few years now, and it greatly enhanced my martial arts experience, but also my life in general. This is a sacred science that is sometimes thrown away on websites, only picturing the hand position and the quick mantra (RIN, KYO, TOH, SHA....) but i found a school that introduced me progressively and then transmited the entire ritual with some guidance and phylosophy. There is much more to kuji-in than what we see in ninja movies or anime.

There are around 3,800 schools and traditions of kuji-in, and each have their little variations according to each their own experience, and a bit of language translation after thousands of years, but the main practice is the same in all. I studied with the Dragons of Justice (the kuji-in school, not the anime characters) in Canada, but i did my contact on-line thru the web.

The physical strength, the quickness, the flowing adaptation, the awareness of the self and environment,.. are only side-effects of the real kuji-in experience. It is said that the teachers of kuji-in keep their secret intensely, but i beleive they don't have to work hard to keep it a secret, since it cannot be transmited by words. You have to learn the ritual basics, then be guided thru the experience, and then Voilà! There is a new consciousness about things, a new sight on matter, a feeling of "I am spirit within my body".

I recommend learning the kuji-in basics to anyone, and i trust my school, the Dragons of Justice, to be quite efficient at teaching it. I hope sharing my experience can bring some insight to someone.

bryce_montgomery
06-26-2005, 07:39 PM
Has the American view of religion due to the dominance of Christianity taken anything from practicing Aikido?


IMHO, I don't believe that Christianity has taken anything away from aikido...


Along the same lines, does the large-scale commercialization of martial arts detract from Aikido training?


I don't believe the commercialization of other martial arts affect aikido as a whole as much as it could some of it's students (particularly newer ones) because of the comparisons that could be given between all the MA out there and all that jazz...


Do you ever wish that your dojo was a little less religiously sterile, or do you prefer that it be more neutral?


I personally wish that my dojo spent a little more time on the spiritual side of aikido, but I understand completely why we don't. Also, I don't hold that against any member of my dojo because we try to offer our students as much information as they could ask for regarding philosophy, spiritual idealogies, and if they want it, religion.


Is it ok to traditionalize shinto religious practices so that they are acceptible to Americans, or would it be better to drop them entirely since their meaning is no longer present in many dojo?

While the practices of aikido might "offend" some practioners, I believe that those practices have been set down by the people that have taught us aikido and by that accord, are worthy of being performed and should be performed...

Bryce (posting from the buckle of the bible belt)