View Full Version : Poll: Do we need to study Japanese culture in order to "understand" aikido?

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AikiWeb System
11-24-2002, 01:01 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of November 24, 2002:

Do we need to study Japanese culture in order to "understand" aikido?

I don't do aikido

Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=141).

11-24-2002, 01:19 AM
I would highly reccommed studying as much of the Japanese culture as possible.

As a Westerner, raised with "Western" reasoning, approaching Aikido was similar to walking on mars. The more I learn about the culture of "The East" in general, the more I feel that I've developed as an Aikidoka and martial artist.

This is just my opinion, possibly due to the the fact that I have been blessed with some very productive encounters.

An excellent book, "The Sword and the Brush," which defines the etemology of 40+ budo terms, should quell the harshest sceptic.


Sieger (My friends call me Sieger:D)

Jeff Tibbetts
11-24-2002, 02:11 AM
I think that anytime you do anything relating to, well, anything, then you should study as much as possible about related topics© I first became interested in Japan when my brother-in-law decided to learn the language© I told him I'd learn it with him •he has a minor learning disability and I thought it'd help§ and I picked up a language book and a culture book© This is something I learned from my oldest brother, who is a classics major and knows over a dozen languages, he always said to learn a little about the culture as well as the language© Well, I can't remember which book it was, but that's only because I basically bought out the whole section at the bookstore on Japan, it's religions and history and martial arts and everything©©© I was totally hooked© The one recurring thought that I had this whole time was that much of what I read in one book would relate to something I read in another and so on, to a much greater extent than I thought it would have© After reading about all the martial arts I decided that Aikido was very much a different flower than the others, not that there's anything wrong with the others, but Aikido is certainly different© After everything I've learned about Japan, I'm still adding to it every day and I keep making those connections© There have been a few times where what I've learned on the mat has made a strong connection with something else that I've seen or read© Does anyone else have this happen?

11-24-2002, 03:25 AM
Short answer yes - shorter answer no.

I think you can go a long way just working on the physical techniques, reading selectively and picking up tid bits here and there.

There will come a point, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, that a bit more depth becomes desireable. I think to go there, you must try to understand the culture from which Aikido sprang including direct experience.

11-24-2002, 07:38 AM
I don't believe knowledge of Japanese culture is that essential to learning aikido. Knowing how the tea ceremonies work, won't make you a better martial artist.

However learning about Japanese philosophy will, IMHO, be of greater value.

11-24-2002, 08:52 AM
I've always been attracted by Japanese Culture. Though I never found a way to study it more deeply until now. Aikido has been a gate to begining study it.

I think that if you study it,and get involved with it kind of gives you a better and insightful view. Is not the same someone who studies something as an observer and someone who gets involved with what he is studing.

I believe that's not mandatory to lear from Japanese culture to study Aikido, but you're waisting most of its teachings if you don't try to see beyond the physical aspect of a technique.


:circle: :square: :triangle:

11-24-2002, 10:12 AM
Somebody told me that Ueshiba had said "Aikido is a flower that just happened to blossom in Japan". Although the way we practise it and the theory behind the way it is taught (i.e. the martial arts structure, the gi, yin-yang, ki, non-competitiveness) there is definately an eastern approach to it. Also I think it is interesting to know the background to why the art is as it is, however I voted 'no', cos I think Aikido is really about fundamental priciples within the universe and whether this is explained with mechanics, logic and biology or ki and the tao (or whatever) doesn't matter.


11-24-2002, 11:39 AM
Study aikido in order to understand aikido. Go to Japan in order to experience Japanese culture. There is more to Japan than aikido.

ze'ev erlich
11-24-2002, 03:59 PM
To Benjamin Eggert,

Understanding the spirit of tea ceremony will bring you to a better understanding of Aikido.

So as Noh, Japanese paiting, and even Japanese musical instruments.

I guess that people that don't know enough about other Japanese arts, or Japanese culture, just easily answer the recent poll with the easy answer "no"...

11-25-2002, 06:36 AM
i put no, but im with musuko and ian.

an understanding of the culture isn't so necessary as the culture has changed dramatically over the years and is still changing and evolving every day.

some idea of the way a japanese mind thinks can be very useful, but i think it was designed as a flexible and assimilative art..... just as the japanese culture has become flexible and assimilative.

11-25-2002, 10:32 AM
I answered yes.

However, I have a greater than average "understanding" of the Japanese hara than the average gaijin. There are a great many reasons that this flower bloomed where it did. While it is entirely valid to say that Aikido is based purely on principles and techniques, there is another ethereal level that is hidden there.

Hmm, how about an analogy with chess. I sit and analyze a master's game. It's quite easy nowadays to use a computer to analyze the entire game. But after studying the master, his/her life, the time the game was played, etc. you start to see deeper into the art of chess and realize that it's not just principles and tacticts, but an ART.

So, while you don't need to be Japanese to understand Aikido, understanding where it came from and the society that blossomed that flower will ultimately help in the understanding of Aikido.

Chuck Clark
11-28-2002, 11:21 AM
Simply put, there's lots more to budo than physical princples of movement and technique. We don't have to try to become Japanese, but there are definitely many things inherent in Japanese art, philosophy, and every day culture that is important to understanding budo.

I'm not saying that many of these principles are not available in other cultures, but unless you already know them they may not be recognized.

11-28-2002, 08:38 PM
Without cultural background its impossible to pratice an contextualized art.

Art is more than technique.

Yes, a shiho nage works by any name, independently of what kind of cloth you wear and language you speak.

But that is only a technique.

If we throw away the japanese language, the clothing, the etiquete, the cosmological view...we end up with something that cannot be truly called AiKiDo.

AiKiDo is a JAPANESE martial manifestation just as samba is a brazilian musical manifestation.

A russian may use the same kind of tempo and instruments and compose a beautiful music, but without the cultural background it won't be samba.

If you are in AiKiDo for the fighting techniques, to study japanese culture in order to further understand AiKiDo's context is a waste of time.

But if you see AiKiDo as more than jointlocks, i strongly advice you to delve deeper into Japan...

aubrey bannah
11-29-2002, 12:17 AM
Do you need to study in Japan to recognize that courage, fortitude, honor ETC can excist in all persons and cultures.

Aikido is about obtaining fundermental spiritual advancement and knowledge of the Universe as well as being martial training.

This is the Glory of O'Sensei's Art,

understanding Aikido is to understand the universe though the knowledge of the God's.

O'Sensei was not the only receiptent of the God's hard won knowledge, but was changed by what he was doing, and knew from where the true source for enlightment of the world comes & promoted Aikido that we all have the chance to find our way spiritually.

Where else can you come into contact with the source today?

ze'ev erlich
11-29-2002, 01:58 PM
I agree with every word Renato Alc‚ntara.