View Full Version : Attachment and aikido

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12-20-2002, 07:56 PM
hello all,

i am interested in the idea of how investment in one's dojo (attachment) fits together with misogi, which is the goal of using a budo (like aikido) to clear away all attachment and illusion.

you see, i train at two dojo regularly and love the experiences i am having. i take rank at only one. advantages so far: i sharpen my focus in time (stay in the present, let go of stresses and anxieties about the past and future), my observational skills, and have a wider vocabulary of movement than training at one place. disadvantages: i am not preferred uke for either sensei to demonstrate technique, and sometimes i see some hesitation to offer refinements as i am doing a slight variation on what has been shown -- whether that be due to the outside influence or due to my own imperfect execution of what was shown. i feel very much that when i train, i am a student of whoever is leading on the mat at that moment -- if i cannot give myself that completely, i am squandering the opportunity, and wasting my teacher's time. i have a great deal of faith in this path i have chosen for the long term, especially since one of my teachers' teachers commented that aikido was at risk of balkanization since O'sensei's uchi-deshi were passing on, and some groups of aikidoists felt that exclusivity fosters purity of technique. I wish to counter that perspective by the example of my training -- what if you could learn how to fit in, any dojo you visited? would that not be the ultimate expression of the power of adaptability of aikido, and overcome the eroding forces of politics on this beautiful art? of course, the short and medium term goals of this path are much harder to envision and enact...

anyway, to my question:

how much do you feel fostering the dojo community contributes to your own growth in aikido, technically and spiritually? how much does contributing to the social structure, the social system, contribute to one's own growth? one extreme i'm talking about is to become a deshi to one dojo, attend all classes at it, no outside seminars, progress very fast in rank and very quickly achieve a certain style, and be offered the opportunity to teach, and feel the social side benefits of seniority and prestige. "Success" by that definition. the other extreme is to learn from any quality teacher who'll deign to let you watch. what outcome would a teacher most want for his student? what outcome is best for aikido's long-term future? how does "loyalty" fit together with "misogi"? as we've seen with the catholic church, it doesn't always pay to implicitly trust and constantly forgive one's elders -- for either the students or the long-term health of the system. a healthy dose of skepticism keeps the system, well, healthy. so we may not be able to keep the transmission of aikido to the traditional Japanese model of teaching -- a disciple to one teacher, no questioning, complete commitment to hierarchy. or can we? should we? why should there be harsh breaks with one's teacher over something stupid? doesn't that waste all the previous investment? sometimes i really, really hate rank for forcing me to choose an affiliation, when really my day-to-day training has nothing to do with what color belt holds my gi shut, and i admire and respect my teachers both for giving me so much, albeit very different things.

i love my friends and my teachers in aikido, and am always first to help clean, fold sensei's hakama, etc -- in both dojos. if we did not have this attachment, they would see little reason to invest in us, like offering helpful comments and most of all, giving us the trust to throw them! and yet, i sense that it is this very investment in community -- tribalism -- that can lead to so many soul-draining political squabbles that are really about nothing important.

it's a wonderful thing to "grow up" with a group of fellow aikidoka up the kyu ranks and through the dan ranks. i have wondered, that hairline crack of doubt in my faith, if my aikido might not be more "efficiently" served if i let go of this insanely difficult path and chose one place to train -- then i would invest 100% of who i am into one system, and perhaps progress faster, especially since people might offer me more if they felt a 100% commitment to one place. and i have tried to do this, not training at one place for a month, to see if one dojo could be my exclusive home -- and always, i was drawn back to my path of two homes because leaving one place was like trying to cut off my left arm, a self-destructive choice that rendered me incomplete. both senseis know how i feel and are accepting of my path. i'd like to know how other senseis would react to a student like me. i will say that i have trained in aikido for a few years now and suffer from no technical confusion training at either dojo. i do what was just shown, no more, no less.

i guess i am struggling with the illusion of what "success" and "progress" mean in a path like mine. i'm trying to figure out where my illusions are -- if this path is really real, or if my innate cynicism about human nature will win out and i should just admit that all i'm doing is something that's an affront to the senseis' egos and a threat to the harmony of both dojos.

no one at either dojo has offered any criticism of my path, partly because i've been very open with my reasons why i chose it, and addressed their thoughts and questions with respect, mostly because those questions help me figure out why i'm doing what i'm doing. they're fine with what i've been doing. but it does go very crosswise to traditional japanese training. what do you all think?

Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2002, 09:18 PM
I would respond to your post by posing a question: what in your opinion are the limitations of the SHU-HA-RI view of training (as explained by, e.g., K Chiba, somewhere on the Aikido Online board)?

Having to confront your own delusions is common to both training methods you describe. Perhaps having a teacher who strives at perfection makes this process easier than relying solely on your own judgment. Nevertheless, an eminent Hombu shihan (9th dan Aikikai) once told me that, despite the social aspects of aikido, having partners, dojos, organizations, politics etc., training is essentially a solitary activity and at my present stage in training I can see what he means.

Best regards,

12-20-2002, 09:26 PM
that's very insightful peter. thanks for sharing.

but what is SHU-HA-RI training? I can't find the post you speak of.

12-20-2002, 09:27 PM
p.s. im not the original poster on this topic.

Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2002, 09:39 PM
that's very insightful peter. thanks for sharing.

but what is SHU-HA-RI training? I can't find the post you speak of.
Mr Bohler,

If you go to Aikido Online (aikidoonline.com) and choose the Archives menu, you will see an article by Chiba Sensei entitled "The Structure of SHU-HA-RI". I have just accessed the site and looked at the article. There is also an interview somewhere on the Aikido Journal board, in which Chiba Sensei discusses this.


12-21-2002, 10:24 AM
IMHO, developmentally before you can de-tach, you must have been attached. Its implied. Before you can be in(inner)dependent, you had to be (out)dependent. Before you can be open to learn, you must admit your don't know.

Until again,


12-21-2002, 11:15 AM
Thank you for your reply.

I have read this article and realize that one principle of the first stage of training mentioned is FAITH. faith in one's path, faith in one's teacher. the implication seems to be, IMHO, that unless one gives a near-deity reverence for one's teacher, one may never progress to the next stage. is my understanding correct? while i feel strongly about aikido being the right path for me, i have felt badly let down by teachers before (not just in aikido -- but my sensei is only human, and i forgave his imperfections in judgement, especially when my perspective of a pear-shaped situation that we disagreed on in the dojo was validated after i took a leave of absence) and perhaps am currently incapable of this level of faith in any teacher. part of the reason i train at two dojo now was my attempt to try to work through this issue, see if i could trust a different sensei more -- and i like and respect him just fine, but it doesn't feel anything like a total devotion described above. i feel at sea, knowing that i don't know enough to take complete responsibility for my training, but still feeling unable to feel at peace giving that kind of trust to any teacher, the way i did when i first started the art. that initial stage of beginner's mind -- i really put my faith in my sempai, unwisely so, to protect my safety so i took some (what i would consider now) to be pretty high risks to my body. but my aikido grew really fast at that stage. i took some falls better then than i do now. i know this issue of trust -- who do i trust to push my limits -- is what is holding me back. it feels like my instinct for survival is clashing with my calling on this path. and this feels like an illusion, a false choice -- my path for growth should not lead to destruction. i know that i'm a better uke and nage now, and that my risk of being hurt the way i was previously is much diminished. but once bitten, twice shy, and i don't know how to get past the defensiveness that prevents me from having twitchy connection.

this feeling shows up physically -- my breakfalls are like watching a kid on a bike with training wheels -- you can see if he has the confidence of knowing that they're attached, he never needs them; but take them off, and suddenly the kid's falling off the bike all the time. even though you and he know that the kid has no technical physical problems, psychologically there's a huge one of confidence that threatens the success of the whole experience.

to all the senseis out there: if you feel trust has been broken between you and your student, is it ever recoverable? or is that just part of the lesson for the student, that we're all fallible, and that it's the student's responsibility to find a way to trust you anyway? or is my illusion trusting so much in the first place, and trying to recover something that is best outgrown?

what i know about me right now is that i can't blithely follow any sensei without the defensive wall of constantly questioning, where am i being led? distracting me. i'm still kyu rank, i know that i don't know enough to be taking charge for my training.

has anyone else gone through this stage of finding your teacher has feet of clay and won't always do things in your own best interest (sometimes not even protecting your safety), because he's got all these other priorities too? how did you meet your own needs during this stage? how did you take your training wheels off and not fall off the bike knowing that they weren't there anymore?

Not registered
12-21-2002, 04:42 PM
If you read some of the other threads on here, especially the anonymous ones, I think you'll find no shortage of students who have become disappointed upon discovery that their sensei has clay feet.

In Christianity, I think the term for placing one's faith in, and blindly following, someone other than God is "idolatry" and it is NOT recommended. I'm not sure what the Buddhist position is - this would be useful to know, since you are concerned with attachment and illusion.