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Brendan Basone
06-19-2004, 12:45 PM
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

Don_Modesto
06-19-2004, 01:25 PM
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

An often-asked question. Do a search for more answers; mine follows.

Someone in the last few months posted to the effect that it was disrespectful to wash your belt. A more experienced practitioner responded that that must be an American tradition because the Jpn sure wash theirs.

Possibly some Americans worship when bowing. One of my epiphanies regarding Jpn tradition occured once while waiting in my dentist's office (in Tokyo). This old woman came in and...bowed toward the office. Maybe she was worshipping the cruel HA-GA-ITAI DA YO! NO KAMI. I tend to think she was just showing courtesy which is what I take bwoing in the dojo to be.

Let us know what you conclude.

Nick P.
06-19-2004, 02:36 PM
It like nodding your head when you make eye contact with someone: a sign of politeness and courtesy/respect (as Don mentioned).

Chuck Clark
06-19-2004, 03:00 PM
Thinking of my intent when taking part in reigi (both in and outside the dojo), I find: courtesy/respect/gratitude/humility. On any given day, the part that fluctuates the most is the humility, I'm sure. I do not detect any reverence or worshipful attitudes about reigi in any of the people I train with in the Jiyushinkan.

Chris Li
06-19-2004, 04:48 PM
It like nodding your head when you make eye contact with someone: a sign of politeness and courtesy/respect (as Don mentioned).

It depends where you are, I suppose. If you cross yourself when you enter a Catholic Church are you worshipping? Strictly speaking, I suppose that it depends upon what your inner mindset, but at the very least you are performing a ritual of worship. Some dojo have everyone bow to a shrine and/or perform some kind of basic Shinto ritual, some don't.

Now depending upon your religious beliefs, this may or may not be a problem. Despite what many Aikido people say about a gesture of respect, many people have problems with performing a religious ritual outside of their own religious beliefs - regardless of the mindset used when performing it. Some people's religious beliefs even include very specific limitations on what or who can be bowed to (again, regardless of the mindset when the bow occurs).

Japanese people tend to be fairly flexible about religion and religious practices. I've spoken to more than one Japanese shihan (all students of M. Ueshiba) about this, and the response was invariably along the lines of "If you don't want to bow than don't bow". I practiced at numerous dojo in Japan, and I can't imagine that kind of thing becoming a major problem - most Japanese would probably just look at it as another odd foreign quirk. Interestingly, the only people that I've run into that try to hold a really hard line about the bowing stuff were non-Japanese.

Best,

Chris

gilsinnj
06-19-2004, 10:06 PM
When bowing to the front of the dojo, you are showing respect to all the people that have practiced and taught Aikido before you. When you bow to your instructor, you are showing respect to the instructor who will be teaching you now.

Our style has tried to limit the amount of ritualistic practices that reflect may have at one point reflected O'Sensei's religious and spiritual beliefs, but now are done as dogma by people practicing Aikido. Our Sensei believes that so many Aikido schools have just adopted the practice of going through certain motions without questioning them and understanding their original purpose.

-- Jim

Charles Hill
06-19-2004, 10:37 PM
I practiced at numerous dojo in Japan, and I can't imagine that kind of thing becoming a major problem - most Japanese would probably just look at it as another odd foreign quirk.

Hi Chris,

Don`t you think that the "odd foreign quirk" becomes a major problem when the other members continue to keep that person on the outside (soto) instead of bringing him/her in (uchi)? I have seen numerous times where a non-Japanese insists on doing things her/his own way in the dojo. The Japanese seem to accept it but then they seem to not take any personal responsibility/interest in that person`s progress.

Charles Hill

Chuck Clark
06-20-2004, 12:27 AM
Hi Charles,

If the "out of step" foreigner doesn't seem motivated to get in step, just about all of the Japanese that I've known since the fifties just smile at them enough to not make any waves but don't get involved with them any further. On the contrary, many of them will go out of their way to share with and help those that have an interest in learning and have earned their respect.

Come to think of it, it's pretty much that way in the good dojo that I'm around these days. Whether in Japan or here in the US.

Chris Li
06-20-2004, 02:10 AM
Hi Chris,

Don`t you think that the "odd foreign quirk" becomes a major problem when the other members continue to keep that person on the outside (soto) instead of bringing him/her in (uchi)? I have seen numerous times where a non-Japanese insists on doing things her/his own way in the dojo. The Japanese seem to accept it but then they seem to not take any personal responsibility/interest in that person`s progress.

Charles Hill

Chuck's answer pretty much covers it, but I doubt if the behavior in question would be enough to actually get you ostracized unless you were fairly obnoxious in how you went about it. Basically speaking, foreigners usually get a lot more leeway in Japan than native Japanese do.

Best,

Chris

Charles Hill
06-20-2004, 04:26 AM
Hey guys, thanks for your replies.

In my experience, teachers and even sempai in Japan are constantly throwing out tests. They might show a little something or make a small comment and then sit back and see what the student will do with it. Most, foreigners (again, just in my experience) seem to miss this(along with a number of Japanese, as well.) I`m not talking about ostracization, but the loss of a chance to move in, as opposed to up.

At a pub recently, my teacher talked about a foreigner who used to train at the dojo. The shihan really liked him but felt that his lack of Japanese language ability caused him to amaeru too much, and this prevented him from really getting to the place where he could receive the shihan`s teaching. I feel that if something so innocent as a lack of language ability could cause this, refusing to bow would be an even bigger block.

Thanks,
Charles Hill

Chris Li
06-20-2004, 12:04 PM
Hey guys, thanks for your replies.

In my experience, teachers and even sempai in Japan are constantly throwing out tests. They might show a little something or make a small comment and then sit back and see what the student will do with it. Most, foreigners (again, just in my experience) seem to miss this(along with a number of Japanese, as well.) I`m not talking about ostracization, but the loss of a chance to move in, as opposed to up.

At a pub recently, my teacher talked about a foreigner who used to train at the dojo. The shihan really liked him but felt that his lack of Japanese language ability caused him to amaeru too much, and this prevented him from really getting to the place where he could receive the shihan`s teaching. I feel that if something so innocent as a lack of language ability could cause this, refusing to bow would be an even bigger block.

Thanks,
Charles Hill

Americans often think that not speaking Japanese is not so important, even if they live in Japan - after all, they speak English, which everyone ought to understand! Try taking on a couple of non-English speaking students who speak only, say, Swahili, and see how easy it is to teach them subtle and complex points.

I'd say that Japanese ability is the number one block at the dojo if you're training in Japan - anything else can pretty much be worked out as long as you're able to communicate.

Best,

Chris

Tharis
06-20-2004, 02:37 PM
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

IMHO....

OSensei is not a false God. He was, literally, a great teacher, not a deity.

I'm Christian, and my feeling on the whole bowing to the shomen thing is a sign of Respect, not Worship. It has nothing to do with self esteem or showing honor. It's simply an act of thanks.

The Emperor of Rome insisted upon being treated like a God. It was one of the bases of the power of the empire. OSensei may have felt he was the reincarnation of a Shinto deity, but I don't think he demanded absolute submission from anyone. He simply taught.

The bow is just a show of respect and thanks, not worship. It's not a kowtow.

A lot of it is a matter of how you see it.

Does that help?

Yours in ukemi,

Thomas

Don_Modesto
06-20-2004, 02:37 PM
Some dojo have everyone bow to a shrine and/or perform some kind of basic Shinto ritual, some don't.

After Ellis' comments about Kuroiwa, I wanted to watch him again on the 85 Expo tape. Fast-forwarding through, I saw several instructors bowing to the banner above the stage which basically said, "Friendship Demo."

SeiserL
06-20-2004, 04:35 PM
IMHO, bowing is a cultural means of showing respect.

Noel
06-20-2004, 08:48 PM
Personally, Brendan, I wouldn't get too worked up about bowing. Then again, I don't get worked up about the lawn either, and the better half, well...

Seriously though, I've known devout Muslims who will not bow, for religious reasons, and never seen anyone give them static about it.

It's also been mentioned that if you don't bow at the person/picture/whatever, that it's not worshipping, and therefore OK. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that is enough for your conscience. 'Course that's also mentioned in a book that the Yoshinkan guys tend to question the veracity of, so...

Ultimately, IMO, you have to be true to your faith. If you can sleep with the decision you choose, then you made the right one.

My cent-and-a-half,
-Noel

Paula Lydon
06-20-2004, 11:44 PM
~~Actually, I use the beginning and ending bows to clear myself as much as possible before class and to be thankful generally for the lessons I received during class. I don't see bowing in any religious sense and therefore have no conflict with it. It is, to me, a form of humble gratitude, not necessarily to any beliefe, person or philosophy~~

xuzen
06-21-2004, 12:02 AM
Dear friends,

In Iceland, you greet each other by rubbing nose...
In Most Western European countries, you greet by shaking hands...
In Arabic countries, you greet by hugging or kissing cheek to cheek...
In Indochinese countries, you greet by clapping your hands in prayer...
In Japan, you greet by bowing and since in Aikido you start the class by seiza (sitting posture) you do a rei i.e., a bowing from a sitting position.
I guess if you do want to you can shake hand with your sensei, if he doesn't mind...

Just my thought...
:D
Boon

Chris Li
06-21-2004, 02:26 AM
IMHO, bowing is a cultural means of showing respect.

It can be, or it can (in Japan or in other cultures) be a means of showing worship. It depends on where you are and how you interpret things.

In my experience the usual response to a religious concern about bowing in the dojo is to dismiss the problem by stating that the bow is just a means of showing respect. Respectfully ( :) ), because you believe it to be so doesn't meant that other people also believe the same way, or that they ought to believe the same way. In many dojo the bow and the bowing ritual are clearly connected to religious symbols and ritual. If that doesn't cause a problem for you then that's great, but for some people it's a serious religious question.

In any case, I think that in most instances a simple talk to with whoever's in charge ought to resolve things without making a mountain out of a molehill.

Best,

Chris

Brendan Basone
06-21-2004, 03:28 PM
so then i think i will now prepare by bowing to yahweh tsidkenu and by praying. yahweh is my god the almighty actively present with his people. tsidkenu is righteousness which involves only true worship and respecting and honouring people as due. then at the dojo i will explain this to the aikidoka i think it is and will enact a bow to yahweh tsidkenu with respect and honour to the right persons. a rightly divided heart. a clearer conscience.
thanks.

Magma
06-21-2004, 03:49 PM
Bowing is what you make it. However, that is a cerebral choice that you make.

The physical position of a bow is nothing. On point, look at the stretches that are in the same position - even seated stretches where you bend forward to the ground. In those cases, there is no question of if there is worship going on, because the mind has clearly made up that this is only a stretch and nothing more.

So?

When bowing to shomen and to sensei (and in greeting/leaving a training partner), it is up to the mind to determine what is going on. If you feel like you are worshiping the high wall, or OSensei or your instructor, it is because you have chosen to inject this into the physical act of bowing. If, on the other hand, you feel like you are only showing respect to those that have gone before, then you are likewise injecting *that* into the bow. Personally, I find that the latter is much more in tune with the need and call for the bow in the first place, and that is where my mind is as I approach the ritual.

Of course, belief is not a conscious, active thing. You can't choose what you believe - not and have it be sincere on a philosophical level. So, if you feel that you are worshiping in your bow, then perhaps you are. I just wanted to point out that that may be something you are bringing into the bow yourself. Maybe that helps you see things differently; maybe that helps you clarify your beliefs. However, do what is right for you.

Geoff Flather
06-27-2004, 03:55 AM
Good day to you Brendan,

If we are responsible for our own actions, then a bow is what we make it.

Or are we God`s automaton ?

I recall at no time in my experience, God requesting that I bow only to God. Only that I seek God.

The one thing we all have in common is that we all make mistakes. Do you think that our Creator would not know this ?

The word "sin," is a Phoenician word that means fall short, and is derived from an archer who falls short with his arrows.

We all do this even when we are unaware of it. Ignorance prevents us from seeing our own sin, and there are many facets of ignorance. Yet God forgives us, so why not accept such a gift of forgiveness, and get on with attempting to be the best possible person that only, you can be.

When the race is run, you may then be confronted by God, as someone who invested God`s talents, and were able to give return more, than they had been origionally given. Not one, who placed their own limitations on themselves, or allowed others insecurity or ignorance, to restrict their own effort, and will to do so. You alone will be responsible, at such a time, not others.

Please accept my thoughts on your thread, and please forgive me should I have given you the impression of being sactimonius, it was certainly not intended.

Yo-Jimbo
06-27-2004, 04:18 PM
To me it isn't a big deal either way, I bow not because I'm supposed to or have to, but because I choose to respect the tradition and the others involved. I avoid doing things that I think are wrong; people have the right to govern themselves. Hopefully, when anyone bows, they know why they are doing it. Two people could be doing it right next to each other and be doing it for different reasons. Two people could be refusing to bow right next to each other for completely different reasons.
If you can't bring yourself to bow for any reason within your conscience, please don't abandon aikido over it (typical aikido practice spends little time doing it and little hinges on it). Perhaps, some will interpret not bowing as disrespectful or closed minded, but that should only matter if it is being done to impress someone with how virtuous one is instead of placating whatever Power(s) one consigns.
Yet, I would throw out the following (which I hope would bring this eternal debate some resolution). What would you do if I told you that *insert other faith than your own here* did *insert common activity here* as a way of worship? If someone worships the Green Mother by sitting down in a chair and eating food, communes with the 8th plane by sleeping on their side or shows their respect to the inner beast by defecation (a strange sort of deification), are you ready to stop doing all these things? These are all things you can't avoid you say. These are all hypothetical you say (although I made them up, I wouldn't be surprised if people somewhere did all of these). I have to sleep, but I don't have to bow. OK, well, some Baptists have been known to do submersion in water as a form of worship (I think they call it by the same name that we Catholics do, baptism). Anyway, I'd like to see the hands of everyone that is now ready to give up bathing and swimming so that no one will think that they've gone Baptist (or Catholic, or whatever).
I guess it has always seemed to be just another of our very human hypocrisies to me. Then again if your religion/personal belief has very specific verbiage on this subject, I suggest you continue to do whatever will protect your soul/karma and not bother with permission from any other authority than the one it belongs. We humans may even achieve great things if we can just figure out to whom that authority really belongs.
Although I am trying to sound sanctimonious, I'm sure God will continue to keep me in my place (most likely by ignoring me as the insignificant nuisance I am). Though I am not worthy of wiping the dust from anyone's feet, I would still try to lift everyone upon my shoulders.

David Edwards
06-27-2004, 05:05 PM
Dear friends,

In Iceland, you greet each other by rubbing nose...

Just on a cultural matter, before addressing the main issue of this thread.... I read that, and mentioned it to an Icelandic friend of mine (having lived in Iceland all her life, yes)... who says that she's never heard or seen that, and that Icelandic people just greet by shaking hands / saying hello / etc. What weird and outlandish customs these far-out little cultures have, hey? :p

On the main issue of this thread, I'll just copy'n'paste what I wrote in the "Aikido and being a Christian" thread:

What I have mainly to offer new to this discussion: on the subject of bowing to a portrait of O Sensei (as is traditional in my own dojo, and throughout at least the three biggest associations in this country). Jesus was questioned about whether or not they, the Jews, should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asks them to bring him the coin they use to pay, and they bring him a denarius, and he asks whose portrait is on it, whose inscription. They answer "Caesar's". Thus he says to them "So give to God what is God's, and Caesar what is Caesar's"

Thus I say, give to God the respect that is due to him, and give to O Sensei the respect that is due to him. We know perfectly well that bowing in this context is a sign of respect, not worship. And if we do... All-knowing God certainly does, and understands perfectly.

David Yap
06-27-2004, 11:34 PM
Thus I say, give to God the respect that is due to him, and give to O Sensei the respect that is due to him. We know perfectly well that bowing in this context is a sign of respect, not worship. And if we do... All-knowing God certainly does, and understands perfectly.

Good post, David E

My two sen on this thread is this:

I have across some sensei who would start the class in ceremonious way, clasped their hands in silent prayer (or with incomprehensive mumblings), clapped their hands twice, then bowed to kamiza (or towards the picture of O Sensei) and then repeat the process twice more before turning around to bow to the class. The bows towards the kamiza were done by the whole class in unison. Those who would not follow the process were always frowned upon and sometimes regarded as arrogant.

I think the knife always cut both ways. Sensei who insist (that students should follow such ceremonies) are just as arrogant in the sense that they ignorant and insensitive to individuals' religious beliefs & sentiments.

As for me, bowing once is traditional (respect), more than once is worshiping. Our collective aim at the dojo primarily is just to train.

David Y

David Edwards
06-29-2004, 05:43 PM
The word "sin," is a Phoenician word that means fall short, and is derived from an archer who falls short with his arrows.

We all do this even when we are unaware of it. Ignorance prevents us from seeing our own sin, and there are many facets of ignorance. Yet God forgives us, so why not accept such a gift of forgiveness, and get on with attempting to be the best possible person that only, you can be.

Hmm... I just checked some online etymology dictionaries and encyclopaediae and things, because I recalled reading a little while ago that "sin" literally meant "disobediance". The most informative reference I found, that seems to encompass most of what I read in various other areas (including a brief mention to the Greek word for falling short often being translated as "sin" in the Bible), you might find informative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin. Don't mean to be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs here, I do realise from the "Aikido and being Christian" thread that you are a priest, and taking into account your age you're somewhat older and probably wiser than I ... just thought you might find it informative anyway :)

Seeing sin in the light you mention it does also elevate to greater importance also the humility that tends to come with regular Aikido practice (amongst other endeavours; but this trait, as a general rule, is especially notable in Aikidoka). Seeing that we all make mistakes by necessity, somewhere along the Path, and that that's ok and natural, and good as long as we acknowledge those mistakes and try to rectify them as we go along.

And in the case of religion, praying for forgiveness for our past mistakes, and guidance and help to assist us in ma1king fewer mistakes in future, is usually a strong feature too.

Roger C. Marks
06-30-2004, 07:03 AM
Having taught 'orthodox' Jews and Muslims as well as followers of a wide variety of Christian denominations (I hesitate to use the term sect which some may consider pejorative) I have come across all sorts of responses to what some of them perceive as a pagan ritual and an affront to their perception of their Deity.

In Judo, it is a requirement that you bow to your opponent before starting to practice with them and for a contest this is pretty much obligatory. A very high grade Japanese sensei refused to allow a (Muslim) prospective contestant to take part in a competition when they would not bow as he considered that this was an essential part of Judo. However, this same sensei objects to us referring to the 'high seat' as the kamiza because of the religious connotations but prefers the term joza which is an alternative reading and apparently does not have the same ritualistic implications.

ticchi
07-23-2004, 05:49 AM
I heard that you bow to the front, like you are bowing to God, this can be easily changed to the one you believe in, or not.

Anyway, i heard O Sensei wasn't of a particular religion, but was open open to all religions, why would he create a martial art with a procedure that would discriminate against people.


(sorry to repeat anything above, i didn't read the other posts)

Troy
07-23-2004, 01:02 PM
I feel that it is showing respect to O-Sensei, the art and the traditions of Japan.

bogglefreak20
07-24-2004, 04:59 AM
I bow out of respect.

And I don't mean only in the dojo. If I walk down the street and meet someone I know and have respect for I bow slightly (more of a nod with the head, maybe a slight forward motion of the upper part of my torso). That accompanied with a kind word is my personal way of greeting people (I should perhaps mention that bowing, even as slightly as I do it, is no longer a part of greeting patterns in my country - as it is not in most of Europe). For me it says: "Respect." Nothing more.

A proverb comes to mind, I think it's chinese, says: "If you bow at all, bow lowly."

Magma
08-03-2004, 06:06 PM
I think it is helpful to keep this discussion from drifting into any particular one direction of religion or dogma. That is, I don't think it helps to answer this question in terms of christianity specifically, or judaism, or luciferianism, or paganism, or buddhism, etc. If we are looking for wisdom in the answer, we should look at the system for finding the answer itself. That is why I very heartily agree with James Chye's post above.

Regardless of the faith, the physical action is separate from whatever embodiment of meaning and ritual is brought to the movement. I think it just important to realize that this baggage was brought by the student, and not necessarily intended or present there in the ritual from the beginning.

YMMV

Chris Li
08-03-2004, 07:21 PM
Regardless of the faith, the physical action is separate from whatever embodiment of meaning and ritual is brought to the movement.

I'm glad that you believe so - just realize that not everybody does.

Best,

Chris

JoHo
08-04-2004, 05:49 AM
Worship
Is the activity of worshiping
.. of ancestors (very common in Japan, Korea and so on)
.. of yourself
.. of planets or stars
and so on
bowing - bending
the head
the body
the knee
as a sign of reverence or submission or shame
in Aikido it is the respect to O´Sensei
personally i´m a strong believer but i does not have any problem to bow down and show my respect to O´Sensei and my Sensei at the beginning and on the end of each Aikido class.

regards
Horst

Chuck.Gordon
08-04-2004, 06:07 AM
Miha Sinkovec said:

... If I walk down the street and meet someone I know and have respect for I bow slightly (more of a nod with the head, maybe a slight forward motion of the upper part of my torso).

Living in a fairly conservative part of rural Bavaria, I have seen gentlemen who are being very polite, or are in formal situations, or who are simply being courtly, bow, often accompanying a handshake, but not necessarily.

When first introduced to my current landlord, he all but clicked his heels, bowed, then stepped forward to shake my hand. This despite the fact that he was covered in paint and dirt, wearing coveralls and workshoes, as he prepared the house for us to move in.

Walter's my age, mid-40s, but was raised by very traditional parents. It was entirely instinctive. I think it reflected well upon me, during that initial meeting, that I automatically returned the bow ...

I've seen similar behavior more than once, often in military and govt circles, but on the street, too.

A fine older gentleman I've seen out and about will often bow to an attractive woman passing by and say "Habe d'ire" (Bayerish for "I have the honor!" or "Honored!"). Very suave. Very classy. The women seem universally tickled by the act, too.

I cannot think that there's any argument that, to these folks, the bow is anything more than a courtly, polite gesture.

And yes, I still occasionally find myself suppressing a deep desire to bow whilst entering any given room; and did bow upon entering the local chapel for a memorial ceremony not long ago. Nobody thought much of it, though I was a bit amused at myself.

As for me, having no religious beliefs whatsoever, bowing in the dojo holds the simple meaning of polite interaction within the cultural framework of the art I practice.

I've had a couple of folks over the years seek to study with me, but who professed some angst about reiho. My answer is simple: "This is what we do. If it bothers you in any way, you don't have to do it. However, if you train with us, you should comply with the cultural imperative of the dojo, which in this case, means we bow to open and close class and bow to each other."

I do emphasize that to ME, there is no religious connotation.

One of those applicants thought it over, came to class anyway and bowed happily. Another left and sought another dojo wherein he could train under his own terms.

And again, to ME, that's what the question of bowing or not comes down to: Shall I train in XYZ dojo that requires me to adhere to the internal culture, or go to ABC dojo where they'll let me tailor my training experience as I see fit.

I believe that if we seperate the cultural experience from the training, we are decreasing the value of the art. Others disagree, but that's their perogative.

Chuck

David Brannigan
08-04-2004, 08:54 AM
I think it's pretty clear the bow is a mark of respect and shouldn't be omitted. If one doesn't like the traditions or rules-start your own club dude!

Geoff Flather
08-05-2004, 04:24 AM
Principles, beliefs, are what most people base their lives upon. Such principles that we may have before entering Aikido are enhanced, providing we give those with them a chance to do so. Those without them, will surely develop their knowledge and ability around Aikido concepts and technical knowledge.

Aikido is based on philosophic considerations and technical ability, it is not simply physical exercise, surely !
Or possibly I have been around Aikido too long.


The mortar between the bricks of conceptual Aikido belief and technical ability is -

" Tolerance and Understanding "

If you are unable to show this strength of character, first it may have to be pointed out to you, before you can gain that strength or impowerment. Normally, through the opportunity to build that ability, you may be dependant on others to do so . We need to gain strength in all manner of ways. Similar to Ueshiba Morihei Osensei. In this you may wish to show your respect. How you do so, does it matter ? A bow in the Far east, a traditional response in showing respectfulness, and is also a martial technical self defensive responce . A bow is also utilised in the Middle east and all over the World. As far as I can tell.

A " dude " ( the term used by another writer on this thread ) who has a restricted ability in any way, needs to be taught by the strong, and patient, with the wisdom of Aikido, not pushed out, by the inconsiderate student or Instructor. Who has in that action shown their inept and lack of Aikido ability. One day you may need even the weakest person in your life to enable you. This is a very old concept and one that is still true.

Thank you for reading my reply.

Magma
08-05-2004, 02:31 PM
Tim Rohr:
Regardless of the faith, the physical action is separate from whatever embodiment of meaning and ritual is brought to the movement.

Christopher Li:
I'm glad that you believe so - just realize that not everybody does.


My statement was not directed at those of a particular mind and simultaneously against any critical thought or information that might change their belief. Those sorts of people aren't interested in discussion, anyway; they're far more likely to make speeches or sermons - one sided conversations. I more address those people who are searching for an answer to this who might be ready to consider that, for example, there is a muscle-stretch position very similar to the seated bow. Should that stretch also not be performed because of the physical position the student gets into? Hardly. The difference is the mindset of the student. Does the physical position make the worship, or does the intention of the student make the worship?

Of course, there are other opinions, as you point out. I am guessing you did not understand the 'YMMV' at the end of my post, else I don't think you would have posted with such pithiness.

YMMV = 'your mileage may vary' ...a nod to the fact that others may hold other ideas.

Chris Li
08-05-2004, 03:10 PM
Of course, there are other opinions, as you point out. I am guessing you did not understand the 'YMMV' at the end of my post, else I don't think you would have posted with such pithiness.

YMMV = 'your mileage may vary' ...a nod to the fact that others may hold other ideas.

Oh, I understood it. Does that mean that I can't comment on the other parts?

My point was that your statement is typical of a commonly held view in these cases - that because I believe a certain point of view to be reasonable that other people also ought to hold that view to be reasonable. In real life, however, what happens is that other people have their own reasonably held beliefs.

Best,

Chris

Charles Hill
08-05-2004, 10:21 PM
I believe that if we seperate the cultural experience from the training, we are decreasing the value of the art.

Hi Chuck,

I agree with you on this but am wondering why you think this is?

Charles Hill

Chuck.Gordon
08-06-2004, 03:19 AM
Charles Hill said:
Hi Chuck,
I agree with you on this but am wondering why you think this is?


To me, the study of budo is more than the study of physical combatives. In fact, if you read much of the stuff that falls out of my head and fingers online here, you'll note that I espouse the idea that budo, per se, is not about fighting, not about the physical combatives, at all. The physical activity is a tool through which we learn certain principles, rather than specific actions to respond to physical violence. The principles are learnt throught he actions, and the principles are what is important ... the activities are the method of transmission. They cannot be separated and one cannot be fully learnt without the integration of the other.

If you study budo, then I believe you should be examining the root and trunk as well as the branches and leaves.

There are usually fairly specific philosophical, historical, practical and esoteric underpinnings to all the budo (in some of the syncretic or synthesized gendai arts, such as kendo, judo and iaido for example, this might muddy a bit, but not so much as it cannot be identified with some exploration -- they are still Japanese-based arts, built upon the foundations of earlier sword or jujutsu systems, in those examples) ...

If we take budo as a set of nominally combative systems derived from historic Japanese sources, then to know the budo, you must, I think, know the origins, the history, the secular and spiritual attachments (not that you have to BELIEVE them, but should aspire to understand and know how they affected development of the art and how they affect its structure and theory).

If you're practicing a budo, any budo, and not examining those things, you might be happy as a clam never knowing those things, and that is, I guess, OK for some folks.

However, I beleive that by exploring all those facets of the art you choose, that you will only enrich your expeience, and further, I beleive that only by delving into those aspect of your chosen art can you truly integrate the art and understand it at the deepest levels.

If Joe Snuffy is perfectly happy dressing up in dogi and playing adult romper room a couple hours a week, and is happy about it, without rooting around in the cellar to find out WHY he does ABC when uke does XYZ, or why you stand THIS way and not THAT way in THIS situation, or why you EI! when you thrust and HO! when you cut, fine.

I just think he's missing a lot.

And truly, at the lower levels, it's not essential to know these things ... but as we advance, if we don't explore more deeply, then we're cheating ourselves of the richness of experience that the budo offers.

In terms of what constitutes a budo, I think if you teach the physical aspects without the underpinnings and esoterica, that is becomes not-budo.

Call it wrestling, call it personal combatives, call it adult romper room. But 'budo' to me, infers a connection with and exploration of the whole of the thing and not just the external.

And therein lies the path taken when we discard bowing, trade dogi for sweats and t-shirts, ignore Japanese terminology, start mixing in things from other traditions without fully having a grasp of the original art or the add-ins.

Chuck

Magma
08-06-2004, 02:25 PM
Chris Li -

"Oh, I understood [YMMV]. Does that mean that I can't comment on the other parts?"

I quoted your entire post, save for the closing, wherein you only quoted one line of mine. What more did you wish to comment on?

Which part of my original post did you think was not covered by the YMMV comment I tagged on to the end? Which of it would you consider blatant opinion that I had not acknowledged with the YMMV? If you intended to comment on another part of my post, perhaps you should have, though I assure you it was all covered under the YMMV tag.

The point of posting here is to share these reasonable held opinions and to read other reasonably held opinions... to share knowledge and discover knowledge. To that end, I post, hoping to cause someone of a different perspective to raise questions in why they do what they do. Why, for instance, must a bow before the shomen wall be any different than respect? Be any different to bowing before working with a partner? Be any different than bowing before working with a weapon? Or, at the very least, be any different than a stretch (if the participant wished it to be so empty)?

If they still have a different opinion after I raise these questions with them, that's their prerogative.

However, not all stances are equal in all things. There is an objective truth to the question of if a person does worship by kneeling and bending over. The trick is that this is determined in the person's mind before the question is even formed. If they believe that they do, then they do. If they can get past that and believe that they do not, then they do not.

Or should we say to someone that they are indeed worshipping when they do not believe they are? Should we say to someone that they are worshipping when they type on a keyboard? When they sing? When they dance? When they close their eyes and rest? Absurd. The person answers for themselves if they are worshipping.

After all, that's their opinion.

Chris Li
08-06-2004, 03:38 PM
Absurd. The person answers for themselves if they are worshipping.

Which is exactly what I said, isn't it?

But it's not what you wrote - even allowing for the "disclaimer".


If they believe that they do, then they do. If they can get past that and believe that they do not, then they do not.

Are you saying that people ought to "get past" their religious beliefs?

Best,

Chris

Magma
08-07-2004, 03:52 PM
Sometimes, Chris, it seems the argument degenerates from the subject to being just about winning the argument itself.... about not being wrong.

"Which is exactly what I said, isn't it?

But it's not what you wrote - even allowing for the "disclaimer"."

Well, you're entitled to your opinion. You're also entitled to be wrong. It is silly that we are arguing not over the subject itself, but about whether or not we agree with the subject. I'm sorry, but finding or proving myself in agreement with you is far less important to me than the subject itself, so I will leave this discussion with you alone and not respond further.

...except for answering brazen close-mindedness or brilliant stupidity. --Not that I expect these from you, I just want to leave that door open in the off-chance that such arise.

******

"Are you saying that people ought to "get past" their religious beliefs?"

Actually, it's a far simpler explanation than whatever ill-politic connotation you want to contrive. "Get past" refers to the fact that someone without a great deal of religious belief - or, at least, religious angst over the worship question - does not normally suddenly develop a case of worry over the question of if they are worshipping by bowing. The question simply does not occur to them. Thus, the person who *does* encounter the question is the person who already has a good deal of belief (or angst), and only reconciles it be moving past the question/belief/angst. This is not a qualitative judgment or statement on my part, as you seem to take it. It is, rather, a chronological statement... that the person once had a question, but now does not.

Charles Hill
08-07-2004, 04:37 PM
And therein lies the path taken when we discard bowing, trade dogi for sweats and t-shirts, ignore Japanese terminology, start mixing in things from other traditions without fully having a grasp of the original art or the add-ins.

Chuck,

Thanks for answering. Again, I agree with everything you wrote. However, if you don't mind, I'd like to play the Devil's advocate.

Morihei Ueshiba undoubtably mixed things in from other traditions. His religious beliefs were unusual in the martial arts world of his time and are even more so now. They caused him a lot of trouble. And I think that if he were alive now and walked into a room talking the way he did, most Japanese, including most Aikido practioners, would start sniffing for the sarin gas on their way out of the room.

Would it be wrong for an Native American Aikido teacher (just for example) to ask his students to use Lakota (or whatever) equivilents that accurately conveyed what the Japanese words intended? What if he/she expressed his/her understanding of Amenomurakumo-kukisamuhara-ryuu-ookami in terms of The Great Spirit?

I pose these questions because I really don't know (although I have some ideas) and I'm interested in your or other's opinions.

Charles Hill

Dennis Hooker
08-09-2004, 11:36 AM
If you have access to the current edition of Aikido Today Magazine containing their interview with me I talk quite a bit about this subject which is near and dear to my heart. I can not repeat it here so I hope you can find an issue if you are interested in my experience and opinion on this matter of religion and Aikido.

Dennis Hooker
www.shindai.com



When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

Chuck.Gordon
08-09-2004, 01:06 PM
Charles Hill said:

Would it be wrong for an Native American Aikido teacher (just for example) to ask his students to use Lakota (or whatever) equivilents


Heck no, IF teacher and students all understand Lakota ... and as long as he or she's not overlaying a veneer of Lakota philosophy along with the language.

We use English in the dojo for most things, my friend Gri and his collegues use Greek (it's where they live and their language), Andy (despite being a Yorkshireman) and his students use German and French (they're i Freiburg). We have to inject SOME of our language and ideas, but as long as the core is intact and we're not supplanting, but rather supplementing ... then I think it's OK.

I think it's important to know the Japanese reigi, terms, etc.

Saying 'four direction throw' sounds odd, is unwieldy and misses some nuances of 'shiho nage' to me. Kote gaeshi expreses the concept tightly and succicntly, in a way that 'wrist-return' misses.


that accurately conveyed what the Japanese words


Well, there's the question, isn't it? NObody today, I'll wager, can really interpret what Ueshiba babbled about (they might re-interpret what tey hear din their own terms, but he was a very, very odd man and, at least in private, many of his closest students and family members admit to being baffled.

I believe the message is in the movement. This is not atypical of Japanese budo. Tere's an enormous aount of information encoded in the basics, it take years to decode it.

And quite often, I beleive, talk just gets in the way (says the guy who reminds himself to shut up on the mat frequently).


intended? What if he/she expressed his/her understanding of Amenomurakumo-kukisamuhara-ryuu-ookami in terms of The Great Spirit?


CAN it be expressed in lakota, or Danish or Czech? Dunno. Maybe to some degree, but unless we have some small understanding of the culture and language of the original referent, we lose some of it ...


I pose these questions because I really don't know (although I have some ideas) and I'm interested in your or other's opinions.


So, what DO yo think?

Chuck

Charles Hill
08-09-2004, 07:51 PM
as long as he or she's not overlaying a veneer of Lakota philosophy along with the language.


This was my question/point. I do think (at least for now) that if a person has a correct understanding of Aikido (meaning the philosophy and not just technique) and brings it to a student of another culture, it is possible to translate it into that second culture.

Any decisions made by the teacher as to how a class is to be run are necessarily going to cause problems as well as solve some. I think the positive points to following Japanese tradition while not in Japan are that they prepare the students' minds that something different is supposed to happen, they are to leave preconceptions behind. Also, doing things in a Japanese way might encourage students to check out the history and ideas of Aikido directly.

However, negatives exist as well. I disagree that the Japanese terms (generally) have nuances that are missing in the English. There seems to be a tendency to make what we do seem exotic which I believe detracts from the practice. And if there are nuances, I think that your average non-Japanese would not pick them up without a thorough grounding in the culture, meaning a long (years) stay in Japan.

I have also often noticed mistakes in usage. For example, I was at a seminar where an American student asked the American teacher a question. I think that this, which would never happen in Japan, was quite positive. However, the student first said "onegaeshimasu" probably thinking that it was proper in the situation. It wasn't and the reason was more than just a linguistic mistake. A Japanese would never have asked a question in the first place. It was a case of taking the Japanese thing both too far and not far enough.

It is my opinion that Japanese terms should be used mainly when an equivilent doesn't exist. "Arigato gozaimashita" doesn't convey anything that "thank you very much" misses, and is more likely to be insincere coming from a native English speaker. I'm not sure about etiquette. I've seen Chiba Sensei shake the hands of his uke after a demonstration has finished and it seemed appropriate to me.

Thanks,
Charles Hill

Huker
11-18-2004, 05:08 PM
Don't worship, just respect and honor the traditions of the dojo.

Ron Pyle
12-08-2004, 01:35 AM
In an effort to help the original poster of this thread.

Perhaps you might consider yourself an ambassador for Christ. If so, you should never ever offend anyone by walking on their cultural traditions. That is the attitude Missionaries have.

Also, bowing is just part of their cultural tradition. I think it helps me as a Christian to practice the humility, and no ego, in bowing. Showing respect where respect is due. I rather like it. Kinda wish it was part of western culture.

Also, God wants worship out of love. He's had his fill of empty respectfull patronization. Worship God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul. Love God so much that you worship him. That is the kind of worship God wants. And yes, he wants it all to himself. ;)

nmrmak
12-23-2004, 05:17 PM
Hello everyone!

I just recieved my diplomma (actually a sort of certificate) for my 6. kyu about two hours ago, and i still have that feeling. I bowed out of true respect and thankfulness to my sensei. I thanked him mentally for teaching him, and it manifested itself as a bow. It's really a great feeling when someone helps you, or teaches you, and by the smile on their face, you can see that it was a pleasure for them too. In that moment, my ego was gone.

I know that some people at my dojo 'fake' bows, and that they bow just out of habit. Maybe i am wrong, but that's just my opinion. You can't see they are giving respect, but all you see is some bow-like movement of the upper part of the body. They are bowing with their bodies, and not with their minds. Sure, that has happened to me many times, when i am thinking of something else than aikido when i am entering the dojo :blush: But upon leaving the tatami, i am really glad that it is there, as i know how it is to practice without it (especially for a beginner). I bow to the dojo, because it is giving us a place to train, it's warm inside, and we are protected from the elements. I also bow to my sensei when i feel appropriate during training. It is a sort of tradition to bow every time when sensei shows you something in your technique, but there are times when i really feel thankful for that. That's when i truly bow.

For example, we were doing uchi kaiten sankyo. There was a minor mistake in the way i took grip of uke's hand, and that rendered the whole technique useless. Uke would fall, but it would be fake, and i could feel it. I asked my sensei about the issue, and he was uke for me. He felt what i did wrong and corrected me. It was just a small misalignment of my thumb. But i was very thankful for helping me, because it removed a huge obstacle out of my way. Without it, i would be stuck at sankyo for a long time. But he took the effort, and solved my problem in just a few seconds.

I see bowing as showing respect to anything you can think of. I bowed when going to a friend's dojo as an observer. Well, if they had trainings in the open, and it was raining, i would have to watch the training soaking wet... It makes sense. Of course, i did not bow to the tatami. I have respect for it, but it would be faking, because i can't be truly thankful for it's exsitance.

Now this was my longest post ever... :D I hope i wasn't confusing, and please forgive me if i was, since english is not my native language. Our common language is that of Aikido. Let us train it to proficiency.

Nebojsa Mrmak

Qatana
12-23-2004, 06:00 PM
That was quite beautiful and I think it really captures the essence of Why we bow.
Congratulations on your 6th kyu!

JAHsattva
12-24-2004, 02:14 PM
in the art of peace Osensei says:

"bow to the universe,and it bows back.
call out the name of god,and it echos inside of you"

bowing is a sign of respect and overstanding.

either way it is up to you , what it means.

i dont think your creator will punish you for bowing.

Geoff Flather
03-03-2007, 09:05 AM
Greetings to you all,

Surely Jesus taught us to be reverent in secret, ie to pray in our inner chamber. Not to be seen to be reverent in public. In which case the class "rei" or " Sensei ni Rei " is only what you as an individual choose to make it. As a Christian it is our normal intent to be creative and in harmony. The God that I worship would not concern himself with a sign of human togetherness. It is more important that we know God, not overly concern ourselves with accepted formal outward actions. It is not how large the list of our good works are that will please God, but our knowledge of Him. As a teacher I have no quarrel with anyones choice of opening a class of martial arts. I have always allowed those who felt a need to show their expresion as their personal right. Wouldn`t any Aikido Sensei or Instructor following a path of harmony accept your personal issues on this subject ?

Geoff

Erik Calderon
03-03-2007, 11:18 PM
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

When I bow, I bow. I focus on my breathing, and exhale has I bend down. I try to focus all my breath out before I come back up. Then naturally as I come up I fill my lungs with air.

aikido shinkikan
www.shinkikan.com

Don
03-04-2007, 04:35 PM
An interesting thread.....please accept my thoughts as additive. I used to buy into the whole "yeah its just a sign of respect thing", and then my life took a few turns when I began to more seriously consider my Christian faith. (Now before you write the rest of this off as a conservative diatribe, I will assure it is not....because I don't think I am....)

I think there is a component of inner intention that is important; i.e. what is going on in your head/heart as you bow? Paul even says as much in Romans

However, assuming we are talking about Christianity or Judaism, then in fact God DID demand we have no other God's before him or bow down to any graven image (first and second commandments or first only depending on if you are protestant or Roman Catholic).

In Proverbs it is stated that as a man thinks so is he....and Jesus said where your treasure is so is your heart. Unsaid in that was that if your heart was not first in trusting God, then it was in the wrong place.

So, here we have a quandry. Intention is obviously important, however, we do have teaching which would want us to minimize if not eliminate physically bowing IF (and I think this is the important part) we are so internally invested in Aikido that it becomes the source of what we value most. Then I think, IF you care about adhering to to tennants of your faith, you may want to not bow at least to the shomen. Perhaps if you are so enamoured with your Sensei or Shihan that you think them God-like then maybe you don't bow to them. I personally haven't met any sensei, shidoin or shihan that fit that bill, so if we are wanting to bow to another human as a sign of respect, then I can go along with that. However, since O'Sensei is dead, I can't bow to him and I have started to refrain from bowing to an inanimate shomen. I also refrain from the clapping "X number of times" ritual, since that was a Shinto ritual praying to what I consider false Gods. Just feels better for me. I take as my example a very high ranking aikidoka who happens to be Muslim who even when teaching refuses to bow for the same reasons and has someone else bow in the class. I have much respect for someone who would possibly be critizied for such behavior as it goes against the group norm.

Then again it is a small thing and many won't be offended or bothered by bowing to an inanimate object.

Stanley Archacki
03-06-2007, 10:43 AM
I didn't really want to get involved in this discussion, but some of the posts on this thread drive me nuts.

First let me preface by saying that I am NOT an expert on Japanese culture, and I will not pretend to be. I do consider myself a fairly astute student of American and Western culture, though, and I will try to comment from that perspective.

I am an atheist. I could "worship" in a mosque, a church, a synagogue, and a Shinto shrine, all in one day, and I would not be sinning. I would also not be worshiping. The only consequences for me would be of my own conscience, depending on the reasons I "worshiped". I have to make this choice, for instance, when having Thanksgiving dinner and the host says grace. Or when at a funeral. Do I pretend to go along for the sake of not making waves, or do I respectfully but conspicuously not participate? Not that my beliefs matter to this discussion. I'm just trying to let people know where I stand.

I am fairly new to Aikido, and so far I have only had the wherewithal to commit to the physical aspects of training. I wonder though, for a truly committed Aikidoka, can O Sensei's teachings be applied selectively? It is unlikely that I will incorporate his religious teachings (and some of his teachings were very specifically religious). I'm simply not looking for a religion. Or, on the other hand, the study of Aikido might open me up to his religious teachings. I'm Atheist, not Agnostic, but that doesn't mean I'm closed to the possibility of personal change.

I suppose where I differ from many on this thread Is that for me the issue of religious aspects of Aikido is problematic, and not easily dismissed. Like I said above, I know much more about American culture than Japanese. What offends me is the American "smorgasbord" attitude to culture; that we can pick and choose as we find it convenient. "I study Aikido, but not the Shinto stuff, cause I'm Christian." Or whatever. Americans seem to do this with everything. Food, movies, music, religion, fashion. The world is simply our buffet, for us to chose a little of this and a little of that. This attitude seems to be behind the people who dismiss possible contradictions between religion and monotheism out of hand, saying that the bow to the shomen or kamiza is just "respect".

I don't know whether it is just respect or not. I'm not taking a stand on that, out of admitted ignorance. What if it isn't, though? What if something about Aikido, which we all love so much, requires a specific religious path to truly appreciate? That would be as devistating for me as an Atheist as it would for the many Christians on this board. I do not want a religion, and they do not want a different one. I do think it is deeply disrespectful to O Sensei to assume prima facie that his religious teachings are simply a modular appendage to Aikido, to be removed or ignored if they do not fit our sensibilities, religious or otherwise.

I do believe that there are those worthwhile pursuits which come with that stress and that demand. Some of the most worthwhile things make us choose. We can't always have our cake and eat it too. Or our flan, or our baklava or tiramisu, depending on what part of the world we wanted to eat from that night. Again, I'm not taking a stand, just requesting that we not be so quick to assume that things always happen to work out in the way we personally find them convenient.

jonreading
03-06-2007, 11:51 AM
Bowing is part of the formal culture of Japan, and part of the formal culture of Aikido. Some dojo are more formal than others, and we each may choose whether we participate in that formal culture or not. I believe that bowing is important to training and I advocate bowing in class as a show of respect and humility to your instructor and your fellow students.

Some times we make a mountain of a mole hill. Does bowing have deferential implications? Yes, bowing is a sign of deference and trust. Does bowing have implications of religion? Yes, bowing exists in religious practice. Bowing is a respectful gesture that precedes (and anticedes) aikido class. We, as practicioners, have the choice to limit the implications of the bowing gesture. Some students limit the action of bowing to a respectful gesture, some choose to include the religious overtones O'Sensei included in his training.

Each day we are presented with choices that impact our religious beliefs: The extra paper that we "borrow" from the office, the chore our parents (or spouse) asked of us left undone, the spare change that we kept and did not give to someone in need, the friendly "hello" that we held inside walking past a stranger. Each day we make decisions that contradict our religious beliefs. Some times we make a mountain of a mole hill.

Ron Tisdale
03-06-2007, 12:29 PM
Ueshiba specifically stated that one does not have to practice shinto to do aikido. Some of his top students were into zen, others were atheist, others followed Omoto Kyo...it just depended on what they found in these different paths. I believe some of the words used by Ueshiba were "aikido is not a religeon...it unifies all religeons..." or something to that effect.

Best,
Ron (say, whatever happened to the spell check...I really need that little bugger... JUN!!! :D )

Mato-san
03-07-2007, 09:34 AM
At our dojo the shomen is a painting of the kanji "kokoro" and when I bow to it at the end of a class and before I respect it in a deep way....it is kokoro basically love,heart,spirit and anything meaningful. I bow to that not any reigion. I also take to seiza to do so...some of the students (younger ones) do not regard it like this....sensei has some flex but he knows what respect is!

Josh Reyer
03-07-2007, 10:36 AM
Ueshiba specifically stated that one does not have to practice shinto to do aikido. Some of his top students were into zen, others were atheist, others followed Omoto Kyo...it just depended on what they found in these different paths. I believe some of the words used by Ueshiba were "aikido is not a religeon...it unifies all religeons..." or something to that effect.

Best,
Ron (say, whatever happened to the spell check...I really need that little bugger... JUN!!! :D )

Indeed. A rather well-known story is that of André Nocquet, the first foreign uchideshi.

[One day] I said to Ueshiba Sensei, "You are always praying, Ueshiba Sensei. Then aikido is a religion."

"No, that's not true. Aikido is never a religion, but if you are a Christian, you will be a better Christian because of aikido. If you are a Buddhist, you will be a better Buddhist."

I thought it was an amazing response. I really liked his answer. Since he was a Japanese I was afraid he would say that Christianity was nothing. Ueshiba Sensei had a great deal of respect for Christ. I was living in a four-mat room in the dojo and he would knock on the door and enter. He would sit down beside me and there was a portrait of Jesus Christ. He would place his hands together in a gesture of respect. I asked him one day if there wasn't a similarity between his prophecies and those of Christ. He answered, "Yes, because Jesus said his technique was love and I, Morihei, also say that my technique is love. Jesus created a religion, but I didn't. Aikido is an art rather than a religion. But if you practice my aikido a great deal you will be a better Christian."

Then I asked, "Sensei, should I remain a Christian?"

He replied, "Yes, absolutely. You were raised as a Christian in France. Remain a Christian."

If he had told me to stop being a Christian and become a Buddhist, I would have been lost. My heart was full of Ueshiba Sensei because he had a vision of the entire world and that we were all his children. He called me his son.

I daresay that Ueshiba would say, if you are an atheist, aikido will make you a better atheist. Overall, I think the key thing to take from aikido, the thing that makes aikido distinct (although perhaps not unique), is that it's about misogi, purification. And what needs to be washed away depends on the person. For a very psychologically minded person, this might jealousy and envy, anger at someone, insecurities and things like that. For a religious or spiritual minded person, this may include sin. I certainly think for a Christian, aikido should be a time for communing with God.

As for bowing, here's how I see it. There is a particular way of bowing: bowing twice, clapping twice and bowing once. This is a Shinto ritual, and is meant to summon the good will and protection of the relevant kami, or spirits. Doing this to kamiza, or a picture of Ueshiba is meant to summon his kami. I think it would entirely proper for a devout Christian to refrain from this ritual.

OTOH, there's the simple bow, whether standing or from seiza. This is a bow of respect, nothing more and nothing less than shaking hands. It is no more and no less than the courtly bow of gentlemen to ladies in bygone days. If someone has a problem doing this, then they should take off the keiko-gi and hakama, stop referring to their teacher as sensei, stop using Japanese names for techniques, and train in a "gym" and not a "dojo". I'm not saying they shouldn't do aikido; just that I think it's better not to play dress-up. Etiquette is an integral part of budo, and an important part of Japanese culture. I've said before that the whole of Japanese culture is not in the dojo, but in as much one calls one's practice space a "dojo", and wears traditional Japanese exercise gear, and uses traditional Japanese terms, then IMO they should at least participate in basic Japanese etiquette.

But that's me. I'm all about the idiom.

Chuck Clark
03-07-2007, 10:48 AM
Good post Josh. I agree completely.

Regards,

Mark Uttech
03-07-2007, 04:37 PM
Good post. I disagree about the "shinto ritual". The bow and the two claps are the one clap and the echo. The two claps also bring you right into the moment now. Now, if you think of it as a shinto ritual, than that is what it is for you; if you think of it as a simple ceremony for bringing you into the moment now, that is what it is for you no matter what your religious background. Aikido goes with all religions. 'Religion' itself, translates as "bringing together".

In gassho

Mark

eyrie
03-08-2007, 08:38 PM
Nice post Josh... and I agree...

Even if you believe that the act of bowing is a vestigial remnant of a socio-cultural and/or religious ritual to which you personally do not subscribe to (for whatever reason), I think it is important to establish some sort of ritual to acknowledge and delineate the start and end of practice.

So, for me, the ritual act of bowing (either standing or seated), simply marks the beginning and end of an encounter, and which sets the tone for everything in between.

And as far as I'm concerned, MA and religion are two separate things - and should be kept separate. You wouldn't practice MA in a house of religion, so why would you practice a religious rite in a MA venue? And don't confuse religion with spirituality - they're not the same thing.

The real question is, what personal "meaning" (interpretative or otherwise) do you assign/ascribe to the ritual?

OTOH, if the particular dojo in question does indeed practice some form of Shinto ritual, then either you're in the wrong place, or you should pay heed to the words of St. Ambrose...

JLRonin
03-09-2007, 01:01 AM
Aisatsu to all in this thread.
I have been a Born Again Christian for some time and have been an Aikido practitioner long before. This thread caught my interest and felt moved by the Holy Spirit to participate in Aiki.
Lets start with this:
To come to be a butterfly, the larvae has to go through some phases. From an egg, larvae, cocoon, caterpillar, butterfly.
Many of us also pass through some phases. Being worldly or spiritual. How do I know where I stand?

1. If you are larvae, your decisions are based on personal benefits.
If you are butterfly, you simply do it because.
2. The larvae does not believe or has no knowledge in/of a supreme being. A butterfly is conscientious of it's spiritualty and the existence of a creator.
3. A larvae goes by what it sees. A butterfly, by faith.
4. A larvae battles to accumulate riches. A butterfly will ask itself, What is my purpose in life?
5. The larvae complaints of how the world is. The butterfly will ask, What can I do in respect?
6. The larvae, first me, then me and last me. The butterfly likes to serve.
If you are butterfly, congratulations! If not, it does not matter. Remember, larvaes are just one step before changing into a butterfly. The transformation depends on you. The important thing is that you detect your areas of spiritual growth.

In a corespondence with a Sensei of an Aikido school that I have been practicing in, I expressed to him that I was having trouble with some of the religious aspects integrated in Aikido. His response was the following:

"As to religion, I have some comments. I am not Buddhist nor Shintoist but you have to realize that Aikido was created within a very strong religious context. O Sensei's philosophy has many religious backgrounds. You don't have to become a Shintoist but to appreciate any culture or art derived from a specific culture, you will have to immerse yourself in that environment to really appreciate it. If you see the Vatican's architecture, you can not see it only from the architectural point of view. The design itself brings the concept of how the religion tried to create an "awe" image for those people who were not educated in the middle ages. I don't mean as an insult since many religions follow this rule. Large Bhudda structures, Mosques and so forth. Power and symbols sometimes get together.

If you are truly a born again Christian and believe in the All Mighty, I think the best you can do is to show great sense of compassion and understanding for others as well. I believe that true religions are based on forgiveness and compassion, not on ignoring and disrespecting others for not believing what you believe. That is the same pricinple I have when I accept people with different interpretations of Aikido as long as it makes logical sense as a true martial art".

Since then I have come to a halt. Under lots of prayer and meditation with God and our Lord.
I agree with some of the members of this thread when they say that if your not in the same mindset, you are segregated to a degree.
I don't think you have to immerse yourself into something in order to appreciate it.
I love Aikido and practice it for health, mental and spiritual reasons.
So now I'm inclined to and considering opening a Christian based Aikido dojo that would be soly for the purpose of enjoyment and heath without affiliation, if it's Gods Will.

It really comes down to your personal beliefs and convictions.

Mr. Basone, I hope this small contribution to this thread could help and be of some insight.

God Bless you all.

Exodus 20.3-6, 1 Peter 3.8-20.

Mark Uttech
03-09-2007, 04:48 AM
In a Buddhist article, I read that when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, the last act of transformation is when the caterpillar's head explodes.
Something does happen to us and things go on from there.

In gassho

Mark

Mike Galante
03-09-2007, 11:26 AM
in the art of peace Osensei says:

"bow to the universe,and it bows back.
call out the name of god,and it echos inside of you"

bowing is a sign of respect and overstanding.

either way it is up to you , what it means.

i dont think your creator will punish you for bowing.

Beautifully put, Jason.

Here's me 02: I wasn't going to post on this thread, but the more I think about it... It seems to me that bowing is as deep as you want it to be (pun intended). For me, it is acknowledgement of the divine in what/whom you are bowing to. For those of you who do not believe in a divine, or universal spirit, sorry.

But to me, O Sensei knew what he was talking about, Aikido, KI is the unseen manifestation of spirit in harmony with the universal. IMHO even those who deny the existence of a higher power, who practice, are seeking it even though they do not know it. Otherwise, you cannot capture the essence of Aikido. It will elude you. Your movements will be conditioned reflexes, responding to situational, positional, emotional cues, which will always seem like they are a complex choreography.
One who can appreciate art, instantly recognizes this vs a real flow of Ueshibas Aikido.

Uke knows. Uke will feel it. He will not feel tricked, or duped.
It will not reduce his desire to attack. It will inflame his sense of revenge, get him angry, etc.

If not real Aikido, he will be stimulated to attack again, because he was fooled by clever, choreographed movements, but no love, no compassion. (extreme examples)

All this fuss about bowing, get out of your head, get humble, go with the flow set by Ueshiba and you will be happier for it.

Ueshiba is a living spirit, why not bow to his spirit? He is the father of us all, MA wise. His wisdom is dictating how we act (at least on the mat). Doesn't this deserve the respect of a little bow?

God bless you all.

mwible
03-09-2007, 06:00 PM
my bow is more of a feeling of respect and thankfulness for aikido, and the training i have recieved, both from its founder and my branches head, and from my sensei. its not at all a worship for me, im just showing my gratitude.:cool:

Mike Galante
03-09-2007, 08:49 PM
Perfect!

barry.clemons
03-10-2007, 11:55 PM
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

My dojo makes no mention of worship. For me, bowing in Aikido is no different than bowing in Karate. It's a small piece of the culture that originated those two MA being kept alive; paying respect Taking it a step further; I bow to senior students, instructors, and head instructor. I bow when I walk into the Dojo. I bow when I step on and off the mat. We don't think twice about that; bowing to O'Sensei is no different. For me, it doesn't go any further than that.

In the military, I call every officer Sir or Ma'am depending on gender, and I pop a salute whenever I'm in uniform and I see one outdoors; for us it is called Customs and Courtesies.

Hope that makes sense.

Erick Mead
03-12-2007, 10:10 PM
... then my life took a few turns when I began to more seriously consider my Christian faith. ...
I think there is a component of inner intention that is important; i.e. what is going on in your head/heart as you bow? ... IF you care about adhering to to tennants of your faith, you may want to not bow at least to the shomen. Or perhaps to reconsider the sginificance of the act -- consider this of O Sensei's Doka which speaks of "jujido" -- the Way of the Cross Sign. Interpret it how you will. Me personally, I follow St. Jerome and see semina verbi:

天 地 の
精 魂 凝りて
十 字 道
世 界 和 楽 の
むすぶ 浮橋

Ametsuchi no
seikon korite
jujido
sekai waraku no
musubu ukihashi.

The spiritual essence
of heaven and earth
congeals as the cross of our Path.
The peace and happiness of the world
is linked to Heaven's Floating Bridge.

(Tr. John Stephens)

billybob
03-14-2007, 11:17 AM
Our existence is inherently self contradictory.

Are we animals playing at being godly, or are we gods who forgot ourselves?

The symbols of the cross, yin/yang, one pyramid stacked on another at the points (infinity compressed and refocused) all do a nice job of nonverbally representing the contradictions.

If you don't perceive any contradictions - lucky you!

david

billybob
03-16-2007, 08:48 AM
Hi,

I didn't mean to kill this conversation or be off-topic. Erick always makes me think.

When I first started martial training the oldest member of the dojo was a deacon in the local Catholic Church, and the senior student was in seminary. I expressed great indignation and self righteousness over having to bow - as only a fourteen year old can!

They told me who they were, and that bowing was respect, not reverence or worship. Worship was not for another human being; but respect was appropriate.

David

Tony Wagstaffe
03-16-2007, 10:48 AM
I do not think of a bow as worship but more as a sign of respect for your fellow player that is.... I will respect your body and I expect you to do the same! The rei at beginning and end of training is a to me a formal greeting and goodbye and also a form of respect from teacher to his students and vice versa
Tony

Erick Mead
03-16-2007, 01:03 PM
Our existence is inherently self contradictory.

Are we animals playing at being godly, or are we gods who forgot ourselves?

The symbols of the cross, yin/yang, one pyramid stacked on another at the points (infinity compressed and refocused) all do a nice job of nonverbally representing the contradictions.

If you don't perceive any contradictions - lucky you!

davidFundamentally, I believe in a sign of contradiction. Those who so believe, may see more clearly what is actually contradicted, and thereby, not be so easily bound by the (very) real contradictions that they perceive, but to surpass each set of contradictions in turn, seeking a real truth that they only dimly reveal, and which is always beyond them.

This recurrent debate (and objection) is one that is a sign of loss of some basic knowledge about Western traditions.

Dulia is a Greek word in theology that is distinguished from latria. Latria is "worship" given only to God. Dulia, on the other hand, is appropriate to any human being, alive or dead (typically dead), or even worthy inanimate objects. In Classical Latin the term was "servitus." In Classical times that usage elided the distinction made by dulia/latria in Greek. Orthodox theology holds the two are differnet in kind and not in degree. distinction. As early as St. Augustine the two concepts were distinguished. Early Christians failing to render "servitus" to the emperor, for example, were the similarly the cause of much controversy, which may have been as much linguisitic as it was political. It is also partly the reason why the need to distnguish them was more than a matter of mere academic debate.

The most closely related words in English to dulia are veneration or homage.

Dulia or homage can properly be given, in various forms of observance to political superiors, objects of great beauty and reverence, or people of superiror quality, living or dead. All of these are typical of Japanese observances toward kami of various types (including, ironically enough, the Emperor.)

What is done in the dojo is homage paid and nothing more, and need cause no other concern.

billybob
03-16-2007, 02:20 PM
Thanks Erick. I had to look up 'elided', but I understood everything else you said.

Language is a net we cast over the world to make sense of it - sometimes we get tangled in the net. You have mastered language as few others I know.

I enjoy finding the holes in the net and exploiting them - and enjoy when you pull the net tight and teach me a lesson.

Your friend and fellow student,

David

Carlos Rivera
03-17-2007, 08:29 PM
Bowing is just that, a sign of respect. We each put into bowing our own meaning or significance. For some people, it may mean something different than for me, and I do not demean them or pontificate about superiority/inferiority in one way or another. We each have our own experience and socio-cultural filters that we apply to everything around us.

Perhaps "making a mountain out of a mole hill" is what drives some people over the edge of reason, and sometimes we are all guilty of spending too much time just thinking.

I spent time as uchideshi in Iwama, Japan and we bowed as a sign of respect. You respect the culture of the country in which you are living at the moment, you respect your training partner, your Sensei, and others around you. Heck, we would be riding our bikes to the dojo and the old lady working in her garden would see us go by and bow. We would bow our heads back to her (and keep an eye on the road). We'd be sweeping the dojo steps, and the guy jogging down the road would run by and bow his head, and we would bow back. The school children would go by on their way to school, see us working around the dojo and bow, so we'd bow back. Mondai nai.

At the dojo we would start class with seiza, clap, bow to the shomen, then bow to the Sensei. No religion involved, and we never felt threatened by any of this at any moment. Sure, we were gaijin but never "baka gaijin," because we chose to be aware of the moment and respect those around us. It's a two way street.

I have lived in places in Central America and the Caribbean where shaking hands is the order of business 24/7, even if you have seen your friend 5 minutes ago. You shake hands as a sign of respect, or to seal a deal, or even to say hello. It's part of the culture, you meet your friends and shake hands with the men and give the women a peck on the cheek. No fuss involved, no ritual, no religion, it's just a social custom.

So, IMHO we need to acknowledge that everyone will get something different from all this bowing business. If you start digging for reasons, of course everyone will have a different take on the issue. Go ask an anthropologist, go ask a doctor in theology, or just go ask the average joe (not an average jo, please) and you will get different opinions or reasons. For me, a bow is a bow, is a bow.

And with that, I bow out.

billybob
03-18-2007, 02:36 PM
Carlos,

Thanks for that excellent contribution. Helps me a lot.

david

JLRonin
03-24-2007, 04:05 PM
I'm with you Mr. McConnell. And share your faith. Thank you for your post.
O'Sensei said that Aikido is for everyone. It doesn't mean that you have to immerse yourself in the religious aspects, adhere to rituals or impositions of an org, dojo, etc.
I'll stick to my own kind, personally for my own PEACE of MIND. To EACH his own.
God Bless you ALL.

Khalid Williams
03-31-2007, 12:27 PM
Part of respecting other people's cultures is respecting their right to opt out of certain rituals; it works both ways. I can't really imagine that someone who has chosen to practice the 'Art of Peace' could be offended by someone else choosing to prioritise their religious beliefs above certain aspects of their martial training. Declining to bow out of deference to a religious belief is not disrespectful to Aikido or its founder; it is simply being respectful to one's own religion, which is perfectly consistent with Aikido's philosophy - it does not require from anyone that give up their religion and become a Shintoist or anything else.

Here in Morocco, everyone I train with is Muslim except our Sensei who is Japanese. We do not perform the full seated bow (which brings the forehead almost to the ground) because this is part of our prayer, which we reserve for God. Instead, we perform a kind of 'half-bow', leaning forward on our hands slightly. When standing, we bow to our partners in the normal way (Islamic bowing is much deeper, with the back at a right angle with the legs, so there's no issue). Our Sensei, being Japanese, bows (when sitting) in the usual Japanese way, and has no problem with our bows being different from his. This is a reflection of the tolerant culture from which he comes. It is not intolerance which prevents us from bowing exactly as he does, but rather religious conviction. Intolerance would be for us to prevent him from following his own religion and customs. It is not intolerant to make a personal choice; rather intolerance is preventing someone else from doing so.

Our Sensei, when greeting us off the mat, shakes our hands and says 'salam aleikum'. Nobody asked him to do it; he is simply trying to join in with the traditions of the country in which he is living. It cannot be said: 'if he joins in with your traditions, why do you not join in with his?', because shaking hands and saying the salam is not an intrinsic part of Shintoism, to be offered only as a religious act of worship, never to a human being. It is not a part of Japanese culture at all, one way or another. As for the full bow, it crosses over into both cultures, Japanese and Islamic, and therefore has deep meaning in both. Representatives of each of these cultures should be allowed to act in accordance with this without being accused of being disrespectful.

To attempt to make further analogy, and suggest that 'if bowing is left, surely the dojo, the gi, the hakama, the terminology etc must be left too', is illogical. Why? Because these other elements are purely Japanese, there is no shared culture which could lead to problems of this nature. The bow is not particular to Japan; it has Judeo-Christian-Islamic connotations and significance, and therefore there must be allowances made for people of those traditions to adhere to their cultures' interpretation of it. This is not disrespectful; rather, the opposite. It shows respect for the culture one has chosen to explore without compromising one's own deeply-held beliefs. This is a basic human right which I do not believe O-Sensei, or any other man of intellect, would expect anyone to forfeit.

Josh Reyer
03-31-2007, 06:03 PM
To attempt to make further analogy, and suggest that 'if bowing is left, surely the dojo, the gi, the hakama, the terminology etc must be left too', is illogical. Why? Because these other elements are purely Japanese, there is no shared culture which could lead to problems of this nature. The bow is not particular to Japan; it has Judeo-Christian-Islamic connotations and significance, and therefore there must be allowances made for people of those traditions to adhere to their cultures' interpretation of it.
Let me put it this way. A keiko-gi is, in the end, a training suit. Functionally, it's not different from a sweatsuit. All other cultures have such suits, of various fabrics and weaves, but of the same function. Hakama are simply pants, which we have in western cultures as well. The terminology are simply words. Very simple, very pragmatic descriptions of the technique. To a Japanese person, "Shomenuchi irimi-nage" simply means "Frontal strike entering throw".

Likewise, the bowing is Japanese as well. A keiko-gi and hakama is a choice. One chooses to wear Japanese style clothing instead of other cultural clothing that would suffice just as well. The terminology is a choice. One chooses to say the words in Japanese rather than perfectly acceptable translations that would actually impart the meaning even clearer than the Japanese does. And likewise the bowing is choice. One chooses to bow in the Japanese manner (like using Japanese clothing and Japanese words), or one chooses to bow in one's own cultural manner.

At heart, I imagine this is a fundamental difference of conception. In my opinion, the physical act is essentially empty. One does the same movements in order to look under a couch. What makes the bow meaningful in any way is what mental and spiritual intention the bower puts into it. If you're thinking about the electric bill when you bow, it's not a proper bow to God, even if you do it in a church, synagogue or mosque. Mental and spiritual intention make a bow to God different from looking under the couch, different from tripping and falling prostrate on one's knees, different from a back stretch, and different from a bow in the dojo of a Japanese art, wearing Japanese clothes, and using Japanese words.

In both western culture and Japanese culture there is a gesture wherein a person, holds their hand out to another person, palm down, fingers slightly curled, and then repeatedly moved back and forth. In American and English culture, this means, "Shoo, go away." In Japanese culture it means "Come here." When and where does it mean which? Whichever context it's done in.

In both western culture and Japanese culture, there is a gesture where a person waves their hand back and forth in front of their nose. In America, this means "Yuck, something stinks." In Japan, it means "No." When and where does it mean which? Context.

In both western and Japanese culture, there is a gesture where a person spreads their fingers out, and then makes a circle with the forefinger and the thumb. In America this means "OK". In South America, it's a vulgar insult. In Japan, it represents money. When and where does it mean which? Context.

Lari Hammarberg
01-15-2011, 08:35 AM
Bump!

No human who is master of oneself, needs any worship.. To bow, for me, is to show my respect and gratefulness for the teachings. It's sort of a way to direct my positive intent to one i'm bowing to. Be it Osensei or some of my sempais or a fellow beginner or friend, it's respect and thanks without words. =) I like the tradition of bowing to people, western people should adopt this to their daily lives i think. It seems that people get the idea when bowing in every situation, no words neede. Humble bow speaks same language everywhere.

lbb
01-16-2011, 05:45 PM
Very old thread, Lari. If you read it all (which is worth doing when commenting on an old thread), you'll see that there is a diversity of opinion here, and that (as with just about anything else) no matter how sensible our own view of an action's significance may seem to us, there will always be other people who (with equal conviction) see it otherwise.

Lari Hammarberg
01-16-2011, 06:32 PM
So what? Can't i bumb an old thread by saying what i think? =) I bet there's people here who have not read this yet... And ofcourse there's always people who see things differently, that's what makes life interesting.

lbb
01-16-2011, 06:35 PM
You said, "western people should adopt this to their daily lives i think". I think the comments already posted in this thread give some insight into why some people aren't about to do this.

Lari Hammarberg
01-16-2011, 06:49 PM
You're probably right. Well, it's just my opinion once again. I'm not trying to force any ideas to anybody...

SteveTrinkle
01-17-2011, 12:26 PM
I sort of like this wording/definition of 'worship' by Evelyn Underhill:

"The adoring acknowledgment of all that lies beyond us—the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their Creator, to the Eternal Reality from which they came forth; to God, however they may think of Him or recognize Him, and whether He be realized through religion, through nature, through history, through science, art, or human life and character."

TreyPrice
01-19-2011, 07:26 AM
Bowing is bowing - worship is in the heart. It's like thinking to your self about something verses saying a prayer - they are two very different things.

Peace be with you-

Dazzler
01-19-2011, 07:41 AM
So what? Can't i bumb an old thread by saying what i think? =) I bet there's people here who have not read this yet... And ofcourse there's always people who see things differently, that's what makes life interesting.

Since theres another thread discussing "Kamiza" then its quite topical to 'bump' this one.

OwlMatt
01-19-2011, 10:12 AM
Rather than trying to respond to four pages of an old thread, I'll just reply to the original topic.

Personally, I bow to O Sensei to show him respect and give him thanks, in the same way that I bow to my sensei. It is not an act of worship. As a religious person, I reserve my worship and veneration for the divine. O Sensei, great man that he was, was only human.