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senshincenter
03-05-2005, 05:46 PM
What is mandatory for Aikido? What is it that we simply cannot do without? What thing or aspect, if it is absent, forces us to be unable to say, We do Aikido?

We can debate about technique, but if we our technique is void of aiki (i.e. harmonizing yin and yang, blending, non-resistance, utilizing opposing energies for own purposes, etc.), or if we outright say that we seek not to harmonize yin and yang, not to blend, not to employ non-resistance, not to utilize opposing energies for own purposes, etc., can we still say we are doing Aikido? I would say, no. What do you all think?

Equally, can we not be concerned about Aikidos spiritual elements? Again, we can debate over what spirit might mean, and/or we can debate over the primacy and/or the percentage of training time that we should commit to spiritual matters vs. martial matters, or we can even debate over the position that there is no vs. about it, etc. However, can we still say we do Aikido when we neither possess nor opt to seek to possess a cultivated state wherein we see a union of all things, where we understand that the spirit of Man as his/her most valuable aspect, where we experience a brotherhood of Man, where there is some sense of the Divine and/or some Great Center to everything and everyone? Can we still be doing Aikido when we have no relationship between our hope, our faith, ourselves, and some sort of moral experience that we are suppose to share socially? Again, I would say, no. What do you all think?

If I were to press the issue and ask myself what then is one doing in such cases, I would answer the following: In the first case, one merely attempting to fight and/or defend themselves crudely where their chances for victory are greatly dependent upon them being stronger than their opponent and/or lucky. In the second case, I would say one is just practicing the same thing as in the first case. I say this because I feel that Osensei had a reason, a very good one, a very practical one, for equating the tactical application of aiki with the spiritual exploration of aiki. What do you all think? What do you get when you leave out these things, if you want to say that it would not be Aikido?


dmv

Rupert Atkinson
03-05-2005, 06:29 PM
I now see Aikido as The Way of Aiki, over and above The Way of Harmony or whatever else someone wants it to be. So, no aiki, no Aikido, in my opinion. Which begs the question - what is aiki :)

Mike Sigman
03-05-2005, 07:15 PM
So, no aiki, no Aikido, in my opinion. Which begs the question - what is aiki :)Which brings to mind a question from me.... "what is Aiki, Rupert?" :p

Mike

NagaBaba
03-05-2005, 08:42 PM
I'll leave for our new age buddies all stories about energies, yin and yang, etc.

It is as always very simple: effectives physical techniques done with compassion for attacker.

Yokaze
03-05-2005, 08:45 PM
Ahh, an immortal question.

It refers to an even older and more frequently asked question: What is aikido?

I've asked dozens instructors this question and gotten dozens of very different answers. Each answer gave me another facet of this wonderfully complex concept. My favorite answer is from my sensei, Dennis Tatoian, who looked at me and made a kokyu motion with his hand and wrist.

So my conclusion is this: Aikido, like any other concept, is what you want it to be. It is what you believe in. I believe that the concept of striking to gain control is against my concept of Aikido. The founder, however, made excellent use of Atemi and many instructors today claim that it is an integral part of awase technique.

The point is, if you want to make Aikido your religion, I say that is wonderful. If you want to believe that humans have no spirit, and you are in this purely for physical training, then I say have fun and train your body, while you have one to train with! Practice of Aikido has urged me into the path of a devout pacifist. I don't even kill bugs anymore unless I have to. Yet I say that my beliefs make me no more a follower of Aiki-budo than anyone else.

The beliefs and philosophies behind Aikido are as numerous as the people who practice. We know what that founder believed, but since his death his art has grown and evolved.

The meaning of Aikido, like the meaning of life, is subjective. To say one person isn't practicing Aikido because they don't believe in certain aspects of the philosophy would be an act of religious discrimination.

So, to each his or her own!

Just my thoughts. ^_^ Thanks for asking this question, it has helped me to think more clearly on my own beliefs. That, is the point, after all, right?

senshincenter
03-05-2005, 08:50 PM
Rupert,

Or, if we can't or don't want to say what "aiki" is, perhaps, for this thread, it would be better to say what an example of not having "aiki" may be - please/thanks (just to keep the thread going). As for me, I think you can pull out what I would say "aiki" is and why it has to be part of Aikido. Plus, I too agree with your understanding - "The Way of Aiki" over "The Way of Harmony."


I'll leave for our new age buddies all stories about energies, yin and yang, etc.

It is as always very simple: effectives physical techniques done with compassion for attacker.

Wow - for my money this may be a lot more "esoteric" and/or harder to pin down than any other kind of religious/mystical term. To have compassion in the midst of violence - and though I would agree - wow - talk about a hard thing to pin down, let alone cultivate. It still opens the door for non-blending tactics though - wouldn't you say? Can non-blending tactics that are effective and done with compassion be Aikido? Are some of Karate's more identifying tactics then Aikido, as long as they are effective and the practitioner has compassion in their heart while doing them? Can Karate be Aikido?

Thanks in advance for replying,
d

senshincenter
03-05-2005, 09:12 PM
Perhaps it may amount to the same question, but it is not unusual that we may gain more insight by posing things in the negative. A lot of traditions do this very thing when they want to speak of something that is both particular and universal - which is something I would say about Aikido. So would you say that when a person is not open to all interpretations of Aikido, then you would not have Aikido? Or is that just still more of the same for you - the wrong thing to ask or say? If so, why? (assuming I can ask).



So my conclusion is this: Aikido, like any other concept, is what you want it to be. It is what you believe in.

In your quote - see above - is this not too much of an open door? Basically, your position posits that anything can be Aikido. Such that, using the examples thus far, I could do without "aiki" and make use of ineffective technique while I am harboring destructive views in my heart/mind - is that Aikido (simply because I want it to be)?

I agree with your position that there are numerous expressions in Aikido - but it seems a jump in logic to go from there to saying that anything can be Aikido or that the definition of Aikido is at best always limited to the subjective. After all, a position that says that there is still some objectivity to what Aikido is and/or is not still allows for multiple views - only those views are broken down into degrees of correct and incorrect - not ALL CORRECT or ACCURATE. Why should we jump from the multiplicity of Aikido's expression to saying that we are dealing with an entirely subjective matter?

Out of curiosity, out of any of the instructors you asked, did any others say, "It's whatever you want it to be?"

I'm wondering, and this is for everyone, should we not be able to define the art we practice as part of our maturity in that art? Should we not be able to tell it apart from other things that we sense it is not or can never be? I would say "yes," and I'm not so sure that leaving things at a purely subjective level can allow for this to happen.

Thanks in advance for the reply,
d

Mike Sigman
03-05-2005, 09:41 PM
I've asked dozens instructors this question and gotten dozens of very different answers. Each answer gave me another facet of this wonderfully complex concept. My favorite answer is from my sensei, Dennis Tatoian, who looked at me and made a kokyu motion with his hand and wrist. Out of curiosity, why is that your favorite and how is it an answer, other than as an existential non-sequitur reminiscent of Zen "enlightenment" anecdotes? :) So my conclusion is this: Aikido, like any other concept, is what you want it to be. It is what you believe in. I believe that the concept of striking to gain control is against my concept of Aikido. The founder, however, made excellent use of Atemi and many instructors today claim that it is an integral part of awase technique.This is really an interesting thought. Morihei Ueshiba founded a martial style cum philosophy and called it Aikido. It contained certain elements. You practice something different. Why do you use the name of his style instead of making up another name?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
03-05-2005, 09:59 PM
What is mandatory for Aikido? What is it that we simply cannot do without? What thing or aspect, if it is absent, forces us to be unable to say, "We do Aikido?"

We can debate about technique, but if we our technique is void of "aiki" (i.e. harmonizing yin and yang, blending, non-resistance, utilizing opposing energies for own purposes, etc.), or if we outright say that we seek not to harmonize yin and yang, not to blend, not to employ non-resistance, not to utilize opposing energies for own purposes, etc., can we still say we are doing Aikido? I would say, "no." What do you all think? I have a question about "non-resistance". Do you not believe in opposing a force as part of Aikido? Here's Gozo Shioda's comments about this area of "harmony":

Whether it is blending with your partner when he comes to grab you or strike you or, alternatively, striking him, whatever you do, timing is what gives it life. If your timing is late, you will be crowded out by uke; if you are too early, uke will see your movement and change his attack. You should apply your technique exactly at the moment that he commits himself to the attack -- this is proper timing.

Utilizing that split second is what is called "harmonizing". It would be correct to say that in aikido all techniques begin from this idea of "harmonizing".

So my question is whether you agree that resisting a force can also be "harmonizing" and "blending"?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

senshincenter
03-05-2005, 11:01 PM
Hi Mike,

Thanks for the question. It is very interesting.

Let's see... I would say that the way I understand "harmony" has to do with establishing the proper relationship between yin and yang. In that sense, I would say that, yes, resistance has to be understood as part of harmony. Here are my two reasons why: 1. Yin and Yang must cover the entire spectrum of reality - resistance is part of reality - hence, if harmony is the proper corresponding of yin and yang, then at some level and to some degree, harmony may or will entail resistance; and 2. Each aspect of Yin and Yang always has some aspect of the other - therefore, even when I am NOT resisting, even when I am yielding, I am to some degree in possession of resistance.

Real examples of these two points could be the following:

1. Many Aikido waza make use of a fulcrum. Many simply believe the fulcrum to be an innate reality. However, the fulcrum in most cases is dependent upon the lever for it to act like a fulcrum. The lever itself is equally dependent upon the fulcrum, as it is equally dependent upon its own rigidity and/or its resistance to losing its shape as a lever. By this reasoning, whereas a lot of folks think that Aikido waza do not work and/or are difficult to get to work when an uke or an attacker is being resistant, since their body and/or a part of their body is often the lever in an Aikido waza, I would put forth that Aikido waza actually need resistance in the attacker in order to function as designed especially in the cases where a fulcrum is used. If you can imagine a see-saw. It has a fulcrum and a lever. The resistance of the lever allows the fulcrum to function which together allows the seesaw to see-saw. If by a miracle the lever of the seesaw would turn into a liquid, losing its resistance, the fulcrum would lose its capacity to function, and thus its nature, and nothing would see-saw. What we see when an Aikido waza is thwarted by resistance is not the antithesis of harmony but rather a failure on the part of the practitioner to place the fulcrum of the waza in relation to the resistance of the correct lever, which thus allows it (the fulcrum) to serve its purpose. For the fulcrum and lever to function in harmony with each other, resistance is not only wanted, it is mandatory.

2. Yin tactics must remain tactics that is to say, in most cases, Yin movements must possess a degree of structural integrity in their architecture. Resistance brings about this integrity. For example, when I am stepping back with Ushiro Tenkan, if I do not in some way resist the inertia that is traveling in reverse, and should my opponent continue his/her attack that pressed me to find harmony in going backwards, my step backwards (even if it is off the Line of Attack) will only work to further increase the momentum of my opponents aggressive action, and thus I have only delayed the inevitable: being tactically overwhelmed. In other words, I cannot just go backwards, I cannot just go limp, and I cannot just retreat. I cannot yield 100%. I must have structural integrity to my movement and my architecture, such that even when I go backwards, I am still forward in my orientation. Resistance is what allows this to happen even though I am in a Yin tactic.

Yes, resistance is a part of Harmony.

Thanks,
david

Charlie
03-05-2005, 11:45 PM
If ya'll don't mind...in response to this thread I am posting a response that I made in a Yoshinkan group regarding Aikido and fighting. I think it is some what related to this topic

Charlie



From: charles burmeister <chuchucharlie@...>
Date: Tue Mar 1, 2005 6:10 pm
Subject: Re: Aikido in a fight


Sorry, this post is long!

I find this topic amusing in many respects. It seems that the majority of people responding to this topic have not been in an altercation since studying Aikido and or have never been in a altercation in their whole lives! I know that all the posters do not fall in this category, but there seems to be a lack of actual brawling experience...that is a good thing.

I have been in two "fights" since starting Aikido (Since I have discussed these situations previously with my sensei I don't think that they will cause him any embarrassment).

The first was when I was a lowly white belt and just started studying in Yokosuka, Japan. For those that don't know, Yokosuka houses a U.S. and Japanese Naval base. I am a former Marine from Chicago and at the time I was a civilian working for the Dept. of Defense. Most sailors had a certain amount of disdain for me for several reasons but mostly because I could come and go as I please, grow my hair any length, could halfway speak the language and..I was a former Marine. You could probably add quick wit and sharp tongue to that list as well ; )

Anyway, of course I found myself in a situation out on the "honch" (the bar district directly adjacent to the base). A disagreement between me and a sailor escalated and we decided to take it outside. As soon as I stepped out of that bar and went off to the sacred battle ground to quell this peasant uprising, I stopped applying Aikido. We all say that Aikido is not the techniques themselves but what we learn from the techniques, right? I disregarded any other avenues of approach I may have had and settled on what should have only been "my last resort". That is..to fight.

What started as a fight between me and one person quickly turned into me and 3 angry sailors! Now, I'm only a lowly white belt right? I definitely don't have techniques to fall back on other than street fighting from growing up in Chicago and Marine Corps training. I did have one other thing going for me as well...kihon dosa and atemi. I had a strong enough foundation at the time to be able to keep moving and not have my balance taken from me.....for a while! By
the time they got me off my feet, they where too tired to do any damage. They actually walked away looking the worst. However, I felt defeated...I lost control of the most important thing...me.

Just when you think you have learned a lesson, right...My second altercation! Now I am a Ni dan! Same "Honch", same bar, similar scenario. This time the sailors are from a visiting tender ship (repair ship). In my experience these ships, along with aircraft carriers, are the worst when in port because they have both women and men aboard! Young, male sailors become very territorial.

Me playing pool with a female sailor while her male consorts watch. They get jealous and start to chime in...me and my friend bait them with no real intention to fight, however, the situation escalates and I find myself taking that walk to the "sacred battleground"...again! This time is much different though. I offer the sailor a truce - a way out. He declines and takes a big 'ole
round house swing at me.

Aikido TRAINING helps out!

The punch seems to take an eternity to get to me. When it does, I get off the line of attack and apply a nice, crisp, backhand atemi right on the tip of his nose. He looks bewildered and strikes again. I do exactly the same thing right down to thumping him on the nose just like we practice during shihonage. He bleeds and eyes water and I say to him, "look I really don't want to fight. I just want to drink my beer with my friend and play some pool. Lets go back in."
He agrees and we went back in...to the amazement of everyone we where joking around and bought each other a round of drinks.

Again...I feel defeated. I lost control of me for a split second and allowed for it to go too far. Either way, I still feel that once I stepped out to the "battlefield" I stopped doing Aikido and was only applying physical techniques or movements. These were not situations where I had to fight. I disregarded the principles that Aikido teaches us.

These are the lasts fights I have been in since and I still learn from them today.

Cheers,

ruthmc
03-06-2005, 10:12 AM
Here's Gozo Shioda's comments about this area of "harmony":

Whether it is blending with your partner when he comes to grab you or strike you or, alternatively, striking him, whatever you do, timing is what gives it life. If your timing is late, you will be crowded out by uke; if you are too early, uke will see your movement and change his attack. You should apply your technique exactly at the moment that he commits himself to the attack -- this is proper timing.

Utilizing that split second is what is called "harmonizing". It would be correct to say that in aikido all techniques begin from this idea of "harmonizing".

So my question is whether you agree that resisting a force can also be "harmonizing" and "blending"?
What does split second timing have to do with resisting a force?

Just wondering,

Ruth

Chuck.Gordon
03-06-2005, 10:38 AM
So my conclusion is this: Aikido, like any other concept, is what you want it to be. It is what you believe in.


In its original usage, I think aiki has probably bee fairly well defined in the literature of budo; though the definition of 'aiki' will very likely vary from ryuha to ryuha. My understanding is that 'aiki' references can be found in some of the older sword and weapon treatises, but mostly, it appears to be a fairly esoteric term that came more from religious and philosphical theory than from combat.

In aikido, the term became very fluid -- although I believe Ueshiba had a very clear vision of HIS 'aiki', he wasn't, unfortunately, a good communicator and left his students a fairly muddy set of ideas that each then built upon, expanded, altered or outright redefined it.

And THEN it came to the West and we deconstructed it, layered our own interpretations atop it, ried to fit it inot our own pet philisophies ... etc etc etc.

I do rather like Sczepan's definition though. Succicnt and clear. Reminds me of Kano's adage.


I believe that the concept of striking to gain control is against my concept of Aikido. The founder, however, made excellent use of Atemi and many instructors today claim that it is an integral part of awase technique.


So, why is your concept of aikido so different from Ueshiba's? Or am I reading that wrong?

I'd say that for a concept such as 'aiki' to be valid, it most be applicable across a spectrum of physical/combative behaviors. So, if 'aiki' is a functional theory of human combtive activities, then it must apply to any level or approach to those combatives. YMMV, of course.


The point is, if you want to make Aikido your religion, I say that is wonderful.


Really? Why would that be a Good Thing? Or am I, possibly again, misreading you?

I can't help but beleive that anyone who turns their budo into their religion is probably really deeply troubled and needs far more help than is available on the mat.


Practice of Aikido has urged me into the path of a devout pacifist.


Good for you. Having been a soldier made me a pacifist. Although your defintion of pacifism and mine may vary a bit, I suspect.


I don't even kill bugs anymore unless I have to. Yet I say that my beliefs make me no more a follower of Aiki-budo than anyone else.


So how would you differentiate aikido from aiki-budo? Or do you?


[quote]
We know what that founder believed, but since his death his art has grown and evolved.
[/quote[

I'd have to disagree. This is part of the problem with aikido,. Ueshiba did not leave an accessible set of core beleifs behind. What we see today in aikido are not HIS ideas, but rather those of his students (and theirs) that have been overlaid on a rather muddy foundation, I fear.

Chuck

Mike Sigman
03-06-2005, 11:56 AM
What does split second timing have to do with resisting a force? As opposed to the idea of "blending" with a force. If someone attacks you forcefully, coming forward, Shioda is pointing out that the "harmonizing" has to do with timing in order to use the person's force (aiki) as part of the technique. You could also, for example, directly oppose the incoming force with a force or atemi of your own... the timing of your response being critical to the technique. But as I said, my main point is that "aiki" means "harmonizing with your opponent's force", not only through "blending" but also with using timing to control an incoming (or outgoing) force. To go along with David's latest point, there is a fulcrum also in the direct opposition of a force... it is the feet. There is also a circle using the middle and the lower back. There is also a straight release of power.

FWIW

Mike

p00kiethebear
03-06-2005, 01:48 PM
What is mandatory for Aikido? What is it that we simply cannot do without? What thing or aspect, if it is absent, forces us to be unable to say, "We do Aikido?"

"Budo begins and ends with respect"

senshincenter
03-06-2005, 02:20 PM
It seems to me that the ideas of "effective" and "compassion" - or understanding Aikido as such - leaves the door open just as much as "it's whatever you believe it to be." I am really hoping that folks that take on this view might share with us some sort of negative contrast by which we can come to know what this all might mean. As I said, for me, this understanding is way more "foggy" than any so-called spiritual understanding I might have heard, or employed.

For example:

- What is "effective"? Is it just marked by success? Am I effective just because I succeed in my tactic? Or, is "effective" marked by success AND a particular means by which success is achieved? Can I block and stop your strike, effectively stopping you from hitting me, or must I let it continue along its path of action but do so in a way that I am effective in preventing your strike from hitting me? I would say that the first example may very well be effective, especially if I'm stronger than you, but I would say that only the second example would be an example of "aiki" and thus of Aikido. For that reason, I at a loss over how "effectiveness" could mark delineation. Maybe you all that adopt this position could explain how that might happen -- show me what I am missing -- etc. - please/thanks.

- What is compassion within the martial application of technique? Am I being compassionate when I throw you and have you land on your head from at least three feet in the air and about 6 feet from me? Or do we want to say that such throws are not part of Aikido? I wouldn't want to say that? Or am I only compassionate when I choose to throw you (as described above) instead striking you, or instead of shooting you? (This is the real life understanding of the usual "doing as little damage as you can" rhetoric.) Is a boxer who has a firearm being compassionate when he pummels someone into submission rather than shooting them? Would this make him an Aikidoka? Are you all that adopt this view really ready to call any execution of violence that remains at its minimum escalation on the use of force continuum, and that remains effective, Aikido? Are smart bombs Aikido? I would say, "no." Smart bombs may be effective. Smart bombs may do a lot less damage than carpet-bombing, etc., but smart bombs are not Aikido and the pilot that dropped them is not an Aikidoka -- for me. Thus, for me, it seems that some other defining characteristic is necessary.

- The dictionary defines "compassion" as, "Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it." And the root words give the meaning of "sharing in the suffering of another." I'm not sure how "doing minimum damage" (which may not be what you all mean but is what a lot of folks understand about the aims of Aikido waza) makes sense in light of what compassion actually means and/or in light of what the root words may suggest -- unless you want to talk about the "compassionate" of putting someone out of their misery (but I still think that would be a stretch here because I would certainly like to draw a line between such "mercy" killings and Aikido). If we go on to consider what various spiritual and moral teachers have said about compassion, how and why we employ it, and how we cultivate it, even then I don't think we will meet its tenets by simply choosing option A over option B when it comes to defending ourselves via the martial engaging of another.

For me, and this is only my opinion, this idea of trying to keep things simple -- as with this definition -- only works to make things more muddy. It only appears to be simple because it hides more than it shows. It is not really simple, in my opinion. It is very complicated for a definition, and, in the end, it may actually prove itself to be totally useless since it cannot lend itself to any kind of orientation and/or delineation (which is not always a bad thing mind you) because it is just too open -- it lets in the things we know are intuitively from outside of Aikido.

In short, I got to ask it again: "Is a compassionate boxer an Aikidoka? If so, why?

Again, thanks in advance for the replies.
d

batemanb
03-07-2005, 03:13 AM
What is mandatory for Aikido? What is it that we simply cannot do without? What thing or aspect, if it is absent, forces us to be unable to say, "We do Aikido?"

A good question. For myself, I still haven't figured out what Aikido actually is. I've been to seminars with famous masters, I've lived and trained in Japan, I've read a lot of books about it, I've read a lot of posts on here and other forums, I've read blogs and hundreds of other web pages, I teach it in my own class, but I still can't claim to understand it.

The one thing that is most missing to me, is the spiritual aspect. I don't mean the "new age" stuff that sczecpan refers too, I mean the spiritual aspect that Kaiso spent hours and hours studying. He formulated this art by mixing aikijitsu with Omotokyo teachings, if we are not working on the spiritual side ourselves, then as others have said above, shouldn't we call what we do something else, because it surely can't be the same?

I've just finished reading a book by Kanshu Sunadomari - Enlightenment through Aikido. It's only a small paperback, but has taken me over 4 months to read, and I still haven't absorbed half of it. In it he does say though that if we only practice form, we will eventually hit a point that we will never progress past. I think that I agree with this, if we are not prepared to explore the spiritual side of the art, it minimizes the perspective with which we view Aikido, and indeed may mean that we are not in fact practicing Aikido.

The difficult thing is finding someone who does understand all this, and who is able to communicate it. There have been a few other books written, which I have read a few times, but reading doesn't help, my understanding is still extremely limited. The glimmer of hope is that if I keep looking into it, one day something may click into place.

rgds

Bryan

Peter Goldsbury
03-07-2005, 04:44 AM
Hello Bryan,

Given the title of Kanshu Sunadomari's book, I would be interested to see what he takes for granted about Japanese concepts of enlightenment. For example, have you come across the phrase "sokushin joubutsu"? It has been translated as "enlightenment in this very body", e.g., the one you've got. I think the phrase was first used by Kukai and underpins the culture of 'shugyou' that goes right back to his time. As you know, shugyou and keiko are used in traditional arts that are much older than aikido. So one might wonder whether people like Zeami and Sen no Rikyuu thought the same way about enlightenment through training in their respective arts.

So, when someone comes along and talks about enlightenment through aikido, people like myself want to know how much of this tradition he is taking for granted. Which is why in almost every case, whenever a Japanese scholar has produced a work that has been translated, I have tried to locate the Japanese original, so I can see what he actually wrote. And Omoto-kyou\the Sunadomaris were believers\is even more eclectic and also uses Christian sources. I have profited much from discussing aspects of this question with David Valadez in other threads.

Another interesting aspect of this discussion is that of levels. K Chiba has an interesting article on SHU-HA-RI and this can be interpreted in a linear fashion\proceeding from one to the other, or a layered fashion\moving up and down. However, (1) the concepts is used in arts that have been influenced by Buddhism and (2) SHU-HA-RI is only one way among many others of distinguishing levels of proficiency or awareness. I am not aware that M Ueshiba ever used the term.

I find the notion of levels or layers very useful in understanding budo and aikido and I suspect that this is because I have been brought up in the Graeco-Roman/Judaeo-Christian intellectual tradition.

Best regards,

batemanb
03-07-2005, 05:31 AM
Hello Peter,

Thanks for your reply. The book is still a little above me I'm afraid, as are the other "spiritual" books that I have read :( . I have no idea how much he is taking for granted, I don't even know that what he says is correct per se <shrugs shoulders>. It seems that he mostly makes observations on old quotes and teachings from Kaiso based on his (Sunadomari sensei) experience. It was an interesting book though, one that I will no doubt read again, and certainly food for thought.

rgds

Bryan

Peter Goldsbury
03-07-2005, 06:57 AM
Hello Peter,

Thanks for your reply. The book is still a little above me I'm afraid, as are the other "spiritual" books that I have read :( . I have no idea how much he is taking for granted, I don't even know that what he says is correct per se <shrugs shoulders>. It seems that he mostly makes observations on old quotes and teachings from Kaiso based on his (Sunadomari sensei) experience. It was an interesting book though, one that I will no doubt read again, and certainly food for thought.

rgds

Bryan

Hello Bryan,

I have the book, but not the Japanese work of which it is a translation. I do not think you need to worry about whether he is correct(!); I am sure he is.

For me, the question is how much he takes for granted that we probably wouldn't, and one could pose the same question of M Ueshiba's douka and other lectures. It is a serious question for me because I have studied Japanese for many years now and have learned how to read older Japanese texts. Perhaps this is because I studied Classics at school and university and was taught that to understand what Homer, Plato and Aristotle really meant, you had to read Greek.

I think the question of what is taken for granted is important. For example, in anorther thread David Valadez mentioned that in Omoto-kyou the works of John of the Cross were read and, presumably, studied. When I was an S.J., we studied John of the Cross and his compatriot Teresa of Avila, almost certainly because Ignatius of Loyola was part of the same tradition. However it was study based on practical training, in the sense that our meditations and spiritual exercises were undertaken in the light of what Ignatius and his two compatriots taught.

So what would Onisaburo Deguchi have made of John of the Cross and can we find any influences in, for example, "Reikai Monogatari"? I have no idea: I have not even begun to look. However, when I was a novice, the general question of the compatibility of Christianity and Zen was a matter of serious debate. The crucial question in the debate was: to what extent could one achieve enlightenment by means of self-directed training? The answer given our superiors was: one couldn't. Enlightenment was a gift and the only way one could receive it was to live a life of heroic virture and even then, this could never be a guarantee. Those who embraced Christian Zen were not happy with this kind of answer. I could go on and explain why, but the post would become intolerably long. We might discuss it further when we meet in April.

As I said, all these are serious questions for me because this is how I have come to approach aikido and this is where I am at present.

In terms of David's original question, in my opinion the parallels with Christianity are so striking. If one is a member of an aikido church, the answer will depend on what the church teaches. If the church is Catholic, i.e, Aikikai, this will be what the Pope (Doshu) says it is. In this connection, I remember a discussion I had with the present Doshu. I had asked for the Japanese original of O Sensei's "Budo" manual. Doshu took me up to the 3rd floor of the Hombu, unlocked the case where the book was kept, took it out and gave it to me to look at. There were just the two of us and Doshu talked for a while. What he said, basically, was: 'Read the text; study it; but be aware that aikido has changed since my grandfather produced it. Aikido is a living tradition and I have inherited it from my father, who inherited from the Founder. My son will inherit it from me. It is my job to transmit the essence, as I understand it.' I was somewhat chastened, for Doshu had revealed his heart and I felt for him. However, his answer was classic 'iemoto' thinking, in the sense that the understanding of the art is based not on the relationship between individual student and individual master, but on the organization.

If one is not a member of an aikido church, one's belief as to what aikido actually is can depend on many things: a textual canon, or one's teacher, or oneself\in varying combinations. Thus some aikidoists are very happy to 'just train', regardless. Others look at O Sensei's words in English, via Mr Stevens' translations or Jun's weekly quote, and use these as a training guide. Yet others do not really care about what O Sensei said, since it is too remote, and prefer to believe that aikido is what their sensei says it is.

Anyway, I have gone on for too long. In Hiroshima we train on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and also on occasional Sundays at a different location. Since there will be a large number of you, we should probably train on a Sunday in Hiroshima. Perhaps you shoul discuss this with Carolin. I think you should know her from trainiing in Kobe and I will send you her e-maiol address via PM.

Best regards,

batemanb
03-07-2005, 07:23 AM
Hello Peter,

I will better enjoy discussing this in person. I fear I am not as eloquent when writing on these subjects, I miss too much out in my posts.

I remember Carolin very well (in fact saw her in some video footage only last week), although she may not remember me :).

regards

Bryan

George S. Ledyard
03-07-2005, 07:31 AM
1. Many Aikido waza make use of a fulcrum. Many simply believe the fulcrum to be an innate reality. However, the fulcrum in most cases is dependent upon the lever for it to act like a fulcrum. The lever itself is equally dependent upon the fulcrum, as it is equally dependent upon its own rigidity and/or its "resistance" to losing its shape as a lever. By this reasoning, whereas a lot of folks think that Aikido waza do not work and/or are difficult to get to work when an uke or an attacker is being resistant, since their body and/or a part of their body is often the lever in an Aikido waza, I would put forth that Aikido waza actually need resistance in the attacker in order to function as designed -- especially in the cases where a fulcrum is used. If you can imagine a see-saw. It has a fulcrum and a lever. The resistance of the lever allows the fulcrum to function -- which together allows the seesaw to see-saw. If by a miracle the lever of the seesaw would turn into a liquid, losing its resistance, the fulcrum would lose its capacity to function, and thus its nature, and nothing would see-saw. What we see when an Aikido waza is thwarted by resistance is not the antithesis of harmony but rather a failure on the part of the practitioner to place the fulcrum of the waza in relation to the resistance of the correct lever, which thus allows it (the fulcrum) to serve its purpose. For the fulcrum and lever to function in harmony with each other, resistance is not only wanted, it is mandatory.



David,
This is VERY interesting. I have been playing around with this myself. I have several students who are doing Sytema as well as Aikido. What I have found is that my technique works just fine inthe sense that when they attack me I can defend myself and control their centers. But I can't use them as ukes when I am teaching Basics because the complete lack of resistance in their ukemi makes it difficult if not impossible to produce a particular technique "at will". In other words, to produce specific Aikido techniques I need Aikido ukemi which is the tension you are talking about.

My current thinking about Aikido technique is that it is all ikkyo. And Ikkyo is simply defined as running a spiral that allows you to rest your body weight on top of your partner when he is out of alignment. If I stay with that idea I have no problem handling the Systema boys but it is difficult to produce many Aikido basic techniques and even then when they happen, they just seem to happen on their own, not due to some intention on my part. If I try to execute a particular technique rather than just keep connection and allow the technique to happen on it own they can escape.

batemanb
03-07-2005, 07:36 AM
Hello Peter,

I will better enjoy discussing this in person. I fear I am not as eloquent when writing on these subjects, I miss too much out in my posts.

I remember Carolin very well (in fact saw her in some video footage only last week), although she may not remember me :).

regards

Bryan

George S. Ledyard
03-07-2005, 07:40 AM
Hello Peter,

Thanks for your reply. The book is still a little above me I'm afraid, as are the other "spiritual" books that I have read :( . I have no idea how much he is taking for granted, I don't even know that what he says is correct per se <shrugs shoulders>. It seems that he mostly makes observations on old quotes and teachings from Kaiso based on his (Sunadomari sensei) experience. It was an interesting book though, one that I will no doubt read again, and certainly food for thought.

rgds

Bryan
Hi Bryan,
I don't know if there are any Shingu folks over there but if you get a chance to train with Anno Sensei I would recommend it. He is one of Hikitsuchi Sensei's senior deshi and has been visiting the States (at least the West coast where most of the former Shingu folks are like Jack Wada, Linda Holiday, Tom Read, Mary Heiny, and Clint George)

Anyway, the feeling I get from being around him is very much the same type of feel I got from reading Sunadomari Sensei's book. Anno Sensei's basic message (highly distilled here) is that Aikido is really about opening up your Heart. He feels like he engulfs the whole dojo with his spirit when he teaches.

If you get a chance go out of your way to train with him.

batemanb
03-07-2005, 08:00 AM
Thanks George, I'll be sure to keep my eyes out.


Ooh, not sure how I got duplicate posts above, either side of George??:confused:

Amir Krause
03-07-2005, 08:01 AM
For me, all of the following ,ust be present for a practice to be Korindo Aikido

It has to have a M.A. feel
Korindo Tai-Sabaki
Randori
Kata practice (technique)

Weapons practice is an option which does have it's proper place, but not from the first lessons.

Of course, Tai-Sabaki and Randori can be done in other M.A. as well, but Korindo Tai-Sabaki is specific way of moving, and one has to see it and proper harmonizing spirit in the Randori.

Amir

rob_liberti
03-07-2005, 08:46 AM
I was taught aikido requires
1) inuri (verticality - in orientation - which reminded me of what George sensei was saying in his description of ikkyo)

2) tai-atari (body to body connection - the required resistance - the reason why systema folks don't wind up in many basic waza)

3) ki-musubi (which starts with and maintains that harmony that Gozo Shioda sensei was talking about). I've also heard that ki-musbui was a composite of tai-atari and kokyu.

I say if you have these three things, and your intent is to do minimal damage, you're doing aikido. Without these things, there isn't much.l I agree that there must be more to it concerning the spiritual side. Gleason sensei's spiritual foundations of aikido addresses this very difficult concept. But that book is difficult to get through, and only starts you out. I'm not mature enough to discuss the spiritual principles beyond the beginner levels. I do feel that practices like Zen help you to realise and understand your true self, while aikido is to help you manifest your true self. These paths are not the same path and have different goals. They can be combined, but that it not necessary.

Rob

Mike Sigman
03-07-2005, 09:08 AM
I have several students who are doing Sytema as well as Aikido. What I have found is that my technique works just fine inthe sense that when they attack me I can defend myself and control their centers. But I can't use them as ukes when I am teaching Basics because the complete lack of resistance in their ukemi makes it difficult if not impossible to produce a particular technique "at will". In other words, to produce specific Aikido techniques I need Aikido ukemi which is the tension you are talking about. Just to toss in my 2 cents, I think part of the problem may be that the concept of "Aikido Techniques" has become too narrowly focused toward leading and blending. Although I've never been closer to Yoshinkan than a few books, I think Gozo Shioda's concept of "Aikido Techniques" is/was broader than is commonly seen now. The ability to close and apply immediate great power is what you do when you don't immediately feel a controllable center, IMO. A truly balanced martial art, in the classical sense, can apply both "soft" (throws and controls) and "hard" (strikes and shaking power) at will.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

batemanb
03-07-2005, 09:14 AM
Gleason sensei's spiritual foundations of aikido addresses this very difficult concept. But that book is difficult to get through, and only starts you out.


Hi Rob,

I've had that book for 4 or 5 years now and still haven't managed to get more than a couple of chapters into it. It's not for want of trying either, it's just that the subject matter is very dry and my brain starts wondering off very quickly. I'll keep chipping away though and who knows, maybe one day I'll get to the end :D.

rgds

Bryan

NagaBaba
03-07-2005, 09:41 AM
Wow - for my money this may be a lot more "esoteric" and/or harder to pin down than any other kind of religious/mystical term. To have compassion in the midst of violence - and though I would agree - wow - talk about a hard thing to pin down, let alone cultivate. It still opens the door for non-blending tactics though - wouldn't you say? Can non-blending tactics that are effective and done with compassion be Aikido? Are some of Karate's more identifying tactics then Aikido, as long as they are effective and the practitioner has compassion in their heart while doing them? Can Karate be Aikido?

Thanks in advance for replying,
d
David,
I don't quote words from a book, article or such...What I wrote I felt physically on me myself as uke, and I'm trying to do it as tori.

This kind of practice is difficult to explain in exact technical terms. Particularly as English isn't my first language. I think, searching for elements, as you do, it is what it is: elements. You simply can't separate those entities, as a mix of physical and non-physical elements is a heart of aikido.
Im not sure about blending question; I suppose there are many different understanding of blending. As you progress, this understanding changes.

How about efficient techniques and compassion? I believe there is not one exact definition. In some circumstances if you kill somebody you do efficient technique with compassion.
All our training is only conditioning as Chiba sensei said one day. Aikido technique is created spontaneously, in the right moment, and I cant say in advance what is meaning of each element in such situation. O sensei did his techniques after being influenced by kami, may be it is quite good explanation? How the right judgment is coming in particular moment? This right judgment allows efficient techniques and compassion.

It is good to ask yourself such serious questions.

ruthmc
03-07-2005, 12:59 PM
As opposed to the idea of "blending" with a force. If someone attacks you forcefully, coming forward, Shioda is pointing out that the "harmonizing" has to do with timing in order to use the person's force (aiki) as part of the technique. You could also, for example, directly oppose the incoming force with a force or atemi of your own... the timing of your response being critical to the technique. But as I said, my main point is that "aiki" means "harmonizing with your opponent's force", not only through "blending" but also with using timing to control an incoming (or outgoing) force.
So, what does any of this have to do with resisting a force? (As per my original question). To resist means to directly oppose and attempt to stop the oncoming energy. An atemi does not do this - the strike is always applied from a different angle to the oncoming force, or tori is going to get hit! A well-timed Irimi may look to the inexperienced as if tori is opposing uke's force of attack, but this cannot be or tori and uke will be locked in a battle of strength against strength - definitely not Aikido!

Ruth

Mike Sigman
03-07-2005, 01:30 PM
So, what does any of this have to do with resisting a force? (As per my original question). To resist means to directly oppose and attempt to stop the oncoming energy. Maybe if you read Gozo Shioda's book and see the pictures of him directly opposing the force and meeting it with a force and if you understand how this is done. The point I'm making is that many people think you "blend" (as in "go with") a force always and few people understand how to actually do what Shioda is showing in his pictures, even if they vaguely understand the concept.

FWIW

Mike

jss
03-07-2005, 02:31 PM
As for the compassion in aikido part:

the only way I have yet found of reconciling 'aikido is an effective martial art' with 'aikido is love and compassion' is that when you use the effectivity aspect of aikido, you do so in a non-agressive, understanding and even compassionate (loving) state of mind. And I believe the techniques of aikido are specifically designed for that purpose.

The result of this is indeed the inflicting of minimal damage, but without mentioning the cause as I did above, it leads to a misunderstanding, imho. You do not cause mininal damage as an independent center of deliberation and action, but as one of the active factors in the whole situation (It's a blending thing.)

rob_liberti
03-07-2005, 02:33 PM
There are a lot of people who try to just blend with the attack until they get into the optimal position to crank the attacker over somehow. I've experienced some good aikido senseis who always seem to find a way to resist the initial attack such that they take in just enough force to use, and let the rest go past them. I think this is what Mike means. A few months ago, I noticed how (I think!) Ikeda sensei was doing just that. I got a lot more out of the seminar.

If an example would help, consider katatedori ikkyo. If you don't set that up with some resistance you are forced to do the huge circle around their center, or an after the fact kokyu nage that looks a lot like a punch while going for nikkyo. Either of those are okay, but I can reverse almost anyone that does that. If you recieve the person's grab with some resistance, and then bring both of your back (maintaining center to center connection) and then make space with your hips/footwork while you fill that space with that ikkyo movement - you'll find it a whole lot more difficult for the uke to stop you.

Rob

Ron Tisdale
03-07-2005, 02:39 PM
Funny, I remember my own yoshinkan instructor asking 'what is this blend"? Yoshinkan does have some rather 'direct' methods... :)

Ron

senshincenter
03-07-2005, 03:07 PM
So, what does any of this have to do with resisting a force?

Hi Ruth,

I think, if I may speak a bit for the case Mike is trying to present, he might be asking: Can a straight palm-heel strike to the chin of an oncoming attacker be considered harmony? I think he is bringing up Shioda Sensei because he (i.e. Shioda Sensei) seems to be suggesting that such a strike can indeed be considered harmonious - as long as the timing is properly executed. This, I'm guessing Mike is suggesting, stands in contrast to the usual or common understandings of harmony, blending, and "not resisting," which tend to negate and/or be very critical of said straight palm-heel strike to the chin of an oncoming attacker.

Personally, I would agree with Shioda Sensei on this case - for reasons I gave above. Namely, such a strike is a perfect relating of Yang to Yin - which is where all notions of harmony come from in East Asian culture (which includes Japan, Osensei, and Aikido). The palm heel strike is Yang for obvious reasons. Two aspects of the chin as a target make it Yin. First, there is the timing aspect which is what I believe Shioda Sensei is referring to. A part on the body can take on a Yin aspect temporally whenever the body/mind is in a state of transition from one basic to another. In that same way, a Yin aspect can be generated when a body/mind has first opted to attack first begins to move (i.e. transitioning from stillness to movement). Second, in relation to the center of gravity, which is much lower than the chin, the chin is Yin to the center of gravity or the bulk of the mass that is being most effected by momentum and inertia of the attack, which is Yang. Striking the chin with a palm-heel strike, especially at a slight upward angle, and especially at the beginning of the attackers movement, is a perfect blending (or corresponding) of Yin and Yang. In my opinion, this is one reason why you see this strike/target combination across nearly every martial tradition.

I could be wrong maybe totally wrong but that is how I understood Mike.

dmv
ps. I'll try and post later in reply to the other things some folks have brought up - great stuff by the way. Thanks for posting.

Mike Sigman
03-07-2005, 04:33 PM
I think, if I may speak a bit for the case Mike is trying to present, he might be asking: Can a straight palm-heel strike to the chin of an oncoming attacker be considered harmony? I think he is bringing up Shioda Sensei because he (i.e. Shioda Sensei) seems to be suggesting that such a strike can indeed be considered harmonious - as long as the timing is properly executed. This, I'm guessing Mike is suggesting, stands in contrast to the usual or common understandings of harmony, blending, and "not resisting," which tend to negate and/or be very critical of said straight palm-heel strike to the chin of an oncoming attacker. Good example, David, and precisely what I meant. The point is that something like a palm-heel strike into an oncoming opponent is WAY off of what many people think is "allowed" in the "spiritual harmony" of Aikido. So it's a good thought-starter.... not to mention a helluva ice-breaker at a dojo party. ;)

Mike

senshincenter
03-07-2005, 04:44 PM
Hello Bryan,

Given the title of Kanshu Sunadomari's book, I would be interested to see what he takes for granted about Japanese concepts of enlightenment. For example, have you come across the phrase "sokushin joubutsu"? It has been translated as "enlightenment in this very body", e.g., the one you've got. I think the phrase was first used by Kukai and underpins the culture of 'shugyou' that goes right back to his time. As you know, shugyou and keiko are used in traditional arts that are much older than aikido. So one might wonder whether people like Zeami and Sen no Rikyuu thought the same way about enlightenment through training in their respective arts.


I too am very fond of Sunadomari's book.

Peter, if I may, yes, I am also under the impression that "sokushin jobutsu" can be attributed to the originality of Kukai. Although, I think one could easily trace its philosophical base to the Wisdom Sutras -- which pre-date Kukai by quite a bit.

One might also want to note that several other folks in Japan took on this idea -- actually taking it from Kukai and/or from Shingon and/or from Koyasan (where Kukai's teachings were based) -- while others had ideas that were for all intensive purposes the same. The spread of Esoteric Buddhism was huge at one point in Japan. Buddhist schools, even non-Buddhist traditions for that matter, that came after to Japan or that were there prior to Japan, in some way had to relate to Esoteric Buddhism. I think this is why we can see Kukai's idea of sokushin jobutsu in folks like Ippen -- a Pure Land Buddhist that felt he could with his present physical body become Amida Buddha. There is also Nichiren who at one point early on his practice, when he wrote "Kaitai Sokushin Jobutsugi," actually posited Shingon doctrine as superior to the Lotus Sutra (a position he reversed later in his career). Then there is the same kind of idea behind Dogen's (from Soto Zen) "the practice is Awakening." He called this base "sokushin zebutsu," by which he basically identified the Mind with the Buddha.

Personally, and I'm discussing this now with my students as we are doing a group reading of Takuan, I think some seeds were planted during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, seeds that worked to allow some folks to see their artistic pursuits as akin to religious pursuits (or even more). But some of these seeds go way back -- to China even. For example, Huang T'ing-chien (1045-1105) consciously noted the inner vitality his calligraphy took on after his Awakening. Peter, you have mentioned key figures in Noh Drama and Tea. Since Esoteric Buddhism was still so strong during these periods, I cannot see how such beliefs such as sokushin jobutsu would not be relative to what eventually happened in drama and tea ceremony. However, I think some figures out of Shingon are also quite important. For me, they are more important because they do not only see things as related but they actually come to see the artistic pursuits as legitimate ways to Awakening - not just as places where one can manifest or demonstrate Awakening. In particular, I think one should look at Muso Soseki and his works on gardening. Then, of course, there is Takuan and his work on fencing. Finally, and these guys are from the 20th century, but they are the fruit of these early seeds in my opinion - there is the thinking that was coming out of Kyoto University in the last century. It was those folks, e.g. Nishida, Nishitani, etc., in my opinion, in their attempt to address Western scholarship and/or to revive Japan's capacity for international glory and respect via a delving into Buddhism's Wisdom Sutras, that really made this type of thinking legitimate and thereby possible. What is interesting is that it is probably impossible for Osensei and Omoto-kyo to not be in some way influenced by these ideas and these thinkers. Another cool link -- the scholars from Kyoto University were heavily into seeing relationships between the thinking of the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart and the Wisdom Sutras, etc.

david

Peter Goldsbury
03-07-2005, 07:48 PM
Hello David,

Thank you for the reply. Yes, I am aware of Kukai's borrowings from China. I have since looked more closely at the Sunadomari volume and see that the English title is a loose rendering of "Aikido no Kokoro; Yokyuu-ryoku", which illustrates the point I made in my earlier post.

Actually, I came into this area relatively recently, by way of reading Nishida. I am attached to the philosophy department in my faculty here and have two Japanese colleagues with whom I regularly discuss such matters. One is a specialist in Heidegger, the other in Japanese aesthetics. The only contemporary Japanese scholar of shugyou, mind-body, elightenment I am aware of who has been translated into English is Yasuo Yuasa and the translations have been heavily edited\I gather, at the author's suggestion.

Best regards,

senshincenter
03-07-2005, 09:31 PM
Hi Peter,

Than you will have to let me know what you think of our little discussion after I transcribe it all - our group discussion on Takuan. I hope to post it somewhere - for sure at our web site.

Thanks,
dmv

senshincenter
03-07-2005, 10:51 PM
David,
This is VERY interesting. I have been playing around with this myself. I have several students who are doing Sytema as well as Aikido. What I have found is that my technique works just fine inthe sense that when they attack me I can defend myself and control their centers. But I can't use them as ukes when I am teaching Basics because the complete lack of resistance in their ukemi makes it difficult if not impossible to produce a particular technique "at will". In other words, to produce specific Aikido techniques I need Aikido ukemi which is the tension you are talking about.

My current thinking about Aikido technique is that it is all ikkyo. And Ikkyo is simply defined as running a spiral that allows you to rest your body weight on top of your partner when he is out of alignment. If I stay with that idea I have no problem handling the Systema boys but it is difficult to produce many Aikido basic techniques and even then when they happen, they just seem to happen on their own, not due to some intention on my part. If I try to execute a particular technique rather than just keep connection and allow the technique to happen on it own they can escape.



Hi George,

Thanks for posting. I think I know exactly what you are talking about, and I agree, I think it is totally related to what I was trying to say - which was the positive side of resistance (i.e. how to find the resistance in uke's attack such that basic Aikido architecture actually becomes viable. You are dealing, if I may, with the contrasting side of resistance - when it is gone or absent. I think both sides are asking us to understand resistance differently in our training than we usually do (i.e. resistance should be absent from Aikido waza, resistance where our techniques fail, resistance is when we are training martially, etc.). I also think both ways are asking us to cultivate ourselves differently - such that we are more capable of adapting our tactics according to where resistance may or may not be within a given attack. Toward that end, I too have been forced to see Aikido as more principle-based and less technique-based. I know we all say that, but I am talking about type of cultivation that is based upon a lot more than just training in technical variation after variation of the so-called pillars. I use the phrase "so-called" because I am not sure how they are supposed to be pillars if that is we you ever do or we do for the most part. The term pillars implies that they are few in number and our supporting something that is greater in number (by far greater). Slowly, it seems, what is being supported is just disappearing and all we are left with are these columns that are supporting nothing. Archeologists usually call them ruins. My own personal gripe - probably a new topic.

I cannot be sure, though I can check for you, the best example I have ever seen of what you are talking about is by a Judo player - I believe it was Mifune. My friend upon visiting me from Japan brought a DVD - it was zoned for Japan, so I could not buy it and thus do not now have it. Please forgive me for not knowing the exact player. Anyway, whoever it was, he would just "yield" in the middle of whatever throw his competitor was trying to throw - like you can barely imagine. As a result, the throw just went dead. He was an old man in the video - well into his eighties, I believe. He was going against these huge totally fit Judo players. Time after time, they just could not throw him. Moreover, if that was not enough, the video then showed a child (of about six to eight years old) doing the same exact thing to the same players. Though they could throw the child about 50% of the time, one has to admit that that is not a very good ratio of success on an elementary school student - right?! lol It was fantastic to see.

It almost being impossible to believe, I had my students try versions of kokyu-nage and irimi-nage, where the hip is really being checked out by a fulcrum and irimi, and sure enough, I went up for a bit but then came right back down, only now I was behind them. It really made for some interesting counters. Anyway, what we found (using my own terms), and what I think you are saying, is that we had to treat the ultimate Yin with more Yang (e.g. running a spiral that allows you to rest your body weight on top of your partner when he is out of alignment). We kept moving - sometimes we kept moving forward so that though uke was behind us he/she was too far behind to do anything with the counter, and/or we kept entering. When we kept entering we eventually found that resistance we were looking for and/or we reached that place where that gooey-center was so soft it's totally martially invalid.

thanks,
david

mathewjgano
03-08-2005, 12:20 AM
This is a rather tough topic. My "top-down" response is to simply say that when we cease to apply universal principles, we cease to do Aikido. But of course by virtue of the many schools of "Aikido," each of which range from similar to vastly different from each other, we can see there are many different perceptions of what it means to do Aikido. So first of course we have to pin-point the operating definition of "Aikido." Perhaps that is what you're seeking to do here...
At any rate, my limited opinion would describe Aikido as the practice of coming into harmony with the universe itself. In my case this includes a spiritual truth as well as a physical one. To what extent this spiritual truth exists, I don't know. Perhaps it is purely subjective and is different for each person, and perhaps there is some universal quality which we all abide by somehow. The concept of mutual benificence is the best idea I can come up with, to date, regarding this concept of spiritual truth. I liken it to the laws of conservation of momentum where I seek to make the net result equal to the gross amount of energetic work...um...working together, with utilization of all resources, is the best way and is more productive than working against each other, or with loss of some resources. How exactly this is spiritual I cannot clearly say except that perhaps it has to do with personal intent more than anything else.
This extends in the same way to the physical aspect of Aikido training. I think this is the "easiest" aspect of Aikido to understand. If I am not as strong as someone trying to harm me, for example, I have to learn how to use their actions to my benefit. This is the essence of Aiki-bujutsu I think. It is my opinion that Aikido comes into being only when you take these physical principles and apply them philosphically, which to me means always trying to never harm anyone.
Now I wonder if a beginning student is doing Aikido in simply trying to practice these things...but then I consider the message I've recieved from so many of those who have gone before me, which is essentially that they are still refining their Aikido ability, implying to me one rarely, if ever, attains the perfection they seek in the concept of Aikido. So in my mind Aikido has two definitions: the practice of becoming ideal, and the ideal itself.
On the path toward becoming ideal, often it seems one has to be practical, which seems to imply an opposite meaning to idealism, but I don't think it is. Perhaps "practicality" is an excuse to not try our hardest, and perhaps it's not...I really don't know, but I will always try my best, and that is, in essence, what I think Aikido is about, even if it means I'm not always practicing Aikido itself.
.....hmmm...difficult question...
Perhaps a better answer is, I'll tell you when i get there...
Take care,
Matthew J Gano

mathewjgano
03-08-2005, 12:32 AM
...a thought based on where someone said it's hard to pin this concept down...
perhaps Aikido is fittingly hard to pin down, considering the idea of the irresistability of non-resistance.
...I think I remember a quote that went something like that last bit.

xuzen
03-08-2005, 01:58 AM
What is mandatory for Aikido? What is it that we simply cannot do without? What thing or aspect, if it is absent, forces us to be unable to say, "We do Aikido?"

dmv

Hi Dave,

My answer to your questions would be:-

1) Compassion for all sentient beings and
2) Respect for living beings; be it friend or foe.

If we do not have the above, it is just another jutsu, a battlefield art which is to maim or kill.

Boon.

Chuck.Gordon
03-08-2005, 06:14 AM
If we do not have the above, it is just another jutsu, a battlefield art which is to maim or kill.

Boon.

Umm .. nope. Aikido incorporates 'jutsu' as do most of the gendai budo claiming to me ethically or morally superior.

The jutsu-do dichotomy is a false, and persistent, myth probably attributable to the writings of Donn Draeger. He tried hard to express concepts in English that are kind of fuzzy even in Japanese, and as result, spawned some gross misunderstandings in certain areas of budo among folks who haven't done enough research to put what he said into context.

That said, Draeger is a must raed for any budoka, but again, must be taken in context.

The concepts espoused in the 'do' camp were found in many of the 'jutsu' arts, and indeed, many of the old masters use the terms interchangeably.

My best interpretation is that jutsu encompasses the technical aspects of any budo, do encompasses the art and philosophical bases.

If you study, say, Takeuchi Ryu Jujutsu for 20 years, never get into a fight, but as result of your studies and training are a happier, gentler, more balanced human being, have you done budo or bujutsu?

If you study aikido for 20 years, and one day have to use your skills to defend your life or the life of your loved ones, have you done budo or bujutsu?

Do is not morally superior. It's a different aspect of jutsu. And vice versa. Neither can be separated from budo. The use of broad labels such as jutsu to identify those arts designed for practicality over philosophy is misleading. Likewise the belief that a do art is superior (either technically or philosophically). It just ain't so.

It's nice to believe that because 'we' are doing XYZ, we're morally or spiritually superior, but that idea, in fact, really is false and usually the result of insufficient study of the roots and history of what budo is, how the modern arts came to be and what happened to them in the transition from 'jutsu' to 'do' ...

In fact, much of the conversion to 'do' was political, I believe.

YMMV.

Chuck (one of those bloodthirsty jutsu guys)

Mary Eastland
03-08-2005, 07:18 AM
Without this no Aikido?

For me I think, commitment would be the essential ingredient. To show up and train no matter how I feel or what I think. The results have been innumerable: I am more relaxed, positive, open-minded, strong and grateful.

Mary

ruthmc
03-08-2005, 11:00 AM
Maybe if you read Gozo Shioda's book and see the pictures of him directly opposing the force and meeting it with a force and if you understand how this is done. The point I'm making is that many people think you "blend" (as in "go with") a force always and few people understand how to actually do what Shioda is showing in his pictures, even if they vaguely understand the concept.
:D It always amuses me that anybody believes they can learn Aikido from pictures in a book :D

Unlike you, I have trained in Yoshinkan Aikido, so I have seen and practised these things myself. I still maintain that in Aikido you do not directly oppose anyone's force. All the Yoshinkan instructors I have ever trained under applied a palm-heel strike to uke's chin after re-aligning their body so as to be slightly off the direct line of the oncoming force / attack. This is very effective at stopping or throwing uke and prevents tori from getting hit. If any of them just stood still and tried to strike uke, they'd get mown over! Yoshinkan ukes tend to give very committed attacks :)

What is your interpretation of what Shioda Sensei is doing Mike?

Any Yoshinkan instructors care to comment?

Ruth

Mike Sigman
03-08-2005, 11:22 AM
:D It always amuses me that anybody believes they can learn Aikido from pictures in a book :D I guess it would amuse me, too, if anyone had suggested it in this thread. But no one has. If Shioda shows something that is quite obviously related to what I already know and I use it as a common link to explain a point, though, it's a different matter. Unlike you, I have trained in Yoshinkan Aikido, so I have seen and practised these things myself. I still maintain that in Aikido you do not directly oppose anyone's force. All the Yoshinkan instructors I have ever trained under applied a palm-heel strike to uke's chin after re-aligning their body so as to be slightly off the direct line of the oncoming force / attack. This is very effective at stopping or throwing uke and prevents tori from getting hit. If any of them just stood still and tried to strike uke, they'd get mown over! Yoshinkan ukes tend to give very committed attacks :) Unlike me, a number of people on this list have trained in Ki-Aikido, as well. But I know what Tohei shows and although there are some variants and "grades" of doing it, there's essentially only a few basic principles. I can demonstrate those principles and the effects; i.e., I'm not just theorizing out loud just to make mouth noises. ;) What is your interpretation of what Shioda Sensei is doing Mike? I'm only interested in the general discussion he has about power. He breaks it down into practical components like Chushin-Ryoku, Shuchu-Ryoku, Kokyu-Ryokyu, and Ki. While I sort of agree with what he says in his books, I'm not about to assume that all Yoshinkan people do particularly what he himself did. A lot can get lost in peoples' interpretations in Yoshinkan, just as things are lost in Aikikai, Ki-Society, and so on. My bet is that Shioda probably had more of an understanding of how things work than my caution is allowing, but I can't know that for sure from a book anymore than I can assume you know what Shioda knew from your arrogation of Yoshinkan prinicples in an email post. You, or any Yoshinkan instructors, can verify the depths of your knowledge by physically explaining how opening your fingers is supposed to help your power. Since, unlike me, you have trained in Yoshinkan, you must certainly know the answer in greater depth than I do.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
03-08-2005, 11:32 AM
All the Yoshinkan instructors I have ever trained under applied a palm-heel strike to uke's chin after re-aligning their body so as to be slightly off the direct line of the oncoming force / attack. Oops, I forgot to address this point. While I agree with "re-aligning" the body, my previous comment was simply to show that good Aikido can legitimately oppose an incoming force; the added information about "re-aligning" the body is extraneous to the thrust of my remarks that not all is "blending" in the sense that many people feel is only proper in ALL of Aikido. I didn't want to get too far from the point.

You'll notice that I put "re-align" in quotations. There's a reason that would take more time to write than it would be worth and besides, I don't want to dilute what you practice. ;) But as an aside, I'm not totally clear on what Shioda knew because, as I said, there are variations and "grades" of knowledge. If, as is my current working hypothesis, the Ki skills, Kokyu, etc., in Aikido is more aligned with the approach of Shaolin martial arts, then you don't particularly need to know the bit about "re-alignment" as I do it. It's possible that a contributor to this forum will meet with me in Harrogate/Leeds next month, and if he does, I'll ask him to comment on these discussions in retrospect.

Regards,

Mike Sigman

jonreading
03-08-2005, 12:20 PM
Hey,

I hate to get into questions like this, but it may help me compose my thoughts better.

To me, aikido happens when uke resolves the conflict that exists. I sometimes forget that "aiki" existed long before "aikido." I also forget sometimes that aikdio techniques are similar to many other Japanese techniques. This leads me to believe there must be a component that differentiates aikido from aikijitsu that is not religious, technical, or physical. I feel that this component is the ability to cooperative to resolve conflict. Which translates into the ability to solicit cooperation from your opponent; by solicit, I mean illustrate the way to resolve the conflict.

Without cooperation, I feel that aikido becomes aikijitsu, which is not bad, but it is not aikido. As a martial artist, I must be prepared to execute technique on anyone (willing or otherwise). As a aikido person, I prefer to execute technique on someone that recognizes the danger and cooperates to avoid injury.

senshincenter
03-08-2005, 01:22 PM
David,
I don't quote words from a book, article or such...What I wrote I felt physically on me myself as uke, and I'm trying to do it as tori.

This kind of practice is difficult to explain in exact technical terms. Particularly as English isn't my first language. I think, searching for elements, as you do, it is what it is: elements. You simply can't separate those entities, as a mix of physical and non-physical elements is a heart of aikido.
I'm not sure about blending question; I suppose there are many different understanding of blending. As you progress, this understanding changes.

How about efficient techniques and compassion? I believe there is not one exact definition. In some circumstances if you kill somebody you do efficient technique with compassion.
All our training is only conditioning -- as Chiba sensei said one day. Aikido technique is created spontaneously, in the right moment, and I can't say in advance what is meaning of each element in such situation. O sensei did his techniques after being influenced by kami, may be it is quite good explanation? How the right judgment is coming in particular moment? This right judgment allows efficient techniques and compassion.

It is good to ask yourself such serious questions.



Hi Szczepan,

Thanks for the reply. Sorry for the delay in my own reply.

First off, please let me say that I think your reply is great. It is easy to tell that what you are saying is coming from your own introspections and experience. I especially like your last line. I think that is one way of looking at this whole thread and at our participation (all of us) in this thread. I like that not too much arguing has come up and that mostly we all are just asking questions of each other and ourselves. I am a firm believer that the Way must balance practice with theory (or experience with contemplation).

If I could reflect upon your mentioning of Chiba Sensei and on what others have said regarding compassion in our training changing topics and speaking generally

I see now that there are indeed two ways to answer my original question. There is the way I meant it to be answered and there is the way that I actually asked it. One can answer the question in regards to what makes Aikido unique in that an essence is something that is unique to something else and not everything else. I was interested in reflecting upon the essence of this thing that is suppose to reveal the essence of my own person. In other words, to me, it seems paramount that we should know or be able to point toward the essence of a thing that is supposed to reveal the essence of me. That is actually how I meant the question to be understood, but I see now that I did not at all make that clear.

In fact, as I said above, I think the way I worded things is more akin to how many folks are answering it here. That is, folks are taking what I am asking literally and thereby denoting what is mandatory for Aikido to exist, regardless of whether or not it shares this element(s) with any other practice and/or tradition. I think both understandings are valid avenues for contemplation, but I think I should forfeit the former for another time and speak to the latter since that is more how I worded things and more how folks are now answering the question.

In this way, things like compassion come up, so too does conflict resolution, commitment, etc. These things make sense to me. I would say if we do not have them in our practice, we do not have Aikido. This is true whether we as aikidoka share these things with other practices and/or traditions or not. Without these things, as some have suggested, it does seem that Aikido would be reduced to something else. I think we can say this without exposing ourselves to the delusion of moral superiority. We can say this because it is more a statement we make about ourselves than it is a statement we make about others. When we expose ourselves directly (i.e. personally) to the idea of moral superiority, we are no longer practicing delusion. We are practicing living according to an ideal. Undoubtedly, that too is part of what Aikido has to be and/or should be: Living according to ideals.

However, for me, this all brings up another bunch of things. This occurs because while ideals (e.g. compassion, commitment, resolving conflict, etc.) are important to Aikido, they are only as important as we are able to cultivate them and to thereby put them into practice. In other words, I do not think it is enough, nor at all central to Aikido, to simply SAY, I should have compassion, I should resolve conflict, I should have commitment, etc. This means, for example, that as compassion is essential to Aikido, so too then is the means by which compassion is cultivated and practiced. Naturally, the same could be said about resolving conflict, commitment, etc. Yet, having trained all over, I have not seen such significance given to this essence of Aikido. To be sure, there have been many places that hold the ideal verbally they just have no means, and no ideas concerning the means, toward cultivating the ideal at a practical level. At most, in my own experience, what we see is some sort of understanding of the architecture of waza and/or the performance of waza that can rightly be called magical (using Frazers understanding of sympathetic magic). Thus, whereas virtues central to Aikido are supposed to be based in reality and actual life, they are more housed in superstition. That is to say, they come to be dependent upon some sort of talismanic logic whereby exposure to the waza themselves is thought to be sufficient in effectively transforming us from a person without compassion to a person with compassion, from a person without the capacity to resolve conflict to a person with the capacity to resolve conflict, from a person without commitment to a person capable of commitment, etc.

If Aikido waza were so empowered with talismanic energy, such that we can justify the lack of actual practices (e.g. silence, meditation, prayer, vows, obedience, spiritual mentoring, etc.) shared by countless other traditions that also speak of things like compassion, conflict resolution, commitment, etc., then are we not forced to ask, if at least of our own person, why did the Founder balance his performance of waza with the performance of these other things. Can we not also ask, if waza performance is talismanically charged, and thus capable of transforming us from a person with no or little virtue to a person of some or even great virtue, why does the Aikido world look like it does especially at the top (where folks have been performing Aikido for a very long time). Can we not ask, Why was the main line born in jealousy and segregation? Or, Why is the Aikido world so plagued by politics? It would seem that such superstitions regarding Aikido performance should be dropped and we should realize that we can only uphold such ideals (e.g. compassion, etc.) as high as we are able to uphold the legitimate means of cultivating them.

My own opinion, my own reflection,
dmv

jester
03-08-2005, 02:00 PM
While O'sensei was alive, Aikido was probably easier to define. After his death, there were so many splits in the organization, that it is impossible to find a common philosophy. People mention compassion, but if someone is attacking me, I'm thinking of survival, not compassion.

My instructor told me what separates the arts is your initial reaction to something. If you grab them and throw them, it's judo, if you block and counter it's karate, if you move off the line and flow with the attacker, it's aikido. This is a little over simplified, but it does work to define different arts.

For example if someone punches at you and you tenkan off the line of attack, then back-fist him in the face as he moves forward, are you doing karate or aikido. If you follow the previous definition, it is aikido.

What if he strikes you in the face, and you block his punch strike him in the face, grab his arm and do shiho-nage? Well that would be Karate by the previous definition.

With this definition, then what is Aikido?

Ron Tisdale
03-08-2005, 02:34 PM
What if he strikes you in the face, and you block his punch strike him in the face, grab his arm and do shiho-nage? Well that would be Karate by the previous definition.

Hmmm, sounds a lot like gamentsuki shihonage ichi...block, cut the striking arm down with a 45 degree pivot, control the wrist while you atemi to the face, then shiho...naaaahhhhhh, that would be karate then....I must have misunderstood something...

:)
Ron

jester
03-08-2005, 02:49 PM
I forgot to mention that after the block there is a loud KIAAAAIIII!!! :o

Now that's Karate for sure!

Ron Tisdale
03-08-2005, 04:02 PM
Well, if its shihonage osae ichi, as we pin we kiai...is it still aikido???

I am being a little facetious, but that really is the way we (yoshinkan) do that technique. :) I think I've given up trying to define aikido...everytime I think I've got it pinned down, it gets away from me again!

Ron (stupid aikido) :(

senshincenter
03-08-2005, 04:10 PM
People mention compassion, but if someone is attacking me, I'm thinking of survival, not compassion.


Perhaps the people that are mentioning compassion would say that if when you are attacked and you can think only of survival and thereby not of compassion, that that is not Aikido. I think, if I may say so, that is the point they are trying to make and/or suggest.

jester
03-08-2005, 04:57 PM
I study Tomiki Aikido, and I was not taught about compassion or ki or a lot of the aikido buzz words that I hear all the time. We don't kneel and bow to the kamiza at the start of a class, and it's a somewhat informal atmosphere.

So by suggesting that compassion is an integral part of Aikido is false. Maybe there style or instructor promotes that, but to say No Compassion = No Aikido is ridiculous. Like I mentioned earlier, while O'sensei was alive, Aikido was probably easier to define.

senshincenter
03-08-2005, 05:47 PM
I study Tomiki Aikido, and I was not taught about compassion or ki or a lot of the aikido buzz words that I hear all the time. We don't kneel and bow to the kamiza at the start of a class, and it's a somewhat informal atmosphere.

So by suggesting that compassion is an integral part of Aikido is false. Maybe there style or instructor promotes that, but to say No Compassion = No Aikido is ridiculous. Like I mentioned earlier, while O'sensei was alive, Aikido was probably easier to define.

Your reply, for me, begs the following questions: If not compassion, is there no deeper anything to Aikido? Is there anything else besides the architectural elements that mark Aikido - the different styles by which we attempt to survive violence? Is it in every case that we look for something deeper and/or say that something should be deeper, and if we (generally speaking) are critical of when that thing is not there, are we always being ridiculous?

If I remember correctly, Tomiki Sensei was influenced heavily by Kano Sensei. Are you really telling us that the cultivation of virtues is outside of what marks Aikido as Aikido and/or of what marks Tomiki Aikido as Tomiki Aikido?

I'm just curious mind you. Trying to understand what you are suggesting by relaying to us that your Aikido experience, which is Tomiki-based, is free of such concerns and other "buzz words."

Don_Modesto
03-08-2005, 06:05 PM
Hi, Peter,

The only contemporary Japanese scholar of shugyou, mind-body, elightenment I am aware of who has been translated into English is Yasuo Yuasa and the translations have been heavily edited\I gather, at the author's suggestion.

I figured as much. I read this on your suggestion; would be very interested in how it differs in English (although I probably have some guesses...)

Thanks.

Peter Goldsbury
03-08-2005, 07:44 PM
If Aikido waza were so empowered with talismanic energy, such that we can justify the lack of actual practices (e.g. silence, meditation, prayer, vows, obedience, spiritual mentoring, etc.) shared by countless other traditions that also speak of things like compassion, conflict resolution, commitment, etc., then are we not forced to ask, if at least of our own person, why did the Founder balance his performance of waza with the performance of these other things. Can we not also ask, if waza performance is talismanically charged, and thus capable of transforming us from a person with no or little virtue to a person of some or even great virtue, why does the Aikido world look like it does -- especially at the top (where folks have been performing Aikido for a very long time). Can we not ask, "Why was the main line born in jealousy and segregation?" Or, "Why is the Aikido world so plagued by politics?" It would seem that such superstitions regarding Aikido performance should be dropped and we should realize that we can only uphold such ideals (e.g. compassion, etc.) as high as we are able to uphold the legitimate means of cultivating them.

My own opinion, my own reflection,
dmv

Hello David,

Could it be that the Founder himself was aware of these kind of issues only to a certain extent? From reading Kisshomaru's biography, I have an image of Morihei Ueshiba as someone rather unpolitical, unconcerned with economic issues, but possessed of a vision to which all else was subordinated. However, the way he communicates this vision in his writings is classic 'Japanese New Religion', if you like.

Moreover, some charisimatics make provision for their charisma to be transmitted to believers by an overt methodology, and an extreme extension of this is the sacramental system we find in Catholic Christianity. Others do not, and the problem then exists of finding a way to transmit the 'charisma'. The charismatic then becomes a 'Founder' and has 'disciples', who transmit the charisma. How do they do this? The Japanese seem to place all their eggs in the basket of finding the right disciples and assuming that they will do all the right things. Those in the western spiritual tradition also look for the right disciples but also try to find a rule, which guides and also limits the freedom of the disciple / successors.

Notice that this charisma might or might not further be described as virtue. As far as I can see, those in the tradition of Kukai who went in for shugyou/shugendou in a big way did not conceive of virtue as something other than what was acquired by the shugyou. The losing of the self in shugyou was not accompanied by some other activity, with the self as the guiding principle. However in the Christian tradition, virtue is seen as a consequence, grounding the genuineness or authenticity of the shugyou, if you like. Thus, aikidoists outside Japan sometimes like to look for some direct and tangible evidence that their training is right, other than whether the techniqies actually work. The Japanese also buy into this in another way, when they state that aikido is a way to world peace. Ordinary aikidoists I meet and train with do not usually say things like this, but high-ranking shihans have a habit of coming out with this sort of thing at meetings.

I think that if you look at the politics of a religion like Omoto-kyou, with its splits and branches\right from the beginning, you might conclude that aikido has not done too badly, given the context in which it was created. I have learned by experience here in Hiroshima University that the Japanese are brilliant at acting as though political divisions do not exist, and those outside the tatemae:honne/omote-ura dynamic will suggest that they are dishonest because of this. This is not true.

Nevertheless, there is a kind of double-think among some of the Founder's deshi. One the one hand, they argue that aikido is really anarchic\it eschews any form of organization; on the other hand, it is practised by a group of people in a dojo and these same shihans are the heads of organizations and deshi of the one person in aikido\K Ueshiba, who is known as the creator of an organization.

One might get around this double-think by adding an existentialist / historical context and assuming as part of the equation that individuals become corrupt and organizations decay. So there is a mutual symbiosis between the anachists and the organizers.

Sorry, the post has become too long. However, like Szeczpan's post, with which I entirely agree, this post is based on experience, both on the mat and off it.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury
03-08-2005, 07:52 PM
Notice that this charisma might or might not further be described as virtue. As far as I can see, those in the tradition of Kukai who went in for shugyou/shugendou in a big way did not conceive of virtue as something other than what was acquired by the shugyou. The losing of the self in shugyou was not accompanied by some other activity, with the self as the guiding principle. However in the Christian tradition, virtue is seen as a consequence, grounding the genuineness or authenticity of the shugyou, if you like. Thus, aikidoists outside Japan sometimes like to look for some direct and tangible evidence that their training is right, other than whether the techniqies actually work. The Japanese also buy into this in another way, when they state that aikido is a way to world peace. Ordinary aikidoists I meet and train with do not usually say things like this, but high-ranking shihans have a habit of coming out with this sort of thing at meetings.

I should add that the extent to which eclectic religions like Omoto-kyou incorporated into their teaching elements of Christian morality is clearly a factor here. However, I have found no evidence of this incorporation in M Ueshiba's writings.

PAG

senshincenter
03-08-2005, 08:46 PM
Could it be that the Founder himself was aware of these kind of issues only to a certain extent?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for posting. Just to be sure, before I reply, could you please make clear what are "these kind of issues"? Thanks. I am assuming you are referring to the political in-fighting issues that I said could be used as a sign to determine that Aikido waza performance is void of the talismanic capacity to transform us, etc. However, I wanted to make sure.

Thanks,
david

Peter Goldsbury
03-08-2005, 09:12 PM
Hi Peter,

Thanks for posting. Just to be sure, before I reply, could you please make clear what are "these kind of issues"? Thanks. I am assuming you are referring to the political in-fighting issues that I said could be used as a sign to determine that Aikido waza performance is void of the talismanic capacity to transform us, etc. However, I wanted to make sure.

Thanks,
david

Hello David,

I was referring to the three compound questions you posed in the paragraph I quoted. Not just the political infighting (which I suspect he might have taken for granted), but the issues relating to the transmission of charisma/virtue, in particular by persons other than himself.

Perhaps my posts need to be read in conjunction with stuff published in Aikido Journal. A few years ago I wrote a long piece connected with the IAF, but the arguments here are in there, at the beginning. The piece was published in the print edition of AJ.

Best regards,

PAG

NagaBaba
03-08-2005, 11:12 PM
I study Tomiki Aikido, and I was not taught about compassion or ki or a lot of the aikido buzz words that I hear all the time. We don't kneel and bow to the kamiza at the start of a class, and it's a somewhat informal atmosphere.

So by suggesting that compassion is an integral part of Aikido is false. Maybe there style or instructor promotes that, but to say No Compassion = No Aikido is ridiculous. Like I mentioned earlier, while O'sensei was alive, Aikido was probably easier to define.
I don't know Tomiki aikido, but if you want to do efficient technique without compassion, you must close all openings. Physical result of this is broken or killed uke.

If you don't close all openings, you let uke to receive technique safely, but why you do it? This reason is important. Of course you can think about uke as a THING to throw or to lock. That will be not correct, cos he is giving his body voluntary (taking risk of being hurt) to allow you learn aikido. He is human being.
So slowly, one can develop a certain kindness, some respect for him, some gratitude for his generosity.

This training situation in the dojo is a tool to learn about what is compassion. Particularly good way to learn it, is to be locked and completely on mercy of nage. You are on the eage of your physical limits. His slighter error or bad mood can cost you few months of hospital or worst. But he has compassion for you. So he open a bit his technique and you receive technique safely. If you never felt this as uke, youve never experienced efficient technique. So you cant understand at all what aikido is all about.

PeterR
03-09-2005, 12:03 AM
Hi Tim;

At Tomiki's own dojo we do bow to Kamiza and there is a certain formality at points. True a lot of Aikido buzzwords are missing from practice but we do take care of our uke. Tomiki's own writings reflect many of the ideals expressed in other Aikido styles just in a different way.

One could say that Tomiki's approach to both techniques and philosophy is essentially minimalist. We don't carry a lot of extra baggage.

Cheers

George S. Ledyard
03-09-2005, 01:37 AM
I don't know Tomiki aikido, but if you want to do efficient technique without compassion, you must close all openings. Physical result of this is broken or killed uke.

If you don't close all openings, you let uke to receive technique safely, but why you do it? This reason is important. Of course you can think about uke as a THING to throw or to lock. That will be not correct, cos he is giving his body voluntary (taking risk of being hurt) to allow you learn aikido. He is human being.
So slowly, one can develop a certain kindness, some respect for him, some gratitude for his generosity.

This training situation in the dojo is a tool to learn about what is compassion. Particularly good way to learn it, is to be locked and completely on mercy of nage. You are on the eage of your physical limits. His slighter error or bad mood can cost you few months of hospital or worst. But he has compassion for you. So he open a bit his technique and you receive technique safely. If you never felt this as uke, you've never experienced efficient technique. So you can't understand at all what aikido is all about.

Szcepan,
In my own opinion, this series of posts you've written is the best I've read from you. I've read them and read them again. You've got some great stuff to say, thanks.
- George

jester
03-09-2005, 09:51 AM
If not compassion, is there no deeper anything to Aikido?
I think anyone who does martial arts is looking for something deeper, but to say it's compassion is too general. It could be confidence, exercise, spiritual etc.

Is there anything else besides the architectural elements that mark Aikido - the different styles by which we attempt to survive violence?
Like I said earlier, your initial reactions dictate your art.

Trying to understand what you are suggesting by relaying to us that your Aikido experience, which is Tomiki-based, is free of such concerns and other "buzz words."
One example is that I have never heard of anything being explained by using your KI.
Peter's comment that "We don't carry a lot of extra baggage" seems to ring true. I've trained at some USAF schools, and it is a different experience.

I don't know Tomiki aikido, but if you want to do efficient technique without compassion, you must close all openings. Physical result of this is broken or killed uke.

So if you close all openings, but practice really slow, will uke get killed? I seriously doubt it. We practice slowly, so you can internalize all of the subtleties of the technique. If you go slowly, all of your openings become more apparent so you try to minimize them.

Uke is a training partner. It is obvious that you must work with him so no one gets hurt. This is true in almost all martial arts, and isn't unique to aikido. I don't believe it is compassion at work here, I think it is more of a respect for your training partner and others around you. Uke learns to give up control and put trust in tori. Is this compassion?

Aikido in the dojo is different than aikido for self protection. My comments were based on the application of aikido as a self defense, not as a training tool.

Compassion, if you want to call it that can be left at the dojo door and will not help you once someone threatens you or your families life.

I'm not saying you have to be a non compassionate self defense zombie. Once your attacker is immobilized and can not pose a threat to you, then maybe your compassion can come out. I'm sure that no one wants to kill anyone.

Amir Krause
03-09-2005, 10:40 AM
your initial reactions dictate your art

The way I am taught, the best reaction to an attack is to feel it before it actually started and react to the intention through some form of Irimi-Sabaki (the palm to the chin is an option, as well as an atemi). Would that make our practice Karate ?

I think not.


Szczepan Janczuk wrote:

I don't know Tomiki aikido, but if you want to do efficient technique without compassion, you must close all openings. Physical result of this is broken or killed uke.


So if you close all openings, but practice really slow, will uke get killed? I seriously doubt it. We practice slowly, so you can internalize all of the subtleties of the technique. If you go slowly, all of your openings become more apparent so you try to minimize them.

Uke is a training partner. It is obvious that you must work with him so no one gets hurt. This is true in almost all martial arts, and isn't unique to aikido. I don't believe it is compassion at work here, I think it is more of a respect for your training partner and others around you. Uke learns to give up control and put trust in tori. Is this compassion?


Most M.A. have multiple ways of practicing, including competition, and yet, only a few of the practitioners are injured. Does that make them all Aikido, as they have compassion for their training partner ?

Once Again, I think not.

Chuck Clark
03-09-2005, 10:48 AM
So if you close all openings, but practice really slow, will uke get killed? I seriously doubt it. We practice slowly, so you can internalize all of the subtleties of the technique. If you go slowly, all of your openings become more apparent so you try to minimize them.

Uke is a training partner. It is obvious that you must work with him so no one gets hurt. This is true in almost all martial arts, and isn't unique to aikido. I don't believe it is compassion at work here, I think it is more of a respect for your training partner and others around you. Uke learns to give up control and put trust in tori. Is this compassion?


Interesting discussion, I've enjoyed reading it. Thanks. A large part of my history is involved in Tomiki Sensei's teaching and philosophy along with Jigoro Kano. More recently in the past 10 years Nishioka Tsuneo Sensei has had a strong influence on me as well.

This part about compassion is important to me. Some have it, some don't. As a Buddhist, I have certain ideas about compassion that may differ from some other's definitions.

What we all really must have in order to train safely while going into dangerous places is the realization that we're training with a skilled uke (or someone that is becoming a skilled uke...) and we need to take care of each other so that we can continue to train at higher levels for a long time. Good partners are hard to find and are fairly rare. Compassion is a wonderful addition and a worthy target to reach.

Training slowly with precision in our principles is necessary. If we can't do it slowly with efficiency, we surely won't get there by adding speed and extra power. However, we must get to a place where we're approaching and operating at maximum speed with very strong effect. In order to do this we must, as Szczepan wrote, leave open an avenue for uke to survive without injury.

Think about walking very slowly into a pointed, very sharp blade. If we're going slow enough we can stop and not be injured at the point of contact. Add a bit of speed and the injury will match the speed, etc. If someone is pushing us slowly and leaving us an opening to survive we can do it over and over, however we won't get the experience that comes from strong, fast training. Slow training just up to the point of injury has a place as well as fast training just short of injury. The necessary skill level for this is obvious. At any level of training we need to leave each other uninjured. Once you get the skill, the choice to actually cause injury (sometimes that may be the way to cause the least harm in certain situations) is there by closing the openings that provide safety. One of the things about budo that I love is the ability to have that choice that goes with superior control and strategy. Compassion may be there or it may not. I believe that the highest levels possible in strategy, speed, and timing that can match your intent only come with compassionate action. True compassion may involve doing harm at an appropriate level. Uplift all beings and do as little harm as possible.

Sorry for the length of this post.

rob_liberti
03-09-2005, 11:08 AM
I spoke to a good friend who is excellent at many martial arts. Here some some excerpts from one of our recent email conversations:

Every system has its own beat or rhythm which seems to come from the culture where it was invented and practiced. That culture dictates the mood and mind behind the art.

As soon as you introduce a different way of motion into what anyone trains a new world begins to form. That new world is often rejected because change would be required to learn from it - instead of trying to defeat it.

When someone attacks or defends using a series of bursts, I can't deal with it very well with my current level of aikido. I don't think that makes aikido inadequate, but I think it shows me where I want to focus my attention - and where it seems like no one else is interested!

In short, aikido is special because of the mind, the mood and it's rhythm(s). There is something common there. We can (and at a certain level - we should) extend all of these and learn how to evolve within the framework of the art until the framework itself evolves because it is no longer useful to our growth. (- maybe like a potted plant, where you then plant it in your backyard.)

Rob

happysod
03-09-2005, 11:42 AM
(wanders tentatively onto this august thread, opens mouth in preparation for receiving foot..)

I've followed several threads like this very one with a lot of interest and self-reflection because I'd love to know what makes aikido special and/or unique, and I've come to one conclusion - aikido isn't special (there, I've finally said it).

When people were lyrically about the compassion and harmony of aikido, firstly I look at some of the chinese forms and then read (often the self-same people) waxing lyrically about how this or that technique can really hurt or kill man. In fact if aikido's effectiveness is every questioned, out goes the compassion and in come the atemi and wrist breaks with the gleeful abandon of ants to the picnic table.

Spirituality has oft been mentioned, but then the religious amongst us (from fundi to atheist) spring to the fray and normally an inconclusive battle is fought with tempers aroused and the flag of harmonious discourse a tattered rag flapping in the breeze.

So, it must be techniques and training methods - well here come the old guard of jujitsu and judo et all to bash that monolith and kendo's already nicked the hakama so again I'm lost.

So, aikido isn't special, except I'm lying here. It's special for one important factor in that something in it has made it special to most of us posting on this boards. For me, it's one of the few things that gives me back exactly as much as I put in and has yet to lose my interest. So I would have to answer that, without the interest in training, no aikido.

rob_liberti
03-09-2005, 01:14 PM
Good, post. You got me thinking:

What other art has the intention to do minimal harm? If challenged, the minimal harm might increase to the level that it looks a lot like the maximum harm, but there is a constant choice. I'd have to say "choice" matters and makes it special.

Rob

senshincenter
03-09-2005, 01:51 PM
Hi Peter,

I would undoubtedly agree that there are historical and/or institutional reasons behind the answers to the questions I posed. I also agree that the Founders lack of involvement (at many levels) is partially responsible for the things we see or think we see. However, and this was my main point, I would say that the rhetoric that holds Aikido waza as talismanically transformative posits that all of this stuff, regardless of the historical and institutional elements, should not be present. What we should see in its place is things like compassion, conflict resolution, etc. This rhetoric on the power of waza performance to transform us is never presented as being merely a fair-weather kind of thing it is presented as being universal and/or natural (e.g. One with the laws of the Universe, One with Nature, etc.). Therefore, it should function or it is supposed to function whether the Founder had institutional foresight or not or so the discourse goes. I personally do not hold this view of waza and how they are suppose to transform us. What the politics of Aikido demonstrates for me is what I believe: If waza performance has the power to transform us in terms of the cultivation of virtue, it can only succeed at fair-weather levels. Thus, for anyone, any one of us, that wants to suggest that the cultivation or the presence of certain virtues (e.g. commitment, compassion, love, courage, loyalty, endurance, integrity, honor, etc.) is central to Aikido, we are going to have to uphold some practices other than waza performance as well. Yet, what do we see? Though we see an abundance of aikidoka supporting the idea that Aikido is some kind of technology of the Self (M. Foucault), we see the abundance of our training dominated solely by waza performance. To me, something seems amiss.

While I think you have presented a great topic for discussion, that of the relationship between the individual and the institution in regards to the problematic of transmission, I do not think we necessarily have to get into that topic in order to understand what I was trying to say. I do not want to dismiss what you said, and I would certainly love to discuss the issues you raised, only I think it would detract from what I was trying to suggest. For example, we can take things at a smaller level and still see the fair-weatherness of Aikido waza performance as a transformative element. In every dojo that I have ever trained in, there has been division based upon ego, fear, ignorance, a lack of compassion, jealousy, etc. There are always clicks not a brotherhood of Man. There are always long-standing feuds between certain members with no attempts at reconciliation. There is always division, drama, hatred, disgust, anger, envy, etc. This is not just stuff seen in the newbie, it is fully present in folks that have been performing waza for an extremely long time (including the dojocho). The duration of waza performance in folks that are showing this lack of virtue begs us to doubt the talismanic logic behind the suggestion that waza performance alone leads to a transformation of the Self (at any kind of real level). Something else is needed because something else is missing. It may be a rule that is missing as you are talking about, etc., but whatever it is, it should be upheld as part of the essence of Aikido if the essence of Aikido is going to include virtues. The virtue, and the manner in which the virtue is cultivated, have to be treated equally. That equality is going to force us to seriously doubt the position that waza performance alone is transformative and/or capable of cultivating virtues deemed central to Aikido.

We have mentioned other traditions in this thread. I had brought up Muso Soseki and his views on gardening. As part of the culture that during the Muromachi period started to connect religious/spiritual cultivation with artistic pursuits, Muso Soseki often speaks the same way about gardening as we all are doing here about Aikido. To be sure, during that time, a lot of folks were saying and doing things similar to Muso Soseki, but I think a lot of those folks were actually just playing a part in the huge cultural economy that was coming out of China during that time. That is to say, many folks were going through the motions of connecting such things (art and spiritual cultivation), but for the most part their efforts are better understood as practices relevant to the accumulation of cultural capital not deep penetrations in the nature of humanity, creation, and existence. I think Aikido can also be understood in a very similar fashion. When our practice is void of the actual means to cultivate whatever virtue we want to uphold, and when we are left with only the stating of the ideal and its fair-weather application, our Aikido becomes more a thing of cultural economy and less a technology of the Self.

Muso Soseki talks about four kinds of people who practice gardening or four kinds of ways that we can relate to the practice of gardening. To some degree, as I said above, it sounds very similar to what we all have been saying here. One only has to replace the word gardening with the word Aikido.

He writes:

(the first type) There are those who practice the art of gardening out of vanity and a passion for display, with no interest whatever in their own true natures. They are concerned only with having their gardens attract the admiration of others.

(the second type) Some whose nature is simple are not attracted by worldly things and they raise their spirits by reciting poems in the presence of gardensOne might say that these are secular people of refined taste. Though they are in the world and without the spirit of the Way, this love of the art of gardens is nevertheless a root of transformation.

(the third type) In others, there is a spirit that comes awake in the presence of these gardens and is drawn out of the dullness of daily existence. And so these gardens help them in the practice of the Way. There is is not the usual love of gardens. These people are worthy of respect. But they cannot yet claim to be followers of the true Way because they still make a distinction between gardens and the practice of the Way.

(the fourth type) Still others see the mountains, the river, the earth, the grass, the tree, the tile, the pebble (i.e. the elements that make up the garden) as their own essential nature. They love, for length of a morning, the garden. What appears in them to be no different from a worldly passion is at once the spirit of the Way. Their minds are one with the atmosphere of the fountain, the stone, the grass, and the tree, changing through the four seasons. This is the true manner in which those who are followers of the Way love gardens.

What is MOST INTERESTING is that he ends this listing with the following:

So one cannot say categorically that a liking for gardens is a bad thing or a good thing. There is neither gain nor loss in gardens. Gain and loss exist only in the human mind.

Can we not say this about Aikido as well? I think so. Aikido can be quite mundane and quite profound. Thus, for those of us that want to see some sort of spiritual cultivation as part of the essence of Aikido, we are going to have to show more than just the performance of Aikido as our reason for suggesting that such a thing as possible.

What did Muso Soseki think of the human mind as far as practice goes? I think two things, for me at least, speak to how Muso thought the mind had to be addressed in ones practice. He tried to cultivate the mind through various practice and admonitions such that gardening could actually be the Way for those that trained in it under him. For example, he made it a rule that under him, you had to sit in zazen for hours (four or five each day, if I remember correctly) you could not just come to him to only do gardening. In several other ways, he was a huge proponent of having Zen practice return to a strict adherence to the traditional monastic rules. Second, we see how critical he is of those folks that actually attempt to do just that just go through the superficial motions of trying to make art a matter of spiritual cultivation. In his admonition, he is very critical of those that do not engage the practice at the deeper levels which as I said, for him, meant that one had to do CERTAIN types of practices not just gardening. He says that he has three types of disciples actually he mentions five kinds but he does not even count the bottom two as disciples because they are so lost to what is really going on.

The highest level of disciple is the practitioner who resolutely gives up all worldly relationships and devotes himself to wholly seeping and realizing their own true natures (i.e. devotes himself to Zen practice). The second level consists of those whose practice is not pure (i.e. not really earnest in their Zen practice) and who are distracted by intellectual pursuits. The third level consists of those that cloud their minds and only lick of the spittle of the Buddha and the patriarchs.

The bottom two levels, which are made up of those folks that Muso Soseki rejects even counting as his disciples, folks he equates with lay people of shaven head, and/or even as (human) hangers for Zen robes, consists of people that are only interested in their own cultural reputations (folks attempting to be artists) and/or that merely sleep and eat all day.

So here you have a person, Muso Soseki, that is upholding art, gardening, as an equivalent to the Way, yet he does not reject the tenets of traditional religious practice and/or suggest that gardening can actually do it all this though he says that the ultimate level is to see gardening and religious practice as the same. What we often do, like one of Musos lesser disciples, is to hear that the Way and art are the same and then we go on to make the Way art. Rather, it seems that we should work to make art the Way we should seek to bring in more aspects of training in the Way to our art. Then and only then, I think, we can finally come to see art and the Way as one and the same. This is how I understand Musos admonition and this is why I think it is relevant to what we are doing and what we are saying here.

Thanks,
david

rob_liberti
03-09-2005, 02:40 PM
David, I don't agree with this last post.

Aikido is a subset of Japanese Budo which is a subset of Zen Arts, which is a subset of ...
I think you are more describing aspects of some of the supersets.

Rob

jester
03-09-2005, 02:41 PM
Chuck, I studies jujitsu for a while (not BJJ) and they did a lot of things fast. Fast 3 man attacks, mugs from behind, all sorts of unpredictable grabs etc. I really got a lot out of it. Your adrenaline starts to flow, and your techniques have to be right on so no one gets hurt. This type of training is more dangerous, and both partners have to be really aware.

I did the techniques like I learned them, and wasn't aware that I had to left any openings. Uke knew how to fall and go with the technique so he didn't get hurt. Can you explain a little more about opening?

---------------------------------------------------------------

Amir Krause: your quote "The way I am taught, the best reaction to an attack is to feel it before it actually started and react to the intention through some form of Irimi-Sabaki (the palm to the chin is an option, as well as an atemi). Would that make our practice Karate ? I think not."

If you moved off the line first to avoid the power instead of tightening up for a strong cross block, I wouldn't call that Karate either. Your first reaction was Irimi and was not to stand in front of the opponent and do a bone shattering block which is typical of most karate.

The earlier examples I gave were over generalized, but if you have done karate or seen karate, you will know the difference in your initial reaction.

It seems that you proved the initial reaction is more aikido than karate, judo BJJ etc.

senshincenter
03-09-2005, 04:30 PM
David, I don't agree with this last post.

Aikido is a subset of Japanese Budo which is a subset of Zen Arts, which is a subset of ...
I think you are more describing aspects of some of the supersets.

Rob

Hi Robert,

Not sure which parts you disagree with, but I'm not advocating any particular (i.e. specific) method as a prescription. I'm certainly not saying we should all become disciples of Muso Soseki. I'm only bringing him up because he played a very big role in the whole idea of coordinating artistic pursuits with spiritual pursuits, and when we look at him, we see that he too, at the very beginning, was faced with the same issues we are dealing with. So, if we don't want to re-invent the wheel, or worse think that wheels should or could be square, I think it should be deemed worthwhile to look at what he said and did in regards to gardening. It's a mere matter of relevance, not proof.

My only position is that waza performance cannot be deemed transformative in and of itself. If you disagree with me, then you must be saying that the performance of waza is innately transformative (as far as the cultivation of virtue and the human spirit goes). Are you? If you are, I'm afraid you got an uphill battle to prove that one. History, current events, the life of the Founder, every religious thinker that ever employed mundane practices, etc., is going to say something contrary to that position.

Peter Goldsbury
03-09-2005, 05:30 PM
If Aikido waza were so empowered with talismanic energy, such that we can justify the lack of actual practices (e.g. silence, meditation, prayer, vows, obedience, spiritual mentoring, etc.) shared by countless other traditions that also speak of things like compassion, conflict resolution, commitment, etc., then are we not forced to ask, if at least of our own person, why did the Founder balance his performance of waza with the performance of these other things.

Hello David,

My long post was in response to this question you asked. In so far as you answered it, you did so by an analysis of waza/talismanic energy vs, virtue. I answered it by placing the Founder in some sort of historical and cultural context. I think that placing him in such a context requires us to consider his own connection with an institution such as the Aikikai, which he created.

Best regards,

rob_liberti
03-09-2005, 05:39 PM
David,

I didn't mean to say that. For example:
Without shugyo there is no Budo (and therefore no aikido).
Without the dynamic relationship between space and form there is no Zen (and therefore no aikido).

I think stripping away the aspects of your gardening post, removes some superset of aikido and only consequently aikido itself. If the exercise - as I understood it - was to strip things away to try to get at what aikido really is, then that's what I meant to disagree with. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

Rob

senshincenter
03-09-2005, 05:47 PM
David,

I didn't mean to say that. For example:
Without shugyo there is no Budo (and therefore no aikido).
Without the dynamic relationship between space and form there is no Zen (and therefore no aikido).

I think stripping away the aspects of your gardening post, removes some superset of aikido and only consequently aikido itself. If the exercise - as I understood it - was to strip things away to try to get at what aikido really is, then that's what I meant to disagree with. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

Rob

Hi Robert,

I'm sorry, I know I'm missing something, but I can't seem to get what you are suggesting. Please assume I'm in need of more help. If you got any time, please feel free to offer more explanation - I would greatly appreciate it.

thanks,
d

senshincenter
03-09-2005, 05:49 PM
(wanders tentatively onto this august thread, opens mouth in preparation for receiving foot..)

I've followed several threads like this very one with a lot of interest and self-reflection because I'd love to know what makes aikido special and/or unique, and I've come to one conclusion - aikido isn't special (there, I've finally said it).

When people were lyrically about the compassion and harmony of aikido, firstly I look at some of the chinese forms and then read (often the self-same people) waxing lyrically about how this or that technique can really hurt or kill man. In fact if aikido's effectiveness is every questioned, out goes the compassion and in come the atemi and wrist breaks with the gleeful abandon of ants to the picnic table.

Spirituality has oft been mentioned, but then the religious amongst us (from fundi to atheist) spring to the fray and normally an inconclusive battle is fought with tempers aroused and the flag of harmonious discourse a tattered rag flapping in the breeze.

So, it must be techniques and training methods - well here come the old guard of jujitsu and judo et all to bash that monolith and kendo's already nicked the hakama so again I'm lost.

So, aikido isn't special, except I'm lying here. It's special for one important factor in that something in it has made it special to most of us posting on this boards. For me, it's one of the few things that gives me back exactly as much as I put in and has yet to lose my interest. So I would have to answer that, without the interest in training, no aikido.

Ian, I liked your post very much. Thanks for replying.
david

Peter Goldsbury
03-09-2005, 06:23 PM
David,

I didn't mean to say that. For example:
Without shugyo there is no Budo (and therefore no aikido).
Without the dynamic relationship between space and form there is no Zen (and therefore no aikido).

I think stripping away the aspects of your gardening post, removes some superset of aikido and only consequently aikido itself. If the exercise - as I understood it - was to strip things away to try to get at what aikido really is, then that's what I meant to disagree with. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

Rob

Hello Rob,

I'm not sure that this was David's idea. At least I did not understand it this way.

At present I am doing some research into why ordinary Japanese seem to treat leisure pursuits, like doing karaoke or visiting Disneyland, as a kind of training. One way of trying to answer is to look at the concept of shuygou and see its relationship with matsuri and asobi. The connections are striking in a way that does not appear in, e.g., Greek thought. The Zen arts are crucial here, both because of how they developed and also because of how they affected the martial arts. By the time we get to M Ueshiba, the cultural context has become much more complex. I am hugely simplifying, but seeing training as a DOU or michi has to share space with seeing it as being part of an 'ie' and the martial arts are seen as just another type of training one can do in one's spare time, However it is still shugyou and this is what the Founder called aikido. He also talked about keiko and about waza and people like Zeami also used these terms. Did he mean the same thing?

The Founder also did all kinds of other spiritual activities, as David has mentioned, but never made these activities mandatory for his disciples in Ayabe or at the Kobukan. Kisshomaru Ueshiba explains that this was because they were purely his own. Thus, either the waza are sufficient for whatever purpose aikido is meant to achieve, or they are not\and each person has to find the extra something.

For me this is not an issue, but this is probably due to the particular circumstances in which I encountered aikido and what I expect from training in the art.

Best regards,

PeterR
03-09-2005, 07:08 PM
David, I don't agree with this last post.

Aikido is a subset of Japanese Budo which is a subset of Zen Arts, which is a subset of ...

I will agree with the first part - the second is totally false.

Zen has had an influence on some Budo but Aikido is not one of them.
There is a Buddhist influence on many Koryu but I would say Zen is in the minority.

senshincenter
03-09-2005, 09:24 PM
I realize that even now as we speak, at Aikido Journal, there is a blog that limits the influence of Zen on the martial arts and/or Aikido, etc. However, such a view is mistaken for two reasons. 1) It does not understand properly the history of culture and/or the dynamics of cultural influences. If one looks only at direct influences, for example, as one might when one says, "Was "x" a practitioner of Zen?," one may see few reasons why Zen should be understood as central to Budo and/or Aikido. However, because of the role Zen played, particularly during the Muromachi period, in formulating a discourse for what has been called the secularization of Buddhism, such that artistic pursuits, and/or lay pursuits of any kind, could be understood as a Way, its role has to be considered central to Budo and thus Aikido. This remains true even if Osensei himself never practiced Zen and/or hated Zen or zazen. If a martial tradition, one that came through and/or existed after the Muromachi period can be shown to have little or no influence from the cultural influences of this Zen discourse, that tradition would be a historical anomaly. As such, it would be the focus of nearly ever scholar (in and out of Japanese studies) in that it would turn nearly every theory behind cultural studies and/or historiography on its ear.

A parallel example of this, that might make this point clear, is if we ask, Were any of the founding fathers of the United States Greek? We would have to answer no. However, it would be incorrect to then go on to say, Therefore, Greek philosophy had no impact on the formulation of modern democracy. Or another example: One might want to say that Judeo/Christian religious culture plays no part in the identity of the average American atheist this is because the United States allows for a separation of Church and State. However, one would be mistaken for such a leap in logic. For though the nation does allow for a separation of Church and State, that state was founded upon a bedrock of Judeo-Christian cultural assumptions. All Americans are touched by this culture whether they are atheist or not. In this way, Zen has to be understood as playing a role, even when that role is not as direct as we would like it (or not like it) to be.


2) The second reason that this view is mistaken is that it posits Zens influence as something static. Zens cultural influence, like any cultural influence, is dynamic and thus the Muromachi period does not capture the totality of Zens discourse on the relationship between the Buddhist Way and the Laymans Way (my term). It does no good to posit that that which came before Zen remained untouched by Zen or that that which came after Zen remained untouched by Zen. In fact, one could rightly say that though the Muromachi period was the true beginning and end of Zens connection to the powerhouse institutions of the political economy, Zens greater cultural influence came in the 20th century when scholars the world over, as well as monks, came to develop these relationships even further. It was at that time that Zens cultural influence was sealed in Japan. Thus it may be true that Osenseis meditation and purification practices can be traced back to Esoteric Buddhism, and it may be true that he used a language that referred constantly to the kami of various folk and native traditions, and it may be true that through his Omoto-kyo he came to be influenced by various Christian mystics of Europe, etc., but when he talked about Aikido as a Way during the 20th century, he was dependent upon a discourse that like it or not was saturated by Zen culture.

I say this not to suggest that Zen is everything or that everything can be accounted for by looking at Zen. I say this only to suggest that Zen cannot so easily be taken out of the equation when one is looking for cultural understandings regarding Budo and/or Aikido, etc.

PeterR
03-09-2005, 09:54 PM
David - how does that make Budo a subset of Zen. There is a huge difference between influence and enveloping. I'd also point out that Zen historically and today is a relatively minor (at least not one of the major) sect of Buddhism in Japan. If you replaced Zen with Buddhism in your above discourse you would have more agreement from me although I still would not go so far to describe Budo as a subset of Buddhism.

senshincenter
03-09-2005, 10:08 PM
Hi Peter,

Well, as I said above, I didn't really understand Robert's point too well, so I'd rather not speak for him. However, under a literal understanding of what he was saying, yes, I would agree with you: Budo is not a subset of Zen. That would be going a bit too far and I know of know cultural historian worth his/her name that would use that term in this way (which is my way, taking what Robert said literally). I think that is one of your points. However, what I was saying was in reference to the part of your post that read, "Zen has had an influence on some Budo but Aikido is not one of them. There is a Buddhist influence on many Koryu but I would say Zen is in the minority."

As to the point of Zen being a relatively minor sect on Japan today, I think that is more of what I was being "cautious" about. Numbers aren't always going to show you degree of influence. Culture is more complicated than that - I am suggesting.

PeterR
03-09-2005, 10:17 PM
OK I'll go along with that.

I would say that the concepts most commonly regarded as Zen like (Mu for instance) are not unique to Zen Buddhism.

NagaBaba
03-10-2005, 08:17 AM
. One of the things about budo that I love is the ability to have that choice that goes with superior control and strategy. Compassion may be there or it may not. I believe that the highest levels possible in strategy, speed, and timing that can match your intent only come with compassionate action. True compassion may involve doing harm at an appropriate level. Uplift all beings and do as little harm as possible.

Sorry for the length of this post.
Very well put. Good post, Chuck.

rob_liberti
03-10-2005, 08:31 AM
The thread is titled Without this, No Aikido and the original intention was to gain more insight by posing things in the negative. The first half of my point is that aikido is a subset of a bigger concept, which is a subset of an even bigger concept, going back to being a subset of even a bigger concept. Each of the supersets has its own qualities which are inherited by the subsets they encompass.

Lets try this example: We can say that a critical element of Budo is to get to a place (in time and space) where the attacker cant hit you and where, optimally, you can strike them. Of course, without this element of strategy we have no aikido but that is because we eliminated a key element of Budo (aikidos superset). When you consider this in the scope of the threads premise which is to gain more insight about what aikido is by posing the negative that example falls short of the goal. It simply gives more insight to what Budo is, and not anything unique about aikido (other than without Budo and its elements there is no aikido which should be a given).

I felt the gardening example more fit into a superset of Zen arts. My own sense of the ideas what David described so well led me to conclude that Budo is one of the Zen arts. I still think it is, and I dont understand the problem. If someone wants to help me understand and not take away from the thread, Id love an email or PM.

Here are my notes on the qualities of all Zen arts:

1) Balance without symmetry
2) Simplicity (dynamic relationship between space and form)
3) Austere sublimity (no rank)
4) No mind (mu shin)
a. The mind of no mind
b. The action of non-action
c. Let it happen, get out of the way (The brush paints by itself)
d. No deliberate intent / No conscious effort (The expert archer does not aim to hit the bulls eye)
e. Not forced or strained
f. Respond to the moment in a way that is spontaneous and wholly in accord with the circumstances (Improv with the whole body and mind. Musical improv where 5 musicians become 1 - The all is 1 clich.)
5) No bottom
6) No attachment (no hindrance)
7) No steering

I think every Budo fits within this. What aspect of Zen arts doesnt Budo fit?

Rob

NagaBaba
03-10-2005, 08:35 AM
This means, for example, that as compassion is essential to Aikido, so too then is the means by which compassion is cultivated and practiced. Naturally, the same could be said about resolving conflict, commitment, etc. Yet, having trained all over, I have not seen such significance given to this "essence" of Aikido.

My own opinion, my own reflection,
dmv
probably only very small minority of aikidoka eventually arrive at the level of efficiency of techniques where compassion has a real meaning, as Chuck wrote. They have a choice and do right choice in right moment. They got it transmitted from their master and cultivate it by practice with their students.
Thats how I see it.

NagaBaba
03-10-2005, 08:51 AM
So if you close all openings, but practice really slow, will uke get killed? I seriously doubt it. We practice slowly, so you can internalize all of the subtleties of the technique. If you go slowly, all of your openings become more apparent so you try to minimize them.

Uke is a training partner. It is obvious that you must work with him so no one gets hurt. This is true in almost all martial arts, and isn't unique to aikido. I don't believe it is compassion at work here, I think it is more of a respect for your training partner and others around you. Uke learns to give up control and put trust in tori. Is this compassion?

Aikido in the dojo is different than aikido for self protection. My comments were based on the application of aikido as a self defense, not as a training tool.

Compassion, if you want to call it that can be left at the dojo door and will not help you once someone threatens you or your families life.

I'm not saying you have to be a non compassionate self defense zombie. Once your attacker is immobilized and can not pose a threat to you, then maybe your compassion can come out. I'm sure that no one wants to kill anyone.

Yes, if you practice very slowly uke may not get hurt. But slow practice is to learn techniques at beginner level and in itself is false. False cos there is way too much of restrictions and is not enough to develop spontaneous execution of techniques. Also mind is not trained in right way.
As nage you must be able to deal with any speed, any form of attack, counters, feints, etc.

I dont understand why you want to create dualism: aikido in the dojo and aikido for self defense. Outside of dojo techniques may have different external form, but intent is the same as in the dojo so can call it aikido. If not so can call it jujutsu, boxing, etcThere is nothing wrong with it. Preserving compassion outside of dojo may look for you almost impossible, but at certain level ppl do it for real.

Amir Krause
03-10-2005, 09:38 AM
---------------------------------------------------------------

Amir Krause: your quote "The way I am taught, the best reaction to an attack is to feel it before it actually started and react to the intention through some form of Irimi-Sabaki (the palm to the chin is an option, as well as an atemi). Would that make our practice Karate ? I think not."

If you moved off the line first to avoid the power instead of tightening up for a strong cross block, I wouldn't call that Karate either. Your first reaction was Irimi and was not to stand in front of the opponent and do a bone shattering block which is typical of most karate.

The earlier examples I gave were over generalized, but if you have done karate or seen karate, you will know the difference in your initial reaction.

It seems that you proved the initial reaction is more aikido than karate, judo BJJ etc.

I did not write it down since it seemed obvious to me: in Karate, the advanced practitioner response would be the same - no block, move out of line and strike (all simultaneously). The Karate strike might look slightly different, but the principles are the same ones.


Amir

senshincenter
03-10-2005, 09:47 AM
Hi Robert,

Thanks for the explanation - I see what you were saying now.

Yes, that was the original intent of the post, but as I said in a following post, I didn't think I made that clear enough and opted to go then with how most folks started to answer the thread - such that uniqueness wasn't the key component of what was vital, etc.

I think an issue that Peter might have with seeing Aikido and/or Budo as one of the "Zen arts" is that it sort of misleads one into forgetting that there are other traditions that are also vital to the formation of both Aikido and Budo. For example, Esoteric Buddhism, Yin/Yang Theory, Confucianism, etc. In Aikido's case, one would also have to of course include Omoto-kyo, and all of its influences, etc. And, depending upon which line of thought you followed in Aikido, and several other martial arts, one would even have to include Muscular Christianity. This is not to say that the list you've come up with is "foreign" or "irrelevant" to Budo and/or Aikido - only there is a lot more and that that "lot more" is not all contained in Zen proper. I think that would be Peter's point.

david

rob_liberti
03-10-2005, 10:02 AM
Well sorry for the confusion. I took it as a given that one subset could be a member of muiltple supersets (which by definition would mean that they are not mutually exclusive).

I would love some examples of any of that "lot more" to aikido and Budo which is not contained in Zen proper comapred to say tea ceremony. If you are willing and but feel that it would be taking away from this discussion, please send it to me at rob_liberti@hotmail.com.

Thanks,
Rob

jester
03-10-2005, 10:04 AM
But slow practice is to learn techniques at beginner level and in itself is "false".

All dojo training is false. You can try to do all the drills you want at all speeds, but it is still false. You need to distinguish the difference between training and reality. Just because you can train at fast speed doesn't mean it's any more real.

Take Tai Chi for instance. It is based on Yin-Yang principles. Hard/Soft Slow/Fast etc. If you learn the slow techniques, going fast is really easy. If you only learned the fast methods only, it would be difficult for you to go slow. There must be an equal balance. (There is combative Tai Chi, so don't limit your thinking to old people in the park)

By going slow, your muscle memory is reinforced. It's like going fast in a car. You get there quick, but miss most of the scenery.
Try to see how slow you can actually go. It's harder than going as fast as you can. Musicians practice scales slowly to reinforce their finger positioning. They can also blaze through a scale if they wanted to.

To balance out slow training, we do a form of Randori (sparring) that is usually done at a moderate pace, but can be done really fast or really slow. My reactions are really really fast and totally spontaneous, and i can sense slight body shifts almost before they happen. This is all due to my slow training. I've trained slow and fast, so I can say with out a doubt that slow training is very effective.

I'm sure if your dojo doesn't train this way, you would have no idea as to what I am saying, but just because you are not sweating and running all over the place doesn't mean that it's not great training.

As nage you must be able to deal with any speed, any form of attack, counters, feints, etc.
You train like this at your dojo? How many boxers, taekwondo, judo, BJJ, shoot fighters, street brawlers, bottle wielding drunks did you have in your dojo to train against? Situation drills against a compliant uke hardly makes you able to deal with ALL types of attacks.

jester
03-10-2005, 10:35 AM
I did not write it down since it seemed obvious to me: in Karate, the advanced practitioner response would be the same - no block, move out of line and strike (all simultaneously). The Karate strike might look slightly different, but the principles are the same ones.

So are you saying Karate and Aikido have the same type of initial reactions? I guess our experiences and research is vastly different.

rob_liberti
03-10-2005, 10:39 AM
I'm not an expert in either, but I've seen experts in both. I would say that at very high levels, the answer would probably be yes. - Rob

senshincenter
03-10-2005, 11:31 AM
Hi Rob,

Perhaps this might be what you are looking for...? Here is a link to how Confucianism plays a role in Budo and in Aikido - it is from a group discussion we are currently having on the writings of Takuan Soho - we are using Wilson's translation:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/writs/budocon/deshithree.html

This next link is to something I have written regarding the application of Yin/Yang Theory to Suwari Waza Shomenuchi:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/writs/aikipers/shomenuchiikkyo.html

Hope that helps a bit,
thanks,
david

jester
03-10-2005, 01:39 PM
I'm not an expert in either, but I've seen experts in both. I would say that at very high levels, the answer would probably be yes. - Rob

If you don't mind me asking, who were the experts you saw?

NagaBaba
03-10-2005, 01:47 PM
All dojo training is false. .
??????? I don't understand. Aikido surly wasn't created to learn street fighting. That's why in O sensei dojo they didn't do any judo randori type of practice. Founder did also strictly forbidden use of judo techniques during aikido practice.
In this context, dojo training is all right and matches real goals of aikido.


You train like this at your dojo? How many boxers, taekwondo, judo, BJJ, shoot fighters, street brawlers, bottle wielding drunks did you have in your dojo to train against? Situation drills against a compliant uke hardly makes you able to deal with ALL types of attacks.
yes we have many ppl with different martial background in the dojo, but we practice together not against, they understand very well that we are here not to prove superiority on any particular MA.
Competitive spirit hides often real aikido goals.

rob_liberti
03-10-2005, 02:51 PM
I don't mind. I've seen William Gleason sensei's aikido when being attacked by strong karateka - after class practice. I've seen Saotome Sensei's aikido when being attacked by strong karateka. Both just moved and filled the opening. I saw Don Souci sensei of Sho shin ryu karate dealing with similarly strong attacks at their "Nationals" in CT. He pretty much just moved and filled the openings. I have some great tapes of kyokushin tournaments that looked similar as well. We are still talking about the initial movement right? I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but what are the differences you are expecting?

Rob

jester
03-10-2005, 05:16 PM
Rob:

Thanks for the list. I'm not trying to give you a hard time either. I've only seen videos of any really high ranking Karateka like Mas Oyama and Ed Parker, and just wanted some names so I could look them up and see for myself what they are doing. I see a clear distinction in the initial moves of Karateka as opposed to an Aikidoka or a Judoka, and it's odd that no one else does.

It's hard to write down what exactly I'm trying to say about an initial reactions, but I know it when I see it. So until I can articulate it better, there's no use in continuing with this idea.

thanks for your input.

Szczepan:
All I can say is re-read my post. It seems like you didn't read it or understand it. I think what I said was pretty clear.

Amir Krause
03-15-2005, 05:37 AM
I see a clear distinction in the initial moves of Karateka as opposed to an Aikidoka or a Judoka, and it's odd that no one else does.

There is a difference, but evident if you look at low-mid level or at different circumstances (competition / teaching etc.) At very high levels, It's the principles that come forward, and these are almost the same.

Amir

Chuck.Gordon
03-15-2005, 05:56 AM
... Japanese Budo which is a subset of Zen Arts, which is a subset of ...Rob


Actually, most budo has more in common with Shinto and/or esoteric (e.g. Mikkyo) Buddhism than with Zen. Aikido, especially, is more deeply Shinto-rooted than Buddhist, despite the efforts of many folks who'd love to equate Ueshiba's teachings with Zen ... in fact, he himself is reported to have had a real chip on his shoulder about Zen.

Chuck

Mike Sigman
03-15-2005, 07:41 AM
Actually, most budo has more in common with Shinto and/or esoteric (e.g. Mikkyo) Buddhism than with Zen. Aikido, especially, is more deeply Shinto-rooted than Buddhist, despite the efforts of many folks who'd love to equate Ueshiba's teachings with Zen ... in fact, he himself is reported to have had a real chip on his shoulder about Zen. I did a brief re-read last week on some of the stuff John Stevens compiled about O-Sensei's religion, philosophy, etc., and I got the impression that it was pretty much along the lines of a typical Japanese religion variant with a lot of Chinese roots/borrows peeking through. When you get to O-Sensei's chants with sounds, which is big in Chinese, Japanese, Indian stuff, the coincidences are too much to just shrug off... the probability of direct Buddhist borrowing at some stage looks a little too probable to shrug off, whether it came through Shinto or whatever. Insofar as the borrowing being particularly Zen Buddhism, probably not. Too many westerners focus on Zen and picture it as being more of a singular contributor that it probably was.

There was a DNA survey made of the Japanese a few years back and the unavoidable conclusion is that they are originally Koreans (remember, Korea had about 6 base-languages at one time and we don't have records of all of them... proto-Japanese could well have been one of these that got pushed out due to war, etc.) "Land of the Rising Sun" is what Japan could well be to a Korean. The Ainu are quite possibly the original inhabitants of the Japanese islands, pushed into the northern hinterlands by the inflow of Koreans. The point of this digression is that I always think of the Korean fixation on religious philosophy and extended intricacies using diagrams, etc., when I look at the ideas promulgated by Ueshiba. Religious mysticism is almost a stereotype of those areas and it's easy to get bogged down in attaching reason and sources that have little to do with the true martial theme of the art. Often the religious and philosophical trappings are separable, for all practical purposes. MO, FWIW.

Mike

rob_liberti
03-15-2005, 07:59 AM
Tim, I was thinking about this and I would consider Mas Oyama a "master", and Ed Parker an "expert". My personal definitions are that teh masters have taken things to the "next level" - like being able to punch a bull and kill it. The Karate man I mentioned, is an expert working towards mastery. I could name several other experts, but not many masters. I'm not sure what you are seeing, my guess is that it would be the manifestation of intention. Tieing this back together with the other aspects of the thread, I suppose that's why the religious compnents come in. Not so much for another thing to distract us from the real martial aspects, but that was the known model for developing people's intentions towards higher ideals.

I appreciate the clarity I got from this thread about my ideas concerning the supersets of aikido. I also see that it is impercise to say that Zen is a superset or budo. David, your choice of expression was much better. Also, I certainly agree that shinto is going to be one of the main supersets.

Rob

rob_liberti
03-15-2005, 11:15 AM
Also, Peter R, I meant to also acknowledge your clarity about contributing as opposed to enveloping. That helped me change my mind. Thanks - Rob