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senshincenter
07-30-2005, 03:19 PM
Anthropologists, historians, and sociologists alike have noted the significance that shame plays in traditional Japanese culture. Does such an emotional content still play a significant role in our training of Budo? Should it?

Have we lost something or do we lose something when our training operates mainly or solely at a level of positive reinforcement? Does our training require at some level some kind of repulsive emotional energy and/or some kind of negative emotional force by which we are guided one way and not another?

Does mastery of something assume the presence of passion? Does not passion, as suggested in the Latin origin of the word, assume the presence of a kind of suffering? If so, can we really penetrate the depths of our art through joy alone?

If more than joy is required, should we expect our dojo to have discourses and/or techniques (e.g. pedagogy) that help us as modern citizens that prone to many levels of alienation demarcate the path of progress through repulsion (e.g. a healthy dose of shame) from the path of further alienation and/or depression (e.g. "I suck." "I will never be any good.")? What might these discourses and/or techniques be?

Does Budo require of us a healthy dose of shame (i.e. the presence of a repulsive energy that is firmly connected to a positive energy - both of which are aimed at the same end or in the same direction) in order for us to truly penetrate its depths? Does a preoccupation with joy, fun, entertainment, peace, and a lack of suffering (i.e. things that mark "wellness" in the modern world) prevent us from penetrating Budo's depths - condemning us to cycle of superficial investments that yield only superficial results?

What say you?

Thanks in advance,
dmv

Mashu
07-30-2005, 05:26 PM
If the shame that drives you to advance comes from within it seems to work best. Shame from the outside doesn't necessarily work so well. There comes a point where you have heard so many speeches and lectures from coaches/parents/bosses/gurus that you've figured out their game and it becomes hollow and lacks efficacy. If however you are credulous enough to fall for it over and over then you'll just be a puppet and it may become difficult to escape the cycle of emotional blackmail coming from others. The shame that originates from within is hardest to ignore and will probably be the motivation that will last long after that other stuff has dried up and blown away.

I remember standing after practice and listening to a very high level weapons teacher give his pre-test shaming speech before the all-national examination. Somewhat moving but one of the older students turned around and gave a weak smile and explained how the Sensei always gave that sort of speech every year. There were also many students from other dojo that were decidedly less strict and no matter how many times they were shown the correct form or how loud they were yelled at they kept doing the same mistakes. I then realized that at some point with most students the beatings and cajoling weren't going to propel them any more. The head teacher could then play the tactic of being indifferent to them and just walking by them and telling them they were doing well but that would only work if there was real shame from within the students. It's probably one of the reasons why there are only a few people who genuinely practice that type of art for fifty or sixty years straight.

Joyful training sounds nice but I think joy is another one of those words like love that confuses aikido people more than it helps. Maybe it would be better to replace it with the word positive. I felt no joy when one of the visiting Sensei hit me square in the balls with his jo but it was a positive thing because he showed me where my distancing was off.

Chuck Clark
07-30-2005, 05:51 PM
Does mastery of something assume the presence of passion? Does not passion, as suggested in the Latin origin of the word, assume the presence of a kind of suffering? If so, can we really penetrate the depths of our art through joy alone?

If more than joy is required, should we expect our dojo to have discourses and/or techniques (e.g. pedagogy) that help us as modern citizens that prone to many levels of alienation demarcate the path of progress through repulsion (e.g. a healthy dose of shame) from the path of further alienation and/or depression (e.g. "I suck." "I will never be any good.")? What might these discourses and/or techniques be? dmv

Hi David,

I experienced, in the past 52 years of budo practice flavored by my Zen Buddhist practice for over 40 of those years, the very thing you speak of. I am known to tell my students, "Don't Worry... Nuthin's Gonna Be Alright..."

We hardly ever get what we really want or expect and most of us get caught up in continually searching for comfort, ease, sweetness, and light. Some modern philosophies even tell people that they should "fake it" and keep "positive" and everything will be alright. Well, if we keep breathing and doing what our heart tells us to do, paradoxically, everything turns out all right. We all die. Between birth and death we can experience pain and joy, etc. We may even learn how to live in the moment learning compassion and how to not suffer. We can experience happiness or whatever is appropriate at the time. Training in budo is no different in this regard than anything else. If we train properly, our dojo is a "dilemma rich environment" where the "feedback" is very immediate. If we keep an open, even awareness with as little expectation as possible we can experience whatever is appropriate each instant and learn. The passion will be experienced through the full range of possibilities. We can then make decisions that help us make the best of the situation. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes filled with shame, but always joyful. We create our own unhappiness by wanting "things" to be different than they are.

Japanese art is full of expressions of wabi/sabi, etc. The sadness, the shame, etc. can't be helped. It's human activity that has both negative and positive aspects like everything else. We can practice for the sake of the practice and learn wonderful lessons.

"Don't worry... nuthin's gonna be alright..." Gambatte!

Best regards,

Lorien Lowe
07-30-2005, 06:04 PM
'internal shame' is guilt, the western equivilant of Japanese shame.

-LK

senshincenter
07-30-2005, 06:40 PM
Great replies thus far. Excellent really. Thank you very much. Hope more folks chime in and/or more elaboration is offered up.

For the record, I perhaps should make it clear that I am referring here to an emotional content - thus I am referring to an internal sense of shame (not an external sense of shaming).

I hope to write more soon, but I thought I should state this now so that we don't go too far astray wondering about whether we are talking an internal level of investment (and its ensuing emotions) or an external level of institutional pressures (e.g. hazing). With the word "shame," I am trying to refer to a deeply personal and internal emotional response that is repulsive in nature and that is related to some aspects of our training in some very real and positive ways.

Again, thanks so much for the excellent reflections. Much appreciation. Hope to write more soon.

david

Ketsan
07-30-2005, 07:49 PM
Not shame, self respect. Without self respect you'll never be able to feel shame and with a healthy sence of self respect you shouldn't ever have to feel ashamed.

senshincenter
07-30-2005, 09:15 PM
Hi Alex,

I would like to springboard a bit off your reply – if you do not mind. Thanks.

I think I can agree with the first part of your sentence - speaking on the intimate relationship between self-respect and shame. However, when you say if one has a healthy amount of self-respect one should not ever have to feel ashamed, I am wondering if you are saying one of two things. Are you saying (a) if we have a good amount of self-respect, we often do little or no things that we should be ashamed of? Or, are you saying (b) if we have a good amount of self-respect, we emotionally are not vulnerable to a sense of shame?

Out of these two, I can agree with the first one - though I might not use the word "never" and instead opt to use a phrase noting the likely rarity of doing things we should be ashamed of once we have a good amount of self-respect. However, if you mean the second one, which I would like to note is (in my opinion) in perfect alignment with how Modernity suggests we should understand our negative emotions (i.e. as things we should evade if we are to consider ourselves well), then I cannot agree with such an understanding. In fact, I would have to note such an understanding as the very reason behind my raising of this issue. In particular, it seems there is a popular undercurrent suggesting that wellness and/or mastery and/or spiritual maturity can only and should only be achieved via a purification (or an extinction) of emotions that once had a very significant place in cultural practices like Budo.

It seems that there was once a cultural place for self-respect and shame to feed off each other in very positive ways. Today, we expect to achieve everything we once did through this coupling via self-respect alone. Today, hardly any of us ask ourselves what “self-respect” might actually mean if we opt to make “shame” meaningless and/or irrelevant. Eventually, when talking about self-respect, or even more so when attempting to practice it, we start to talk about “keeping it real,” “staying true,” “staying positive,” “staying focused,” “not getting down,” etc. No doubt, these things are all related – this is the “gambatte” of Chuck’s great reply, but where is that all important counter weight of “Don’t worry…Nuthin’s going to be alright?” Today, it is as if we do everything we can to “respect ourselves” as we do everything we can to ignore those times when we have disrespected ourselves – those times when we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Here are some examples of what I am referring to… Maybe they will shed some light, maybe not…

Often, we come to our training in some very casual ways. However, we often do not refer to our training approach as casual. Often, we still consider ourselves very serious in our training – in our training of a very serious thing that is to hold a very serious spot in our very serious lives, etc. At such times, it seems that an overly zealous sense of “self-respect” is preventing us from seeing accurately just how casual we are in our training and thus just how much more seriously we can actually become in our training. Such an overly zealous sense of self-respect blinds us to the actual reality of our lives. It seems then, when a virtue like self-respect is not balanced by a viable sense of shame, delusion is sure to set in.

Here is a simple example. We have classes around three times a day at our dojo. Yet, many students train at or just above our two day a week training minimum. Training is taken very seriously at our dojo – as a whole. This seriousness is experienced and even expressed by every dojo member – from those that train daily to those that train just above the two day a week training minimum. I wonder how fair or accurate such a feeling may be. Of course, as a dojocho, I want to support such an investment in the seriousness of our training. However, as a teacher and as a fellow student of the art, I also want to make sure that such a sentiment is being accurately represented. I do not want to leave space for and/or encourage delusion inside of an environment that my own training depends upon.

Therefore, one night I asked my students if they considered a casual softball player – one in a coed league for example – as serious a practitioner (of softball) as they are of Aikido. I also asked them how they thought the softball player might describe his/her own investment in their sport. Most easily felt the softball player to be doing something very casual and to be doing that at a very casual level. They also felt the softball practitioner would understand their own activity in softball as such. I asked them to realize that in all likelihood the average softball league practitioner probably easily dedicated more hours to his/her sport than many aikidoka – even in our own “serious” dojo. Suggesting that it may be true that such a league player might think of his/her involvement as “casual,” I asked, what does such a thing say about the discrepancy or the contrast that we see in aikidoka (referring to our own students) that dedicate the same amount of time (or less!) and still feel very “serious” about their training? Why can an aikidoka look at someone doing more or the same amount of investment and call his/her involvement casual but fail to do the same in regards to one’s own similarly invested training? Is it not because one possesses too much “self-respect,” not enough shame? Does not our over zealous attempts to remain void of shame prevent us from calling our training casual (by allowing us so easily to call our training serious) when it in fact possesses every mark of not being serious? Is it not because there is a “self-respect” that is trying to operate void of its co-dependent aspect of shame that we are both making it hard to truly get serious about our training and making it very easy and important to cultivate delusion?

For me, I am interested in reflecting upon the relationships between our modern inclinations to see nothing positive in negative emotions, our modern attempts to purge negative emotions from our being, and the ensuing great energy we must expend to engineer delusions that prevent us from seeing clearly how alienated we are becoming (from the Truth, but also from ourselves then) when we just try to remain positive.

Thanks,
dmv

Peter Goldsbury
07-30-2005, 09:24 PM
Hello David,

Was it not Ruth Benedict who suggested that Japan was a 'shame' society, governed as it was by social norms based on the group, rather than one marked by 'sin', which, along with 'guilt', is governed by a sense of appropriate personal relations and personal responsibility for one's own conduct in conducting such relationships? I would think that such a pristine distinction has been blurred somewhat since she was writing. It seems too neat. Nevertheless, I think that Benedict's rather primitive distinction has played a role among the Japanese in shaping postwar awareness of their own culture: a kind of washback effect, similar to that caused by Nitobe's Bushido.

In the original myths, when Izanagi in the Land of Yome sets eyes on the maggot-ridden body of his wife and flees, the latter declares, "A ni haji misetsu", translated by Philippi as, "He has shamed me". Later, Izanagi decides to purify himself by misogi, because he has been to "a most unpleasant, a horrible, an unclean land." "Therefore I must purify myself" and washes himself in a river. It is the circumstances that have caused the pollution, as much as his own conduct.

I understand that some scholars have tried to equate this episode with the shameful discovery of nakedness in Genesis, as a result of original sin. However, whereas Izanagi washed himself (we never hear any more about his wife), the man and the woman made some clothes.

In the OED, shame is defined as the "painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonoring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one's own conduct or circumstances (or in those of others whose honor or disgrace one regards as one's own), or of being in a situation which offends one's sense of modesty or decency." This is pretty catch-all and covers everything (with the reference to conduct or circumstances).

I have trained in two dojos where one explicit aim of training was to confront the negative side of one's character. Shame and guilt were not particularly distinguished here, but in one of the dojos much emotional damage was inflicted, because neither the students nor the instructor were capable of handling the negative aspects uncovered. It was left to other members of the dojo to do what healing they could.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury
07-30-2005, 09:32 PM
Another way of putting David's original question is:

To what extent can or should budo training be seen as therapy?

senshincenter
07-30-2005, 10:32 PM
Thanks for the reply.

That's an interesting way of rephrasing the original question Peter. I can see how we can and might even want to understand what I was asking in that way. It makes great sense from a certain perspective. However, if in doing so we are opening the door to the dismissals of the person that just wants training to be an athletic endeavor - one that can exist outside of some very obvious and intimate body/mind connections - or if we are opening the door to the efforts of the person that wants to partition deep reflection, contemplation, and/or introspection to the jurisdiction of the licensed therapist only, then I think we might want to leave the question as it is. Or maybe we could re-state it this way(s): To what extent can or should a spiritual tradition include the utilization of negative emotions? To what extent can we avoid our negative emotions without avoiding some very real and deep aspects of our inner selves? To what extent can we remain overly positive without simultaneously engineering the need for self-delusion?

That said, I think the danger of addressing our negative side in dojo that are incapable of supporting such efforts but have deluded themselves otherwise is a very real problem - one that has to be considered relevant to this topic. Even then, however, it would seem that a lack of shame is allowing such a dojo to delude itself in terms of what it is capable of doing and what it is not. It seems a lack of shame is preventing such a dojo from seeing how much destruction it is actually causing, how much alienation and neuroses it is actually reinforcing, how much spiritual immaturity it is cultivating for the sake of its own unchecked will to power, etc. Such a thing cannot be supported - and I hope to make it clear that my questions are not meant to be understood as such support. I just wish to make a space between what can go wrong and what is wrong - so that we can find another option outside of the status quo and the possible doom that may be surrounding us.

Thanks for the reply,
david

Jeanne Shepard
07-30-2005, 10:57 PM
'internal shame' is guilt, the western equivilant of Japanese shame.

-LK

I see it differently. Guilt comes from a sense of having done wrong, or having omitted doing one's duty.
Shame comes from feeling oneself is intrinsically bad.

Jeanne

senshincenter
07-30-2005, 11:33 PM
Is there a relationship between shame and pride? For example, can we be proud of who we are and what we are doing if we have no sense of shame (i.e. no sense of being repulsed from that which does not allow us to have pride in who we are and in what we are doing)?

The word "bad" kind of goes with the word "good" and when these words go together it usually implies some kind of moral or legal agenda. To be sure, cultures across the world have tried to find institutional support in our positive and negative states of emotion, but isn't there something more primal - more pre-nation state - to our emotional senses like shame? Do we always have to think of shame in terms of good or bad? To be sure, modern culture wants us to see shame always as bad. However, can it be something more related to self-respect, pride, honor, integrity, etc.? For example, can it be something more related to an ideal, a desire to near that ideal, and a proximity (or lack thereof) to an ideal? Can it be something more positive - something we should not want to avoid (assuming we would always want to avoid feeling intrinsically bad)? Such that, for example, we feel shame because of our desire to commit to an ideal while showing a contrary desire to not approach that ideal as near as we can? In this sense, the shame is not really about feeling bad (or being bad) but rather about bringing awareness to a disparity in our desires and thus in our actions, thoughts, and words. In this way, shame can seen as something positive, as it can be the doorway to a reversal in direction - one more in keeping with our stated commitments and thus one more akin to things like self-respect, honor, integrity, etc. (which is ours when we make good on our commitments).

I think that if we can say that every master has suffered for his/her art, then we might also want to say that no master has achieved his/her greatness without some repulsive energy (e.g. shame) that was pushing them toward their ideal in a way very similar to how their desire for achieving that ideal was pulling them. In other words, we might want to suggest that a master is pushed and pulled along in their expertise. They are pulled by their internal longing to achieve their ideal (i.e. a desire to master). But they are also pushed by their internal repulsion toward not achieving it - toward being like those that have not achieved (i.e. a repulsion toward being unable to master). Somehow, in my opinion, the words "bad" and "good" seem to be falling short in describing this particular aspect of mastery.

No doubt, many of us see shame as something related to that which is bad and thus as something we should avoid at all costs and/or whenever possible. I think this is why we often claim a lack of responsibility when responsibility would open us up to a charge of shame. So maybe I'm talking about something else when I am trying to delineate the presence of a repulsing energy that I am suggesting should be vital to our spiritual pursuits. On the other hand, one can see how much leeway there is in the definition of the word "shame" (as offered above by Peter) - so - for now - I'm still one for opting to use this word "shame."

thanks,
dmv

Mashu
07-31-2005, 02:54 AM
That said, I think the danger of addressing our negative side in dojo that are incapable of supporting such efforts but have deluded themselves otherwise is a very real problem - one that has to be considered relevant to this topic. Even then, however, it would seem that a lack of shame is allowing such a dojo to delude itself in terms of what it is capable of doing and what it is not. It seems a lack of shame is preventing such a dojo from seeing how much destruction it is actually causing, how much alienation and neuroses it is actually reinforcing, how much spiritual immaturity it is cultivating for the sake of its own unchecked will to power, etc. Such a thing cannot be supported - and I hope to make it clear that my questions are not meant to be understood as such support.


Dear David,

What sort of dojo would be capable of supporting the endeavor of addressing it's students negative side? What would it be like in your opinion?

Cheers,

M

Ketsan
07-31-2005, 05:48 AM
In my view if you have self respect then you are not as likely to do things which would cause shame. Shame should be the mechanism that pushes you back on the path whenever you wander from it, much like a safety net.
I would say that too much self respect is much like anything in that if it is not kept in check it will invariably cause trouble. When self respect gets too powerful we call it arrogance. In my opinion self repect without shame will pretty much always lead to arrogance.

I think there is also a relationship not between shame and pride, at least not directly, but between pride and self respect. When you have one you have the other. Pride I feel, as suggested, comes from being near to your personal ideal so when you feel this pride you are less likely to do anything which contradicts your ideal and this is what we call self respect. Self respect is in essence an unwillingness to deviate from an ideal. When that ideal is deviated from we feel shame.

Mark Uttech
07-31-2005, 06:36 AM
A sense of 'shame' is absolutely indispensable.

Charles Hill
07-31-2005, 09:01 AM
This is probably not going to help much, but,

Jack Wada, many years back, shared a teaching which he got from Michio Hikitsuchi, who said he got it from Morihei Ueshiba. It was a seven step process to enlightenment. I don't remember much of it, but one of the steps was to feel shame, "hajiru." Anyone else have more info?

Charles

senshincenter
07-31-2005, 10:21 PM
Dear David,

What sort of dojo would be capable of supporting the endeavor of addressing it's students negative side? What would it be like in your opinion?

Cheers,

M

I was tempted to answer this in great detail, however let me try to satisfy this very good question with this shorter reply:

Such a dojo would be a dojo headed by a person that was capable of seeing their own teaching as part of the path of spiritual cultivation (vs. just teaching things to others that cultivate the spirit). Such a dojocho would temper his/her practices with enough humility that shame could never (by one of those quirks of human nature) start to act in exactly the same way as an out of control pride would. Such a dojocho would also be able to support his/her students through their darker or more revealing self-reflections via the act of non-judging (i.e. not condemning). With humility and with a will to support, not to condemn, such a dojocho would be able, by example (i.e. cultivating humility and a non-judgmental spirit), to lead his/her students through shame (as a repulsing energy) to all kinds of positive achievements - as assisted by more positive (or pushing) emotional contents. In this way, students could experience the benefits of shame (e.g. clarity) without having to experience greater moments of depression, alienation, and/or any tendency to be abused emotionally or physically.

I would suggest that there are many ways of making one's teaching part of one's own spiritual journey. Thus there are all kinds of concrete examples of how such a thing could be achieved. When I looked at the abusive dojo (plural) where I trained, this is what I saw that was missing. The teachers there did not see teaching as part of their own spiritual practice. They were simply there to teach others how to be spiritual (as if such a thing were even possible). In the end, teaching and learning became more a part of power games than about anything else. As a result, the negative or repulsing energies of our emotional selves was more often used as weapons. They were not tools for further spiritual maturity. They were the sources for further abuse - not the chance for greater clarity.

Only by seeing teaching as an integral part of one's own spiritual maturity can a teacher head a dojo where things like shame can be included - for good reason and for good use. Without such a thing, in my opinion, a teacher becomes more like a raving giant, stomping around on the insides of another's human heart. Such a teacher cannot be the calm and embracing hands that are capable of supporting or assisting us with our deeper journeys into the self.

It should be said, such teaching, and such learning, is not for everyone.

Peter Goldsbury
07-31-2005, 10:43 PM
Hello David,

In my 35-year aikido career, so far, I think I have met only one such teacher and I do not know him well enough to know whether this is really true.

I think there is a great danger, where aikido is seen as a mass martial art available for everybody, that instructors who are not mentally or spiritually equipped to do so, will attempt to teach by including shame and guilt as a necessary part of the dojo curriculum, whether or not their students are, in their turn, mentally or spiritually equipped to cope with such training.

A significant part of my aikido career to date, significant enough to be troubling, has involved trying to repair emotional and spiritual damage done to students by such instructors, who believe they are acting in good faith and with the best of intentions.

The problem in such a dojo is to be able to distinguish between different spiritual influences, as Ignatius of Loyola puts it.

Best regards,

senshincenter
07-31-2005, 11:37 PM
The problem in such a dojo is to be able to distinguish between different spiritual influences, as Ignatius of Loyola puts it.




This is very true. This is also the problem for us as deshi - as we come into contact with such dojo - any dojo.

On the other hand, however, it is not like there is zero damage happening (especially spiritually) in a dojo where folks just seek to get as physically dominant as they can over another human being and/or where folks claim "spiritual cultivation" but seek to develop no sense of shame and/or capacity to reflect over such repulsing emotions. It just may be that we are more prone as modern citizens to accept these types of "damage" as part of the "greater good."

Your warnings are extremely relative here, and I too have only been exposed to one such teacher (equally needing to use the word "maybe" here) in (only two) decades of training. However, for me, while it may be that a given teacher MAY come to abuse such emotional contents (in good or in ill faith), it will NEVER be that true spiritual cultivation can do without a capacity to experience shame, to reflect upon shame, and to utilize shame in some very positive ways. For that reason, I keep such wise warnings to heart at the same time that I work to not let my heart close in fear of what could be (i.e. could be abused) - instead keeping it open to what has to be (i.e. addressing the cultivation of my spirit via repulsing energies). After all, isn't that what we have to do with warnings? If we do more, if we hear them and then say "no way," then such warnings would be prophecies.

Is there a way to heed such warning, but remain open to this aspect of a spiritual maturity, and yet not be made victum by some evil or ignorant will should we come to chance upon one? I would like to think so. I would like to think that I have been able to do that in my own training - having trained in three schools where training was more akin to a repeated cycles of child abuse than to anything else. I with my ideals managed to leave and to move forward. Others, others just wanting to train, just wanting to do their own thing, just wanting to practice Aikido, others just wanting to "cultivate their spirit," others just trying to avoid issues like shame, are still there being abused - being made weaker and weaker each year. I, through my ideals (I believe), seemed more able to recognize power for power's sake, seemed more able to identify an absence of humility and a rejection of holding teaching as part of one's own spiritual practice. In some ways then, these ideals, better than warnings, have saved me from emotional hardship at the hands of another that is in a position of authority. So maybe I am not as trusting of these warnings as I should be - maybe I did not need to be - so maybe I am walking alone here or at least out on a limb that has managed to support me just fine. However, as I said, such teaching and such learning is not for everyone. (thinking out loud here at the end)

thanks Peter for bringing up some very good points,
d

Mashu
07-31-2005, 11:48 PM
Dear David,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question. The description you gave sounds interesting but the fact that most students don't necessarily know what they need when they are searching for this type of thing how can they know if the teacher has the skills and means(houben?) to help them on their path? Sounds like it could lead to some real weirdness. One student might get lucky but another might end up with some crackpot who has unilaterally declared himself "The One" and gathered a small cadre of sycophants around him to help spread his genius. Since there are no organizations who control or police this type of thing how can a person know what to get into and if it's for them?

Thanks,

Matthew

Roy
08-01-2005, 01:00 AM
Society does shameful things to people. Perhaps the Society with the greatest shame has the greatest Budo? Out of necessity.

cck
08-01-2005, 10:33 AM
I think that if we can say that every master has suffered for his/her art, then we might also want to say that no master has achieved his/her greatness without some repulsive energy (e.g. shame) that was pushing them toward their ideal in a way very similar to how their desire for achieving that ideal was pulling them. In other words, we might want to suggest that a master is pushed and pulled along in their expertise. They are pulled by their internal longing to achieve their ideal (i.e. a desire to master). But they are also pushed by their internal repulsion toward not achieving it - toward being like those that have not achieved (i.e. a repulsion toward being unable to master). Somehow, in my opinion, the words "bad" and "good" seem to be falling short in describing this particular aspect of mastery.
I would think this is a matter of priority - my investment of me and my time in Aikido is made at the cost of time and attention spent somewhere else. I should think any "shame" experienced would go with whatever you gave up and thought less in need of you and your time than "mastery". Hence, more a check on your acheivement than a push to it. Aikido for me occupies a place where I feel that it is necessary for me to practice because of the deep sense of happiness and joy it gives me. Yes, I want to do better while in class, but I am definitely not driven by any need to "master" the art. Aside from indicating some end result that I think most of us agree does not exist in aikido, what I would have to give up simply weighs far more.
Aikido is so many things to so many different people. I doubt that you can distil one truth that is valid for all. A sense of pride can be accomplished by positive reinforcement - there does not have to be an "or else" in my mind. I practice aikido because it makes me feel good, and I try to improve execution because it feels right - not because not doing so would make me feel "bad". Aikido is an entirely positive experience to me. Yes, I discover things I can work on outside the dojo, but that's all part of the fun - it doesn't lead to a sense of shame, as far as I understand it. It's more like encountering a manifest expression of a side of yourself that you may have been blind to. It exists no matter what you do, and now you can learn how and where to apply it correctly. For instance, impatience simply doesn't work well in aikido, but if you can make it support anticipation, you may have something. You don't have to go to some deep dark vestige of your being. To me, that's not what aikido is for. But as I said, aikido is many things to many people.

rob_liberti
08-01-2005, 11:06 AM
"budo" probably does require shame. But, our version of it, might not "require" it. The problem, as I see it is that we inappropriately shame children so much that that's the hammer and everything looks like a nail. Maybe if we tried "respect"?! - Rob

Ron Tisdale
08-01-2005, 11:30 AM
Interesting thread. I'm not sure I get it though...I'm not sure I have ever really applied the concept of 'shame' to my training in any thoughtfull way. I guess like everyone else, I feel 'shame' when I act inappropriately (in an aikido context), perhaps throwing someone too hard, or using too much physical power rather than focusing on staying relaxed, taking away uke's power, and using just enough of my own to ensure a proper balance break.

I think I'm going to struggle with this thread to see if I can come to understand it more clearly.

Why can an aikidoka look at someone doing more or the same amount of investment and call his/her involvement casual but fail to do the same in regards to one's own similarly invested training?
Perhaps an aikidoka doesn't do this...I find no particular reason to make a judgement about someone else's activities in this way. Another reason might be that the aikidoka could be busy 24/7 trying to bring the lessons they learn on the mat to the rest of their life.

Is it not because one possesses too much "self-respect," not enough shame?
I equate too much self-respect with an inflated ego. I have suffered from this many times...and will again. I'm not sure it causes me 'shame'...it certainly makes me feel rather silly upon reflection though.

Does not our over zealous attempts to remain void of shame prevent us from calling our training casual (by allowing us so easily to call our training serious) when it in fact possesses every mark of not being serious?
Well, different people have different definitions of what is serious. In some ways, I consider my training right now not very serious...because I don't attend physical training very often. I have a whole bunch of reasons for this, some I'm sure have some merrit, some I'm sure don't. In other ways though, I spend quite a bit of my time off the mat trying to internalize what I learn on the mat, trying to apply the lessons in less physical ways at work and at home, etc.

A training partner recently tested for 3rd dan. He has always been much better than I at internalizing his training. He has an extremely busy schedule, and yet was able to prepare for and (in my opinion) do very well on his 3rd dan exam with only a relatively short time (but intense) of preparation. Now, I could say to myself 'I train more consitantly over a longer time than he (this may or may not be true), so why is he able to do this?' Or I could be honest with myself, realize that he has certain abilities that I do not have, and if I wish to do so, find ways to strengthen those abilities in myself. The fact of the matter is, even in those less frequent times he is on the mat, I find something in his training manner that is less 'casual' than mine. I guess my awareness of this difference and how it motivates me is what you are calling 'shame'? Personally, I'd simply call it honest self-reflection, and the ability (when used correctly) to modify my approach to achieving my goals.

Is it not because there is a "self-respect" that is trying to operate void of its co-dependent aspect of shame that we are both making it hard to truly get serious about our training and making it very easy and important to cultivate delusion?
Well, I hope I have few delusions about how serious my training is just now. I'm not sure that any amount of off mat reflection, no matter how honest, can make up for time not on the mat. But I do feel that off mat reflection is important, and that it (like mitori geiko when injured) can suplement a less frequent training schedule due to other priorities.

Maybe you could let me know if I'm getting what you're asking...

Best,
Ron

rob_liberti
08-01-2005, 12:40 PM
Ron, I think I can clear some of this up.

When Saotome sensei finishes yelling at us, not many people know how to interpret that. The cultural translation of this is that he wants us to focus on letting go of our habits and really try to see more of what's going on with his technique (application of principles). I'm certain that would happen in Japan.

In the States, that doesn't work too often. How many people in the States get shamed by a big Japanese sensei and the only thing they take away from that expereince is 'well when I have more power and authority, I'll have kohai that I can yell at too'? Probably more people than those who say 'I'd better pay close attention to the difference between my current habits and what sensei is doing'.

As I see it, the majority of the folks training aikido in the States are typically the kids who grew up after the 50s where you were supposed to be a good little boys and girls. The students of today are the generation of people who rebelled against being shamed - of course typically they will shame everyone else but demand respect for themselves. (Read Alice Miller if you dare.)

We have to be careful to treat our kohai with all the same respect and tolerance for mistakes as we treat our sempai. In my opinion, when someone in class hurts someone else due to thoughtlessness or carelessness then they need to be made aware of it; but "shame" is up to them, not up to you to dish out to them. If they are continually not safe, they should be kicked out and again without shame.

Rob

Ron Tisdale
08-01-2005, 01:12 PM
Hi Rob,

I distinctly remember Kondo Sensei reading us the riot act at one of the first seminars of his I attended. There were a lot of first timers there (myself included) and Kondo Sensei was furious that people paid $200, drove for hours or flew in, and STILL didn't listen and try to do what he said, but just continued with their old habits. I also remember that there was some rather 'heavy' ukemi involved at some point :)

It seemed that some left without ever quite getting what he was going on about. He also took the time to explain why he was so furious quite clearly. One of my "memorable moments in Budo"... ;)

Best,
Ron

senshincenter
08-01-2005, 01:37 PM
Ron,

Would it be possible for you to share with us some of what he said in his explanation? I am very interested in hearing it.

thanks,
d

Ron Tisdale
08-01-2005, 01:50 PM
I think it was something like "I'm sorry to be so hard on you, but it is very important that I do not waste your money, and you do not waste my time". I remember distinctly the difference in mood though. One minute he sits us down and is literally berating us. A few minutes later he is friendly and joking, almost appologizing. But it was clear he wanted our attention, and got it. Even the few who didn't seem to change had no excuses from that point on. He was offering us the technique on a platter...If you were hungry, you ate. If not...your time and money wasted.

Its been at least 4 years, and you know how the memory plays tricks...If anyone else was at that seminar and can correct anything I've said, please do. It would be interesting to hear how someone else remembers it.

Best,
Ron

Chuck.Gordon
08-01-2005, 01:51 PM
Nope.

cg

Ron Tisdale
08-01-2005, 01:56 PM
Hi Chuck,

I'm struggling myself with this idea of 'shame' in budo...can you elaborate on your contribution based on the posts that others have written?

I do believe that Budo needs standards...personal standards as well as group standards. I'm not yet completely convinced that 'shame' adequately represents the motivation to reach those standards. I may not be understanding the use of 'shame' either.

Perhaps Dr. Goldsbury can speak some more to 'hojiru'(?) if that is the correct term, and its place in the japanese society?

Best,
Ron

Chuck Clark
08-01-2005, 01:56 PM
"budo" probably does require shame. But, our version of it, might not "require" it. The problem, as I see it is that we inappropriately shame children so much that that's the hammer and everything looks like a nail. Maybe if we tried "respect"?! - Rob

Why do you immediately think that shame and respect are in opposition to each other? Having respect for someone else or yourself can happen at the same time as feeling shameful. Try reaching out and finding out what aspect of shame might be valuable in budo practice instead of immediately going to the far end.

I have felt, over the years, shameful at times for example, for giving less than I knew I could in practice. Or another example, there were times (long ago) when I enjoyed dominating another person on the mat. I still feel a sense of shame about that... but, at the same time I respect myself and others for being human and trying to do our best and learning along the way. In a way, it's part of compassion.

I agree with Peter and David's thoughts about teachers that set up a "spiritual" and/or "theraputic" agenda in the dojo. It's a budo dojo, not a clinical setting where professional quality group therapy should take place under the guidance of a competent, responsible leader . Although that sort of growth, etc. can and does happen in the dojo. It's more an outcome of the functional dynamic of a good training enviornment. This is usually a result of the example and teaching of a good leader and teacher. It should be our goal, in my opinion. That is part of the michi of the practice, if in fact the goal is budo rather than just the study of efficient technique.

Good discussion, thanks for starting it David.

best regards,

senshincenter
08-01-2005, 02:38 PM
Yes, I think you are all making some very relevant points - all excellent comments. You are all getting what I am poorly trying to talk about. Moreover, you all are helping me to better formulate what I am trying to get at. So, for that, thank you.

I am beginning to see that the word “shame” carries too much negativity today. So much, that it seems unable to really function as a spiritual tool and/or as a tool for self-advancement and/or self-perfection. To be sure, there was a time when that was different, but, today, it seems we cannot get over the “dark” things that are now associated with this word. In my mind, yes, this is part of the problem. That is to say, our incapacity to utilize a sense of shame spiritually is connected to our modern tendency to try to avoid these more repulsing aspects of our emotional selves. That said, I would never want to suggest that such introspection is for everyone or even that it is something that everyone MUST do. I have already said numerous times that not every is open to such teaching and/or to such learning. My only critique, or (better said) the only critical deduction that can be drawn from my position is that for those folks that are pursuing “spiritual” cultivation and/or mastery of the art (whatever those things may mean), it seems overly accepting, and therefore foolish, to try to achieve such things with only the utilization of our more positive emotional states. (More on this below.)

As I said, there was a time when such a position would not be considered such an affront to common sense and/or to our common wellness. The discrepancy between that time and this time, and the ensuing effects of that discrepancy is what I am interested in. How has such a thing affected our training – our understanding of Budo as something that cultivates the spirit and/or that inspires mastery (i.e. inspires a penetration of the depths of our art and inspires a dissatisfaction with the superficial aspects of our art)? For example, here we are today saying that “shame” is not so important and/or that there are better ways of thinking of what we want to say with the word “shame,” and yet here is what Meng-Tzu (Mencius) said:

“’Shame’ is the greatest and most important word in a person’s lifetime. Why? Because one who knows shame, will put forth his or her best efforts into reforming faults and will eventually attain sagehood or become a saint. One who cannot comprehend the word ‘shame’ will be unrestrained and immoral. This person will then be just like an animal.”

It may be important to note that being “like an animal” meant that one was not human - that one could not therefore fulfill the depths of their own humanity (i.e. becoming virtuous, following the Will of Heaven, etc.). As everyone knows, the writing of Meng-Tzu are central to both Budo and to the thought of Osensei. Here is another example – this one taken from the tales of the Buddha (Buddhist thought, especially that concerning the various states of mind, is also important to Budo and thus to Aikido):

“As if to make up for the seven years he was without a father, the Buddha took great interest in Rahula's (the son of the Buddha) moral and spiritual education, teaching him many times himself, and making Sariputta his preceptor and Moggallana his teacher. Rahula responded to this excellent tutelage by being an eager and attentive student and it is said that each morning as he awoke, he would take a handful of sand and say: ‘May I have today, as many words of counsel from my teacher as there are here grains of sand.’ As a result of this enthusiasm, the Buddha said of his son that of all his disciples, he was the most anxious for training. When Rahula was still a boy, the Buddha discussed with him aspects of Dharma that were suitable for the young and in such a way as he could understand and remember.

Once, he got a pot of water and calling Rahula to his side said to him:

‘Rahula, do you see the small amount of water in this pot?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Even so (i.e. like this), little is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying.’
The Buddha then threw the water away and said: ‘Do you see this small amount of water that I have thrown away?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Even so (i.e. like this), Rahula, thrown away is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying.’
The Buddha then turned the pot over and said: ‘Do you see this pot that has been turned over?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Even so (i.e. like this), turned over is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying.’
The Buddha then turned the pot upright again and said: ‘Do you see this pot now empty and void?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Even so, Rahula, empty and void is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying.’
The Buddha then impressed upon his son the importance of speaking the truth.
‘Rahula, for anyone who has no shame at intentional lying, there is no evil that that person cannot do. Therefore, you should train yourself like this: 'I will not tell a lie, not even in jest.'’
Having explained what has to be done, the Buddha went on to explain to Rahula how it could be done.
‘What do you think about this, Rahula? What is the purpose of a mirror?’
"The purpose of a mirror is to look at yourself."
‘Even so, Rahula, one should act with body, speech or mind only after first looking at oneself. Before acting with body, speech or mind, one should think: 'What I am about to do, will it harm me or others?' If you can answer: 'Yes, it will,' then you should not act. But if you can answer: 'No, it will not,' then you should act. You should reflect in the same way while acting and after having acted. Therefore, Rahula, you should train yourself thinking: 'We will act only after repeatedly looking at ourselves, only after reflecting on ourselves.'”


I do not believe it is mere accident and/or coincidence that the author of this story has connected the need for a sense of shame with honesty, the Truth, introspection, social responsibility, and had the Buddha speaking thusly to his student that was the most anxious to receive training. For me, Ron has repeated a very similar story, filled with as much wisdom, when he said:

“The fact of the matter is, even in those less frequent times he is on the mat, I find something in his training manner that is less 'casual' than mine. I guess my awareness of this difference and how it motivates me is what you are calling 'shame'? Personally, I'd simply call it honest self-reflection, and the ability (when used correctly) to modify my approach to achieving my goals.”

In answer to your question Ron, yes, this is what I would call “shame.” As I said earlier, I am trying to refer to a repulsing energy that I am suggesting is vital to our spiritual pursuits. On the one hand, I am talking about this, and, on the other hand, I am talking about our Modern resistance to such repulsing emotions. I am interested in what I have called a deeply personal and internal emotional response that is repulsive in nature and that is related to some aspects of our training in some very real and positive ways. I tied this “deeply personal and internal emotional response” to the presence of an ideal, a desire to be near that ideal, and one’s given distance from that ideal. In my questions, I suggested that an awareness of these three things is something positive. I also suggested then when “shame” is understood as an awareness of having two contrary desires (i.e. the one mentioned just above and any other desire that acts contrary to the latter) it too could be considered something positive. While Modernity may want us to “only feel good,” such an emotion as shame does have within it the capacity to repulse us into consistency and thus away from self-alienation and/or a need to manufacture delusion. Thus, as we can see in Meng-Tzu and in the tale of the Buddha, shame can be considered part of our mental and emotional well-being – part of our overall wellness.

As I have said several times now, this is quite contrary to how we reflect upon shame and/or how we let ourselves experience shame today. As Rob said, few of us will be able to utilize repulsing emotional states, “to focus on letting go of our habits and really try to see more of what's going on.” Most of us will indeed only go on to perpetuate a sense of disempowerment in another. (Yes, Alice Miller is very relative here – excellent recommendation!) For me then, this too is part of the problem – there are three things now on the table: a) The role shame can play as a repulsing energy; b) Our Modern resistance to experiencing shame and/or utilizing shame; and c) Our individual incapacity to turn shame into anything other than an unsaid excuse for abusing others. For me, all of these things are interconnected. So perhaps it is best to take on Ron’s suggested definition of “an honest self-reflection that is coupled with the ability (when used correctly) to modify our approach to achieving our goals.” Maybe today there is just too much baggage associated with the word “shame.”

The only downside to such a definition is that we are today prone to carry out such introspections, very well and good, when everything is light and airy, whenever everything can feel good, when it is easy, etc. We are not so capable of doing this when what we will see is not what we will like. Somewhere in the definition then I would personally like it to be clear that we are indeed referring to both attracting and repulsing emotional aspects of ourselves – what today we call positive and negative states of being.

Camilla, I really like your reply. I think it balances things out nicely and makes sure that things stay on the ground somewhat. I would never want to get too distant from what you are pointing out quite nicely. However, I think it is important to also point out that within your position there lays two positions that could possibly end all need for reflection. First, there is the position that such reflections are irrelevant – at least for those that are not “serious” or for those that are not attempting to “master” anything. Second, there is the very position I am attempting to problematize. Though not stated directly, there seems to be present the notion that all can be achieved through positive means alone.

I realize I am PULLING these things out, but I am doing so in order to explain the following more clearly. It is true that I have used the words “serious” and “mastery” above, but I would not want to limit such a reflection to these two types of training only. They were used here as extreme cases for magnifying the topic at hand. Really, we are talking about an awareness of (and the ensuing repulsing emotional response) any discrepancy, contradiction, and/or inconsistency between where we are and where we think we are (i.e. between our true selves and our sense of self). We do not need to be serious and/or master of anything in order for such awareness to remain relative. Therefore, I would like to suggest that we think of things in this way and not become caught up on the words “serious” or “master” and start talking about the vagueness of such terms and/or the impossibility of the latter.

In problematizing the Modern tendency to always stay positive, I have attempted to question the validity of such a position. In particular, I have raised issue over how closely such a tendency is to a need to engineer delusion. In a similar way, other religious thinkers throughout time have connected a capacity for shame to clarity of mind – or a type of wisdom that sees things more clearly. For me, because of the relationship between Modernity’s tendency to keep things positive and its supporting need for delusion to be manufactured, the positive route is not only often NOT the shortest, it often goes nowhere. For example, in the example brought up by Ron, a thing we have all experienced, we may want to say we can just concentrate upon getting better. We then go on to assume that this is all we need. However, we often do more than this. We also often go on to believe that this is exactly what we are doing – when we are in fact not. Consequently, we create delusions, through which we can allow ourselves to interpret reality in such a way that it reflects our positive tendency more than it does the Truth. In the end then, we end up justifying more a will to do nothing than our original will of doing the best we can. A good example of this is when we connect our will to do the best we can with a notion that progress is restricted to a distant future (which we know is a time that never arrives). Along the way, we support this odd coupling with bits and pieces of conventional wisdom (e.g. “There are things other than Aikido that are also important.” “To train maturely is to train without a preoccupation for progress.” “No one can ever master the art.” Etc.) I think we have all done this in one way or another. What we do not all realize is that through these conventional wisdoms, when they are coupled with the notion that only the distant future holds our improvement, we have basically justified our inaction – in that we have for all intents and purposes equated non-action with doing our best.

At times like this, what the ancients knew, and what we seem more and more incapable of understanding, is that this cycle of non-action and/or wrong action needs to be broken at the incapacity to see things clearly. A prime way of coming to break this incapacity to see things clearly is to be pushed (repelled) out of our self-manufactured and self-serving delusions. How does this happen? Or, how can this happen? Either we or someone else goes right to the heart of the matter (i.e. the discrepancy between our true selves and our sense of self). For example, we say, “There are things other than Aikido that are also important.” They or we say, “Yeah, but are you capable of treating those things as if they are significant or do you dabble in everything as you do in Aikido?” We say, “To train maturely is to train without a preoccupation for progress.” They or we say, “Yeah, but the key word here is ‘train,’ and you do not do enough of it to progress – let alone to be preoccupied with progress.” We say, “No one can ever master the art.” And they or we say, “Then you might as well quit now since you have robbed yourself of the one goal that might have had you training throughout the hardships and changes of your life,” or “Yes, the point of mastery is that it is unattainable – for we can only chase eternally after something that is eternally beyond us. We do not use ‘mastery’ to train less, we use ‘mastery’ to train more.” Through these honest self-reflections (again borrowing Ron’s phrase), we cultivate clarity. Through such clarity, because we are being repulsed from our self-serving positive-oriented delusions, we experience a sense of shame as the contradiction between our stated desires and our unstated desires become known to us. With this sense of shame, our future actions, our redirections, carry with them both a repelling inertia and the capacity to bring us a keener “eye” – a mind less prone to creating, falling for, and/or needing delusion.

This is just more of what I am thinking with all of your help.

david

senshincenter
08-01-2005, 02:42 PM
Thanks Ron for the answer. I love the blend of directness and compassion. Great story.

Chuck, if you will allow me to say, excellent post! Thank you so much - that's the ticket: "Try reaching out and finding out what aspect of shame might be valuable in budo practice instead of immediately going to the far end."

david

Ron Tisdale
08-01-2005, 03:44 PM
David,

Thank you for starting this thread. I believe I'm getting somewhere in begining to understand what's been said. Out of curriosity, I went to www.dictionary.com and found the following:

shame ( P ) Pronunciation Key (shm)
n.

A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.

There is also the contextual idea mentioned later about feeling surpassed in one way or another.

All of which can be motivators for change. I'm struggling just now to decide if Political Correctness etc. is what makes me shy away from this kind of terminology, or if there is something else.

I do know that in my own background, my mother especially used/uses shame extensively to condition me to her will. So I have my own personal reasons for avoiding it like the plague! :) I do not think of what Kondo Sensei did in the same way at all...nor what my own teacher here in the states (also japanese) does either.

Best,
Ron (enough psychoanalysis from me)

rob_liberti
08-01-2005, 03:50 PM
Rob Liberti wrote:
"budo" probably does require shame. But, our version of it, might not "require" it. The problem, as I see it is that we inappropriately shame children so much that that's the hammer and everything looks like a nail. Maybe if we tried "respect"?! - Rob

Chuck Clark wrote:
Why do you immediately think that shame and respect are in opposition to each other? Having respect for someone else or yourself can happen at the same time as feeling shameful. Try reaching out and finding out what aspect of shame might be valuable in budo practice instead of immediately going to the far end.

Okay, fine, but I elaborated since before your reply. I'm not saying that it is disrespectful to feel shame yourself (maybe it's disrespectful to yourself, but I wasn't saying that!). The intent of my message was not that shame and respect were opposites but rather that shaming someone else was not respectful. Of course I would rather be saved by criticism than ruined by praise. I feel that is plenty respectful and compassionate. It just seems like being a leader, you should go for charismatic power and offer constructive criticism. Our culture can be very direct with people, so we can say things like 'I see a lot of patterns of movement which are just bad habits and have nothing to do with what I'm showing you today. If you think this doesn't mean you, assume otherwise!'.

Here are two quick stories, the second one is funny (to me at least), and this one is just a good anecdote about when I first started thinking about all of this stuff. I remember Saotome sensei giving us a berating, and after it, I got up and practiced in my typical fierce-joy way with someone who immediately matched my feeling (as opposed to the general feeling of the room - most everyone else practiced in a very low-trodden energetic way - like abused children or something). I was way in the back of the room and he made a bee-line over to me in seconds flat. He actually took ukemi for me to shut me down and make the point a different way. I got the second attempt at the lesson, but I still refused to give in to what he was trying to get the entire room to feel. He punched, I got out of the way, and sure I didn't take his balance (I was going a bit too far to the side and not making enough connection to that punch) but I was out of the way and as safe as I could get - which was probably level appropriate at the time. I knew I wasn't doing what he wanted (and no one else was either just in a different way) and that must of frustrated him, but my feeling is my feeling and no one else is in charge of it. I practice that too.

The funny story is that another time Saotome sensei berated us for not paying attention to what we were doing. He yelled for a very long time and then told us to practice in Japanese - but I think the translation was something like "same, please". So I got up and started yelling at my partner! I said "You know Paul, I'm sick of you!" while most people were standing up asking what the technique was to each other. Hey I know I'm a stinker, but I got a lot of satisfaction from that and I got away with it in the confusion! I actually started valuing his teaching later, so I wouldn't do something like that now, but at the time, he was just another yeller (and I had no chance of seeing anything he was doing at that level).

Great topic David!- Rob

cck
08-01-2005, 04:21 PM
David, I am still digesting. I have some notions of "duty" and "responsibility," and shame as something measured against "what could be" rather than "what should be", but I can't get a handle on it.
Let me just answer this for now: I agree that not everything should be "good enough" (at least that's what I understand you to say at this point). I have a child, and that is what keeps me wondering about and examining everything. I may indeed dabble in aikido, and that's good enough for my purposes; I do not dabble in parenting. This is a conscious choice I am making that is relevant for me and my situation. It is not a choice that everybody makes. Indeed, not everyone makes a choice.

As to the notion of "true self" and "sense of self" - the distinction confuses me: we all know the person who lacks situational awareness and who may well think they're God's gift to mankind while everybody avoids them, but where lies the "true self" in that? To compensate for the "bad things" that you don't understand and do not have the tools to change by glazing "good" over it makes for basic survival - I think - and is a fairly common strategy. Can you live with yourself if you're an asshole? I don't know how, but people do it all the time. Why people are unable to see it, or unable to affect change if they do, is not, I think, tied to a lack of concern or shame, but rather the lack of impetus and the tools to do so. This is not a problem of modernity, it's a matter of circumstance. How you as "the other" choose to deal with it is the other side of the coin, of course. I think that's why I've got "responsibility" on my mind - to yourself and others. Let me think some more...

How this relates to budo/training I am not sure. All I know is I would not be as happy with my dojo if there was an overt expectation that I use aikido to examine myself and my motives directly. For me, that is just not the setting. That we do pick up on things and discuss such issues periodically and generally - such as impatience - is a benefit, but it is subtle and not directly pursued in class. Training to me is energy and joy, it fuels my day. My child gives me energy and joy and anxiety and thoughts and wishes and ideals and lots of things to struggle with and discover.
Okay, that was longer than I intended. I've printed out your last post and will study it further. Great mind-mover, this one.

rob_liberti
08-01-2005, 05:23 PM
Not to beat a dead horse, but another aspect of this is that so many people were shamed by their parents that they join martial arts to be shamed because that's how they are comfortable. Read Ellis's stuff about this...

Rob

senshincenter
08-01-2005, 06:21 PM
Great reply Camilla, I will do the same in regards to your last post. There's a lot there. It makes a lot of sense and I agree with much of it.

Rob,

I wonder if that kind of shame is not something else. I wonder if that kind of shame is not something more related to an excess - and in that sense, like an over-reaching pride, also equally prone to delusion (i.e. a lack of clarity concerning what is). I am tempted to make a distinction between "good shame" and "bad shame" or a distinction between accepting what is/clarity and excess/delusion, but I'd rather not because I think what we are really after is more akin to what Camilla is saying in regards to her role as mother. And I do not think that what Camilla is getting at can be covered between two opposed ideas and/or some Utopian middle that is supposed to exist between the two.

I think what is going on when we are dealing with shame is a matter of investment, but in that sense we are forced to talk about investing in the right things, with the right things, and in the right way. If you can do that, you can experience shame, in my opinion, without an opening for abuse, without any notion that great amounts of shame can only lead to depression or a loss of self-worth. In short, I suspect that what is really going on in these other cases (i.e. the shame/abuse cycle) is really an excess of pride and/or an excess of concern regarding things more material and/or superficial (i.e. investing in the wrong things, with the wrong things, in the wrong way). And thus, we can also say we are looking at a lack of tools for properly penetrating the body/mind and all of its workings (something else Camilla suggested) when we are seeing folks come to dojo to continue their abusive cycles and/or their habitual tendencies to suffer abuse.

Alas, I should say, it is everyone's involvement that is making this thread great/interesting - not me. I did nothing worth mentioning. With that, again, I thank you all.

dmv

Chuck.Gordon
08-02-2005, 03:09 AM
One of my teachers once said something along the lines of:

"In the old days, we beat students into proficiency. We believed it was critical for them to learn hard lessons fast. Today, we praise students toward proficiency. It's not necessary in modern times, to pound students down in order to build them up. In fact, given the luxury of praise rather than punishment, praise works better ..."

(the other) Chuck

Ron Tisdale
08-02-2005, 08:04 AM
Thanks Chuck! I understand your first post better now.

Best,
Ron

Chuck Clark
08-02-2005, 08:04 AM
Positive reinforcement is great. No doubt about it. But shame is not only something that someone else can do to you as a means of control, etc.

There have been times in my life that it would have been very easy to quit if I was the only one that would be let down. There are ideals that I decided to live up to and people that I did not want to think of me as a quitter that helped me motivate myself and do what needed to be done. What it comes down to is I decided that I didn't want to be ashamed of myself.

Our sense of shame that comes from within ourselves can be a powerful self motivational tool that we use in hard times.

rob_liberti
08-02-2005, 08:58 AM
I don't have any real particular argument with "shame" being okay when someone applies it to themself for motivation. However, I go swimming to get wet, not to avoid being dry. And I do the right thing because it is important to me to do what's right not to avoid being ashamed of failing to do what's right (for myself, as well as for others).

Regardless, I think that shame _can_ be used as a tool, but it _should_ be more of a big gun, as opposed to the default if it is going to be used at all. I'm very grateful that things have progressed since the old days! On the other hand, I really have no problem with a drill-sargent type of trainer who gets faster results _provided they do not just assume the level of trust required for that is a given_. The student and teacher need to build that level of trust. Optimal teaching requires constant judgments.

Rob

senshincenter
08-02-2005, 03:30 PM
(long - for my own reflections)

Well I wonder if those days too have not passed – the days of being able to use praise to gain proficiency.

I remember, somewhere, hearing that one of the common traits for children that are prone to commit acts of extreme violence is an overblown sense of self. Some experts in the field attributed this to the common trend to offer praise at all times. In a way, praise became a kind of prize such children expected at all times and for all reasons – including the wrong ones. Slowly the child developed an overblown sense of entitlement that, when not confirmed, acted as a catalyst for frustration, anger, rage, violence, etc.

To be sure, this is an extreme case, but what was most interesting was that in nearly every episode the child also demonstrated a huge lack of awareness (prior to the act) that what they were doing was wrong. When that fact hit them, they were nearly at a complete loss toward understanding it and/or grasping the reasons why. In a way, they are very much taken by surprise. We may want to lump this with a child’s inability to understand mortality. However, mortality has been a difficult topic for children since the dawn of human history and it has not been until recently that children have become so prone to both committing these acts of violence and to experience this total surprise (at least not on this scale) in regards to such acts.

For me, this goes right back to awareness issues – goes right back to how relative shame or a sense of shame is to awareness. Also, therefore, it is very related, for me, to how dependent our desires to stay positive are to a need to create delusion. Please allow me hear to draw a distinction between two kinds of acts that may lead to a sense of shame and/or that we may like to think are related to shame. What I am referring to throughout this thread is NOT the act of a teacher who may look at a student and just yell, “Jesus, you suck!” Any deshi that might feel shame at this remark is NOT a deshi that has understood how to invest in their training in the right way, with the right things, etc. Rather, this, in my opinion, is a deshi that is more interested in superficial things – things material. They are interested more in cultural forms of power, institutional capital, and social influence, etc. We know this, I feel, because if such a deshi had no investment in cultural forms of power, institutional capital, and social influence, and therefore no desire to possess these things, such a statement would have absolutely little or no influence over them. It is true, this is an attempted act to shame someone, but it is not a given, in my opinion, that one can be shamed by such things. In a way then, shame, like honor, is only a thing we can do or give to ourselves. For me, any shame that can come from outside of ourselves is a somewhat false-shame. I say this because shame cannot exist outside of ourselves unless we allow it – making it dependent upon us for its existence – and because such external shame can only exist for, what by contrast can be called, material reasons.

The shame I wish to demarcate here is that which comes to us by seeing clearly our distance from our internally held ideals. Earlier I gave a few examples of what this might look like. I would like to work off of those examples below – by providing a variation of them.

Imagine if you will, a teacher and student talking. The teacher is looking at the student and not seeing the kind of training investment necessary to attain the stated goals the deshi holds for him/herself. Nor, when looking at the deshi, does the instructor see those goals upheld by the dojo itself. There are many ways to handle this – of course. Actions on the teacher’s part can of course range from not caring about the students progress – just getting that much needed “paycheck” from them each month; to saying, “Jesus, you suck!”; to saying, “Come on, you are doing great, just keep going and you’ll improve.”; to saying, “You cannot really improve in Aikido under your current rate of investment.”

To be sure, many of us have known, have been, and even actually prefer the kind of teacher that says nothing – we deshi exchanging our money for their (the teacher’s) silence over certain topics. The obvious attempt to gain power over another, in the second sample response, is a game we may want to play – as both teacher and as deshi. However, it remains precisely that – a power game – not a matter of spiritual cultivation. In truth, therefore, we should opt not to play such games since such games do not even deliver the great power they appear to promise. For what true or great power comes from manipulating those that are prone to manipulation, and/or what true or great power comes from gaining the respect of those that see such little power as a great thing? So let us only look at the last two examples.

Very quickly, the third example can have us as teachers adopting the first position. In fact, we are almost contradicting our own intuition regarding the student’s level of investment and their distance from their own ideals and those of the dojo. The whole reason the instructor was prompted to say anything was that he/she saw a discrepancy between the two things (i.e. the students desires and the student’s reality). Now we are here saying, just keep going, all will be fine. If that was true, why say anything at all? Why not just exchange the funds for the silence like the first instructor that could not even care less? We have this cultural sense that somehow saying something positive, “Just keep going, all will be fine,” is better than saying nothing at all. The downside is that we today are capable of feeling this way even when wisdom is telling us that they are indeed the same – that saying something of this nature may exactly amount to saying nothing. More than this is going on however.

There is this silent agreement on both the part of most teachers and most deshi. The agreement is over the fact that we should avoid shame like the plague. For this reason, a teacher may actually come to feel a pressure toward not saying things as they are (i.e. speaking the truth) because in doing so they would risk breaking the silent agreement – they would risk causing shame in the student. We see this in many ways – not just in our desires to say only positive things. We see it in the teacher that says nothing; in the teacher that has his/her close students that receive the truth (whereas others do not); we see it in teachers that speak the truth and then feel compelled to apologize for having done so; we see it in the existence of uchideshi and kenshusei programs – which are spaces reserved for the truth; etc. Whereas the first teacher that just exchanges money for silence may not be so acceptable to us, today, these latter examples are all perfectly acceptable ways in which we seek to avoid the truth for sake of avoiding shame.

Now let us go to the final example: Here a teacher tells a student they cannot progress at their current rate of training, etc. Such a conversation might look like this one…

Sensei: You have gained some proficiency in the core basics. However, in order for you to develop them you are going to have to put in more time into your training. This is a fact none of us can escape.

Deshi: Are you saying I have to train more or I will suck?

Sensei: I am saying that training obeys its own natural laws. “Suck” is a relative term. The requirements of progress are not so open to interpretation. If you want to progress beyond this point, you will have to commit more time to your training. If you want to remain where you are now, you can continue to train as you do now – sort of. The real questions here are “What do you want?” and “What can you have?” Right now, it seems you want what you cannot have – you want to progress without increasing your investment.

Deshi: Well I think such a thing is possible.

Sensei: It is, but only up to a point. There are after all contrary forces that one must deal with. These things too are part of the natural laws of training. Doing the same, or doing nothing, may actually result in a negative movement since one is not acting to counter these contrary forces.

Deshi: What are these contrary forces?

Sensei: On the physical side there is age and there is injury. One’s rate of moving efficiently is not only challenged by age and injury, but, more importantly, such things also challenge acquiring the skill of moving efficiently. With the luxury of youth, you can more forgivingly suffer the trials and tribulations that come with learning to move efficiently. Without youth, age makes such things more strenuous at the same time that it requires more greatly that you move efficiently. In the same way, injury too can act as a contrary force. The more skilled you are, the less injuries you suffer, the less injuries you suffer, the more skilled you can become. Thus, training two days a week while you are in your early thirties will not be like training two days a week when you are in your late thirties. Things like age and injury act like a current, if you will, and you will need to be moving forward just to stay still. If you seek only to tread in place, you will actually be moving backwards. On the emotional side, there are even greater things to suffer. There is frustration, jealousy or envy, anger, impatience, depression, etc. These things come to you as you come to unfairly compare yourself to others that have not opted to “tread in place.” They will also come to you as time passes and as you come to gain a sense of entitlement that should not be yours since you spent that time only allowing it to pass and not making the best use of it that you can. They will also come to you when such a training model prevents you from moving beyond what you are doing – such as when classes will have to be restricted from you for the simple reasons that they are not safe for you.

Deshi: Well, perhaps that is all true. However, I am not here to “master” Aikido.

Sensei: That is fine. However, are you here to practice things contrary to your desires? Are you here to set yourself up to fail in the commitments you do hold between you and your Aikido? Are you here to train so that in five or eight more years you are only going backwards in your Aikido – so that you prime yourself to feeling frustration, envy, anger, impatience, and depression every time you think about the mat?

Deshi: You sound like you are trying to make me do something I do not want to do.

Sensei: I can concede that that may be true. Only I imagine you believe I want you to train more, when in fact the thing I want you to do that you do not want to do is to acknowledge the natural laws of training more accurately. I gain nothing by you training more. I gain nothing by you training less, or by you not training at all – I gain nothing. The inverse of these things also do not bring me gain. It is like this for the dojo as well. Like a great system of nature, the dojo benefits from all that come to it – both great and small, both good and bad. What I am asking is that you accept what is before you – either way. To accept one of these things, one of which will be your course of action, you need to see things more clearly. Our conversation here is about this clarity. It will be fine to realize that to progress you will need to invest more time. It will be fine to realize that should you not invest more time, contrary forces that are present in the training will come to move you “backwards” – as in a current that is moving while you are treading water to stay still. What will not be fine, for your person alone, is to deny these truths – these natural laws - for the sake of some immediate satisfaction that can exists only on the surface of this first denial.

Deshi: I am just not ready to deal with this right now.

Sensei: Acknowledging this fact is part of dealing with this. So you must be kind and patient with yourself as you are indeed already penetrating your training more with this admission. Along the way, should you find a need, you must feel free and encouraged to lean upon your fellow deshi, your senpai, and my person. If you feel we can help, or if you are not sure what you are feeling, you must take advantage of the community that surrounds you – we support each other.




For me, such a conversation is no different from offering forces that are more realistic during a modified kihon-waza training and/or during a spontaneous training environment – having come from forces that are more cooperative in strict kihon-waza training. It is about staying in tune with the Truth, with what is real, with what wisdom is pointing out, and then acting accordingly as our heart/minds are directing us through our own human nature (i.e. the emotions that make us human).

The reason I feel shame is central to our training is because how prone we are to self-delusion when shame is thought to be outside of our training. To obtain clarity, we must risk shame. And to risk shame we must find a way to capitalize upon the repulsing energy it brings to our person, to our heart/mind. To resist against that energy, to suggest we can do without it because it is often too great a beast to deal with, somehow, does not appear very Aiki – right?


dmv

Chuck Clark
08-02-2005, 05:53 PM
David, good post. Again, this is a very good subject for discussion. Thanks.

rob_liberti
08-03-2005, 01:44 PM
Certainly in the ideal situation, no deshi would be emotional scarred by an instructor yelling at them. However, I think the _default_ should be the old saying "if you have anything to say to me, say it with ukemi". If you really want to talk to someone about it, make sure you know them well enough to judge if talking about it -especially in a shaming way- is going to help them at all.

I certainly agree that we should pay attention to our desires to stay positive while avoiding delusion. I think "entitlement" is most often a form of delusion. I think we should specifically (without loss of generality) avoid the feeling of being entitled to try to shame others - especially juniors that have no chance of benefiting from the action (since the typical result in such a situation is that another got pushed down to elevate yourself). Otherwise, we as instructors fail to "do no harm" and fail to at least "do minimal harm" (which is another topic all together!).

Rob

Mike Sigman
08-03-2005, 05:53 PM
Not necessarily. But it requires the ability to know when to be ashamed. An often missing quality.

Mike

Roy
08-03-2005, 06:46 PM
Well ? To use your Aikido with excessive force in a conflict would be shameful. Or, someone abusing there uke, would also be shameful. Doing Aikido to learn offensive combat skills is shameful (With respect to Ueshiba vision). I also think that learning a martial art, without a harmonious atmosphere or side to it, is shameful. Or, someone teaching you defensively-useless Aikido is shameful also.

rob_liberti
08-03-2005, 09:22 PM
I don't know about that Roy. Think of the situation where someone is attacking your child, and you know aikido very well. I think aikido is a complete art. I think if aikido were purely defensive, it would be all yin, and no yang. My opinion, is that it just takes a whole lot longer to be able to use aikido principles effectively in a more offensive-oriented way. Come to think of it, for almost every "defensive" situation (being studied in class) I work on how to initiate given that situation. I agree that learning defensively useless aikido is shameful.

Rob

Roy
08-03-2005, 09:28 PM
Rob,
I agree! I would not hesitate to drop someone attacking my child!

rob_liberti
08-04-2005, 08:16 AM
How do you think you might use aikido to do that? If you don't know, I think it would be a good idea to think about. I have a feeling some people would try by saying something like: "Hey there, grab my wrist and don't let go no matter how much pain I cause you. No wait, you're open. Switch your feet and make sure that there is no space between your palm and the back of my wrist. Oh wait, start over I wasn't ready. Hey relax that shoulder there, I haven't started yet... Hey why are you letting go?!" and I suppose the average attacker might decide that this person is so crazy they had better run away. (And that person's sensei can hear about the story and feel a sense of shame.)

Rob

Roy
08-04-2005, 11:34 AM
Rob wrote,

"How do you think you might use aikido to do that?"

You need to elaborate a bit more here, on whether this was a question for me or ??

rob_liberti
08-04-2005, 12:53 PM
Sorry, Roy, I did mean you for that specific line - although I'm interested in anyone's answer. After that line, I was basically ranting - but I feel much better now!!! - Rob

senshincenter
08-04-2005, 02:13 PM
I understand that this situation (i.e. the one mentioned by Rob above) is quite comical to a great many of us. Personally, I think I am in a good position to recognize this humor because our dojo is setup in total contrast to the underlying assumptions that make such a laughing possible. In particular, I am referring to our dojo’s pedagogical orientation – being aimed toward gaining a spontaneity of movement and application (i.e. a transcending of the art’s limiting methods of transmission). From this point of view, the comedy in this scenario comes from having one’s ignorance, and/or the attachment to one’s own delusion regarding the covering up of that ignorance, exposed. The comedy comes from having one’s false sense of reality come up against Reality with a capital “R.”

For all of us that have our funny bone tickled by this kind of insight – which is indeed what it is – training is about confronting Reality and our given distance from it. We train with Katate-dori, but while we are doing that, we are not necessarily only training for Katate-dori. We are more interested in what Katate-dori training tells us about other things – other things more relative to less-choreographed training environments. For example, we may see the grab training of Katate-dori as a precursor to tsuki – seeing fixated movement as a good tool for grasping the fundamental aspects of ballistic movement (which is harder to grasp because timing issues become more relevant). Another example: We may see Katate-dori not so much as a wrist grab attack but as an investigation into tactical concerns that are related to homo-lateral architectures or strategic applications. Etc. Thus, in one sense, the joke comes from the presence of an ignorance, the attachment to a delusion that hides such ignorance from us, the presence of Reality with a capital “R” – that we are distant from - and a notion that Reality can only be penetrated via having a sense of something deeper existing (something more beyond the initial surface of the topic).

In other words, we have all these aikidoka out there – and it should be said that they always exist “out there,” that “we” are never really part of that “they” – who do forms training but are unaware of the possible pitfalls of such training. They are folks that are unaware of the ways that such training, through one’s own ignorance and need for delusion, can distance him or her from what is Real. Therefore, we make jokes, or, that is to say, we rightly see the humor in such a distancing from what is Real; and the production and need for those delusions that hide the true distance from Reality for this semi-anonymous “they” becomes laughable.

However, trying to tie this back into the main conversation, how less laughable are the following things from the same sense of these above-mentioned elements being present (i.e. ignorance, delusion, attachment to delusion, and Reality):

- How laughable is it to hold that one can gain proficiency in technique by simply training in technique alone? (This is an underlying delusion that often works for us when we are opting to have our funds to the dojo go toward paying off the sensei for certain silences – for having certain relevant aspects of our character be “off limits” or out of bounds concerning “training.”)

- How laughable is it to hold that Aikido or Budo is a Way, that it is a manner of living one’s life, etc., and then training nowhere near as much as we can and/or training at a level that is nowhere near our deepest level of being? (This is an underlying delusion that today supports the weird acceptance that somehow earning a material object (e.g. a gold medal) should and does require more dedication and discipline than studying something as sublime as Aiki or one’s true Self or than cultivating human virtue. Today, an athletic coach has no problem telling someone, “Look, if you cannot give me this many hours a week, forget about it – go find some amateur/friend league to play in or watch it on TV.” Whereas, a Budo sensei is very often finding him/herself saying, “Sure, one or two hours out of every 168 hours will be fine.”)

- How laughable is it to suggest that we can penetrate Reality with the same mind that is deluded and thus blind to Reality? (This is an underlying delusion that supports the notion that we are not in need of a mentor that will reflect - so that we can see - all aspects of our mind and our being.)

- How laughable is it to hold that we do dabble in the art, to suggest that we are fine with that, but then to experience shame or discontent, etc., when another points it out to us? (This is an underlying delusion that we hold when we come to a teacher that has dedicated his/her life to an art of being, an art of becoming, and then expect the truth of that investment to not shine a light on our own lack of investment.)

For me this list can go on and on – much more than if I were just to restrict myself to the delusions that surround basic (general/popular) Aikido training methods and its possible pitfalls. Yet, we, for ourselves, but also for our students, have a huge problem talking about these distances from Reality and about the delusions that support – even inspire – that distance. We will talk about this strike or that strike, about this tactic or that tactic, about this teacher’s or that teacher’s technique, etc., but we seem to want to avoid at all costs having to talk about these things and/or, worse, having to listen to these things being exposed. For me, this is related to how repulsing emotions have come to lose their (positive and proactive) place in much of current Budo training. This is why I have attempted to attach the absence of these repulsing emotions, and the desire to avoid them as much as possible, to a lack of clarity and thus to a lost chance of gaining proximity to our ideals (which must mean a proximity to Reality with a capital “R”).

When you come to Budo training, we should come to change. We should not come to “confirm” our current status quo. To be sure, we must seek change at our own pace and according to the measures of our own dojo and teacher, but to hold anything back, to hold something off the table (e.g. this or that aspect of our heart/mind), from this point of view, is to resist the very process we are claiming as our own. Thus, to say “This emotion, or this side of myself, is off limits” is to resist against our own self; more than that, it is to defeat our own self. This then is the furthest we can get from Osensei’s understanding that Aikido is about attaining victory over one’s self. If we want this victory, and assuming we are in good hands, if we are going to listen to our teachers when they say, “Hey, there’s no way you can defend yourself in Reality with that understanding,” not letting the embarrassment or shame fuel us toward quitting and/or toward experiencing some sort of debilitating depression or self-defeatism, instead letting the statement point the way to greater and greater investment and thus to finer and finer accomplishments, then we should also be able to do the same when our teachers say, “Right now you are wasting my time and yours.” More than that, in my opinion, if we are in a place where these other personal delusions (i.e. delusions other than those that are technical in nature) do not come up for investigation regularly, where they not exposed every step along the way, if we are truly interested in this victory, we should find a play where they do. If we are running a place where they remain irrelevant or only slightly relevant, we should reorganize ourselves according to this victory – the one by which the Founder has defined his art, and by which our Path should be laid out.


My opinion,
dmv

Chuck Clark
08-04-2005, 02:40 PM
From this point of view, the comedy in this scenario comes from having one's ignorance, and/or the attachment to one's own delusion regarding the covering up of that ignorance, exposed. The comedy comes from having one's false sense of reality come up against Reality with a capital "R."

In my dojo we call this "showing each other the mirror." It's often quite humorous, while always trying our best to be as gentle as possible and compassionate. We're all human and in the same boat... trying to learn and grow while sharing in our budo practice and our lives. Whatever we learn, it is not real until it is demonstrated in our relationships. Theory and talk is cheap. We must have the courage to show our real selves in the dilemma rich environment of the dojo. Eventually, at some point in the practice, our dojo is wherever we are at the moment.

Learning principles and techniques amounts to "jutsu" and the way we use the discipline of the practice introspectively and the way we get along with our fellow man is "DO".

This is what I've learned from my teachers, sempai, and my own practice. Your way may be different or we may use different terms, etc. but the practice that involves seishin tanren is the key. It's a recognizable quality in anyone who trains in this manner.

senshincenter
08-04-2005, 02:53 PM
Chuck, this should be on every dojo wall - in my opinion:

"Whatever we learn, it is not real until it is demonstrated in our relationships."

Thanks for saying it. I'll be passing that one on to my own students.
david

cck
08-04-2005, 05:06 PM
"Demonstrated" sticks a bit; who determines if it is demonstrated, and if so how succesfully? Does the student? Does someone else? Does it not involve a certain distance to Reality to evaluate or study something?
Do students generally profess their intent with their training when they join a dojo?
Also, do you really believe we can learn "DO" in the dojo? That how we relate to other people off the mat will change as a result of training? Or do we bring it in when we join? That could be one of the reasons why it can be so difficult to hold on to people. The sheer level of physical intimacy can be daunting for some to overcome. Do we overcome it because we learn to, or because we joined with the intent to overcome it? A bit of sophistery, perhaps. Perhaps years of intense training can bring about change in any personality that age and other developments are neutral to. I just think there might be room to assume that some people are attracted to aikido and stay with it because it mirrors the way they like to relate to people? The raw material is there, so to speak. How you process it is what makes for different types of dojos. Some may require a level of investment that some people are unable to make because of other priorities. Should you not still teach them to their potential?

Chuck Clark
08-04-2005, 07:08 PM
Hello Camilla,

Lots of good points.

Who determines if it is demonstrated? Everyone in the dojo. It's a dynamic process.
Do students generally profess their intent...? In our dojo they do.
Do I really believe we can learn DO in the dojo? For sure, I've seen it happen quite a lot over the past 40 years of teaching. Why couldn't it be learned in a dojo where it happens? I get lots of feedback about how people change their lives outside the dojo. It's one reason they stay. I agree that the intimacy in a dojo can be intimidating and some people don't stay. It's the way of things. Of course there are some people that stay because they recognize things that they like and are familiar with. Some make the commitment to train and then leave for many reasons. We teach everyone in ways that allow for growth and support along with the "dilemma rich environment." If people stay, it's because they like what they're learning and want more. There're many ways to learn from the dojo experience. Everyone takes what they need at the time. As long as everyone gives a good attack and takes care of their partner not only in physical training but also the mutual respect of reiho they're welcome in our dojo.

senshincenter
08-04-2005, 08:24 PM
I think we have to go back to the several times it has been said, “this type of teaching and this type of learning is not for everyone.” I think we should always keep this in mind as issues like this are being raised and/or as we are coming to reflect on these issues and what they might say about ourselves and/or about our training.

For example, some words or concepts have been thrown around: the spontaneous application of Aikido and seishin tanren. As I am reading this thread, I see that I have some things in common with others that have posted. I see that Rob and I have a common perspective regarding some of the problems that come up with forms training. I see that I have some things in common with Chuck regarding the role and marks of spiritual forging. I would never presume to suggest, or even hold in my own mind, that we agree 100% over these things. I am only aware that we share some common ground – a ground I seek to use for further discussion and for further reflection. As this common ground works as a base for such things, I am aware of the fact that my own reasoning and practice as led me to this common ground. In particular, I am aware that my own reasoning and practice has me holding, at a personal level, that such things (i.e. spontaneous Aikido and spiritual forging) are indeed left out only at the cost of having something great go missing. This is my personal view – reflected in my personal training. They are present in my personal training, and in my teaching, because I am seeking to avoid what their absence inevitably means – as demonstrated to me by my own mind and my own experience.

At the same time, I am well aware of the presence of folks that do not follow either my reasoning and/or my practice. As a result, I am aware that the common ground I may have with others is not a common ground I will have with everyone. This difference is something that innately marks the entire reasoning process; as such, reasoning is a process ultimately based upon demarcation and/or delineation. Reasoning draws lines between things as it seeks to bring other things together. Practice does this as well, as the given proofs of experience are gathered from particular physical experiments and not from all of them. In the face of the sheer volume of difference between my reasoning and my practice and what others are doing in this now great community of aikidoka, it would be ridiculous to suggest that we must all line up according to one doctrine.

It is ridiculous for two reasons: First, it is ridiculous to suggest that we should all line up under one doctrine because the foundation of any doctrine that is held at a personal level must be grounded internally – must come from one’s reasoning processes and through one’s experience. Such a thing would be attempting to gain sameness via tools that create difference. Second, it is ridiculous to suggest that we should all line up under one doctrine because sameness in terms of numbers is irrelevant to both reasoning and true experience. At one level this means that what is reasonable and what is true in experience does not gain or lose anything according to how large a number hold the same view, but at another level this also means that everyone else’s Aikido, in a very real or concrete way, is irrelevant to our own. This is why someone can tell me, or I can read others saying, that “Aikido sucks,” or that “Catholicism and Aikido both suck,” or that to do quality Aikido I need to have some sort federation legitimacy of some kind, etc., and I can keep on training as if I have heard or read nothing – holding my own views contrary to these positions that are different from my own. They do not touch me because they cannot touch me.

So some things have been mentioned: spontaneous Aikido and spiritual forging. Some jokes were made regarding the way we often come to both of these things. To be sure, some implications can be drawn from what is being said and related to what others (who are not speaking) are doing. This happens every time we come up against a reasoning process that is not our own or every time we encounter someone who has different experiences. However, this is not the point of what is being said since no one can or would trying to get everyone to follow a single doctrine anyways. We are free at such times to simply say, “Not my thing,” “Not my cup of tea.” No one should or can be faulted for stating the obvious – “I do not do that.”

This is not to suggest that we cannot discuss such things. Even our differences pertaining to such things can leave room for discussion. It is just that we are to realize that such discussion is merely a matter of ideas rubbing up against each other and not outright attempts to curb the ideas of another against their own desires. That means that these discussions can only get as personal as we allow them and that any ensuing reflections that they may generate can only get as deep as we individually permit. For me then, when someone says or hints “forms training will not lead to spontaneous application,” I may see a common ground, or I may see an interest in something I am not interested in (e.g. fighting with Aikido), or I may see a reasoning I disagree with. If I adopt any of the first two positions, I would seem to be fine – meaning I will not come up against anything that “sticks.” If I want to engage in the third possible reading, I will have to rub shoulders closer with the speaker – meaning, I will have to set my reasoning and my training experiences next to those of the speaker. This too can prove to be very useful and thus well worth doing. What seems out of place, in my opinion, because it does not do us any good, is to hold up and contrast something with our contrary position while being unwilling or unable to put up our own reasoning and/or experiences on the table.

Now, why say all this? I say this because I think what would be most useful regarding your last post would be for you to ask yourself why such things “stick,” versus having some of us that have some agreement regarding seishin tanren answer your questions. However, the latter may happen with the best of intentions and may indeed prove to be helpful. Why suggest that we may not want to focus on your questions? Because earlier you said this: “All I know is I would not be as happy with my dojo if there was an overt expectation that I use Aikido to examine myself and my motives directly. For me, that is just not the setting.” In my opinion, this is the second of relating to what has been said: with seishin tanren, we are beginning to talk about something you are not interested in. Of course, here I am assuming that you do not mean by such statements that such introspection cannot take place via Aikido or in a dojo – that here you are only meaning to talk about your Aikido and your dojo experience. However, if that is not the case, and you do indeed mean to have your reasoning and your experience make contact with that of another, then could I (humbly and politely) return your questions to you before I actually attempted to answer them:

- Are such things not demonstrable for all to see?
- In studying something, are we to remain forever within the manufactured “realities” we utilize to address learning curves?
- Can students generally profess their intent with their training when they join a dojo? Should they be able to? Does it benefit them to be able to do so or does it hinder them to be unable to do so?
- Is it impossible to learn The Way in a Place for the Way?
- Is it impossible for one dynamic motivated along a given ideal (i.e. the dojo as a social setting motivated along the concept of Aiki) to affect other dynamics (i.e. other social settings) not motivated by that first ideal? Isn’t this what happens with our home life and our outside life when we are children?
- Whatever the means, is not the overcoming of the dismay that is ours because of the sheer level of physical intimacy part of the training, part of progress in the training? Doesn’t it have to be?
- Why does the possibility of the physical/spiritual cultivation of Aiki inhibit those that want to understand such a term only metaphorically?
- Do teachers who follow their ideals – follow what their reasoning and experience has led them to adopt as their own perspective – help students fulfill their own potential or is that potential better served by a teacher who compromises his/her perspective for some reason or experience he/she has long ago rejected?


Your points are excellent and, for me personally, your posts have provided a lot of fuel for further personal reflection pertaining to what I do and why I do it. Moreover, I consider points very real, particularly for you. Only, as you can tell by my own posts, I personally am not interested in a training or in a dojo where happiness is put above self-examination. To be sure, I have my own reasons for why I do not choose to train that way, but really, my rejection of it is a personal preference – it is not my cup of tea, not my thing. It is not my thing for reasons that I have attempted to state above. So I fear we may just end up talking past each other here – because we are just doing different things. I wonder if are questions to each other is not just us passing each other – talking past each other. However, I certainly did not want to suggest by a silence that what you say is not worthy of existing and/or even of considering – it is. Hence, this reply – this attempt to stay connected through a very real difference in understanding Aikido and thus in practicing it.

Thanks so much,
david

Roy
08-04-2005, 10:55 PM
Rob Liberti,
That was funny!! I hate Aikido training that involves uke grabbing, 93% of the time. because, like that rant points out, its useless in real life.

rob_liberti
08-05-2005, 09:06 AM
I suppose we just need to avoid the extremes. I actually couldn't care less what technique is being practices at this point, because I'm practicing how I open my body up and unify as nage and uke.

I think we just need to be cautious about extremes. I agree that happiness is not more important than self-honesty. However, I've seen many people who have training like 30+ years and haven't smiled or laughed one time in that entire span of their training because they are "serious students". This is just another delusion. They have practiced being emotionally constipated for 30+, congratulations. Emotional content is quite powerful when expressed through touch. It should not be stifled in an attempt to convince people how serious you are. Give me a break. I just want to slap these people on the back of their tight shoulders and say "lighten up!". (I take these people just as seriously as I take the mall security guard shaking their keys at the 13 year olds.) These "serious" students tend to be the people most guilty of shaming others.

I like the idea of hard training, but I like the idea of hard training that is fun even more. If it just can't be fun, then so be it - there is always next time. Some times it's much more hard to train a combination of movements that is subtle and counter-intuitive to what we typically do. There is not much physical sweating going on, but it almost looks like people in physical therapy. Letting the tension go by laughing a little (a little!) can be a good thing because it actually helps give people time/space to process (which is typically a goal of a teacher - "optimal learning").

Rob

Chuck Clark
08-05-2005, 10:33 AM
I'm also in favor of joyful practice. Laughter that's appropriate is always appropriate.

Rob, "it's a shame" that you seem to have experienced too many of the "tight shouldered" "emotionally constipated" people that you consider to be "serious" students that shame others. I think it should be really difficult for others to push our buttons. The shame that I have spoken of comes from within. Just like giri comes from within. It's not something that others can require of you. If they do, that's their problem.

I know lots and lots of really serious students of budo that don't fit that picture. We just add a bit of humerous "laxitive" in with their popsicle after practice and they're fine by next practice. ;) I have heard the types you wrote about described in Japan as being "full of tea" or in the Zen crowd as "bullet heads". Joyful, serious people spot them where ever they're at. It's their way, but not mine.

senshincenter
08-05-2005, 12:55 PM
That is a good point Rob – about trying to avoid extremes. To that, I think we should also add that we should try to avoid being reactionary. I think we may do this a lot, even having it go unnoticed in our training.

For example:

- One guy comes in talking all about Japanese history (even inaccurately) and does not ever want to realize the importance and centrality of the mat, and then we go on to dismiss any and all legitimate interest and knowledge in Japanese history.

- One guy comes in and he’s all into the theory of the art and cannot for the life of him come to embody any aspect of his obsession with theory, and then we go on to denounce theory and/or any position that claims that theoretical analysis must play a significant role in our training.

- One guy comes in all “spiritual,” full of airy things, with no feet on the ground, and then we go on to reject such considerations as distractions from what is “real.”

- One guy comes in all hippied-out and talking Zen and then we hate Zen.

- One guy comes in all into fighting and self-defense and misses the bigger picture and then we go on to reject any sense of the martial in our training for fear of missing the “bigger picture.”

Etc.

In the same way that we are trying to avoid the extremes, in my opinion, we should also seek to avoid being reactionary – because it often inspires us to adopt an extreme. If we come up against some serious guy that seems to be missing the bigger picture, the objective, I feel, should not be to reject his seriousness outright. Rather, we should seek to purify what is incorrect about his seriousness – to learn from his mistakes by noting what is wrong in his understanding of how seriousness can play a role in regards to our overall training investment. When we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, even for the best of intentions, I think we are acting in a reactionary way and thus we are very prone to adopting extremes. When we adopt an extreme, its just another way of saying that we are allowing ourselves to be totally ignorant about a whole lot. That is why I think your advice is such good advice.

Dennis Hooker
08-05-2005, 02:32 PM
I am often (a)shamed to call with I do Aikido.


Dennis (Older than dirt and feeling my age, one sage tells me don't worry nothing will be alright. Another says rage at the dieing of the light. I'm just to damn tired to worry or rage so how come some people can still rattle my cage. Ya sometime I am ashamed to call what I do Aikido.) Hooker

Charles Hill
08-05-2005, 08:35 PM
I am often (a)shamed to call with I do Aikido.


Mr. Hooker,

I just want to let you know that your articles, "Ramblings of an old yudansha," and "Grinding the stone, polishing the mirror," have meant a lot to me. I try to make sure to pull out those old copies of ATM and read them at least once a year.

Charles "if YOU'RE ashamed, what the heck am I supposed to be?" Hill

Chuck Clark
08-05-2005, 10:52 PM
Hi Dennis,

Yes, I understand... maybe that's why we old guys continue to practice. I'm not really sure, but....yeah, I understand.

Hope things are going well for you and the family.

Take care,

Mike Collins
08-06-2005, 01:17 AM
I've just scanned this thread, I'll really read it in earnest tomorrow morning.

As I understand the shame you're talking about, I'd say Aikido/Budo is not possible with out it. If you never feel shame, you're probably not looking with real humility. If you never feel pride, you're probably not looking with real humility. (If you never feel shame for your pride, well, maybe you're just a sociopath).

I feel shame all the time, at various levels, for various things. I feel great shame that I so seldom act on my shame. I feel great pride that I occasionally do act on my shame.

What a worthwhile topic to discuss.
Thanks to everyone. I've got lots to consider.

Hooker Sensei, whatever shame you feel, you got a lot of cause for pride too. You're a nice man. Not nearly enough of them out there.

rob_liberti
08-06-2005, 09:09 AM
If you study cultures that don't raise children with shame, and then compare us with them, you can make intellegent comparisons. Otherwise, this is basically the same thing as people who have only ever known aikido (and no other martial art) explaining how aikido is the best.

Rob

Mike Collins
08-06-2005, 02:45 PM
It's my opinion, and to some extent, my experience that shame as an outside influence i.e. a teacher points out a lack in your(my) ethic or intent in training is of less value than a teacher who models the correct ethic and intent in his/her own training.

I've trained with people who spoke of ridding the self of impurities, then behaved as a human being does, and displayed an obvious dose of that impurity, and showed no particular remorse. The message was lost because of the humanity of the teacher. Not his fault, at one level, because teachers are human beings; at another level he is responsible for that lost message by his acting in fault.

I've trained with another teacher who doesn't really lecture about personal development beyond the necessities of showing respect for others. But his actions, in the dojo and outside the dojo show that he is deeply committed to improving on himself constantly and working hard to not be in his own little world about himself only. His attitude and his teaching has been "A teacher must be very severe. With himself" He feels his job is to make doing the kind of Aikido, and the kind of internal work attractive to those who are so inclined, but not to foist his values on others. As an Aikido teacher, his main deal seems to be to make the training such a good time and such a challenging time for those who can stand it, that the dojo is just a place to come that's more attractive than it's many competitors. As a human being, he has personal faults, but he doesn't make any efforts to hide them or to pretend they don't exist. He's pretty honest with himself, and therefor can be pretty honest with others. More importantly, as he's not preaching, his message isn't lost in his faults. If anything his faults serve to make the message more accessible.

The more "serious" stuff like internalizing a severe work ethic, and a severe spiritual desire to be a better human being are, and need to be, personal expressions of personal desires. I think he sees his job in that context only to be a good mirror for those who have such intention. The work, the motivation, has to come from within. If shame is used at all, it's only used by the presentation of a model that is always striving to be better than it was just before. Basically, shame is useless if it doesn't reside within, and attempting to titillate or sensitize shame in another is just another form of mind manipulation, even if the intent is clean. Truth stands on it's own. And it always should be the thing sought after by both the teacher and the student.

My understanding is that Ueshiba Osensei wasn't much of a one to judge others by their behavior, unless they tried to bullshit themselves about who they were. He was big on sincerity, and that resonates with me.

I see the mirror as a very different tool than the prod.

cck
08-08-2005, 01:34 PM
Okay, you wanted me to share, so here it is (long!) - personal and not theoretical - although I would speculate my like is out there:
For you to ask yourself why such things "stick" Well, tying into the rest of your post: I guess because for me, aikido is not a "lifestyle", it is not what guides the rest of my existence. Hence, my relationships outside the dojo are not for the dojo to evaluate. I see my existence as a set of rings inside each other, each of them closer to and influencing the core, and aikido is one of those rings. There is connection to the rest, but not determination -- the direction of that is from inside out. Aikido feels right to me because it swings with the rest of me. Right now I am content letting it do its magic without my mind interfering with it.
With seishin tanren, we are beginning to talk about something you are not interested in. David, I enjoy your posts because they are such a challenge to me. I can never just read them and get them. So yes, when you say we are talking past each other you would probably be quite right. I find it difficult to relate to your experience with aikido. It seems to take up so much of you. See, for me aikido feels necessary, but it is an experiential thing for me, not an intellectual or philosophical pursuit. Your experience is interesting to me because it is so far from my own.
- Are such things not demonstrable for all to see? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Experience and ideals tend to be held on the individual level. The relationships that I believe can be evaluated in the dojo are only those that relate to the dojo, that your conduct is in conformance with expectations. I do not negate the possibility that aikido can bring a sense of awareness of self and ones place in and interaction with the world, it just doesn't occupy center stage for me in that process. My family provides that setting. To me, family is the closest ring, and it is my interaction with them that demonstrates to me "how I am doing." I don't care much what others think. I do hold values about what constitutes a "good person" and have ideals that I hold myself to. They are not derived from aikido (or religion, for those who may wonder). They are derived from experience -- and yes, that would be my unique experience and hence they are my unique ideals. As you say, "everyone else's Aikido, in a very real or concrete way, is irrelevant to our own."
- In studying something, are we to remain forever within the manufactured "realities" we utilize to address learning curves? I simply don't know how learning curves are addressed, but I think that manufactured realities are the nature of aikido practice. We can never truly replicate the terror of the scenario described with someone attacking a child. Again, it is a matter of how you approach training. Is it self-defense? Then yes, it is a manufactured reality. Is it a voyage of self-discovery? Again, I would maintain it to be a manufactured reality, stages set for your exploration. Is it spontaneous? As often as possible, but based on the acquired framework. My sensei uses terms I have a lot of difficulty with. He speaks another language at times. He urges us to locate the source of our aikido (at least, that is what I understand him to say), but by referring to the floor beneath the floor, waves, circles of energy etc, and to describe how certain executions of a technique are different -- "how does it feel?" I don't relate to aikido that way (yet). I do not have the vocab to describe my aikido that way. I don't know that I'd be able to recognize the floor beneath the floor if it hit me in the face (which, I may add, it does on occasion). But I still get something out of the class. I do not negate the use of the unfamiliar or even "sticky" in getting another take on things, although I may be unable to make it my own.
- Can students generally profess their intent with their training when they join a dojo? Should they be able to? Does it benefit them to be able to do so or does it hinder them to be unable to do so? It benefits me to know that I am making room for aikido in a way that takes minimal time away from my kid. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to practice at noon as often as I want, and still be home by 5:30 p.m. I would speculate that it would be a very good idea for people to be aware of what they want from aikido in order to not be disappointed. It may also be a good idea to communicate this to the dojo so the dojo does not get disappointed, and they can help dispel any misunderstandings.
- Is it impossible to learn The Way in a Place for the Way? No, not if that's your purpose. Can you learn aikido without studying The Way? Again, it depends on the level of training you aspire to and what you really hope to get out of aikido. I do not study O-Sensei's sayings. I do not read about aikido. As said above, it is purely experiential to me. Those who wish to learn The Way would probably be better off in a place dedicated to it. But where are places for The Way? Are they only organized environments? Or can you learn The Way through experience and reflection anywhere? Do you have to define it as The Way, or can you strive to be better and make the world better and not call it anything -- maybe not even make it a conscious effort? I have a personal aversion to "Answers" -- why? well, that's all part of the family history -- I am not religious, I do not seek The Way, I am instinctively suspicious of people who claim to know the Truth -- and so naturally, I would believe that you can definitely piece it together and be "a good person" without the assistance of organized Truths. And that, then, is probably the key to my experience of aikido and why I reacted to your post in the first place.
- Is it impossible for one dynamic motivated along a given ideal (i.e. the dojo as a social setting motivated along the concept of Aiki) to affect other dynamics (i.e. other social settings) not motivated by that first ideal? Isn't this what happens with our home life and our outside life when we are children? Yes, it is what happens. In my world, you are shaped by your closest relationships, for better or for worse, and that is what may be polished by the outside world, or indeed changed but it will always be part of you. As a child, I brought home experiences and got some help where necessary to put them in a framework I could understand. As I grew older and had more experiences, I had learned to trust other people's experiences and ideas. The way I would make sense of things was the same, though. Reflection and exchange. I believe that family (or how you grow up) is the strongest influence on your personality and relationships, and that it takes years and years of dedicated effort to change that. I don't think you are necessarily eternally hamstrung by nurture and that everybody must go through years of therapy; age, maturity and exposure often do the trick. My point about the dojo was that I personally am drawn to it (my dojo) because I like the atmosphere there. It charges me. It makes me so happy that people I have never seen before smile at and greet me on the street when I walk back to work. If I did not like it, I wouldn't be there. I think people seek out the dojos that respond to their needs. Hence, your students seek you out because you answer a need in them. If they come looking for change, and that is what you help them with, it's a great match. I do not think people will change if they are not aware of a need for change. As a matter of fact, I think they would resist or even resent the implication.
- Whatever the means, is not the overcoming of the dismay that is ours because of the sheer level of physical intimacy part of the training, part of progress in the training? Doesn't it have to be? Absolutely, I am just saying that many students never really become students because they can't get over it. Physical contact with strangers is so foreign to so many people. If you are not somehow motivated to get over it, you will leave the dojo after a very short period of time. One way to get people over it is to make that aspect of it fun and light, not weighty and serious. I think fear becomes an obstacle for many that does not allow them to see all the others things in aikido.
- Why does the possibility of the physical/spiritual cultivation of Aiki inhibit those that want to understand such a term only metaphorically? I think this one may be an instance of talking past each other, David. I simply don't understand the question. I do not think of aikido in terms of an expression of aiki. In very basic terms, "aikido" is just a name for something I experience. I suppose that means I am trying only to understand the term metaphorically? The possibility of the physical/spiritual cultivation of it does not inhibit me. It is just not in my frame of reference. It is not what I seek in aikido. That other people do is perfectly within the realm of possibility, and I in no way negate the value of that. I absolutely agree that I am not even scratching the surface, I will most willingly concede that aikido could be so much more than what it is to me. However, I can handle this level. I can relate to it. It means something to me. And it is comfortable, so absolutely -- at this point, it is good enough. Increasing my investment would come at a cost I am not currently willing to pay. My time is better spent with my kid -- what I show her has ramifications not only for her, but for everyone she will come into contact with.
- Do teachers who follow their ideals -- follow what their reasoning and experience has led them to adopt as their own perspective -- help students fulfill their own potential or is that potential better served by a teacher who compromises his/her perspective for some reason or experience he/she has long ago rejected? Teachers who follow their ideals will always be more compelling, and hence have greater impact. You are free to set the expectations of your dojo. Your students are drawn to you because of what they find there. You might advise someone like me to find another dojo if I am not aware enough to bow out by myself. I believe you to object to students who have hopes to advance their training without committing to it. But how about the student who says to you "Sensei, I can practice only twice a week. Some weeks I may not even make it. I love this. This is important to me. When I am here, I will be here completely. May I stay?" Would the reflection make a difference?

So back to shame: I think I responded to your original post at such length because I share with Rob an instinctive reaction to the word as something highly undesirable. Again, in my role as a parent, I hope to make my kid behave in certain ways because it feels good to her, not because not doing so would make her feel bad by me attaching an "or else" to it. It's fine if it feels bad because she instinctively knows it's wrong/hurts someone else etc. If she can listen to herself and others she will be able to navigate much better. That's back to the whole thing of self - who is she listening to? Me or herself or some combination? Pondering over nature and nurture is a great way to exercise your mind. As was this. I basically don't think shame has a place in training as an outside influence. I don't even know that it is great to be self-propelled by a feeling of shame - joy as a motivating factor in getting me to training just seems so more compelling to me. I do aikido for me - I went to school for so many other reasons, a big one of which was a feeling of duty and unavoidability. A sense of shame was at times the only thing that got me to go. In retrospect, it had a valuable function. But if aikido ever becomes about something else than joy and energy, I don't know that I'll keep doing it. As a matter of fact, I did stop once because the dojo I was in was not for me. A lot of shaming in that one, actually.
I certainly did not want to suggest by a silence that what you say is not worthy of existing and/or even of considering. David, I have enjoyed this tremendously. I have never felt ignored and I hope I have not given you reason to think I did. I sincerely thank you for your very well considered replies.

senshincenter
08-08-2005, 01:54 PM
Camilla,

And though we may at times risk talking past each other, your post, which I humbly receive, shows me that we are indeed walking side by side in many ways.

I too have enjoyed this conversation tremendously.
Thank you,
david

rob_liberti
09-09-2005, 01:43 PM
One the folks in my dojo emailed me her commentary about the this thread:

I was really stuck that David seems to have more than an average share of generosity and tact. I was especially impressed throughout the forum whenever anyone said anything that seemed contradictory he found the value in their point and praised/thanked them for it. Very gracious – his scholarly irimi-nage is first rate. And, thanks to all for the experience of seeing a real community of dedicated students and scholars at work.

There were many posts that had the "Ok, but …" feel to them. Contributors as a whole were seemingly disconcerted that this forum was going to turn into "It's alright to manipulate and shame others for the purpose of growth". Clearly this ends-means argument was never the intent of the original discussion. Lots of great stuff came up but only a some of it was firmly centered on the proposed idea.

I think the forum never really got to deeply discuss the occurrences and uses of shame in training. I believe this happened because the main focus became defining shame rather than investigating it. This quote from post #68 clarifies the original intention well: "Basically, shame is useless if it doesn't reside within, and attempting to titillate or sensitize shame in another is just another form of mind manipulation, even if the intent is clean. Truth stands on it's own. And it always should be the thing sought after by both the teacher and the student." (Italics mine).

In his article, "Who's in Crisis?" (http://ellisamdur.com/article_whosincrisis.html ) Ellis Amdur provides a fascinating definition of shame that I think it highly pertinent to this discussion despite its original context as part of a presentation to law enforcement and mental health professionals. "Shame does not mean to be embarrassed. It is the experience of being exposed, without the possibility of escape. Shame is inextricably intertwined with vulnerability – not merely the fact that we could be harmed or even die, because that is the lot of all humanity."

Starting with this definition in regard to martial arts training puts us in an entirely different mental framework. Shame as exposure without the possibility of escape. In considering a personal feeling of shame (not an imposed disapproval from another), I suggest that the feeling of embarrassment or social unease/unworthiness is irrelevant. A true experience of shame is the experience of having a previously unknown part of yourself (and a not so lovely part at that) revealed (usually suddenly). This kind of self shock is not dissimilar to the physical shock that we experience when coming in with a committed attack to find it instantaneously rendered ineffective by our partner's readiness/stance/feeling.

The value of that training is making the in-the-moment choice when habit and prior conditioning as well as urgency stand against you. Do you default to what is comfortable and known or do you find access your real self and make the tough and correct decision from that core? The tough decision (and the right decision) is composed of courage, perseverance, and honesty. I use "courage" as choosing the path of truth regardless of one's feelings/opinions about the situation or possible outcomes/consequences. Perseverance is a hybrid of imperturbable confidence in doing what is right and undefeatable spirit. And "honesty" is honesty in everything you are as well as honesty of action. I believe that this kind of experience and the practice in making the choice is vital to real martial arts training in both the intensity of physical attack and the intensity of self-illumination forms.

I agree wholeheartedly that it is not an instructor's or fellow student's place to attempt to create such situations for us in training. It is extremely arrogant for one person to assume that they know the unknown inner workings of another person so well that they know what it is that person needs to face at a given moment, when the student himself isn't even aware. My feeling is don't try to take that power, you really don't want (and are by definition incapable of fulfilling) the associated responsibilities. Moreover, I believe it is not necessary, if we are training wholeheartedly this experience will arise when the student needs it without any assistance.

SeiserL
09-09-2005, 07:22 PM
IMHO, shame can be a powerful motivator that pushes you away from something to avoid a deep sense of negative self-judgment and identity. It does not necessarily motivator you towards a specific goal, therefore I would suggest that you live and identify with honor rather than fear of shame.

Kevin Leavitt
09-12-2005, 03:06 PM
Good point Lynn. I think humility is more important. I find as a gain in experience and get older, that I know much less than I did when I was younger. I also have found that it is not so important to know everything, but to be willing to put aside ego and learn that is most important. Maybe this gets interpreted by some as Shame...i don't think so. I see my humility as a postive thing...whereas shame is a negative thing that is avoidance seeking as you point out Lynn.

I think of shame as avoidance (moving away) and humiity as acceptance (moving toward).