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I teach in a community where religion plays a major role in the lives of many of its residents. As a result, I've been forced to consider the relationship between religion and Aikido on a level where I'd rather not have had to go. Still, it's been an interesting journey.
I left a dojo years ago partly because of the emphasis they placed on Zen training. A lot of people argue about whether Zen is religion, but Zen is rooted in Buddhism and Buddhism is religion even if it isn't in the same vain as some other religions. It isn't that I have a problem with Zen, but I don't subscribe to it and it isn't what Aikido is about to me.
Later, in a discussion on Aikido-L I discovered I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the whole Zen-Aikido connection some people feel compelled to make.
In addition, there have been way too many discussions on the forums here about Aikido and religion. So I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. More than I wanted to.
So, the issue comes down to two things in my experience:
1) Is Aikido Religion. This one is easy for me to answer. No. But the issue of the spirituality of Aikido eventually surfaces. To me, the short answer is that your faith must be a factor in your training, but I, as a teacher, cannot impose my faith on you. If I had established the dojo as a faith-based dojo things would be different. But it's a secular dojo, so your religion is your business as far as I'm concerned.
I wrote the following in private blog I maintain and realized it's as good a place as any to start an Aikido blog. Entries here are likely to be infrequent and mostly of the me-on-my-soapbox nature. I hope someone gets something worthwhile out of them besides me. Mostly, though, I just feel the need to say it.
So, this is the first pontification:
A big part of my reason for training in Aikido - as opposed to other arts - is the non-violence that is inherent in its foundations.
First of all, I am not naturally a violent person. But I learned to be violent in a way which is pretty appalling on sober reflection. As a result it's very easy for me to become violent very quickly. But, because my nature doesn't support it, it's very hard for me to live with later.
So, Aikido has given me tools to work against the violence I've learned.
But, that's just me.
I frequently run into people who not only don't understand the value of non-violence, the actively oppose it. They truly believe that the way to a better world is by perpetuating a level of violent confrontation that is difficult for me to even understand. They teach this to their children. They get very angry when I point out the problems with this approach.
Teaching our children to fight
I have a co-worker who was talking about teaching his daughter to hit hard in defending herself. I pointed out that I have students and former students who have defended themselves and not gotten i