Discuss the article, "Thoughts on Bugei" by Karl Friday Studies here.
Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/training/friday1.html
You have several interesting thoughts about studying bugei, including a comparison to other sports, namely basketball. The parallel you draw between needing a teacher to progress within a martial art and not needing a coach to become proficient at basketball is skewed at best.
Whether one is a called a teacher, coach, or trainer, is a matter of semantics. His job is still the same, to instruct the player or budoka to become better and ultimately to win. By eliminating bad habits, emphasizing basics, instructing the student in advance techniques or plays, and helping the player frame the correct state of mind, the teacher/coach allows the student/budoka to excel.
You claim that a person who studies hard (presumedly on their own) and has the prerequisite talent can become an expert swordfighter. I would like to see that person fight with a challenger who has studied the same amount of time with proper training under a kendo(add your sword school here) instructor. I would be willing to bet that Prof. Friday's fighter would lose.
You're correct in this Professor, quality training IS about the path, not the goal. Studying hard at whatever you choose will result in learning about yourself and others in the process. By training properly with guidance, correction, and sometimes punishment (several laps in shiko, or receiving a D for poor effort on an exam, or losing a game), the student/budoka becomes a winner.
Yes, at some point the student must cease being a student and strike out on his own. To teach others what he has learned. And given time, that former student will develop his own style, perhaps completely different from his original teacher's, but the lessons learned, the basics taught by his instructor, will become a solid foundation upon which the former student/new instructor can build and grow.
Individualism should always be encouraged. Take your teacher's aikido/basketball and make it your own, but there should never be a replacement for a quality teacher, for there's always much more to learn.
Okay, I'll bite
First, I agree with Jun that this is, indeed relevant to aikido. Aikido is definitely a budo and is, sadly, often beset by some very interesting misconceptions, some born of ignorance, some of arrogance.
To mangle an old saw, ignorance can be corrected. Arrogance? Maybe not ...
Ya know, there's an enormous amount of technical, tactical and philosophical content in the budo. Most folks will never really plumb the full depth of any one art, much less multiple ones, in a lifetime.
I think that taking your training in that context (I'm gonna be here a looong time) is both humbling and inspiring.
I've been studying budo for (geez ... since '73 or '74?) a long time. Yet, I still learn, still find new ways of seeing, doing, feeling, teaching.
There've been times, many times, I could have stopped studying, training and teaching, just walked away. But even the thought of doing so left me feeling an emptiness.
Over the years, I've taken a couple of side paths, stepped away from the path once or twice (once due to an injury that kept me off the mat for well over a year), but have always returned to it.
I can't help but believe that I'll be doing budo of SOME kind till the day I die.
And ya know what? That damn mountain just keeps getting bigger and bigger ...
Re: bugei studies
Originally posted by sleepyshark
The parallel you draw between needing a teacher to progress within a martial art and not needing a coach to become proficient at basketball is skewed at best.
Laurence, I may be wrong, but I think you missed the point. You are saying about the same things Karl does ...
You claim that a person who studies hard (presumedly on their own) and has the prerequisite talent can become an expert swordfighter. I would like to see that person fight with a challenger who has studied the same amount of time with proper training under a kendo(add your sword school here) instructor. I would be willing to bet that Prof. Friday's fighter would lose.
Umm. Musashi comes to mind. So does Choki Motobu.
The bottom line, is this (IMHO), you can learn a lot by yourself, but even if you get physically skillful, the less tangible, more esoteric aspects of the art you study will require a teacher.
Musashi ultimately found Zen, a practice that rounded out his great physical skill. Other folks find other routes.
One of the touchstones of budo (and I think this is Karl's point) is that unless it's simply another form of fighting or sport, then it will require a teacher who can guide, mold, advise and correct the student.
Re: Re: bugei studies
I agree with you on everything, of course.
Re: Re: Re: bugei studies
Still smarting from being told by a young Aikidoka - that Ueshiba was Japan's greatest swordsman. That right after the same person telling me that Ueshiba was Japan's most religious man.
Hi there... are you finished packing yet?
I would be really pulling at the bit just now to get on the trail.
With regards to much of the above and other subjects of the like - we have a saying in Oklahoma where I was raised. "Hogs eyes weren't made to look at the moon."
With all due respect to all of us "hogs",
RE: Professor Friday's Reply
I think one could better address the points made by Professor Friday by returning to the question posed my Kim Taylor - a question which raises the issue of whether or not there are any results unique to martial arts (or "bugei," used by Professor Friday) in comparison to other non-martial arts or non-bugei activities.
Professor Friday believes the answer to this question to be "no". He goes on to (correctly) point out that bugei guide the learner toward a "universal/common result," or a "universalized state of understanding of things posited (in one form or another) by Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism." He then goes on to note how other non-bugei pursuits, such as, calligraphy, painting, music, etc., along with bugei, all represent "essentially co-equal routes to the same place." The old "universal-religion" metaphor of several paths leading up to a single mountain top is used to drive the point home. Also, somewhere, near the beginning Professor Friday turns Kim Taylor's question into one dealing with the importance, or lack thereof, in having a teacher/student relationship within any given bugei.
I would like to fully address Professor Friday's first point and deal with his second point on the importance of a teacher only in question form below. I imagine Professor Friday would not see himself as making two points, so I would like to first discuss my reasons for making this distinction. I think Kim Taylor's question is one that deals with differences, or possible differences, in technologies of the self. In other words, I think she is asking, for example, "Does bugei (using Professor Friday's term) differ in results from, for example, classical Zen training, or living the life of a Carmelite monk, or being a yogi, or perhaps even from other "do" arts such as chado, or even basketball?" While Professor Friday holds that the issue of a teacher is directly relevant to this query, I see it as only indirectly relevant in that it deals mainly with differences in subjectivities and not in technologies. In that no two teachers ever teach alike, I think that the issue of a teacher here, while possibly valid, can only be understood in the light of marking the "authentic" from the "inauthentic" at the individual level. In this sense then, I see the issue on the importance of a teacher dealing more with differences between students - people - than differences between systems or what I have called above, technologies.
Of course there is much overlap, and ultimately, perhaps, even an absurd argument in the end, when one is trying to draw a line between differences in peoples and differences in systems made up of peoples. Nevertheless, for the sake of clarity in what follows, I ask the reader to bare with me if the reasons for this distinction have not been made clear here.
DIFFERENCES IN TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF:
In the beginning of his response, Professor Friday uses the phrase: "…a universal/common result, by a unique and very specific path." If I leave Kim Taylor's question clearly in the realm of differences between technologies, I am made immediately curious to know what Professor Friday means by "very specific path." In particular I want to know what marks this specificity, and if any of this specificity "spills over" or "remains in" or "flavors" that "universal/common result." I think this is very much Kim Taylor's question. And while I think that Professor Friday did very much make clear his position on the role of a teacher in bugei training, I don't think he adequately addressed this - her main point.
We know a little of this specificity from what Professor Friday says elsewhere. It includes elements of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, or more accurately said later, it includes "Buddhist religious exercises, Taoist and other meditation practices, and whole-hearted devotion to any number of other pursuits…" I know Professor Friday has read his Grapard, and so he is fully aware that much, if not all, of the religious landscape of medieval Japan was "combinatoric" in nature. That is to say it was like a big salad bar - a little bit of this, a little bit of that, all mixed together with little concern for the modern notion of authenticity via the purity and maintenance of origin and lineage. (Note: Most certainly medieval Japan did already possess notions of lineage, purity, authenticity, maintenance and origin, but the modern notion of, let's say, that you could not be a good Catholic and a good Buddhist at the same time, for example, is far from born yet.) When Grapard posits, or hints that Shinto is a modern invention, in that it is indistinguishable from the Buddhist-Shinto combinatoric practices that preceded the Meiji Restoration, his logic begs the question of what exactly was combined. For combinatoric logic by necessity demands that at least two self-contained elements exist. Therefore perhaps even saying Buddhist-Shinto is saying too much. Maybe even Buddhist or Taoist is saying too much. Perhaps Professor Friday is no more correct than when he says, "…whole-hearted devotion to any number of other pursuits."
For a long time now scholars have known that the "isms" of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc., are academic fictions having more to do with the colonial and imperial politics of a given era than with historical or sociological accuracy. And my point for bringing this up here, and for the detour into Grapardian historiography, is to show whatever this "very specific path" is, it certainly was not shaped through or via a will for specificity. In fact, when we want to speak generally about influences, as we must when we discuss terms like "bugei" (or the even larger one, " Japanese martial arts"), then we really shouldn't get any more specific than saying things like "Pan-East Asian," or perhaps even "Pan-Medieval East Asian" influences. Undoubtedly Professor Friday is well aware of all this, as one can clearly see in his work, and in when he mentions "co-equal" routes in his reply to Kim Taylor's question. But the question remains, when speaking generally, "How far do we want to go in this non-specificity for the sake of accuracy?" Or "When speaking generally, how far can we go with non-specificity before accuracy is compromised?"
Clearly there is a limit - it's only the place of that limit that remains foggy. For Professor Friday, that limit can be said to lie somewhere between fighting with a sword and basketball on one side, and bugei on the other. In other words, there is a place, some place, where bugei stops. Thus there is some "thing" that is non-bugei. This is important if Kim Taylor's question is to be addressed seriously. We certainly don't want to subvert her question by saying that that all things are bugei (though I'm sure some folks today do in fact hold this position). And we certainly do not want to suggest that when Professor Friday answered Kim Taylor's question in the negative, that he could be lumped with this group of "universalists." Clearly this is not his position. Nor would it be mine. For while the end "result" of bugei might be made up of a "universal," the process is quite unique. I believe this is Professor Friday's reasons for making use of the metaphor of the mountain-top and the several paths leading up to it.
Sticking with this metaphor, and referring back to the state of Japanese medieval culture mentioned above, it may very well be true that we could speak of one mountain-top (though an argument to the contrary could be easily made) with several different paths - paths different from basketball and fighting with a sword - but also paths different from each other. Here I am not so sure where Professor Friday stands on this point - so what follows is my own position. Professor Friday may very well be suggesting in his response that these paths are not different from each other, while they are nevertheless different from basketball and fighting with a sword. The confusion arises from his use of the mountaintop/path metaphor (which clearly suggest paths that are not equal to each other though their destination may be the same) and his use of the word "co-equal" to describe the various "do" traditions.
As a historian we would be very well pressed to demonstrate the singular cultural entity that we could metaphorically refer to as a single mountaintop, but as a mystic, or even as a practitioner of a "do" tradition, I think it may well be fine to continue talking as if such a thing not only could but actually does exist. Then, continuing with this line of thought, we could generally say that this mountaintop - made up or built upon a dynamic collection of medieval Pan-East Asian influences - deals, in general, with "a cultivation of the self via a reconciliation with Fear, Pride, and/or Ignorance, in order to in some way positively alter our experience of objectivity and subjectivity." (This is the part where you fill in the blanks with those qualities partial to your own tradition and/or personal cultural-history!) We might even be tempted, particularly those that have trained in more than one of the "do" traditions, and/or in combination with the various current Buddhist traditions, to say that, yes, from bugei to tea to Zen, all of these paths force us to reconcile with Fear, Pride, and/or Ignorance. We may even be able to recall moments in zazen when we were shaking with as much fear as any time we were training hard with a given bugei master. And we can point to times where an inability to reconcile with Pride hindered us in the pursuit or manifestation of a given aesthetic ideal during a tea ceremony - much in the same way that we were hindered from truly hearing the teachings of our Zen master.
All this aside, valid as it may very well be, I do not see it as out of the question to suggest that the various paths leading up to a single mountaintop are different from each other (are paths in the plural) precisely because they deal with the mountaintop in different degrees and from different angles and/or perspectives. The answer to Kim Taylor's question could very well be, "Yes, there are differences, and perhaps even different results, from martial arts (using her word) and other activities." In other words, it seems to me, because of the huge overlap between Fear, Pride, and Ignorance, and any other types of reconciliation that ultimately lead to positively altering our experience of objectivity and subjectivity, that it would not be entirely out of the question for one tradition to deal more with one element, for example, Fear over Pride, than an other one. Nor then would it be out of the question to suggest that some sort of remainder of the path - some sliver of difference - made it up to the mountaintop - at least at the level of experience.
Recalling the metaphor, I think if you climb the front face of a sheer cliff to get to a mountaintop, and your friend walks up the gentle slope on the backside of the mountain - when you are looking out at the same view - standing side by side - you are not really looking at the same view at all. Of course one can talk about the view being literally the same view, and one can also philosophically talk about the wiping away of all differences - even between gentle slopes and sheer cliff faces - once the top of the mountain is reached (which would in fact negate even the difference between basketball and bugei - something neither I nor Professor Friday would like to do) - but I think in doing so one would forget an excellent point made by Professor Friday: "…in bugei learning, it's not the goal, it's the process that's critical." Going back to our metaphor, it's not the mountaintop that's critical, it's the path that is critical.
It seems that metaphorically, historically, and philosophically, etc., the path of bugei (while quite possibly leading up to the same mountaintop as the other "do" traditions) can very well be quite different from the other paths. And if the path itself, and not the mountaintop, is the critical element, then that difference between paths is also critical. It seems Kim Taylor's question is perfectly sound and should not so quickly be dismissed by us via the rhetoric of the universal.
Let's start with the superficial - moving away from the mountaintop for a moment: What marks bugei that does not mark all of the other "do" traditions? What delineates the path of bugei? This list is easy to make - from the totally mundane to the somewhat profound: costume, gender restrictions (historically/culturally specific), grooming habits, physical conditioning, martial prowess, violence, etc. Let's discuss this last element a little bit closer - violence…
Violence, or more accurately, the paradox of peace through violence (the sword that gives life/the sword that takes life), could quite arguably said to be particular to the path of bugei. If we go back to the mountaintop for a bit, it may very well be true that the other "do" traditions deal with the reconciliation of Fear, Pride, and Ignorance, but it is not true that their reconciliation is called forth via this particular kind of spiritual paradox. For example, unlike with the tea student, the warrior first has his/her fear, pride, and ignorance tempted, even strengthened and supported, by a feeding of their individual subjective will to power. That will to power is fed quite purposefully on the nectar of being able to foster the ultimate primal egocentric (therefore not positively altering one's experience of objectivity and subjectivity) experience: the destruction of life. It very well seems that while the matter upon which the training is working on is the same, the manner in which it is worked upon is quite different. There are different takes on the same spiritual problems, in other words. Different spiritual paradoxes are set up, different ontological problematics are put forth, etc. This may be why, while the tea ceremony may or may not harbor moments of terror, or while the zendo may or may not also harbor such moments, the place where bugei are studied almost always harbors sheer terror (or at least should).
In other words, and sticking with my arbitrary elements of Fear, Pride, and Ignorance, the tea student may come to deal with Fear fully, but more through the vehicles of Pride and Ignorance, whereas the warrior may come to deal with Pride and Ignorance fully, but more so through the vehicle of Fear. Undoubtedly we are dealing with the same three elements (or any other elements of your choice), but might it not be like a wine that is tasted in several glasses that are of different shape? Depending upon whether the glass is long or short, whether the opening wide or small, the wine is the same, but the experience of drinking the wine, even tasting the wine, is different. Everything points to the notion that the vehicle, the glass, the path, does shape the experience of the mountaintop - how much more so when we negate the mountaintop and just stick to the path itself being critical? My answer to Kim Taylor's question, in difference with Professor Friday, is, yes - there are results unique to bugei. I briefly touched upon one of these - I think the rest of this answer is up to each practitioner - and up to their teacher. My point here is only to suggest that Professor Friday's answer may not be as complete as it appears to be at first glance.
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER IN BUGEI:
Leaving Kim Taylor's question behind, I would now like to address Professor Friday's points on the role of a teacher in bugei training. Undoubtedly I agree with him. A teacher is important, but for the sake of promoting further discussion, I would like to raise a few points - leaving them as points only as much as possible.
1, In light of the hodge-podge (undoubtedly an exaggeration on my part) mud out of which arose the bugei, in terms of the "mountaintop," how important is the authenticity granted by a teacher of a given bugei toward the student's actual walking of the path itself? In short, what is the relationship between authenticity and steps actually taken by the student? Does authenticity ensure that steps are taken? And if not, does inauthenticity ensure that no steps can be taken? Is the mountaintop a matter of the soul/spirit - that which is universal in Man - or is it a matter solely of tradition - a given space and a given time?
2. Both the literary record and the historical record (for not only the "do" traditions but also other mountaintop and/or "mystical" or "religious" traditions) provide for and give evidence of the phenomena of, shall we say, "genius." That is to say, from the Buddhist notion of "Pratyaka," to the Christian mystic notion of "Grace," to the fact that not until fairly recently in their history do you hear of bugei students staying with one master for any decent length of time, all traditions similar in scope and aim allow for the individual to "save" himself. Historically, and traditionally speaking, after the hodge-podge sort of settled down, eventual bugei masters trained a little here, a little there, or a little with this person or a little with that person, BUT a lot on their own. Isn't there something else, something "new," something "added," in this call or push for authenticity via a teacher? And is that thing a good thing or a bad thing?
I'm not sure of the answers here. But I think problematizing this will to conserve or to authenticate is a good thing for contemporary students of bugei. For sure, the path is critical, as Professor Friday states. But when that path is no longer concerned at all with whether or not it is on the mountain - instead simply satisfied to merely be a path - then I think we have a problem equal to that of only focusing on the top of the mountain. Such a thing is very much possible when the path becomes confused with lineage alone.
In this way a bugei can very much become an art. That is to say that it can very much experience a kind of "museum death," becoming like some sort of water-jug borrowed or stolen from some other aboriginal culture, a jug never to be used as such again - only to be looked at from behind the other side of a glass pane and a velvet rope.
3. Why does it seem to be such a part of the mindset of Westerners who train in the koryu (for example) to preserve or conserve, to authenticate or to denounce as fraud, to draw a line between this and that, etc.? Clearly they are not in the museum business, and yet they adopt curator practices quite easily - why? Part of it is easily understood: The Arts are dying. They have been dying for a long time. They are indeed undergoing a kind of death. But are curator tactics the solution? Were they ever part of the solution? In other words, what brought the arts this far? I seriously doubt it was the same kind of museum technology. Life, history, culture, none of these things work this way.
4. Back to the metaphor, (and I am continuing to use that metaphor because it allows the reader to fill in his/her own ideas, concepts, terms, while allowing the reader to recall to mind my own suggestions) what is the path that no longer allows for one to move? Certainly that is no path at all. From the point of view of the "ultimate" (again - you fill in the blank) in bugei, is one not making too much out of the path here when one's "authenticity" can be decided solely with a piece of paper marking some sort of lineage? What happened to the notion of "killing the Buddha when you see him" or of "burning the vessel when you get to the other side"?
I think when one is dealing with the heart of the "do" traditions or the spiritual ideals of the bugei in general (new and old - whatever - the history is much more complex than space and time allows for) one needs to be suspicious of conservative trends and/or wills - even if we may admire them for what they preserve and/or achieve. As I said above, one can certainly understand and even sympathize with the will to authenticate and conserve/preserve. However, let's not let our thinking on this matter stop there. Let us understand that conservative movements always mark the death of something. Let us understand that the will to power that says things must be done "this way" or "no way" is a fairly modern invention - one very much relevant to the birth of the modern nation state and one not at all relevant to the birth of the bugei traditions. Of course none of this was said or even suggested by Professor Friday, but I still think his position on the role of a teacher, in how he felt it adequately addressed Kim Taylor's query, lays the groundwork for the rest of us to consider these separate issues carefully.
In the end, Professor Friday says: "Learning and techniques and tactics in bugei study is like learning the alphabet in pursuit of becoming a writer or learning arithmetic in pursuit of becoming a mathematician. It's where you start, but it's only a tiny first step."
Herein lies my closing question.
5. Can we really be led, let alone guided, past these tiny first steps? Is this point as far as a teacher can take us? Are the steps past the tiny first steps the steps we make alone?
Every single literary and historical record that has anything to do with the transmission of any kind of "sublime" knowledge or mastery of any kind of given knowledge (sublime or not), as well as any current teacher of such things worth his reputation in salt, tells us that after these tiny steps - we are on our own. Yet for some reason, I'm not sure the preservationist of bugei (of which I cannot include Professor Friday since he is not clear on this position, undoubtedly due to the briefness of his reply - again I repeat, I am only using his reply as a catalyst for this new discussion) would follow suit. So the question remains (perhaps a preservationist can respond): Why not? Why can I not make these steps on my own - errors and all? Or the more pointed inverse: Why can you make these steps for me? Or why can you help me make these steps at all?
Re: RE: Professor Friday's Reply
[quote]Originally posted by senshincenter
Wow. THAT brought this thread to a shuddering halt.
You made some interesting points, David, but truthfully, I found it rather hard to read.
(I am, however, one of the unwashed, undegreed masses and I find that sort of heavygoing writing style far too dense for my non-academic palate.)
It's clear you put a lot of thought and labor into this. Shame to see the thread die.
I'll try to get through it and offer my comments and I've sent a copy to Karl for his perusal.
Re: RE: Professor Friday's Reply
Thanks for your effort, but more than likely it was just me not making sense rather than something being behind all that "academic" style. ;) You know how it is - writing off the top of your head - just sitting down and typing - well, it's good for the spirit but not always so easy on the eyes. Maybe, if you are interested, you can direct my thinking a bit more with some questions. I think then I could formulate some clearer thoughts for you. If not - then i'm afraid you are on your own. :D
Anyway - it was an interesting thread and it would be a shame if my bantering is truly what brought it to a halt. I would hope folks would just ignore what I said and just keep on going with it if the latter is true. I think Professor Friday raised some very key issues - and there's a lot of meat left on those bones for all of us to chew.
Take care, peace,
Re: Re: RE: Professor Friday's Reply
There's any other way??? :)
Maybe, if you are interested, you can direct my thinking a bit more with some questions. I think then I could formulate some clearer thoughts for you. If not - then i'm afraid you are on your own. :D
Yes, please do!
would be a shame if my bantering is truly what brought it to a halt.
Eh, I don't really think your note made that much difference.
RE: Professor Friday's Reply
This is from a friend of mine - commenting in passing. I don't think he'll mind me positing his view, but I know very much he is not speaking to address all points possible. I think his main point - a good one in my opinion - is that there are physical/psychological (his word - physiologic) changes in the body as a result of bugei training that cannot or should not be universalized across the board with practices that do not "treat" or "train" the body in the same way or via the same means. Perhaps his ideas can get this thread going again. Perhaps not. lol
He also nicely points out that Kim Taylor may in fact be male and not femail - whoops! :blush:
"You should know that Kim Taylor is male, as far as I know.
I too was struck by some of the comments made by [Friday].
His statement that "I'd argue that bugei study doesn't produce unique
results..." is misapplied. I'd prefer to say that its study produces
both unique and universal results. I think he uses the term results in
the objective sense, perhaps viewing changes in the student as seen by
his/her teacher. [But] What about the changes, epiphanies, knowledge etc.
that every sincere student of budo experiences within his own inner
world while traveling the budo path? Are these not unique and are they
not real? Changes to individual ego-states are not going to be the same
"What it bugei study does do is guide a learner toward a
universal/common result, by a unique and very specific path." I don't
care for the way he constructed this sentence. I don't care for the use
of the words "result" or "universal/common", but I think I get what
Furthermore, I never liked the comparison between any martial art and a
non-moving discipline like calligraphy. While I have the upper most
respect for the masters of these arts, you simply cannot dismiss the
physiologic differences and benefits that occur in the body of a
student of one of the martial arts. Learning to control the
body/mind relationship while adrenaline is coursing through your
body during randori for example is simply absent in shodo."
Re: RE: Professor Friday's Reply
I don't really have the time, or the inclination, to get into a long conversation on this issue--especially since I'm not an Aikidoist, and therefore not a regular reader of this forum. But, since Chuck called this to my attention, I do think that it's worth taking a minute to clear up a few points, in response to David Valadez' post.
First, a couple of simple points of fact: The post Mr. Valadez is arguing with here was written as part of a thread, in another forum, discussing the need for a teacher in bugei training. Kim's (who's a he, not a she, BTW) question was framed in the context of comparisons between learning martial art and learning activities like sports, not comparisons between bugei and "classical Zen training, or living the life of a Carmelite monk, or being a yogi," which represent fields of endeavor far too scattered and unrelated in goals or methods to be discussed together.
I'm approaching this question as a historian attempting to elucidate what the Japanese have believed (and still do) about the nature of bugei training. The actual physical/psychological changes that students experience as a result of bugei training (as viewed by modern psychologists, physiologists or education specialists, such as Mr. Valadez' friend) are an entirely different issue--and one on which I'm not qualfied to speculate.
The notion of michi was premised on the combininative--and eclectic--nature of medieval Japanese art and religion. For the most part, Japanese did not clearly separate Buddhist from Taoist from Confucian from nativist (ie "Shinto") practices and cosmological theory. Instead, they viewed the world through a lens that combined parts of all these doctrines. This led to a widespread belief that all these doctrines were pointing to the same place. And this, in turn, led artists and some religious scholars to develop the idea that ultimate understanding of reality (one of the most easily understood goals of medieval religious practice) could be achieved by following any of a number of paths (michi).
This is not an argument advancing some notion of religious universalism, except within the very specific context of the traditional Japanese worldview. Yoga, Christian monastic practices, and even Chinese philosophy/theology--as practiced in China--are beyond the pale here because premodern Japanese thinkers didn't include any of these in their speculations (although some modern Japanese have attempted to work non-Japanese theologies into the mix). To the extent they thought at all about religions outside Japan, they believed the Japanese adaptions of these ideas to be identical to the original ones.
Martial art, in any case, represents one kind of path, one that embraces specific goals, motivations and rewards of its own (relating to proficiency in combat) while at the same time leading to the same ultimate place as other Japanese michi. But the concept of michi doesn't just relate all of the various bugei (as a collective whole) to other, non-martial paths, it also operates within the bugei. That is, the particularism--the specificity--of the path doesn't just distinguish martial arts from other kinds of arts, it also distinguishes different approaches to the bugei from one another. Traditional Japanese martial art (as it evolved during the Tokugawa period) is not eclectic. It is divided into dozens of differing systems--ryuha--each of which is held to represent a unique, specific approach to the art of fighting.
In other words, the construct of "michi," as it evolved in Japanese martial art culture, argues simultaneously for universalism and particularism. That is, it says, on the one hand, that all martial arts are ultimately alike, in that they all lead to proficiency in combat, and beyond that, to the broader forms of enlightenment that we in the West characterize as spiritual development (at which level, martial art is ultimately identical to other arts and religious exercises). But, on the other hand, it also says that every path--every ryuha and every art--possesses its own, unique structural integrity that differentiates it from all other paths.
This "michi" construct further presumes that only someone who has mastered one or more paths can safely deviate from them. That is, that only those who have already traveled the entire path know the whole of the terrain well enough to determine which shortcuts and alternative routes are safe and which will lead to dead-ends or circle back on themselves.
The foregoing, then, has a number of implications for the study of Japanese martial art. First, it makes it different, in goals and methods, from pursuits like modern Western sports (such as basketball) and from the broader field of fighting arts in general. Even at the most basic level, Japanese martial art is not just about acquiring the ability to be successful in combat, it's about learning to fight in a very specific way--one that relates to a very specific philosophy of strategy unique to each ryuha (which in turn grows out of specific ideas about the nature of reality and ultimate Truth). There is, in other words, a fundamental difference between pursuing a Japanese martial art, and simply learning to fight.
Second, and because of this first point, learning the bugei becomes as much about how you study and how you ultimately do things as it is about what you become able to do. This is not true of all martial art. Nor is it true of modern Western sports, such as basketball, which are about acquiring proficiency in achieving results (and, ultimately, about the character-building properties alleged to attach to hard work and competition): it doesn't matter if you prefer to do your hook shots like Wilt Chamberlain and your jump shots like Michael Jordon, so long as that combination works for you. But Japanese bugei, as a cultural phenomenon, is built around the idea of learning (at least initially) to do everything in one particular way.
This is a caricature of Grapard's position. In the first place, the term he uses is "combinative"; there's no such word as "combinatoric." More to the point, he doesn't "posit or hint that Shinto is a "modern invention"; he argues that ancient, locally-based spirit cults--whose ideas and practices collectively form what we now describe as "Shinto"--were melded into Buddhist ideas and practices throughout the premodern era, and were only artificially separated by the modern Japanese government, when it found it politically expedient to be able to identify a "pure" Japanese religion and distinguish it from "imported" Buddhism and the institutional corruption thereof. Few, if any, contemporary scholars of Japanese religion take issue with him on this point.
His argument has nothing whatsoever to do with notions of authenticity of lineage. These were, in point of fact, very important in medieval and early modern Japanese religion (as well as in other arts). In fact, arguments over authenticity and lineages consumed far more time and energy from premodern Japanese clerics than did disputes over doctrine. This too, is a matter of consensus among experts on Japanese religion.
This rests on a misunderstanding of both Grapard's points, and mine--as well as on a common misconception about Japanese religions. The fact that medieval Japanese religion can't be cleanly divided up according to the sorts of doctrine-based categories through which modern audiences tend to distinguish religions does not mean that medieval Japanese religion was an undifferentiated hodgepodge. Lineage and specificity were central to premodern religious ideas in Japan. Grapard's argument is not that there was no particularism, but that lineage and specificity were based on geographic location much more than on doctrine. And, again, this is the concensus view of scholars in the field.
What's at issue here is not what the mountain-and-path metaphor might suggest to modern audiences, but what it meant to those who first applied it to describe the metaphysics of traditional Japanese arts. For them, it was meant to describe how varying paths can seem to be utterly different from one another and yet be of equal value in the larger scheme of things because they all lead to the same place--and, at the same time, why paths that seem to be essentially the same may not be, since they may diverge sharply after a while. "Co-equal" doesn't mean identical.
With respect to the issue of student development per se, "authenticity" is a red herring, if by "authenticity" Mr. Valadez means the possession of legitimate credentials within a verifiable tradition (ryuha). Authenticity of this sort is an externally-imposed recognition of proprietary rights to a particular body of knowledge. It obviously doesn't always coincide exactly with true mastery of that body of knowledge. Legitimate heirs to recognized bugei traditions are not always budo masters. And budo masters are not always authorized representatives of some recognized bugei ryuha. Authenticity--legitimacy--is important within bugei culture for other reasons--which I've discussed at length elsewhere.
This is historically inaccurate. In the medieval period, when ryuha bugei was a new and emerging phenomenon, samurai military training was largely informal and often involved picking up bits and pieces of knowledge from a variety of sources. Things changed during the Tokugawa era, when bugei instruction--and the bugei themselves--became much more elaborate, and much more structured. Teachers began to require longer apprenticeships and greater commitment. Ryuha became more exclusive and more cabalistic.
This is the Japanese martial art culture that has come down to us today. Hopping from system to system and studying "a little here, a little there, or a little with this person or a little with that person" is, at best, a kind of throw-back to earlier practices, ones that have been superceded by other developments. Japanese martial artists stopped training this way more than 300 years ago, and embraced a very different paradigm for what bugei training is about and how it should be undertaken. Although it was still common for very advanced students to engage in limited cross-training in other systems (particularly as ryuha began to specialize in a single weapon), even this was heavily conditioned by the belief that instruction must be thoroughly centered on a single ryuha.
If, therefore, you want a justification for picking and choosing bits of this system and parts of that one in your martial art training, you'll have to look outside the rubric of "tradition." Cherry-picking of this sort involves the revival or re-creation of a long-gone approach to training, albeit completely outside the context--regular participation in battles--that gave rise to it. It's not the continuation of a tradition, it's the invention of a new one.
Concerns with legitimacy and the preservation of the kabala of arts like the bugei in a form as close as possible to that in which one received it are central and fundamental components of the bugei (and traditional Japanese) culture. They are not the invention--or the special preoccupation--of Western martial arts students.
The simple reality is that there is no practical reason for anyone today to acquire expertise with traditional Japanese weapons for its own sake. No one in this day and age has a pressing need for sword skills. Whatever value the bugei retain for the modern world stems from some combination of their utility as tools for personal development and from the appeal of being able to reach out and touch a piece of the past. Practitioners of Japanese koryu today are curators of living museums. To lose sight of the responsibilities this puts on all of us, is to deny the essence of what bugei study is about.
Yes to the first question; no to the second and third. That's why a good teacher is important.
Having said that, however, let me hasten to add that the first two questions are really beside the point. Is it possible for someone to become an expert swordsman largely on his own? Possibly. Is it possible for someone to achieve the sort of "spiritual" enlightenment sought by students of traditional Japanese arts without a teacher? Maybe.
On the other hand, it's probably also possible to become a world-class swimmer without ever taking a lesson or working under a coach. But what would be the point of going this route?
The odds of success are dramatically lower for someone trying to reinvent the whole art for himself like this than they are for someone who waits until he's mastered what others have already worked out about swimming techniques and tactics--or about martial art--before venturing off on his own. And even more to the point: exploring martial art on your own is not the same activity as studying a Japanese martial art. The latter involves, by definition, apprenticing yourself to a teacher and a system. (The former may very well be a worthwhile and rewarding activity for some people; but it is a new and different activity.)
For the very best students of the bugei, there does come a point at which they move off their teachers' path and begin to explore entirely on their own. But those who have to ask whether they're ready to do this (or why they're not), are nowhere near even coming into sight of this point. And those who are sure that they are ready, are even further away.
RE: Karl Friday's reply
While it might be considered futile to further delve into a topic after a person has stated both a lack of time and inclination, I nevertheless see that Professor Friday's points remain fertile ground for conversation. If it is possible to discuss those points without necessarily attributing them solely to Professor Friday or necessitating his defense of those point, I think such a discussion is not without some merit.
Professor Friday rightly pointed out several key elements. In particular, or rather, first and foremost, there is the high potential for misunderstanding that comes from the fact that the original post was not at all meant for this audience. Undoubtedly this has led to things needing further explanations - which Professor Friday has kindly provided. As for my own position, I don't feel that Professor Friday has provided the need for any further explanation on my part. This is not so much because his points are not well made - they are - but rather because he's opted not to fully engage this thread.
That being said, and while I do think that taking about basketball on the one hand but seeing a small incidental reference to, for example, yoga as "too scattered and unrelated" as somewhat inconsistent in thinking; or while I do know for a fact that "combinatoric" is a word derived from that branch of mathematics known as Combinatorics, and that Professor Grapard's "combinative" position is based upon his early and continual usage of this word throughout his lectures and presentations; or while I know that Professor Grapard does in fact hold the position that "Shinto" - as we know it today - is in fact a modern invention; etc.; I do want to say that I think that the heart of the disagreement in what Professor Friday is saying, and what I was saying in my earlier post, lays elsewhere.
In particular, I think there is a very small divergence between what Professor Friday is saying and what I am trying to say in the area of what makes up the essence of bugei. I think this divergence could be put, grossly, as tradition being the essence, or that medieval "goal" that various given michi were supposed to be working toward or in light of being the essence. Undoubtedly, both he and I would hold that such a division in "essence" is not possible - in that one with out the other makes both ultimately meaningless. However I do believe that as a point of argument this divergence between our positions still remains.
For me, this leaves room to fully accept Professor Friday's position that he's mainly dealing with a given history, while seeing as fully valid, perhaps more so for this forum than for his, any discussion into the potential or possible physical/psychological "changes" that students of bugei might hold as unique to them (different from shodo, basketball, or yoga, etc.).
Thus I fully agree with this position: "The main point I was trying to make, is that the Japanese view of what martial art training is about, and how it works, is fundamentally different from modern Western ideas about various kinds of education and learning." And yet I fully disagree with this position: "Learning the bugei becomes as much about how you study and how you ultimately do things as it is about what you become able to do. This is not true of all martial art. Nor is it true of modern Western sports, such as basketball, which are about acquiring proficiency in achieving results (and, ultimately, about the character-building properties alleged to attach to hard work and competition): it doesn't matter if you prefer to do your hook shots like Wilt Chamberlain and your jump shots like Michael Jordon, so long as that combination works for you. But Japanese bugei, as a cultural phenomenon, is built around the idea of learning (at least initially) to do everything in one particular way." My disagreement here is when one wishes to discuss structural elements of praxis such as this, no real difference is ever going to be made between, for example, basketball and bugei. In other words, the perfection of form as the necessary precursor to the artistic, and spontaneous, demonstration of "master" levels of proficiency can be both found in basketball and bugei. Even in the case of Michael Jordan, possessing his own unique style, today complains left and right how his current team is lacking in basketball fundamentals - that they are playing "over their head" in a way. No coach of decent quality, like no bugei sensei of decent quality, let's his players by-pass form and structure for the sake any given result - at least not "initially". This is not to say that I believe that basketball and bugei are equal in practice or even in result. I do not hold this to be true. I only find it impossible to draw a structural difference between the two outside of anything relating to the "goal" particular to the "michi" bugei are derived from. Undoubtedly this is the same problem other contributors to this link had with Professor Friday's comments on what basketball is or is not supposed to be.
Another point I agree on is: "Authenticity of this sort is an externally-imposed recognition of proprietary rights to a particular body of knowledge. It obviously doesn't always coincide exactly with true mastery of that body of knowledge. Legitimate heirs to recognized bugei traditions are not always budo masters. And budo masters are not always authorized representatives of some recognized bugei ryuha." While this may very well put an end to the historical question, I believe the personal question which I raised in my first comment still stands. Why? Because this very historical fact is a problem for contemporary practitioners of bugei - it is no solution. In other words, while the historian may and well be completely satisfied by correctly identifying a particular social and/or institutional will behind the role of authenticity, the practitioner is still left with the problem of some folks being masters without authenticity, or folks with authenticity not being masters. Obviously, as Professor Friday made clear, this has nothing to do with his original post. However, for the sake of this discussion I find it to be much more relevant to our forum.
For me I think this sociological problem (i.e. masters without authenticity and authenticity without masters) is compounded by a historical position I hold different from Professor Friday. I do not hold that the bugei of the Tokugawa period is what has been handed down to us (Aikidoka) today. (I do allow for the possibility that koryu and Aikido may not share the same history and thus that a given koryu may in fact be directly derived from the Tokugawa period - which is Professor Friday's point. Though I would find this to truly be a historical anomoly.) I do hold that there was a very strong will to "organize" and "authenticate," even "purify" various Japanese cultural traditions, bugei and the various ryuha being some of them, but my experience with history holds that this "will" is more imagined than it is manifested. That is to say, first, that a will to organize only works hand in hand with the phenomena of the contrary will also existing and operating within a given culture. (e.g. I need to push for systematization because other folks are pushing against it.) Second, as for the Aikido that was handed down to us (which Professor Friday has clearly said he's not commenting upon), it certainly is not the product of a culturally successful will to study one and only one ryuha. From the founder to the shihan that are considered to be budo masters today, they all studied in various bugei traditions. Who is to say which one is the original way for the Japanese bugei? Who's to say which way, combining "different" things or willing them to be the same, is more Japanese? Japan has always - at all times - in my academic pursuits - demonstrated both trends. For us, when we are not historians, for us members within a given tradition, for us when we are the actual players and not the "objective" scholar, we have one question - the same one that has always existed in Japan and in every other culture around the world: "Do you go with the will of the institution or do you go with the social fact that folks have always done what they want to do - institution or no institution?
If you go with the institution then you help to reify it's imagined will. You will talk about origins and delineate limits or boundaries. If you go with the sociological mess that is a given cultural reality then you run out of things to talk about even more quickly. For example, there is a poll going on in this site: Is it legitimate Aikido if your Aikido cannot be directly traced to Osensei? From an institutional point of view, the answer is a quickly reached 'no'. From a cultural point of view, the question is kind of funny really, since Osensei did not participate in one art only, and since his top students also trained in various bugei (some doing so even until this day).
Clearly one cannot make it all up - even when we talk about such things being philosophically allowable. I am a huge proponent of basics and of long tutelages. And perhaps it is a matter of semantics ultimately, but to me, the tiny steps that make up your first 10 to 20 years in bugei are very much the property of a given sensei and a given tradition. What comes after those tiny steps is all up to you. To me this is not only "spiritually" viable, it is also historically supported - through medieval traditions, even through the Tokugawa will to organize, and up to our current predecessors (Osensei, and his early and later students).
As a practitioner in Aikido the poll might be better said this way: Would you rather train with an Aikido master without institutional authenticity or would you rather train with an institutionally authentic Aikido sensei that is surely no master? Or even more pointed, and still from the point of view of the practitioner - not the historian: Is there a more real authenticity that only takes place on the mat and not on paper? If so, why? If not so, why?
P.S. And thank you to Professor Friday for taking time out of his busy schedule to further elaborate his position. He has shed much light on the matter.
Bugei .... Boogy, Boogy?
Remember, the world is formed on what one needs to learn, know, and have to survive TODAY!!
Apply that throughout history, and we can do without a 10,000 word composition, please.
Somewhere between learning from a formal teacher, informal teacher, or the school of hard knocks, you might get that little light to go on that becomes understanding of what you are learning on one level or another. If it advances you beyond the present techniquely advanced, GREAT!
As for this God thing ... The Universe is what it is while man creates his own gods, and explanations of the universe. Simply, the universe is energy becoming matter, and matter becoming energy ... inbetween are infinite variations of energy and matter, life.
Besides, look at the layers of earth and find no trace of human beings, then tell me how infinite our race is? Forget about it!
I would rather stick with the reason for turtle island, also called north america ... the creator put us here to live in harmony with all creatures and care for Mother Earth as Mother Earth cares for us. Look not at the present but seven generations ahead to those faces yet unborn. (Native American Indian thoughts/believe it or not there are verbal historians in Indian tribes that trace the Japanese and Chinese as part of this settlement over 100,00 years ago/ I am gonna get in trouble for letting that one out.)
Maybe because I have seen sea turtles lay eggs on the Jersey shore, and then, twenty years later, view a nature film on sea turtles with tags or radio transmitters migrating from South Pacific to East Coast North America, do I find the truth within the term Turtle Island?
There are many truths withing terms used over generations, different meanings of lost words but meaning just what they say? Wierd, but true. Kind of like, I can't explain it to you, I will have to show you?
If that is what we are argueing about, then could we do it without a term paper ... please?
My head isn't as empty as it use to be, it needs time to make room for all those words?
Steal what you need train, to make your life, then show me ... thanks.
thoughts on bugei
Well that was pretty funny - in every sense of the word. Using an essay to tell folks not to write essays in a place where all you can do is write essays for people who expect to read essays! lol :freaky:
I suppose courtesy requires some kind of response - but not one that necessarily addresses the issue of the existance or non-existance of Turtle Isalnd, or it's obvious irrelevance to the thread at hand. Still - maybe something with many many meanings - something short - is in order here - maybe something like this:
"If you can't see it, I can't show it to you."
Hope you can laugh at this post the way I laughed at yours.
Re: thoughts on bugei
Since your profile gives almost no information about yourself, I can't even presume your name is really David. :)
Anyway, I believe what that guy was trying to say is this is no place for essays or excessive length writing.
To some people, lists are places for fighting to the death over some ideas and to show people how intelligent we are. To defeat someone else becomes more important than to ponder over ideas.
Perhaps, Dr. Friday was wise and retreated from a discussion that was becoming essencially personal, no more interesting to anyone.
Bugei studies RE.
Believe it or not, there people here is North America over 100,000 years ago, as documented by archeological digs in the last ten years.
Whether or not you seek the studies without a teacher, it very nearly parallels the bringing up of Native American children in a culture different from the European Industrial Society that presently is the melting pot of America.
Strangely, the studies you speak of are so nearly parallel to these cultures, that it almost sounds like theivery, but then again, don't we steal what works for us ... especially in MA?
As for Turtle Island, Start with reading some of the Native American history found in the Six Nations of NY, it will insightfully heighten your knowledge as to the real founders of liberty ... and many principles taken for the Declaration of Independence?
Study on your own? Isn't that what we were argueing about ....
Re: Bugei studies RE.
And from sources _I_ have seen, human habitation of this continent has been pushed back to about 13,000 or 14,000 years ago, but not likely, 100,000. Also note that many of the current theories about Neolithic human migration to North America are under serious scrutiny right now.
I also note that MUCH of what passes in today's popular culture for Native American philosophy and religion is really, very, very romanticized and some of it is just plain manufactured.
Sad that so many rich and proud cultures just got subsumed. But (and this is no apologia for European expansionism), it is the way of the world. There is no native culture, anywhere. Humans move, they fight, they conquer, they divide, they rebuild, recreate, and then do it all over again.
There are only cultures with a few centuries (or something approaching a millennia at MOST) or roots in one spot. They came from somewhere else and supplanted folks who were living there before them -- who came from somewhere else ultimately.
It's who we are. It's what we do ...
Sorry Chuck ... since I don't work anymore I always have the news, history channel, or some learning show on in the backround. Last year they carbon dated an Indian settlement site to over fifty thousand years old in New York state, and they believe further down to be two or three much older settlements.
Of course, there are the Longhouse history talkers who keep a much different history than the general public is allowed to view. (Boy am I gonna get flak about this)
Also, a body of an indian washed up on shore, Near Washington D.C., not too many years ago, and it was over 50,000 years old by testing. I forget if it was a scientific magazine or Time, but it detailed the oldest Indian sites in America, and evidence to support these finds. Some of this evidence is in Washington D.C. Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian? Yeah, that's it. But a lot of Indian relics are being repatriated to tribes for burial.
The point being ... we have barely scratched the surface of what is to be learned by a culture who is as old, if not older than the European, and Asian cultures.
It wouldn't hurt to learn about the people who we have been ignored in the name of manifest destiny to create America. Maybe there is some good that let us continue to be America more than history's four to five hundred year window per civilization?
You might also find that the Native Americans more closely resemble the Japanese in spiritual goals than do the European based religions, which most of us hail from and profess to? They look to nature, but live in the real world.
But, we do try to see the good in all things ... or isn't that the first thing your first MA teacher taught you and as mine did?
Still, how many teachers of MA are professional DJ's, performers, Magicians, registered Ministers, and professional Clowns? No wonder it was fun to learn MA's?
Check it out. Search Six Nations and the myths of USA natives? Have fun.
Learn the true legend of Deganawidah/ Hiawatha and how to clear your clouded mind, then tell me we couldn't use some of that in Aikido?
Now, if they could do something for advanced Meniere's, we might have a miracle.
I still haven't figured out what this Bugei is all about? It is more ambiguous than a lawyer upholding the law without looking for the truth? Could someone carve it down to a couple of sentences, or listed points? Thanks.
Re: Re: RE: Professor Friday's Reply
[quote]Originally posted by LOEP
Those folks who are truely of a "non-academic" palette can feel free to NOT read whatever they want. But I for one spend a lot of time monitoring these forums just waiting for the occasional post into which someone has put somereal time and effort. I don't think people who do make the effort should be criticized but rather praised for trying to raise the general tone of the forum.
Bugei .. clarity
Let us consider clarity.
The poet says the same as the intellectual writer ... but with much fewer words.
Some intellectual clarity does not require poetry ... only fewer more well defined words, please.
(i.e. : we can either accept the sound of "OUCH" for what it is, or write a doctorial thesis?):freaky:
A note from one of the unwashed ...
I think it is unfortunate that a person who has taken the time and made the effort to put his thoughts on a subject into such a detailed exposition should be criticized for doing so because people are too
I wasn't criticizing. I was commenting. The thread was active for a few days, then after that massive missive, it stalled. I read and re-read that post, trying to work through it. Sorry if I'm not as bright as you ...
I guess I prefer succint and direct. Brevity being the soul of wit an all that. And I find the off-topic, humorous, chit-chatty, friendly banter just as important and fulfilling as the deeply researched, well-written, carefully crafted intellectual and academic pieces.
Oh well, I guess I should get back on the ginko biloba, huh?
Those folks who are truely of a "non-academic" palette can feel free to NOT read whatever they want.
Exactly. Just as you can read _my_ posts (or anyone else's) or not as you wish. Probably nothing I have to say would interest you anyway. I do tend to lean toward the common and direct ... and I like to share humor and weirdness pretty often, too. Darn all that nonsense anyway!
However, you may rest easy. Senshincenter and I exchanged a few notes (on- and off-forum) about the post in question and came, I think, to an understanding. In fact, think he and I would greatly enjoy training together and would probably also enjoy hanging out and chatting over a good pint afterward, too.
But that probably wouldn't interest the high-minded and intellectually-deprived among us, would it?
Re: Bugei studies RE.
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