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Chuck Clark 06-11-2000 10:00 PM

Question for those who're interested..

What does the term "spiritual" or "spirituality" mean to you when used in connection with your budo training?

Thanks,

akiy 06-12-2000 11:46 AM

Sheesh, Chuck. Start out with an easy question next time, will you?

For me currently, the term "spiritual" basically refers to my action of looking at myself -- self-reflection, as it were, working through the illusions.

In my aikido training, I've had to constantly reflect upon my "natural" reactions to aspects of my training and dig through all the "stuff" to see just where I was coming from. It's been a process of finding what's uncomfortable, finding out why it's uncomfortable, and seeing if I can work on it so that it becomes less so.

Anyone else? Chuck, what about you?

-- Jun

Chuck Clark 06-12-2000 11:40 PM

Hi Jun,

I ask questions cause I wanna know!

Seriously, I suspect the answer to this question is as varied as there are people who'll respond to it.

To me, spirituality in budo is human nature and observing it in ourselves and others which helps us to have more info with which to make decisions. Does this include religious aspects? For me it does, but I think it depends on what religion someone follows, if any. It has a lot to do with how we treat each other. Hopefully as we learn we can develop compassion and treat each other with respect in ethical and equitable ways both in and out of the dojo.

Budo training is like a magnifying glass which allows us to look at ourselves and others in ways that are often hidden. At times this can be painful and reveal things we would rather not face. How we deal with these depends largely on qualities like courage and determination, plus a strong support group. Our family, teacher, dojo training mates, etc. make up the paradox of our practice which involves just us and our innards but can't be done without the others participation.

I'll let some others (hopefully) add some stuff...

tarik 06-13-2000 01:14 AM

Hi Chuck,

Interesting question, and I'm sure it will mean different things to different people.

For my own training, it is much as Jun has described; my personal degree of self-reflection and self-challenge.

For example, I actively seek out uncomfortable situations (not just in my training) whether they be due to fear, pain, annoyance, dislike, frustration or anything at all that makes me feel uncomfortable. I seek these situations out to understand my reactions, learn why they occur, learn to be comfortable with them, and if possible or sensible, to transform them into something different and perhaps better as perceived by myself.

I consider the entire experience spiritual because it ties back to the entire human experience and I've found that working on my fears has been the single greatest influence on my training, my psyche, and my behavior and interaction with other people.

Regards,

Tarik

sotnak 06-13-2000 05:41 PM

I love questions like this.

I take it that by "spiritual" in the context of budo trining, people don't mean "conducive to the promotion of the immortality of the soul." Rather, they mean something like "conducive to a feeling of emotional and psychological fulfillment, endowing life with significance." Suppose two people spend an hour swinging a sword around. One perceives the activity as spiritually significant, while the other perceives it as ... well... swinging a sword around for an hour. The difference, I think, lies in the perception by the first of the activity as having implications beyond the activity as such. The activity has transformative power, perhaps. Maybe the activity is perceived as an attempt to achieve mastery/perfection. Maybe the activity is perceived as an exercise in surmounting fatigue/boredom/pain.

There is often a quasi-Nietzschean aspect to assertions of spiritual significance for martial training -- "what does not destroy me makes me stronger." Perseverance in the face of adversity in one domain translates into an increased ability to persevere in the face of adversity in other domains.

The activity may also be perceived as being part of the construction of one's identity as a person. The "meaning of life" for a person is, in large part, a construction, based on the things and activities in which we invest ourselves (e.g., "I am an aikidoist" or "I am a Washington Senators fan" or "I listen to AC/DC"). The more an activity or thing is perceived as contributing to a person's identity as a person, the more that activity or thing is likely to be perceived or described as having spiritual significance.

Well, don't want to ramble on too long.

akiy 06-15-2000 10:31 AM

Good to see you here, Eric.

I think in any kind of spiritual endeavor, it's the person and not the activity that matters. As you wrote, one person may view the same activity as being spiritual while another may not.

Why do some people find aikido to be a good vehicle for spiritual growth?

-- Jun

Chuck Clark 06-15-2000 11:24 AM

I think aikido can be a very strong spiritual practice because the "feedback" is so immediate. This is especially true if there is a strong feeling of trust in the training environment. The paradox is that we should feel "safe" while at the same time be getting our "buttons pushed" at all times. Training is a form of desensitization and then resensitization to all of the possible conflict and stress in life. This stress comes from both external and internal sources. How we process the info and then make decisions gives us feedback about the system. (Life/Death)



[Edited by Chuck Clark on June 16, 2000 at 07:38am]

Erik 06-17-2000 11:21 PM

Spirtuality
 
Chuck and I seem to be following each other around today and Jun, how did you know I'd wind up in this thread? :D

In my own case spirituality means an extensive exploration of myself. I can, most of the time, bounce someone around doing Aikido, if not with Aikido then I've got a decent right and if it's too slow then dammit I might be bigger than you. So working on getting someone down is not a big deal to me--like everyone, I know how to fight.

What I care about is becoming who I am, listening to who I am and trusting in it. Aikido as I've practiced it recently has allowed me to express and explore that. I guess I'm saying it's allowed me to hear more of who I am and as I hear more I begin to trust more.

Chuck's comment on being safe has been critical in this. I don't think this type of practice can happen without a feeling of almost complete trust in the people around you. You've got to feel safe when in the middle of class you start hearing voices telling you what technique to do, or that you should quit your job and become an artist or whatever strange things come up. Hell, they might not even be strange, but you've got to feel safe for them to come up because they'll feel strange to you even if it's becoming a doctor.

So my spiritual/Aikido practice is to listen, trust what I hear and act upon it.

Mike Collins 06-20-2000 06:25 PM

Aikido spirituality for me seems to be about my ability (or lack of ability) to face my real demons. For me to learn to force myself when I am tired or lazy is a spiritual event.

To run into my laziness enough that I gotta deal with it appropriately is a spiritual event.

Aikido shows me myself, if I am willing to look, and honest enough to admit what I see. Aikido allows me the vehicle to force myself to be and do better. That's about as much as anyone can ask from a spiritual practice.

George S. Ledyard 06-21-2000 02:52 AM

Spirituality
 
To me, a requirement of what would qualify as a spiritual practice would be the element of personal transformation. O-Sensei clearly envisioned that Aikido be a means of first personal transformation and then by extension, a means to transform the world. But I think it is not clear at all whether succeeded in developing a training method that is going to accomplish this on any wide scale.

For example, Zen training has for a couple thousand years been a fairly systematic practice (varying from sect to sect in emphasis) that leads to an experience of satori or enlightenment. Regardless of what style of Zen you do, Soto, Rinzai, eclectic, there is a system for evaluating the level of insight on the part of the student and a system of transmission from teacher to student.

Aikido on the other hand is completely lacking in any actual agreement about what spiritual practice is. For many, this simply means that there is an ethical dimension to the practice. It fosters a caretaking attitude towards all life and contains a non-violent philosophy that is reflected in the manner in which we execute technique.

It is clear that O-Sensei had a mystical vision of what Aikido was. For him, the execution of each Aikido technique was a symbolic representation on an energetic level of the reality of the universe. Every detail of a technique contained the symbolism that allowed this expression. Yet very few people are doing that in their training.

There are a variety of lessons to be learned from training in Aikido on a personal level. But I find that often the descriptions many practitioners give when describing the "spiritual" benefits of the training they have derived are pretty much the same descriptions that people who have seriously devoted themselves to any other endeavor give. I hear exactly the same descriptions from serious athletes when they talk about what training in their particular sport (or dancers or musicians) has done for them.

Any activity that requires being "present" will cause some type of personal transformation. Our society encourages us to be asleep so by contrast any activity that doesn't will be beneficial. Our society encourages us to look at everything from a labor saving point of view so anything that involves purposely looking for difficulty will be transformational.

What people mean when they refer to Aikido as spiritual practice seems to range from simple pleasant mutual admiration societies that many dojos are (the focus is on not doing anything that threatens a members self esteem) to beat the body strengthen the spirit approaches to practice (which mostly harden the "will" of the students without necessarily doing anything to really transform them)to those who are on some level trying to understand their practice in some way similar to the way in which O-Sensei viewed it.

I think that Aikido has the potential to be a very deep practice that could afford deep personal transformation. But I do not think that there is anything within what is generally called Aikido that we can say we all hold in common as to what the method is or even what the spiritual goal of this practice is. It is completely different from teacher to teacher and student to student. It will be interesting to see what we all come up with over time; maybe some will really come up with something deep.

Mike Collins 06-21-2000 08:32 AM

All of which I think, adds rather than detracts to Aikido's strength as a spiritual practice. Individuality and making allowances for it to be individual force each of us to at least look for the spiritual, and in looking is some of the practice, I think.

giriasis 06-21-2000 10:59 PM

spirituality
 
I have found for myself aikido is the tool for reforming my spirit. I have always been the intellectual type. Aikido has given me a tool to bring my thoughts down to earth where I can finally gain a deeper understanding of myself and my relationship with others.

I found aikido a year ago and will always continue with it. I have not found this in just exercising or in doing other sports. Aikido feeds my spirit.

In what I have discovered in practicing aikido is what I see as it being spiritual.

AikiTom 07-02-2000 10:13 PM

I like George's response!
O-sensei said "Aikido is the completion of all religions" which is quite interesting.
"Spiritual" can mean things like religious or things like "polishing the spirit" or self-improvement like masakatsu agatsu.
That aikido is strongly spiritual is beyond question, although it can be practiced in a merely physical, technical way, which I think is sort of a "junk food" aikido personally, but most of the takes on it I suspect depend on the particular sensei, or the student who does a lot of reading.
I just finished reading an Aikido Journal (1999) transcription of an O-sensei lecture to the Byakko Shinkokai - it'll sprain your brain. One main message is that spiritually aikido allows us to "connect" or attach to the spirit of the universe (God).
Personally, I think that since effective practice requires being sensitive to where uke is in unfolding an attack, sensing ki direction, etc., that all of this promotes more sensitivity to others and their present feelings in the "off-the-mat" world. That increased sensitivity should result in more sensitive responses and actions, thus better ethics, thus better spirit development.

typewriting_monkey 07-15-2000 03:28 PM

i have a question...
 
I don't practice Aikido (yet), and I don't presume to know anything about martial arts. Still, I have a few questions that I would like cleared up about this martial art.

1) Does one need a strong spiritual life to master Aikido? I know this question is probably very difficult to answer, but it is very important to me.

2)Is Aikido related to Taoism? It would seem so, judging by the enigmatic description of Ki. Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, had an interesting way of describing the Tao, or the Ki. I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like 'where the pot is empty, is where it's most useful. Where the room isn't, is what makes gives it a purpose.' Forgive me if I'm blatantly wrong, but the Ki seems to be the essence of nothingness. This is a paradox, but its about the best way of describing it that I can think of. The Tao Te Ching calls it "the mother of all things," an intangible, self-sustaining energy that is God, although without the personification of an old man with a long beard sitting a golden throne, throwing lightning bolts.

3)What religion, if any, did the founder of Aikido cling to?

4)I live in Lansing, MI. Could someone tell me of a nearby Aikido dojo, or tell me where to go to find out that information. I would prefer a sensei who practiced Aikido exclusively; the idea of a sensei who's given every martial art a 30 day "speed learning" and then supposes he/she can teach it does not interest me. I exaggerate, but I want to get my point across.

5)I'm not exactly a very coordinated person, and I have astigmatism quite badly in my right eye. Would these relatively minor setbacks be a large problem in my learning Aikido? Forgive me for the "Hollywoodish" allusion, but I've seen Karate Kid, and with vision like mine, there is no way I could murder a fly with chopsticks.

6)Aikido is a purely defensive martial art, right? What kinds of weapons would an Aikido practitioner use? Presumably only those which would prevent the opponent from attacking.

7)Aikido is a very serious martial art, just like any, but would it be immature or inhibitive for someone like me whoconsiders the idea of preventing an opponent's attacks humorous? I've thought of this situation a few times: an angry person with a very bad temper attempts to attack me repeatedly because he falsely thinks his ego has been insulted. Am I limiting myself by finding it funny that every attempt is effortlessly dettered? All in all, I would consider myself a mature person, but I need to know whether a mindset like that would prevent my development both with my spirituality and my Aikido skills.

8)This question is more religious, and not really related to Aikido, but do do any of you believe that meditation can bring about enlightenment(i.e. CORRECT answers to philosophical questions)? Or, more directly asked, do any of you believe in listening to intuition as a valid method?
I have tried to keep from forming any opinions about these questions, as I do not know the answers yet, but nevertheless there may be subjective qualities in my questions. They are not intentional.
Sorry for the length, but I've been running these questions over in my mind for quite some time, and this is my first chance to ask qualified experts.

akiy 07-15-2000 04:00 PM

Re: i have a question...
 
Quote:

typewriting_monkey wrote:
I don't practice Aikido (yet), and I don't presume to know anything about martial arts. Still, I have a few questions that I would like cleared up about this martial art.

Next time, you probably want to split up your questions for different threads rather than asking them all in one huge message.
Quote:

1) Does one need a strong spiritual life to master Aikido?

Others may disagree, but I don't think so. Besides, I don't think any of us ever "master" anything.
Quote:

2)Is Aikido related to Taoism?

Not that I know of.
Quote:

3)What religion, if any, did the founder of Aikido cling to?

Morihei Ueshiba sensei subscribed to the Omoto-kyo religion.
Quote:

4)I live in Lansing, MI. Could someone tell me of a nearby Aikido dojo, or tell me where to go to find out that information.

Just click on the dojo search link at the left side of this page.
Quote:

5)I'm not exactly a very coordinated person, and I have astigmatism quite badly in my right eye. Would these relatively minor setbacks be a large problem in my learning Aikido?

Nope. I think we've all felt uncoordinated in aikido sometime. I've practiced with blind people, too.
Quote:

6)Aikido is a purely defensive martial art, right? What kinds of weapons would an Aikido practitioner use?

Some say it's "purely" defensive. Others will disagree with you.

We usually use the bokken, jo, and tanto during our weapons practice.
Quote:

7)Aikido is a very serious martial art, just like any, but would it be immature or inhibitive for someone like me whoconsiders the idea of preventing an opponent's attacks humorous? I've thought of this situation a few times: an angry person with a very bad temper attempts to attack me repeatedly because he falsely thinks his ego has been insulted. Am I limiting myself by finding it funny that every attempt is effortlessly dettered?

What you find funny would probably be different from what I find funny. I sometimes find it funny when I can't do a technique...
Quote:

8)This question is more religious, and not really related to Aikido, but do do any of you believe that meditation can bring about enlightenment(i.e. CORRECT answers to philosophical questions)?

Me? I don't think so.
Quote:

Or, more directly asked, do any of you believe in listening to intuition as a valid method?

This, I do believe.
Quote:

Sorry for the length, but I've been running these questions over in my mind for quite some time, and this is my first chance to ask qualified experts.
I'm not a "qualified expert," but that doesn't keep me from commenting on things...

-- Jun

Mike Collins 07-15-2000 04:13 PM

The answers to most of your guestions would be my answers. The best answers you will get will be those which are yours. Try Aikido, if it speaks to you (give it a couple of months at least) it is for you, if not cool. Life goes on. As to the metaphysical and philosophical, If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Nobody but you should answer them.

Jun already gave you the facts that answer the factual questions. Good Luck!!

Aiki1 07-15-2000 04:45 PM

Re: i have a question...
 
Quote:

typewriting_monkey wrote:
1) Does one need a strong spiritual life to master Aikido? I know this question is probably very difficult to answer, but it is very important to me.

If a person thinks of, or experiences, Aikido as something spiritual, then yes. If not, then no. But between the two people, what they end up "mastering" may indeed be different things.

DJM 07-15-2000 04:59 PM

Re: i have a question...
 
Quote:

typewriting_monkey wrote:

1) Does one need a strong spiritual life to master Aikido? I know this question is probably very difficult to answer, but it is very important to me.

I'd agree with Jun on this, and say no - with the proviso that I find it does supplement my spiritual path.

Quote:


2)Is Aikido related to Taoism?

Aikido isn't related to Taoism per se (at least no more than everything is ;)) But I do find a great number of Taoist principles to be present..

Quote:


7)Aikido is a very serious martial art, just like any, but would it be immature or inhibitive for someone like me whoconsiders the idea of preventing an opponent's attacks humorous

I think everything should be joyful. The fact that you're being attacked shouldn't make anything different in that regard, though I think it's a different question as to laughing at an attacker.. That's something that would probably serve to fuel the situation, not de-escalate things..

Quote:


8)This question is more religious, and not really related to Aikido, but do do any of you believe that meditation can bring about enlightenment(i.e. CORRECT answers to philosophical questions)? Or, more directly asked, do any of you believe in listening to intuition as a valid method?
Sorry for the length, but I've been running these questions over in my mind for quite some time, and this is my first chance to ask qualified experts.

Well I'm certainly not an expert on anything, but I'm also not adverse to sharing my perceptions of the Way..
My own opinion of meditation, is that it can put you in touch with the deepest truths, but it's very difficult to avoid illusions and egotism.. So, what you see may only be a reflection of what you want to see. If you can work through that, then I see no reason why not. Everything is one, at the deepest, most fundamental level.. As for intuition, I rely on my continually. It's like a muscle, in the sense of the more you rely upon it, the more honed it becomes..

I hope I've managed to answer your questions in a way that makes sense.. Standard disclaimer of course - these are just my opinions, and since I haven't written a book yet I can claim they're facts ;)

Peace,
David

dbgard 07-16-2000 03:23 AM

Quote:

sotnak wrote:

Well, don't want to ramble on too long.

[/quote]sotnak wrote as a footer:
Would a country run by the media be a "mediocracy"? [/quote]


Sotnak Sensei,

You told me a few days ago I made your day with an insightful comment. You just made my week with these comments. To me - what you wrote here - are near-perfect symbols (none are ever perfect) of Takemusu Aiki...the form w/o a form...the need for a sixth sense...thanks again, buddy. Let the learning ne'er cease!!!!!!!

Sincerely,
Drew G.

Jens Larson 07-23-2000 10:48 PM

O-Sensei's writings on the web?
 
I have just started my search for writings by O-Sensei on the spriritual aspects of Aikido. Are any translated texts available on the web? Perhaps I need to buy a book instead. What titles would y'all recommend?

adriangan 07-24-2000 01:27 AM

Re: O-Sensei's writings on the web?
 
Quote:

Jens Larson wrote:
I have just started my search for writings by O-Sensei on the spriritual aspects of Aikido. Are any translated texts available on the web? Perhaps I need to buy a book instead. What titles would y'all recommend?
Hi Jens,

I'd recommend John Steven's "The Secrets of Aikido", I've read it and it might be just what you're looking for.

- Adrian


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