What do you think about the lessons of learning from the Native American Indian in context to Aikido and our modern world?
Are the lessons of learning lost upon the minds of the more intelligent as a life of savages who have no basis for application in our modern world, or are they somewhat simular, although different, in their approach to learn from the spirits of nature which is our universal and common theme in survival?
Maybe because of my ancestry research does not explain things that are covered in the most basic of Native American societys which read like a paralell of Aikido's mystical explanations, or O'Sensei's writings that resemble much of this Amercan culture, but in pursueing knowledge of Aikido and Native American Indians, I find a paralell that can not be denied.
I don't plan on leaving my place in modern society to live in a thatched hut anytime soon, but didn't the simple farming life of O'Sensei seek to return to the spirits of the land, and live in harmony with these spirits .. or are we merely talking about the ravings of a lunatic who became a great martial artist?
So, what are your thoughts on taking some of the lessons of Native American Indians and applying them to our scientific analysis, or bringing them into the context of Aikido?
IMHO, while the words may be different and the context and culture they grew out of may also be different, I am always impressed by the similiaritis. Give me some faith in the universals of this journey.
Evidence suggests that more 'primitive' cultures are as intelligent as modern cultures, but have less technology (and usually less access to stored information). We've got used to living in capitalist and consumerist economy with certain laws (e.g. land rights) and therefore our ethics and life style have been shaped appropriately.
Different cultures develop different ethics, depending on the times they live in. Although each culture has valuable lessons, I believe the great truths are intrinsic to most spiritual systems. For me, until we get round the problem of 'sustainable development' being an oxymoron we'll continue as we are now.
P.S. I believe alot of the spirit worship (stones, trees) etc is very much about respecting things within the environment, and not just assessing them on economic value (which externalises the value such things have in enriching our lives).
There have been quite a few published arguments for this approach as opposed to the judo-christian approach of the world being there to service human needs.
I hope that made sense.
wait a second..
Like most Americans, I don't know anything about native american cultures. Bruce, I think what you are suggesting might be an interesting topic, but you have to tell us exactly WHAT cultural beleifs and concepts you are referring to, for a very important reason:
The image of the native american that most non-native americans have in their heads is mostly racist garbage invented in hollywood, and manufactured in the romantic minds of the first western environmentalists. In fact, most "native peoples" all over the world are seen with the same sort of stereotype by the people who have immigrated to those lands. This is the stereotyoe of the wise and spiritual indian who is one with nature and dares not to ever harm his ecological brothers and sisters (the animals and plants he lives among and the land he lives on).
The stereotype has turned out very often to be untrue, the real story being closer to the claim that the real reason native cultures seemed to live so much "in harmony with the land" being that they lacked the technological means to do as much damage as the "white man." This claim has been backed up by accounts of the transfer of technology from western cultures to indiginous societies, wherein the recipient of the technology uses it to his own ends, resulting in the destruction of his wonderful native land and the need for legal restraints on the use of the original technology. Also the native americans were known to waste animal lives by overhunting and overkilling, but the humans were so few in number that the impact was a little hard to see. Even though they COULD have been killing in horrible excess to the best of their abilities.
I think Shepard Krech III wrote a book about this sort of thing, but I don't know if this book is the one I read years ago. About his book:
Oh but hey you gotta read this part:
One thing that is very demonstrative for me is the story of Chief Seattle's speech. This is a famous speech that this old chief gave during the ol frontier times. The chief lamented the loss of the tribe's land to the conquering westerners. The sad thing is, that's all the original speech was: a lament
that "this was our land and now we've been defeated and y'all are gonna take it." An understandable thing to say that anyone would have said. Then later the speech got retold and retold and used in a hollywood movie, and eventually it became The Words of Wise Indian Man Who Is The Only One Who Respects Nature, and Respects It So Well.. and the modern version, which uses the shameless addition, out of nowhere, of environmental and hollywood-indian cliches, is still told today as the original speech, even though in this case we have the history of the evolution of the speech! Check this out for a better telling of the story, and good references in the end (Newsweek even told the true story, apparently?):
Alright, enough babbling! My point being that the wise old indian ways are for many of us stereotypical myths not founded in reality, and we would love to hear the true stories!
There is a certain romanticism to returning to a simpler life. I think at least some of this is what was going on with Ueshiba. As someone who grew up on a farm and has seen and done this sort of work first hand, well, the romantics are welcome to it. It's long, lonely hard work. It's unpredictable too. Your crop / source of livelihood can vanish on you at the drop of a hat. One long winter and you won't have to worry about the 'body solutions' diet. Of course simpler times mean simpler outhouses too. Wouldn't want running water right? Or, my local favorite these days, flouridation? Wouldn't it be great to have your teeth fall out by the time you are 50? In these simpler times how many people lived to be 50? What about diseases like polio, the plague, chickenpox and smallpox? Hey, makes AID's look a bit better doesn't it? And don't forget Syphallus and it's friends. By the way, simpler living will probably do away with the grocery stores too. All those nice fruits and vegetables.
Sorry, I get worked up on the simpler life / good ole days stuff. It's a pretty good thing we got going these days despite what you see and read.
By the way, nothing wrong with growing a garden and farming. I just don't think there's anything particularly more or less spiritual about it other than the meaning we give it.
Despite my surname (another story) I am the last Lenape in my family. My children unfortunately do not "scientifically qualify" for being Indian.
While I do not have exhaustive personal experience getting to know my 'savage side' I have had a few enlightening moments.
One of them happened recently at a fencing workshop we held. A young man arrived to take a lesson with our maitre d'armes. As I talked with him I discovered that he is what you could consider to be a professional MArtist and has a vast repertoire. He wrapped up his list with indigenous/american indian technique!
While the stereotypical arts are indeed present (archery, club, hatchet, knife, etc) there is also a tradition of empty-hand techniques. Like much of unwritten indian culture finding a resource is difficult. As I get to know this person I will try to be a better resource for this thread for those interested.
This would be where my interest in what could be learned from both ethnic sides would be - I have other reasons for religous xstudy, but it is not pertinent to aikido.
(thats dopamine if yer psychopharmaphunky)
This is actually something that I've known about for some time, but it goes beyond just Aikidoİ My wife happens to be very interested in Native culture, and I'm very much obsessed with Japan and it's history/religionİ For some time when we were both learning alot about each one we would talk about something we read, and sort of "compare notes"İ What I realized is that at their roots they are VERY similar, their beliefs are virtually identical but clothed in some different myths and specificsİ This may be true for many religions, especially ancient or "pagan" ones, but some of the similarities between Shinto and Native beliefs are shockingly similarİ On a loose level, both were in ancient times taken to be pretty much literal by the masses, but the higherups knew most of it to be allegorical or representationalİ In Shinto, the tree is woshipped not because it acually is going to uproot and talk and protect, but because it IS what it ISİ They saw the connection between things in nature and the universe and our place within that webİ Anyway, suffice to say that they are really very interestingly connected, and I think it'd make a great research topicİ
PİSİ Dave, I'd be very interested to learn what you find about Native martial arts, as my wife and I can't seem to find anything about it other than some battlefield tactics, and some info about very basic stick fighting that she read aboutİ If you know of anything that I could read or get to my wife that would be greatly appreciated!
Some of the earlier posts had a good point about environmental destruction. Also, technology isn't the only thing that tends to cause it - settled agriculture often causes it. Once people live in one area and develop staple foods the population grows and the local resources become heavily exploited - often resulting in mass deforestation and sometimes climate change (as is thought to have occured in some areas of the middle east). In fact many hunter-gatherer societies have been wiped out by settled agriculture through being outbred. For example, in Japan the native Japanese are actually quite hairy. Originally they were a hunter gatherer society but the koreans came over and developed settled agriculture. It is thought that they actually lived side by side for a long time but the high reproductive rate of the farmers meant that most of the native Japanese were out bred (some still remain in the North).
P.S. I'm an ecologist rather than an anthroplogist, but I did read this in Scientific American.
If indeed the native Americans came from Asia originally, there's quite a lot of reason to think that their respective philosophies originated from similar places.
Look further ...
There are a few things to be aware of in this modern age. One is, you would not normally recognize the modern mixed breed of Native American who has either been cut off from the old style of native life, and the intermarriage of native Americans to Europeans does make it easier to hide among the English.
Many, have in fact, been separated by two or three generations with Eurpean names, and many do not understand the turmoil they must deal with in natural behavior of Traditional Indian Values verses European Industrial Values. Some adapt, and some become the butt of societies successful citizens when they are unable to cope, so they become alcoholics, and drug users who vanish into the failures of societies losers.
Given the change to adapt, the needs of the present being the important driving factor, and all of humanity having the natural instinctual drives that sometimes blind clear thought, or impair ones ability to correctly discern from what is proper behavior, verses instinctual behavior, even the European Industrial behavior candidates sometimes cannot function in their own society.
Could it be the spirits of ancient ancestors connecting to the modern souls of their 20th or 30th generation? Got me. That is an unproven connection of genetic coding and being able to access it in the living body, so as much as we prove genetic knowledge, there is no scientific evidence to date.
Yeah, there are sub clans that have been separated from the tribe, and only a few allow those who have assimulated into white society to return.
Being from a suburban community, between NY city and Philadelphia, there is little bigotry in this type of community so long as citizens maintain minimum obligations to educate children, pay taxes, and maintain a home in the traditional manner of the community ... Natives then become invisible. Kind of like most Aikido practitioners who live in most communities.
I just got back from a trip to Alaska, in June '02, and I saw the difference of the natives there, verses the natives on the east coast of North America, and the way they have adapted to the new standard of living in modern society. There were more simularities to the Old Japanese than the Natives of East Coast.
It was not only in the style of meeting house construction, but also in many of the native and natural beliefs, how they came about, and the meeting of settlers in the 1700s and 1800s.
The point of this story?
Well ... As much as it appears that the hairy Japanese were intermarried to the Asian population, it also appears that the some of these people settled in the West Coast of North America too, intermarriage to native population.
In the spiritual sense of creating a balance for the body by performing religious ceremonys, or acts of religious faith, there is a separation from acceptence of nature in the judeo/christian faith in that their Gods control and intercede in their behalf or overcome forces of nature, where the acceptence of nature, and working with the natural balance of nature is the way to internalize one's own balance.
In my experience, we are driven to overcome nature with technology, population, and development of infrastucture that comes from Manifest Destiny, verses the need to work for the present needs that allow one to live within the natural environment, working for the comfort that insures survival, acquireing the minimum needs, and securing the safety of ancestors for seven or more generations to come.
Most of the modern spirituality is changed to fit the modern needs to fit within society, but instead of connecting to family with genetic blood links which are contained in direct blood lines there is a dilution and separation into the modern European Industrial Society that becomes the normal economic need to survive. Hence, few people want, or care to live on the farm, and the few that do lose touch with the original connection to nature.
The Spirit seeks to reconnect to its source of balance. Sometimes, it is found with other religious pursuits, sometimes it is found in training in Martial Arts, but in the contrast of seeking to satisfy our need for balance, the prospect of monitary renumeration becomes the priority to buy balance, verses seeking it within our own balance of spirituality.
There is a wealth of information in studying the old legends of the North American Indians.
There is a wealth of knowledge in the lessons of Aikido, as there is in learning the basis of religions that influenced most martial arts, but finding the balance of your own spirit may require more than mere monetary renumeration.
Where I could not understand what O'Sensei was writing about in studying Japanese religion and legends, it became perfectly clear when I began to study to spiritual and native legends/myths that began to open my mind in terms that I could understand because of how and where I grew up.
There are many storys on line, but only about twenty percent of what is practiced, believed or taught to the children of recognized Native Americans is brought to the public eye, but what is available should add to your picture of finding balance in not only Aikido, but in your understanding of what is good for your life for seven generations to come.
Native born in the soil of this land, one who lives in America should become familiar with the things that connect them to the land, the spirits, and why they become the way they are.
I just thought my journey might help some of you who have become mixed up with the 'melting pot' of modern america ... the good ol' USA.
Sometimes I wonder if the Native Americans originally migrated to the America's for reasons similar to those of the Puritains.
when i started taking Aikido lessons, Shari Dryer sensei was teaching Aikido using native american symbols and concepts. Since then she's stopped that way of teaching class, but it seems that the connection has been made before.
Maybe you could discuss it with her?
Limitation of teaching the traditional ways are still the secrets of each tribe, not for viewing of the general public.
We are exposed to those who research, and write books upon the ways of different tribes, and that is about as close as you will get to being inside.
Just as we stress physical proficientcy in Aikido with spiritual balance, the same is true of most Native cultures. You must put forth an effort to have both knowledge and spiritual balance before you, the outsider, can enter their world.
I know, because I am an outsider in both worlds, having roots in both white european society, and the native culture, but not having full grasp of either until late in life.
I bring this to your attention so that you might get the knowledge available much earlier than I.
It is worth a look as much as the spiritual side of Aikido is worth a look.
Although the depth of this study is much like pursueing the Greek and Roman myths and legends, it does reflect how cultures view their existence in relation to their environment, and how the beliefs develope as a result of that society.
Part of my journey to understand the basis of each culture being absolutely correct in its beliefs of myths and legends, along with social fabric woven by religion and war, was to have comparitve guidelines that would translate to any society.
In finding the universal catalysts for each society such as natural phenonmenon in nature, I have begun to see how the words of O'Sensei do come to clarity with the his immersion in his own cultural beliefs, and pursuits of cleansing his mind to find the path of Aiki.
Bring up the Native Americans was just another comparison to the many different cultures around the world that develope and have insight that can make the words of O'Sensei come to light in your own life.
Where you cannot understand the words in your own study or understanding of one cultural belief, you might find the clarity by understanding the developement of many different people around the world.
Being a native of turtle island, North America that is, I thought in this beginning of a Golden Age of humanity those of us who are able should understand what has passed before we allow it to become a historical reference rather than a segment of our life. We are more alike in our lives as natural born natives than we would admit.
The fact that the natural inhabitants would kill each other in fashions of war, take wives from other tribes, allow the new settlers to join their tribes so that the strength of numbers would deter war from other tribes, is not unlike many of underlying principles we use in society today. Of course, we do not outright eat the white dog, or eat the livers of our enemies, but still we let loose the dogs of war when the situation warrants.
And I see no distinction in the different people who are in the armed forces of the USA. The all fight, they all serve the interest of their country, their common tribe of the United States of America.
So, in the sense that there is more to be learned in both the physical and spiritual sense, how much of what we learn in Aikido is related to the Native lessons?
I see that many of our lessons from the Chinese, and Japanese arts are at the heart of what some would call Native American fighting methods. We take the best of what works, and call it our own.
Question is, how much more can we learn from living next to a dojo without ever setting one foot in the door of that dojo?
Your Aikido journey is closer to Native Americans than you think. It may shock you to see how much they live like you, but do many of the same things that O'Sensei alludes to in his writings.
Take a look, and see if it helps you. It did me.
Re: Native lessons
I feel that in order to achieve the level of spirituality that Osensei and other notables have reached in their life times, we have to detatch ourselves from the linear limitations of the realm of the five physical senses. The Native Americans culture is just one such group. They among other such groups were quite familiar with and daily used the non-linear nonlocal dimension we refer to the spiritual world. We don't have to go or move anywhere to achieve this level of thinking. We just simply close our eyes and imagine such a place then will it into existence.
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