Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Does Budo require a sense of shame?
I understand that this situation (i.e. the one mentioned by Rob above) is quite comical to a great many of us. Personally, I think I am in a good position to recognize this humor because our dojo is setup in total contrast to the underlying assumptions that make such a laughing possible. In particular, I am referring to our dojo's pedagogical orientation -- being aimed toward gaining a spontaneity of movement and application (i.e. a transcending of the art's limiting methods of transmission). From this point of view, the comedy in this scenario comes from having one's ignorance, and/or the attachment to one's own delusion regarding the covering up of that ignorance, exposed. The comedy comes from having one's false sense of reality come up against Reality with a capital "R."
For all of us that have our funny bone tickled by this kind of insight -- which is indeed what it is -- training is about confronting Reality and our given distance from it. We train with Katate-dori, but while we are doing that, we are not necessarily only training for Katate-dori. We are more interested in what Katate-dori training tells us about other things -- other things more relative to less-choreographed training environments. For example, we may see the grab training of Katate-dori as a precursor to tsuki -- seeing fixated movement as a good tool for grasping the fundamental aspects of ballistic movement (which is harder to grasp because timing issues become more relevant). Another example: We may see Katate-dori not so much as a wrist grab attack but as an investigation into tactical concerns that are related to homo-lateral architectures or strategic applications. Etc. Thus, in one sense, the joke comes from the presence of an ignorance, the attachment to a delusion that hides such ignorance from us, the presence of Reality with a capital "R" -- that we are distant from - and a notion that Reality can only be penetrated via having a sense of something deeper existing (something more beyond the initial surface of the topic).
In other words, we have all these aikidoka out there -- and it should be said that they always exist "out there," that "we" are never really part of that "they" -- who do forms training but are unaware of the possible pitfalls of such training. They are folks that are unaware of the ways that such training, through one's own ignorance and need for delusion, can distance him or her from what is Real. Therefore, we make jokes, or, that is to say, we rightly see the humor in such a distancing from what is Real; and the production and need for those delusions that hide the true distance from Reality for this semi-anonymous "they" becomes laughable.
However, trying to tie this back into the main conversation, how less laughable are the following things from the same sense of these above-mentioned elements being present (i.e. ignorance, delusion, attachment to delusion, and Reality):
- How laughable is it to hold that one can gain proficiency in technique by simply training in technique alone? (This is an underlying delusion that often works for us when we are opting to have our funds to the dojo go toward paying off the sensei for certain silences -- for having certain relevant aspects of our character be "off limits" or out of bounds concerning "training.")
- How laughable is it to hold that Aikido or Budo is a Way, that it is a manner of living one's life, etc., and then training nowhere near as much as we can and/or training at a level that is nowhere near our deepest level of being? (This is an underlying delusion that today supports the weird acceptance that somehow earning a material object (e.g. a gold medal) should and does require more dedication and discipline than studying something as sublime as Aiki or one's true Self or than cultivating human virtue. Today, an athletic coach has no problem telling someone, "Look, if you cannot give me this many hours a week, forget about it -- go find some amateur/friend league to play in or watch it on TV." Whereas, a Budo sensei is very often finding him/herself saying, "Sure, one or two hours out of every 168 hours will be fine.")
- How laughable is it to suggest that we can penetrate Reality with the same mind that is deluded and thus blind to Reality? (This is an underlying delusion that supports the notion that we are not in need of a mentor that will reflect - so that we can see - all aspects of our mind and our being.)
- How laughable is it to hold that we do dabble in the art, to suggest that we are fine with that, but then to experience shame or discontent, etc., when another points it out to us? (This is an underlying delusion that we hold when we come to a teacher that has dedicated his/her life to an art of being, an art of becoming, and then expect the truth of that investment to not shine a light on our own lack of investment.)
For me this list can go on and on -- much more than if I were just to restrict myself to the delusions that surround basic (general/popular) Aikido training methods and its possible pitfalls. Yet, we, for ourselves, but also for our students, have a huge problem talking about these distances from Reality and about the delusions that support -- even inspire -- that distance. We will talk about this strike or that strike, about this tactic or that tactic, about this teacher's or that teacher's technique, etc., but we seem to want to avoid at all costs having to talk about these things and/or, worse, having to listen to these things being exposed. For me, this is related to how repulsing emotions have come to lose their (positive and proactive) place in much of current Budo training. This is why I have attempted to attach the absence of these repulsing emotions, and the desire to avoid them as much as possible, to a lack of clarity and thus to a lost chance of gaining proximity to our ideals (which must mean a proximity to Reality with a capital "R").
When you come to Budo training, we should come to change. We should not come to "confirm" our current status quo. To be sure, we must seek change at our own pace and according to the measures of our own dojo and teacher, but to hold anything back, to hold something off the table (e.g. this or that aspect of our heart/mind), from this point of view, is to resist the very process we are claiming as our own. Thus, to say "This emotion, or this side of myself, is off limits" is to resist against our own self; more than that, it is to defeat our own self. This then is the furthest we can get from Osensei's understanding that Aikido is about attaining victory over one's self. If we want this victory, and assuming we are in good hands, if we are going to listen to our teachers when they say, "Hey, there's no way you can defend yourself in Reality with that understanding," not letting the embarrassment or shame fuel us toward quitting and/or toward experiencing some sort of debilitating depression or self-defeatism, instead letting the statement point the way to greater and greater investment and thus to finer and finer accomplishments, then we should also be able to do the same when our teachers say, "Right now you are wasting my time and yours." More than that, in my opinion, if we are in a place where these other personal delusions (i.e. delusions other than those that are technical in nature) do not come up for investigation regularly, where they not exposed every step along the way, if we are truly interested in this victory, we should find a play where they do. If we are running a place where they remain irrelevant or only slightly relevant, we should reorganize ourselves according to this victory -- the one by which the Founder has defined his art, and by which our Path should be laid out.