Join Date: Oct 2004
Re: Does Budo require a sense of shame?
Okay, you wanted me to share, so here it is (long!) - personal and not theoretical - although I would speculate my like is out there:
For you to ask yourself why such things "stick" Well, tying into the rest of your post: I guess because for me, aikido is not a "lifestyle", it is not what guides the rest of my existence. Hence, my relationships outside the dojo are not for the dojo to evaluate. I see my existence as a set of rings inside each other, each of them closer to and influencing the core, and aikido is one of those rings. There is connection to the rest, but not determination -- the direction of that is from inside out. Aikido feels right to me because it swings with the rest of me. Right now I am content letting it do its magic without my mind interfering with it.
With seishin tanren, we are beginning to talk about something you are not interested in. David, I enjoy your posts because they are such a challenge to me. I can never just read them and get them. So yes, when you say we are talking past each other you would probably be quite right. I find it difficult to relate to your experience with aikido. It seems to take up so much of you. See, for me aikido feels necessary, but it is an experiential thing for me, not an intellectual or philosophical pursuit. Your experience is interesting to me because it is so far from my own.
- Are such things not demonstrable for all to see? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Experience and ideals tend to be held on the individual level. The relationships that I believe can be evaluated in the dojo are only those that relate to the dojo, that your conduct is in conformance with expectations. I do not negate the possibility that aikido can bring a sense of awareness of self and ones place in and interaction with the world, it just doesn't occupy center stage for me in that process. My family provides that setting. To me, family is the closest ring, and it is my interaction with them that demonstrates to me "how I am doing." I don't care much what others think. I do hold values about what constitutes a "good person" and have ideals that I hold myself to. They are not derived from aikido (or religion, for those who may wonder). They are derived from experience -- and yes, that would be my unique experience and hence they are my unique ideals. As you say, "everyone else's Aikido, in a very real or concrete way, is irrelevant to our own."
- In studying something, are we to remain forever within the manufactured "realities" we utilize to address learning curves? I simply don't know how learning curves are addressed, but I think that manufactured realities are the nature of aikido practice. We can never truly replicate the terror of the scenario described with someone attacking a child. Again, it is a matter of how you approach training. Is it self-defense? Then yes, it is a manufactured reality. Is it a voyage of self-discovery? Again, I would maintain it to be a manufactured reality, stages set for your exploration. Is it spontaneous? As often as possible, but based on the acquired framework. My sensei uses terms I have a lot of difficulty with. He speaks another language at times. He urges us to locate the source of our aikido (at least, that is what I understand him to say), but by referring to the floor beneath the floor, waves, circles of energy etc, and to describe how certain executions of a technique are different -- "how does it feel?" I don't relate to aikido that way (yet). I do not have the vocab to describe my aikido that way. I don't know that I'd be able to recognize the floor beneath the floor if it hit me in the face (which, I may add, it does on occasion). But I still get something out of the class. I do not negate the use of the unfamiliar or even "sticky" in getting another take on things, although I may be unable to make it my own.
- Can students generally profess their intent with their training when they join a dojo? Should they be able to? Does it benefit them to be able to do so or does it hinder them to be unable to do so? It benefits me to know that I am making room for aikido in a way that takes minimal time away from my kid. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to practice at noon as often as I want, and still be home by 5:30 p.m. I would speculate that it would be a very good idea for people to be aware of what they want from aikido in order to not be disappointed. It may also be a good idea to communicate this to the dojo so the dojo does not get disappointed, and they can help dispel any misunderstandings.
- Is it impossible to learn The Way in a Place for the Way? No, not if that's your purpose. Can you learn aikido without studying The Way? Again, it depends on the level of training you aspire to and what you really hope to get out of aikido. I do not study O-Sensei's sayings. I do not read about aikido. As said above, it is purely experiential to me. Those who wish to learn The Way would probably be better off in a place dedicated to it. But where are places for The Way? Are they only organized environments? Or can you learn The Way through experience and reflection anywhere? Do you have to define it as The Way, or can you strive to be better and make the world better and not call it anything -- maybe not even make it a conscious effort? I have a personal aversion to "Answers" -- why? well, that's all part of the family history -- I am not religious, I do not seek The Way, I am instinctively suspicious of people who claim to know the Truth -- and so naturally, I would believe that you can definitely piece it together and be "a good person" without the assistance of organized Truths. And that, then, is probably the key to my experience of aikido and why I reacted to your post in the first place.
- Is it impossible for one dynamic motivated along a given ideal (i.e. the dojo as a social setting motivated along the concept of Aiki) to affect other dynamics (i.e. other social settings) not motivated by that first ideal? Isn't this what happens with our home life and our outside life when we are children? Yes, it is what happens. In my world, you are shaped by your closest relationships, for better or for worse, and that is what may be polished by the outside world, or indeed changed but it will always be part of you. As a child, I brought home experiences and got some help where necessary to put them in a framework I could understand. As I grew older and had more experiences, I had learned to trust other people's experiences and ideas. The way I would make sense of things was the same, though. Reflection and exchange. I believe that family (or how you grow up) is the strongest influence on your personality and relationships, and that it takes years and years of dedicated effort to change that. I don't think you are necessarily eternally hamstrung by nurture and that everybody must go through years of therapy; age, maturity and exposure often do the trick. My point about the dojo was that I personally am drawn to it (my dojo) because I like the atmosphere there. It charges me. It makes me so happy that people I have never seen before smile at and greet me on the street when I walk back to work. If I did not like it, I wouldn't be there. I think people seek out the dojos that respond to their needs. Hence, your students seek you out because you answer a need in them. If they come looking for change, and that is what you help them with, it's a great match. I do not think people will change if they are not aware of a need for change. As a matter of fact, I think they would resist or even resent the implication.
- Whatever the means, is not the overcoming of the dismay that is ours because of the sheer level of physical intimacy part of the training, part of progress in the training? Doesn't it have to be? Absolutely, I am just saying that many students never really become students because they can't get over it. Physical contact with strangers is so foreign to so many people. If you are not somehow motivated to get over it, you will leave the dojo after a very short period of time. One way to get people over it is to make that aspect of it fun and light, not weighty and serious. I think fear becomes an obstacle for many that does not allow them to see all the others things in aikido.
- Why does the possibility of the physical/spiritual cultivation of Aiki inhibit those that want to understand such a term only metaphorically? I think this one may be an instance of talking past each other, David. I simply don't understand the question. I do not think of aikido in terms of an expression of aiki. In very basic terms, "aikido" is just a name for something I experience. I suppose that means I am trying only to understand the term metaphorically? The possibility of the physical/spiritual cultivation of it does not inhibit me. It is just not in my frame of reference. It is not what I seek in aikido. That other people do is perfectly within the realm of possibility, and I in no way negate the value of that. I absolutely agree that I am not even scratching the surface, I will most willingly concede that aikido could be so much more than what it is to me. However, I can handle this level. I can relate to it. It means something to me. And it is comfortable, so absolutely -- at this point, it is good enough. Increasing my investment would come at a cost I am not currently willing to pay. My time is better spent with my kid -- what I show her has ramifications not only for her, but for everyone she will come into contact with.
- Do teachers who follow their ideals -- follow what their reasoning and experience has led them to adopt as their own perspective -- help students fulfill their own potential or is that potential better served by a teacher who compromises his/her perspective for some reason or experience he/she has long ago rejected? Teachers who follow their ideals will always be more compelling, and hence have greater impact. You are free to set the expectations of your dojo. Your students are drawn to you because of what they find there. You might advise someone like me to find another dojo if I am not aware enough to bow out by myself. I believe you to object to students who have hopes to advance their training without committing to it. But how about the student who says to you "Sensei, I can practice only twice a week. Some weeks I may not even make it. I love this. This is important to me. When I am here, I will be here completely. May I stay?" Would the reflection make a difference?
So back to shame: I think I responded to your original post at such length because I share with Rob an instinctive reaction to the word as something highly undesirable. Again, in my role as a parent, I hope to make my kid behave in certain ways because it feels good to her, not because not doing so would make her feel bad by me attaching an "or else" to it. It's fine if it feels bad because she instinctively knows it's wrong/hurts someone else etc. If she can listen to herself and others she will be able to navigate much better. That's back to the whole thing of self - who is she listening to? Me or herself or some combination? Pondering over nature and nurture is a great way to exercise your mind. As was this. I basically don't think shame has a place in training as an outside influence. I don't even know that it is great to be self-propelled by a feeling of shame - joy as a motivating factor in getting me to training just seems so more compelling to me. I do aikido for me - I went to school for so many other reasons, a big one of which was a feeling of duty and unavoidability. A sense of shame was at times the only thing that got me to go. In retrospect, it had a valuable function. But if aikido ever becomes about something else than joy and energy, I don't know that I'll keep doing it. As a matter of fact, I did stop once because the dojo I was in was not for me. A lot of shaming in that one, actually.
I certainly did not want to suggest by a silence that what you say is not worthy of existing and/or even of considering. David, I have enjoyed this tremendously. I have never felt ignored and I hope I have not given you reason to think I did. I sincerely thank you for your very well considered replies.