Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: quickness & accuracy
This is just my opinion -- but I would like to humbly offer it here…
My training outside of Budo is as a historian. Within the field of history, my area of "specialty" deals with deconstructing the role "truth" plays in determining culture. Toward that end, I often deal with how both knowledge in general and knowledge of the past are constructed by a given present in order to have that present culture function through a self-identity more members want to buy into than do not, etc. As a result, I am very critical of "Golden Pasts," as I have never ran into one that was not a fiction created for political/economic reasons located in the present. "Golden Pasts" only pretend to be about history while they are 1000% about the here and now. In such cases, history is used only as a ruse to hide the actual workings of the hands that wish to fill themselves with one capital or another. Thus, "Golden Pasts" are too biased to ever remain accurate. In a very real sense, they hide much more than they can reveal. Nevertheless, I do not wish to dismiss the reminiscing of folks as false. I am sure that your teacher did in fact train rougher and that he gain his exact benefits from that training. Nevetheless, I would wish that we could gain some objective distance from what we may individually experience in the past and from the overall cultural context that we end up using and knowing as "the truth" when it comes to both our history and our potential future. I like to think about "our Time's" problems without thinking about a time when they supposedly did not exist.
If self-realizations become rare and/or if self-delusion is the more likely, I do not see it as something related to a degradation of any kind of art and/or of any kind of teaching methodology -- let alone something that can be attributed to a given epoch. In my opinion, self-realization is rare while self-delusion is common because this is the very nature of our humanity. The simple statement is this: Self Awareness and/or the purification of Delusion is never a common thing. There was no time in human history when humans lived with clarity en mass.
It is precisely because this is the human condition that things like Budo exist. Budo, as a technology of the Self, expects us to come in the door polluted and/or deluded, incapable of really real self-awareness, etc. In this sense, Budo is very much like every other spiritual tradition -- be that a tradition that bases things on a Fall from Grace, to one that spouts Truths on suffering and the cause of suffering, to one that points to a need for purification, etc. In a way, there are two natures to our being. There is the nature that is of us but not really of us. It is noted in many ways. It is the ego, the small self, the false self, our desire, our ignorance, etc., and it is set against (in a way) the real us -- the true self, the great self, our true nature, etc. Budo is that process or that practice or that "bridge" that reconciles these (apparently different) two things. If we can understand this, we can see that we are not talking about the ailments of a given time, we are talking about a universal dilemma for all Mankind and for all Times.
Therefore, if forms training is problematic for us today it is not necessarily because we do not train rougher (as we did in the past). It is because we as human beings have always been plagued toward self-delusion. If forms training is problematic today, it is because it has always been problematic. The problematic nature of forms is not something that has just now come to exist -- it is something that has always existed. It is the old enigma of trying to frame art -- of putting a box or a cage around something that is supposed to be alive and then foolishly hoping that you will not kill it in the process. However, it is more than this. It is trying to keep something truly alive in front of person (i.e. ourselves) that is very capable of producing a delusion that will work to see what is dead as that which is alive. Because of this, training rougher may not bring in all the awareness we think it will. As many have noted before in other threads, training rougher, while opening our eyes to things like openings (since we can no longer delude ourselves into believing they do not exist), may have us deluding ourselves into believe that we are still practicing Aiki when we are not. Training rougher may only be exchanging one delusion for another -- in fact, it most probably will as this is the human condition.
For example, someone in his or her ukemi pushes us as nage really hard, and we may come to see how weak our base truly is, because now its weakness is being exposed as it is being challenged, and we then go on to work to strengthen our base (e.g. lifting weights, developing internal power, etc.), and now when they push at us we are able to push back at them so that we can "see" that our base is no longer weak. However, is this Aiki, is this clarity, is our base truly "powerful" because we can hold it against one uke that has given us trouble? No, of course not, but we will allow ourselves to think so, or rather, we will allow ourselves to be preoccupied with getting a stronger base, and through our capacity to practice delusion we will be perfectly comfortable with forgetting all of the rest that actually goes into Aiki and/or into remaining powerful under spontaneous martial conditions. In this sense, we remain deluded and are actually no further along in gaining clarity.
Thus, I do not want to say the solution is to train rougher. It can be, it cannot be. Upaya is what is needed. Things are varied and they are varied according to both our capacity for delusion and to the actual delusion we may be practicing. At our dojo we have both extremely gentle classes -- where they are more meditative, yogic, breathing oriented -- and this goes for every topic (e.g. weapons, spontaneous training environments, ground fighting, body art, knife fighting, etc.). In addition, we have very rough classes --some where full protective gear is required and injuries are not only common they are expected. In both types of classes, delusion will be practiced regularly. In both types of classes, self-realizations will be reconciled regularly. What determines our body-mind's capacity for purification is, in most cases, determined by two things: Our capacity for self-honesty and our teacher's capacity to assist us with cultivating more self-honesty (until we are able to do this ourselves). Therefore, if forms are to become unproblematic, if any aspect of our training is to become unproblematic, it is only because of this -- self-honesty.
How do you first gain self-honesty? Others suggest, and I would agree, that it is best cultivated in silence and in solitude -- in the deep and dark contemplations that open us up before ourselves and before the great Divine from which we are not separate. Once we get a taste for this, a sense of what this is (feels like), we can take this into forms training, both rough and soft, and make it insightful. Once we get a taste or sense for self-honesty, every aspect of our training will be real.