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Old 09-11-2005, 08:39 PM   #25
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Re: Omoto-kyo Theology

(This only seems long because I have pasted the whole of the original post and inserted my reply within - in short paragraphs.)

Hi Shaun,

Thank you for writing.

I will try and insert my replies:

You quoted: David Valadez wrote: For example, your larger perspective makes it seems like there is one type of Aikido - a practice that has existed without modification and that exists in the same shape wherever it is present throughout the world -- one traced to the Founder.

You wrote: I ask this question over and over and really don't get a satisfactory answer (read: I get answers contrary to mine…) Do you believe that O-Sensei would be able to watch someone practice Aikido and say, "that is not aikido" My answer is a resounding yes, there are things that are not aikido. As an example, as many Daito-Ryu practitioners would have us believe, Aikido is just watered down, or a pared down practice of DRAJ. Of course, you and I do not really support that view. As such we believe that even if on the surface if a specific Aikido & DRAJ technique looks the same, in fact, one is Aikido and one is not. Therefore, is it not empirically logical to say that one is Aikido and the other (being DRAJ) is not. From there is it not plausible to say with some certainty that two Aikido dojos, while have Aikido in their name, may in fact also be doing different things, and for the sake of this argument, one of them is Aikido and the other is not…

Reply: I can agree with this -- at a personal level. That is to say, for me, I believe what I do is Aikido. I believe this because I feel that I am doing Aikido. For those folks that do what I do, personally, naturally, I feel they do Aikido too. For those folks that do something close to what I do, I feel they do Aikido too, only I dismiss the notable differences to variations on a single theme (which I note by what I do). For folks that do not do anything close to what I do, I do not think they are doing Aikido -- even if they claim to be doing Aikido. For the latter, group, if I thought that they WERE doing Aikido, I would stop what I am doing and then do what they are doing, but then they would not be in this group at all -- rather they would fall into the first group. However, this is all purely subjective. The historian must seek to transcend his/her own subjectivity and thus his/her own limited point of view. This is the angle I am coming from.

From the historian's point of view, what is Aikido and what is not Aikido is still in the process of being decided -- and it will continue to be in this state of transition until it becomes extinct as a cultural tradition. A historian has to accept this, otherwise he or she will stop studying the tradition and actually merely become a part of it (by saying, as an authority, "This IS Aikido.")

When I practice my own Aikido, in my dojo, there are clear lines as to what is and is not Aikido. In many ways, by what we do in our dojo, for example, we are at odds even with the Aikikai Hombu. This is me studying Aikido as a practitioner -- as a single part of the continuing and ever changing history of Aikido. However, when I speak from the point of view of the historian, which is even the view I adopt when I speak with folks from outside of our dojo, I see my own take on Aikido as simply that: My own take on Aikido. In that sense, we are not at more odds with the Aikikai Hombu than they are with us or we are with anyone else. We are all really just a bunch of small parts that will one day help to define this tradition once and for all -- when it is dead and experiences itself entombed in the kind of museum death that now exhibits other martial arts from our human past.

In short, I agree with you, there is such a thing as an Aikido -- not everything is Aikido. Not everything that everyone calls Aikido is Aikido. However, from a historical point of view, what we should pull out of this is that there is no singular Aikido as a cultural phenomenon. There are only competing variations all playing the same game of trying to define what Aikido is and/or is not. Consequently, culturally, historically, Aikido as a singular entity only exists as an ideal that is utilized by competing groups to raise themselves above others or to lower others below them, etc.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
It seems to deny how contrary many styles of Aikido are to each other and how determined things are by the individual practitioner.

You wrote: Well, actually from my point of view it merely says that some people know what they are doing, and some do not. I dare not say which is which, but I do say that both are possible states of being. If someone watched a thousand hours of aikido videos and read 100 books in various languages, and yet had no interaction with any aikido teacher, is what he is practicing with his next door neighbor in his garage aikido because it looks like the aikido he saw in the pictures and videos? How does he even know what Aikido is, or that any of the individuals in the videos or books did not garner their understanding of the art in the exact same fashion as he - that being completely disconnected from the art.

Reply: Yes, of course we can ask such questions. And we should. You are right for doing so. Moreover, we can keep asking such questions -- such as: What if his/her Aikido teacher learned the art that way -- from books and videos? What is his/her teacher learned from the Founder but didn't really study with him all that much? What if his/her instructor learned from the Founder but did not really understand him? What if his/her instructor was more influenced by his other instructors than by the Founder? What if his instructor only dabbled in Aikido for much of his life and has sort of just come into a position of authority by some kind of social default? Etc. In addition, we can also ask: What does it mean to have an instructor? And, are those qualities truly being met? What does it mean to be a Founder? And, were those qualities really met? Etc. Can an art be learned by videos and books? Can it be learned without videos and books? Do all instructors provide better instruction than what is found in videos and books? Etc. This is what we do -- we do this as practitioners. After asking these kinds of questions, we try to satisfy them in as best a way we can, using our experience and our reason to the best of our abilities.

However, in seeking to answer them, in each of us seeking to answer them, we add to the cultural history of our art. We do this by speaking with specific discourses long considered legitimate by our tradition, and we do this by adopting particular outward appearances (e.g. symbols, icons, etc.) long associated with our tradition, etc. This is why on the surface we all look the same and we all sound the same. However, we are different underneath -- some of us our very different from each other. In other words, much of our likeness to each other is only superficial. This is something you note as well. You as a practitioner -- which I do as well -- opt to understand these things as a difference between those that know and those that do not know. As a historian, we see that this division that you and I may use as a practitioner is actually a play in the truth game of Aikido -- that ultimate cultural struggle that is made up of all of our individual struggles that make up our own practice. As a historian, when I say there is no single agree upon thing known as Aikido, I am referring to this ultimate cultural struggle that is not captured by the division between those that know and those that don't but that exists beyond it and because of it.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
It also seems to deny the numerous discontinuities that actually separate us from "The Founder."

You wrote: What separates most from the founder is their own ability to say, "Yeah, this is what the founder was doing, cause if I'm doing it, and I say it is Aikido, then it must be aikido…

Reply: Indeed.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Moreover, when you say such things, you need to manufacture support for such claims,

You wrote: Okay, I agree with your point here. I am going to use this below… noted as STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
In contrast to your perspective, if we look at things more specifically, we find that there is indeed no one thing called "Aikido."


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Moreover, we realize that the defining and/or describing of "Aikido" is actually a political game currently being played out -- one a historian is supposed to be reflective enough to not be suckered into playing right along with everyone else.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Once we realize that "Aikido" does not exist as a single agreed upon event and/or practice, we are not only able to better record the relevant larger economy of power, we are better able to note those agents that seek to exchange one form of capital for another form of capital in the truth game of defining "Aikido."

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Strong arguments are never based upon a point founded on incomplete data and inconclusive evidence. Since all of your subsequent arguments are based upon this point, they too appear to be very weak. Just as important, does your "historian" practice Aikido and did he happen to get all his information from books and videos?

Reply: I am not sure I follow your many points here. Please be so kind as to explain further if you feel it is necessary. It seems you are suggesting that the statement (which is not an argument) I made could be used equally in my own case, as I had uttered in understanding Erick's case. However, a difference remains -- a strong difference: In my case, my statements are supportable by social and/or historical phenomena. In this sense, support is not so much needed, as it is available. Therefore, it does not have to be concocted by the historian as much as it has to be acknowledged by the historian. This was the main difference I was wishing to demonstrate with the using of this phrase you have quoted several times above.

As for your last line, asking if the historian practices Aikido, I would say that I do practice Aikido, but that as a historian I do not need to in order to understand Aikido as a cultural phenomenon. This is the bedrock of History as a field of science. For if it was not, we would never be able to understand any tradition from our past that is now extinct, and/or we would not be able to without holding the utterly false notion that things do not change through time (even against our best intentions).

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Since, Osensei (or one's understanding of "Osensei") is big capital in such a truth game, we can see how and why certain folks want to look at him in a certain way and measure these efforts against the accuracy of documents proven to be reliable.

You wrote: Sure, I would agree with this to some extent, that being about 99.9 percent. However, do you not think that O-Sensei, might, and I just say might have actually given a few students his thoughts on the matter? Often it is hypothesized that because Kishomaru Doshu said this that or the other thing about his father that it must be so. I don't buy that in the least. It is a very weak argument at best. I look at what I know about my own father, someone whom I have always been close to, and in truth I know very little, especially about what happened in the three plus decades he lived before I was born. He also know much about my life, however there are many things that he does not know, things that my students who are with me most of the time don't know, and neither of them will ever know. However, friends of mine know these things because we discuss them casually. I am sure the friends of O-Sensei know much more about O-Sensei's thoughts and feelings than anyone within his various dojos or circle of martial influence.

Reply: I would agree that this is quiet possible. However, even then, we should note, it would only be a part of the man. Moreover, while that part might be relevant to some things, it may not be relevant to the greatest (subjectively defined) things. Who can say, right? Life is so diverse, so complex, in the end, we all are who we are, and so those next to us must come to accept that when we part we will barely know each other. We of course must accept this in the reverse. If we learn that lesson sometime in our lifetime, though few of us do, maybe then we will not waste our days thinking we know each other when we do not really. For me, yes, this is life. And for that reason, this whole notion of the Founder, and of legitimacy gained through the Founder is a whole lot of hogwash when it comes to our individual practice. I am into tradition, but I am not traditionalistic. I personally like to work off the notion of "we are who we are" - which I consider to be more real.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
From here, we can with greatly clarity add to our self-reflective efforts to not be suckered in by the current political battles that are raging and thus produce ourselves histories that are more accurate.

You wrote: Or less accurate on an increasingly exponential path.

Reply: I think on this point I will have to disagree. Self-reflection and a disinterest in the relevant political economies will always produce more objective truth than any method that attempts to carry on without these things.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
From a local specific point of view, it is clear that Osensei did no such thing, nor attempted to do such thing.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT This I do disagree with wholeheartedly. I do so based upon information that I have to prove otherwise. However at this time I will not support my own statement, but ask you how you can support such a statement without having consulted every possible individual living or dead that may have received opposing information.

Reply: History does not need to obtain the input of every possible witness in order to draw an accurate conclusion. After all, we do not even have to do that in a court of law when explaining something that happened just last week. The evidence I feel supports my take that Osensei did not seek to demythologize Aikido is twofold: First, there are his actual writings. They constantly make use of mythic themes and/or of a discourse that is using a thought that is grounded in an episteme of resemblance -- which is what marks most myths throughout the world and throughout human history. Second, there is the history of ideas, which suggests more that Osensei lived and experienced reality according to a Japanese culture that understood itself mythically. This same history of ideas puts the demythologizing of Japanese culture either after Osensei's life or near the end of his life (after his thought was already well-formulated regarding what he was saying, doing, and thinking).

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
From a local specific point of view, it would have been impossible for Osensei to do this.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Again, read my above comments. I will say that while it would certainly be difficult from a cultural perspective for specific reasons, that it would be wholly possible to do so outside of the cultural paradigm. This is easy to envision like the way a person in the military must act when on duty versus off duty versus when on leave versus when he completes his service. He is always the same person, but acts according to a wide set of parameters based upon whichever circumstance he chooses for himself.

Reply: I can agree with what you are saying here in regards to the example you raise. However, what I am suggesting is that it would be impossible for Osensei to speak or think with the now dominant episteme that marks the modern age because for all intents and purposes he was from the preceding age (of thought), when the episteme of resemblance was the dominant way of thinking and acting, etc. In short, Osensei never would have felt he would have had to demythologize anything -- which is what his lectures (which we can hear now on many recordings) and his writings demonstrate. He never would have considered that he might not be making sense and/or that he might not be offering a discourse that could address the multitudes that would eventually practice his art. That kind of thought is from a later age. Osensei lived during a time of transition, from one age of thought to another age of thought, but he was clearly one of the "dinosaurs" that fell on the side of extinction when his culture made the transition from the episteme of resemblance to the modern one.

If Osensei's thought has now been demythologized in certain areas of Aikido praxis, it is from the efforts of others that were more in line with the modern episteme. I am not saying this is a bad thing or even that it is unneeded. Personally, I consider this all good, but the history of ideas would not support the view that Osensei was into demythologization any more than it would support the view that Greeks did not believe in their myths because we see the seeds of modern democracy in their culture (for example).

You quote: David Valadez wrote:
From a local specific point of view, if there are today demythologized Aikidos out there, they are obviously the product of later folks who seek to legitimate their efforts by saying that they are only doing what Osensei already did.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Again, I must disagree here as stated before. This is merely a revisionist's approach, something that historians are often guilty of and much less often than they should be, held to account for the damage they do to actual history.

Reply: I feel my reply can be seen in the reply above. I guess at this point the ball is in your court. Before I would ever feel like I was being revisionistic and/or contributing to some damage being done to Aikido history, I would ask you to explain all of the mythic themes and/or the use of the episteme of resemblance (which I said marks mythical thought) in the lectures and writings of Osensei. Another historian might also hold you up to your own standard of talking to every other person that was ever present at such talks, etc. I will not however. Though I would be very interested in how you would address the History of Ideas - as it has connected the demythologization of thought to the modern era and Japan during this time to not quite being "modern."

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
A more accurate form of history would see such statements for the political maneuvers that they indeed are -- truth games where social and cultural power is at stake.

You wrote: While this may be 100 % accurate in 99.9% of the cases, it may not be so in 100% of them.

Reply: Yeah, I think we are going to have to disagree on this -- for the reasons I gave up above regarding a similar point.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Once you reach this point, we aren't so subject to the party line of one group in particular and thus better come to see that there are probably a whole lot of other more relevant reasons than the demythologization of Aikido (in certain areas, but individuals other than Osensei) for explaining how or why Aikido has spread throughout much of the modern world.

You wrote: Actually this is very easy to describe. When we look at Gendai budo versus Koryu budo we see a much larger group of practitioners of the former than the latter. Why? It is because it is always more difficult to keep something the same for a long period of time than it is to let it, encourage it or even force it to change during a much shorter period of time. Simply speaking, Mediocrity is a meal for the masses. The masses want things to come to them easy, and so they seek an art that appears to them to say "I can do whatever I like and call it Aikido" Try that B.S. at a Koryu dojo and see how long you get to stay.

Reply: Undoubtedly, this would be related. I agree -- as this is one of the things I refer to when I used the phrase "modern world" -- addressing the needs of the masses.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
For me, you got a long road ahead of you in proving that Osensei sought to demythologize Aikido (and that it was not others like Kisshomaru, etc., who are primarily responsible for this departure from what Osensei did do -- which is speak with the voice of his personal culture, one that was saturated in mythological understandings), or that Aikido is spreading around the world because a single reason and/or even because of a single set of reasons. Etc.

You wrote: Like Erick, I too would have such a long road if either of us tried to prove such a thing on our own. Fortunately we do not have to do any such thing. I am not sure that Erick was even attempting to say that O-Sensei did such a thing, as from what I gathered he was merely another type of revisionist, the one that says we do not need to travel along the path O-Sensei traveled in order to come to the place O-Sensei ended up. As you might have guessed, I don't concur with that view of history, at least not lock, stack and barrel. My own opinion is that while we certainly don't need to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I do believe that you fall somewhere in between Erick's and my view, but I could very well be mistaken.

Reply: I am not sure Erick has tried to address this point at all -- of how close we have to get to Osensei's exact path. So I do not think we really can speak for him. For me, however, I would say that I am in 100% agreement with your position: That while we do not have to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in, and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I am sensing that our only disagreement here is that you feel (I am assuming based upon what your teacher has told you, etc.) Osensei consciously not only distanced himself from Omoto-kyo socially but also epistemologically. As a result, you feel that he, for very good reasons, sought to demythologize Aikido and/or Omoto-kyo theology. While I feel that demythologization is a good thing, a thing we can and should do in regards to Osensei's thought as it is related to our own individual practice, I do not attribute any such actions to the Founder. More accurately, I do not feel that Osensei made any attempts to make his message more universal than Omoto-kyo already made (which he witnessed and studied and then applied) to make its own message more universal. However, most significantly, I do not at all feel that we need to have Osensei demythologize Omoto-kyo theology and/or his own discourse (assuming that such a thing existed outside of Omoto-kyo theology -- regarding the writings and lectures in question) before we do this one very good thing and very necessary thing for ourselves in our own practice. So really, my "disagreement" with your position is not at all that strong and comes only from an academic point of view.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
However, that is just my perspective, coming to me from my own slant on how to do History.

You wrote: Yes, this is clear to see. I for one would invite you to look at history from another place just for the opportunity it might give you to see something of high value that seemed not to be there before.

Reply: I think we as historians do this naturally or we cannot really be historians. So I am always open to this. For that reason, I would dearly love to have you write that history regarding Osensei's attempts to demythologize his own discourse. It would be very interesting, and, as I said, while it may only affect some (perhaps very little) of the Aikido world, it would radically change what we think we know about the History of Ideas -- that entire field of historiography would perhaps be under pressure to change forever. That would be quite a feat, and that would be a feat I would always be interested in learning about.

I realize that that is a big task, so please do not feel that I am challenging you to such a task. I am merely trying to encourage you to take on such a task, by revealing to you my heart-felt interest. That history, written by you, would be well worth reading in my opinion -- regardless of what it affect it might have on the whole of Aikido. So I am in complete understanding if you must opt to pass on this request at this time. I only ask that you offer the same understanding if I hold changing my final judgment until more such information comes my way, and that the holding of changing my final judgment is not perceived as a blindness brought about by my own academic stubbornness or ignorance. Please/thanks.

As always, kindest regards,

David M. Valadez
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