Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)
Sorry about missing the joke Roosevelt, it was right on the money, and that's why I didn't see it - so many folks talk like that you know, "Well, the reason why he's not making a mistake is because he's beyond mistakes, and you would know that too if you were not still stuck in the land of Making Mistakes." My mistake.
I think Yann is onto something here - having a more mindful Uke and/or placing a great deal of the solution on Uke. For the most part, all over the world, we see that kind of solution to this problem taking place between peers - folks of the same rank and/or near enough. These kinds of pairings seem to ring more true. I'm sure everyone has seen these types of pairings or even been in one - where you had that one person (or more) in your dojo who was near your rank and with whom you could be more honest with as Uke, requiring each other's Nage to be more honest tactically and biomechanically.
Let's look at that a bit more…
Honesty, what does it mean, where does it come from, and why is it so likely to not be present in places where Rank Aikido is practiced? If I look at these questions, the thing that stands out for me is that honesty is related to intimacy. One needs intimacy to be honest without it being insulting and/or damaging. Intimacy allows one the interpersonal privilege of relating to another through and with the Truth. For example, we have no problem (or maybe just a little problem) with our spouse saying, "Gee, I don't really think that shirt goes well with those pants." We can take that in and use it better as a guide on what to wear or not to wear. However, if we hear that phrase by someone just passing us in the street, our heart/minds are not able to process the information in any kind of proactive or positive way. We cannot use it. Almost immediately, we feel a breech in the contract we have with strangers (people with whom we have no intimacy): "You remain cordial, and you do so even at the cost of not speaking the truth (even if that is just the truth of your mind)." We start to focus in on this breech of contract more than anything else. I would say this is what you see happening in Ian's example of the high-ranking practitioner chiding the kyu rank for "resisting" the technique. He/She was unable to see what such resistance (since it always takes two forces to cause a resistance) was saying about his/her technique. He/She could not use the information proactively and instead just got stuck on the breech of contract which had a non-intimate practicing honesty in a place where there was no intimacy.
Competition is one way that we allow ourselves to be honest with each other without necessarily having or needing intimacy. It is a kind of culturally approved way of revealing the truth of things and of each other without needing or wanting any kind of open and/or lasting relationship with another person. Nevertheless, even in competition, especially in good matches, and particularly when folks are able to get beyond the pride issues that often accompany competing, you can still break through the cultural contract, through the honesty, to the intimacy that it usually supports and is supported by. At this point, competitors become very appreciative of their competitor's honesty and actually feel very close to them as well.
What does an absence of intimacy say about an art that claims to reconcile the world? It has always been very strange to me how Aikido is posited by a great many of us to be a way of purifying the heart/mind, of cultivating wisdom and compassion, of practicing Love, or as a path to reconciliation, etc., while at the same time there are these federation wars, these dojo clicks, these warnings about trusting or having too much faith in your instructor, etc. It seems self-defeating, even contradictory or hypocritical, to speak of things that require the lowering of boundaries and the taking of interpersonal risks and/or the exposing and sharing of our inner self, but to go on remaining guarded, partitioned off, and closed toward others (i.e. everyone). From this light, Aikido's "a way to reconcile the world" looks like the biggest pile of crap -- a modern version of hiding one's own alienation in the garb of an old adage, one that was never really meant to take place. Imagine how silent the phrase "love your neighbor" would be today if it was immediately followed then (when it was first uttered) by the caveat, "but you got to be careful, not every neighbor is worth loving."
If a tradition will not allow room for intimacy to be used proactively in providing truth, honesty, and integrity via the interactions that we can and should have with other human beings, and if that same tradition admonishes the normally accepted social contract of competition, which allows honesty without intimacy, then that tradition is going to be slave to delusion. Not all delusion is going to be attributable to learning curves and safety issues, nor even to Shu level training and/or the significance of forms practice, etc. (Let us note here that nearly all other traditions have learned to face these things without such widespread delusion -- especially at the top of the social hierarchy.) The problem here is that Aikido, following Japanese models, uses a lack of intimacy to mark and establish hierarchy. This is why we can be more honest with our peers than with our senpai or our sensei in practice. Concurrently this means that the greater the spread in rank, the more our Uke are forced interpersonally to remain dishonest (or suffer the social consequences of breeching the contract we have with strangers). For most of us, it would seem impossible to have intimacy and honesty with our teachers but to also be respectful and courteous at the same time. However, is this not one of the things we are supposed to figure out how to do? Is this not the level of heart/mind cultivation we are supposed to be heading toward, one where we are not trapped on the spectrum of friend, foe, and the non-intimate we respect?
In our dojo, looking at things now, which is just one way of many, we seek out this intimacy, because we know it is necessary for honesty to be present -- we know that it is necessary for delusion to be purified. There is a lot of self-revelation going on because of the self-reflection that happens as a result of utilizing others in our training (to dialog with, to disagree with, to compete with, to train with, to be defeated by, to gain victory by, etc.), and all of this cannot helped but to be shared because it happens as a result of everything taking place within a community. Looking at this now, I can see that we help folks foster this honesty in their training by utilizing things like competition and also by utilizing protocols that set things up for honesty within the Nage/Uke relationship (a thing I posted on here a while back that caused quite a stir for some -- one can find it on our web site). However, the end result is to generate a capacity for intimacy. Once a person can establish this intimacy, once one is in a place where it is expected, we can be honest with each other's practice without it being in the least way insulting, disrespectful, and outside of the bounds of what is expected.
Thus, that would be my solution: the cultivation and expectation of intimacy. Find a place where it is expected. Find a system where you can cultivate it outside of the friend-foe-non-intimate we respect spectrum. Aikido is supposed to have it. Aikido needs it to survive. We need it to survive.