Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)
Though I appreciate your reply greatly - I think you are giving me way too much credit. Really, as an independent, my Aikido is as untouched by Doshu as his is by mine. I am so far on the outside that it takes no courage at all to raise such issues and/or to raise them in the way that I have. As you rightly say: one of the benefits of being an independent.
I think it was Ian who was saying something that touched upon a feeling I have been experiencing lately. He was mentioning something about having to play the rank game at seminars or something like that. Regardless of what he said exactly, I remember how crazy that was back when I was federated. It is such a part of that whole scene. We all know this -- especially if we ever become really interested in the martial application of Aikido and/or in applying a martial edge toward our self cultivations. When we do realize this, seminars and camps tend to become more interruptions in our training than the beacon of information they once were.
Some of us, for whatever reasons, or maybe it is all of us depending upon where we are at any given time in our training, just can't see the game for what it is. I know I didn't always see it; I know I didn't always mind playing it; I know I didn't always think it had such an impact upon my Aikido; and I know I didn't always think it went so deep into everything. For these reasons, I think this is why we often cannot see where non-aikidoka are coming from a lot of the times in their critique of Aikido and its supposed claims. When we cannot see the game, we often want to dismiss such critiques as a bunch of ignorance -- lumping them all together. However, not all of these critiques are ignorant, and thus not all of them are irrelevant to what we do as aikidoka. I remember Nishio Sensei saying something in the forward to his book, about how in order for Aikido to remain legitimate it has to be able to address the ideas, principles, and practices of other martial arts. I believe he is talking about the same thing.
Earlier, I mentioned the need for intimacy in an art that requires honesty but admonishes competition. Ron brought up something that I felt could be understood along these same lines when he offered that very relevant self-reflection. He talked about how he had some folks that he could train with at a more honest level. I know this group. I think we all know this group. I think we have all had these fellow aikidoka, people whom we count upon to provide a more insightful experimental ground. If we look at this from a different point of view, we can indeed see that Ron, and all of us as well, have really set things up so that out of all the aikidoka we are exposed to, we have these few folks that we can be more intimate with -- and thus more honest with. Man, I can say if it was not for the group that supported my training in this way while I was in Japan, well… I could not imagine what I would be doing now. I owe everything to them.
Once we realize how much we owe to these groups, the issue becomes, "How do we expand this group from the few to the many to the everyone?" If you want to improve, you are going to ask yourself this question simply because you know how fertile these kind of intimate training environments really are. Since I am a dojocho, even before I became an independent, I felt compelled to ask this question of myself and to take it very seriously. After I would not allow myself to follow the usual party line of "not everyone can train at that level," I see now that I have come to realize that this is really an intimacy issue. It doesn't really have anything to do with training hard -- unless we understand how hard it truly is for some of us to be intimate with other human beings.
Because for me this has become an intimacy issue, and because Aikido claims to be this avenue into the spirit, into the human heart, into the Divine, which I take seriously as well, I could not help but to conclude that any practice of delusion that was supported by an incapacity at honesty, which itself was fostered by a lack of intimacy, was a failure on a grand scale (personally speaking). That is to say, if one could not for whatever reason be honest in their training, one could not achieve the spiritual cultivations we are supposedly seeking. It seems to me that honesty, or, if you will, Truth, is not just paramount to the reality of our martial efficacy but that it is vital to the very foundation of our spiritual maturity. Moreover, for me, it seemed that a technology of the Self that aimed at human virtues paramount to social living would have to be a tradition that would make vital the role of intimacy -- not just off of the mat, but (especially) on the mat. It would have to be part of the training to have oneself exposed, to have oneself exposed via another -- this could not be the rare exception or the temporary luxury of having a group of good friends to train with. What I had to lose or be wiling to lose, what I would suggest we all have to lose, is all that stuff that goes with having exposure be seen as some sort of failure and/or affront. Sure, we have to keep Shu level training going, because that is how information is first passed, but even then, there are ways to be more intimate with each other in kata, and thus more honest, so that rank and/or other institutional fictions remain irrelevant.
Well, as you can see, I am just thinking aloud.
Again, thanks for your reply Chuck -- always grateful.