.. atoning for the bursts of exasperated sarcasm that peppered my responses
None necessary, it just spiced up the discussion. It's not like you made it "Thai-hot"
If "aikido" is a Chinese-style compound, then it should be read as such, meaning that "ai" is a verb that acts on an object, "ki". That is, "aikido" means "the way to ‘ai' ‘ki'". ...what would it mean if it was read strictly as a Japanese noun phrase? Would it mean anything different from what it normally is taken to mean?"... In other words, if we can cue up the Jeopardy theme music, with a standard Chinese grammatical reading, the word "aiki" is an answer to the question, "what do you do with ki?" Answer: you harmonize ki.
This observation bought some intriguing thoughts -- takig a slighlty different tangent on the non-rational uses of language, of which poetry is also one.
The Jeopardy analogy suggests another one that I think is most useful in looking at the grammatical aspects. The larger question that grammar ( in any language) addresses is -- causality
. The Jeopardy game show format reverses causality of question/answer in ways that echo the denial or reversal of causality in the typical koan.
The predicate of "the sound of one hand clapping" is, of course, nonsense. Except as an answer (one of a nearly infinite number of alternatives) to the predicate of "What is nothing?" -- putting the answer into the form of a question in Jeopardy terms.
In other words, when we come at the problem from the direction of ordinary linear or efficient causation, the problem is not solvable in its own terms. The possible outcomes swiftly become infinite beyond an arbitrary number of steps in the chain of causation.
But come at the problem from the stand point of ultimate or final causation, and the answer is nearly as obvious in its form as its content is almost immaterial. In response to the inquiry, "What is nothing?" One could as easily answer, "A duck's pajamas" as the classic "one hand clapping." From the stand-point of ultimate or final causation, any answer or no answer suffices, because the predicate of efficient causation is not operative from that perspective.
Going back to Whitehead, (if you will bear with me on the metaphysics briefly) final or ultimate causation is just as close or integral to the event of experience as the efficient causation of linear antecedents that "cause" it in the ordinary sense. If you adopt the perspective of final causation, you are, in effect, permitted to give the answer in the form of a question -- and to which, in our reversal of the causal perspective in this koan, any answer will do.
This allows that his "answer" (attack) whatever it may be, to be accepted as the completely true
response to our (as yet inchoate) inquiry( technique) that invites it. Ordinary causation would deny the attack as untrue. What is denied is not really the attack, but the presumed consequence of the attack if we proceed from the perspective of efficient causation. At the point of connection, the presumed course of events past that point is undetermined from the efficient causation perspective. The contest of wills over the causal chain that transpires thereafter has not occurred and therefore is not yet (if ever) true. It is literally fighting a phantom -- if you approach the connection from the standpoint of efficient causation.
This is what I think O Sensei means when he says that in Aikido "there is no attack." Put in terms of aikido as O Sensei expressed it, Aiki is similarly about restoring the harmony between efficient causation (the attack/technique response) and ultimate causation (The Unity of the Universe), and phenomenal relationships of the presumed inquiry (attack) to the presumed answer (technique) in a physical and spiritual context.
This allows causation, in the exclusively linear causal view, to be apparently reversed or even nullified -- but in terms of the final causation the situation has really only been re-harmonized to its original state before disturbance. The moon neither advances nor retreats in the water -- nor is it really the moon, nor is the moon truly disturbed by the appearance of its disturbance in the surface of the water. The moon neither advances nor retreats in the sky, nor is it disturbed by our advancing or retreating, but neither is it really the moon, but merely the image of the moon in the surface of our mind. Suigetsu.
In one sense the dropped pebble makes waves in the surface of the pond, in another sense the water mere gives way in closing over the sunk pebble -- which ceases to have any phenomenal appearance that is not coincident with the ordinary movement typical of water's surface. Aiki converts the perspective at the moment of efficient causation, by neither rejecting the fall of the pebble, nor accepting it in the phenomenal terms that existed before connection occurred, therefore readjusting the balance toward the ultimate causality in the engagement.
If you bind yourself to the ordinary or efficient causation of attack/response, rather than harmonizing that with the truth of final causation, you get stuck in the trap posed by the koan of the attack. If you harmonize the perspectives, you know more of what is knowable in the reality of the moment and you are freed of the trap of causation in the ordinary trivial sense.
But you cannot plan for a given outcome. For planning is a phenomenal aspect of mentality from the efficient cause perspective. It is a contest of will over the chain of phenomenal causation. For Aikido to be effective, we must merely train at the level of awareness from the non-phenomenal perspective of mentality, not this-and-then-that causation. Find our connection, be true to the connection that we find and deepen that connection. The final causation will occur on its own. In this sense, the "set-up" training that aikido teaching presumes is integral to learning awareness of the non-contest that is at the heart of the engagement when considered from the perspective of ultimate causation, and which competitive ( i.e.-- goal-oriented) training would destroy.
Some will call this airy-fairy aiki-fruity stuff -- but there is a real and fundamental psychological mechanism at work in this, whatever else you may think about it.
Aiki is the defeat of the phenomenal mind of conflict, restoring its original nature with the truth of the harmonized perspective of reality -- Masagatsu Agatsu. "Aiki" is not, in the physical and spiritual sense, defeating the opponent, for that role is no more real or distinct from ourselves than is the image of the moon in the water from the mind that perceives it. Love-Ki. Love of Other as Self.
"On this hangs all the Law and the Prophets..." as Someone else once said.