How do we know Aikido when we see it? There seems to be a mentality among the Aikikai organization that stereotypies the Aikidoist methodology as one. This fundamentalist mindset, a sort of martial arts dogma, restrains progressiveness. It's time to change this mindset towards progressiveness, a continuation of evolving Aikido.
As a yoga practitioner, I often read articles on yoga that I think apply equally to aikido. One of my all-time favorites in this regard is an article by Richard Freeman
that discusses the danger of a fundamentalist approach -- "my school is the only legitimate style" -- on the one hand and the relativist approach -- "all schools are equally legitimate" -- on the other, encouraging a middle path between them. For aikido practitioners, try reading "aikido" when you encounter the word "yoga." I have made this substitution (in italics) in the text of the following excerpts:
"Rather than a direct experience of reality, an unconditional love and freedom, Fundamentalism often causes us to mistake the processes and symbols of aikido
for the actual thing. This separates us from immediate experience of the openness of being and our aikido
ironically becomes an escape from life, an avoidance of the present moment. Many have even adopted aikido
as an obligatory set of self punishments, dutifully done in order to achieve a picture of virtue laid out in our or somebody else”Ēs mind. Other have made it a self indulgence used to conceal a lack of love and relationship, a badge of difference, for an isolated, insecure ego. Sometimes aikido
creates competition, envy, loneliness and self righteous feelings. Many of us have found in aikido
an exotic religion, a Shangri-la in which to escape unaware. Others still have used hard practice in an attempt to create the physiology of ecstatic trance, to bypass the heart of insight and love where the real ecstacy is. In the social realm differences of technique between schools can bring out anger, fear and competition between aikidoists
. Even within the same school, slight differences in technique and interpretation between practitioners brings on painful jealousy and conflict. This not to say that all our aikido
world is so bleak. But when we find suffering, clinging, closing of the mind and heart, we must ask, "why"?
"We so easily reduce ourselves and others to our theories. We fight for the flag, rather than the (less conceivable) whole of our nation. We cling to an aikido
principle out of its context, resting on our beliefs and codes, rather than looking for ourselves with fresh unbiased eyes. We even reduce our aikido practice
to theories and techniques, and are then afraid to expose those theories to a natural process of refinement. Real aikido
, real relationship, consciousness are lost in this idolatry. Images, mirrors, theories and methods are essential (occasionally precise) tools of the martial
art. But none of them can embody fully the thing-in-itself. Every technique, every spiral is an incomplete description, calling out for a context and a complementary counter-description.
"We align ourselves with a doctrine or a school or a myth, because it is efficient to do so, and because it is difficult to bear in mind what the whole school or myth is supposedly teaching. Yet, in aikido
the whole teaching is vitally important: the de-coding of the signs and symbols back into the present moment, into our original inspiration. The flag, the name of the school, becomes essential for us. After all, it is only the sign that can be pinned on our ego like a badge [in aikido, there is also rank, which is even easier to attach to one's ego, and which is always linked with the school that issued it], while the whole of the teaching exposes the ego function. An aikido
school stained with literalism naturally dislikes both the critical, secular world and other aikido
schools. To avoid their own internal transformation such a school or individual creates stereotyped images of the others. When we are about to grow in insight we have to sacrifice both our present self image and the images to which we have reduced others.
"[On the other hand,] Relativism refuses all formula, endeavor and exploration to any depth. It reflects a kind of pseudo enlightenment, which crosses a sour-grapes attitude and an anti-form monism to produce an ineffectual, sucrose spirituality. The unity that exists in the unfathomable depths of the spirit is brought up and superimposed on the realm of diversity in such slogans as: "All is one. We need not try. All aikido
is good. All teachers are good. All paths are the same!" As sweet and open minded as this may sound, it is actually insidious and dangerous. Consider relativism in other fields: "All music is beautiful. All political leaders are good. All medicines are the same. There is no need to try to communicate with your loved ones." ...any shared, objective reality is ultimately denied by "create your own reality" relativism. It becomes the ultimate rationale, the trump card of cop-outs, allowing us to conveniently forget relationships, responsibilities, communication and any need to work or inquire into deep or difficult subjects."