Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: The Magnifying Glass
Hello Mr Robertson,
You have written a very interesting and provocative column. I would like to take you up on two points, best introduced with quotes from the column. The first:
I am not suggesting that aikido by itself can, or should, solve all the problems of the world. I am, however, reiterating the vision of the Founder that aikido must take its place in partnership with other movements and practices which aim to take practical steps toward improving the human condition. I am willing to go so far as to say that if your practice does not lead you to engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world, then what you are doing is not aikido. I am prepared to defend the idea that aikido must be broadly defined, and that there are many, many right ways to do it, but on this one point, I think that an active campaign toward a better world is an essential ingredient before any habit of costume or ritual of activity can rightly be designated as aikido.
There are fairly uncompromising opinions and I wonder if you would you care to quote O Sensei on this? I ask this question in view of Ellis Amdur's opinion (I think it was expressed in Aikido Journal blogs) that Ueshiba saw himself as an avatar, committed to building a better world, indeed, but entirely on his own terms. The consequence is that Ueshiba earnestly desired that people should do aikido training, but in order that he himself could complete his mission of achieving peace between three worlds. I am preparing my next column and this involves some pretty close analysis of O Sensei's discourses--and I am surprised to find some discrepancies between what he actually stated and what the English translation says he stated.
The second (you will see that I have altered it slightly and numbered the questions):
Seen in this light, my test for good aikido (mine or yours or Morihei Ueshiba's) is this:
1 Does it increase prosperity?
2 Is it effective in the face of conflict?
3 Does it lead toward praise and gratitude more often than criticism and satire?
4 Does it promote the confidence necessary to admit personal faults, failings, and limitations?
5 Is it a path of service that is exciting and enticing and downright hedonistic?
I have had the temerity to put myself in Ueshiba's shoes and venture some answers:
1 I do not think this really matters. It has not really increased mine.
2 Yes. Very.
3 I do not think this really matters. Aikido is training: in kotodama = possession by the Divine, which will lead to effective waza.
4 If you can train kotodama effectively, I do not think the rest really matters.
5 It is certainly exciting, as it was for Onisaburo Deguchi, but I am not so sure about the enticing and hedonistic aspects.
Of course, you could argue that O Sensei's aikido was his aikido and our aikido is ours. So we do not need to look to O Sensei for inspiration.
I agree with the second point, but would change the first to: O Sensei's aikido was his aikido; your aikido is yours and my aikido is mine. So if I believe that my aikido training does not require me to 'engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world', at least, any more than I am doing now, there is nothing much that you can do about it, short of persuasion.
Like yourself, I run a dojo. It is located in Hiroshima and everybody is acutely conscious here of the 'spirit' of Hiroshima: Hiroshima's mission to change the world. However, I think that I can safely state that I supported this mission quite some time before I took up aikido as a 'life activity'. Anyway, the dojo has about 50 members, all except two of whom are Japanese. All the members are beginners, in the sense that they have not been training for very long, and--and this is something that is pleasantly surprising in Japan--fully half the members are women. I run the dojo with two other foreign instructors, a German married couple, and the biggest challenge we have now is finding a larger dojo.
In my dojo I have never taught that aikido carries within it a mission to change the world and I think that if I did, we would actually lose students. There are very many aikido dojos in Hiroshima and I suspect that students come to our dojo for fairly specific reasons, one of which is that the dojo is run by foreign instructors. I certainly do not think that they come because the dojo is a sort of moral lighthouse.
I think this is perhaps where we differ. I do not believe that aikido carries within it its own morality, so to speak. This means that I do not believe that aikido training ipso facto requires one to do anything whatsoever outside the dojo, other than defending oneself to the best of one's innate or trained ability, if necessary.
As I stated earlier, your columns are always interesting and provocative, so I look forward to your response.
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-24-2009 at 05:27 AM.